Ten Today: Buddha and the French

July 18, 2016
I doubt I have ten minutes uninterrupted, but I’ll give it a shot. I’m at my other other other job tonight. This one teaches me to love. I practice my little Buddha steps here, learning to appreciate every mundane, automatic movement with mindfulness, paying attention. In fact, if I don’t pay attention, let my mind wander as it is wont to do when nothing in particular stimulates it, I make money or cleaning mistakes, ones that make me feel like an incapable incompetent. After all, I’ve been at the job for years now (Obviously my self-judgment needs some work).
 
So this one teaches me patience and presence. The other one, writing, teaches me a different kind of little Buddha practice–patience and detaching from struggle. That one challenges me too much. I wrote all day on a subject that didn’t particularly interest me–under deadline. Tonight, after the store closes at 10, and I get home just before 11, I will return to the work. It isn’t quite right and it’s due no later than Monday. That’s today. I figure before midnight is still Monday.
 
A new client testing my skills to evaluate hiring me, I do indeed want to impress. Right now, my draft is not impressive. To my credit, I have faked my way into the door–partially. The job description called for fluency in French. Though I have been around French speakers for the last 35 years, coming and going, and I took a couple years in college, even wrote and orally presented a fairly competent 20 minute lesson on Montaigne in grad school, I’m not sure fluent and French should both be used in the same sentence to describe me.
 
However, with the help of my somewhat strong reading skills, a tip here and there from the Frenchman in the house and Google, I patched together a rather inexpert but passable draft of an article discussing the meaning and origin of 5 French sayings or proverbs or adages or aphorisms. I used all those words and more to keep it less mind-numbing.
 
What I will come home to is a stuffy draft that I needed to leave anyhow, though the impulse to go home and finish it is way stronger than my need to practice Buddhist patience and presence here at yogurt zombie Monday. I need to make it personable, friendly and fun. Oy, that should pull on every iota of craft I can muster.
 
Well, only one customer intruded on my ten. Good sign. Maybe the piece will magically gel tonight before my eyes turn to lidded gravel.

 

Image: Architectureofbuddhism.com

Ten Minutes: An Affirmation

I am neither my title, 

surname, 

job 

or 

thick toes. 

I am a traveler 

into the sheaves of human margins, 

turning the book inside out 

and rewriting the musical notes 

to sing the paper strings. 

I am a digger 

in ancient French tongues,

salt and euphony, 

and a forgiver of rhymes, 

slight 

and fever. 

My daily question mark half circles 

to dot the when of things, 

bring them face to my own blind eyes, 

up close like cilia sensors: 

steam, 

pallor 

and frankincense. 

Our skin aflame 

scented musk and cream,

I mean, 

as if all of us 

walked to the holy house, 

succumbed to the chewy silence, 

perched on velvet crushed cushions 

with our mouths circled 

and vibrating 

in the register 

of C(osmos).

   
Image: cosmos via Flickr 

July 16th Ten Minutes: Battle of the Bulge or Gravity’s Toll

I yoga’d hard today, long and deep. And I don’t feel as beaten as I thought I would. I had been meaning to up my exercise regime a little, something more cardio than hatha yoga, to which I am semi-devoted daily, meaning only half way committed to hatha. The other half is vinyasa, quicker paced movement.
 
Recently, my body has gone off to do its own thing, grow where and how it wants despite my steady diet of exercise and mostly conscientious, nearly vegan eating (kind of slightly pescatarian-whatever). My practice hasn’t changed, just the distribution of my body fat. So, I toyed with the idea of a weight loss/exercise program offered at a local gym. A friend follows the program and has lost considerable poundage as well as toned up nicely. His results and the losing battle with gravity inspired me to investigate.
 
The program relies on classic Jack La Lanne principles of cardio and circuit training with isometrics, you know, old fashioned jumping jacks and sit-ups. Reminds me of the cross-fit fifteen minute videos I tried but never stuck with, not because they’re hard but because they’re boring. While yoga packages the same exercises–push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks (sort of)–or parts of them re-combined, the breath-timed, mind-balanced aspects to the “exercise” draws me. Besides, yoga came way before Jack La Lane, cross-fit or any other 20th or 21st century fitness program.
 
As a former runner, I had to adjust to the non-cardio temperament of yoga when I first began practicing in earnest 7 years ago. However, now I understand many kinds of yoga, some of which pump the heart as cranked up as any running I’ve done. I guess that’s why I haven’t really pursued any videos or gyms. I have what I need–except for the diet. And willpower to push myself.
 
I know I need to change my eating habits. I’m getting that swollen middle despite all my yoga-ing. I’m told diet should change every 7 years anyhow. Mine’s over due. But diets too confine me. I hate regimes that remind me I’m weak or suffering. I prefer sensible eating, mindful eating, meaning a keen awareness of every morsel that touches my lips. It starts there, anyhow. Then, it’s up to energetic resistance to kick in–to not swallow that morsel, to refuse the I-know-this-isn’t-good-for-me bite.
 
Right, I’ll start on Monday.

 
Jack La Lanne via modernhealthmonk.com

Ten Minute Write for July 13th: the divinity of detail


July 13, 2016
Writing to, from and down the bones sounds simple enough–the detail, the divine detail–but the word fount must be vast and strong. Specificity takes knowing the names of things, everything. I can hardly remember my own. Names.

I lack an honest pen. I am just learning to live with things as they are, not according to my vision and story, but as they are. I’ve embellished on life, added color, flexed the edges of pathways and tables to make them fit a certain slant in my sight. It sounds like fabricating–lying–but I think it’s appropriate to call it crafting. Yes, there is a line, a circle too. But crafting is legitimate, carving stories from wood and steel. I do it. We all do. Ultimately we are the stories we write ourselves into from everything we deem real, lived and experienced.

There is a rolled up tube, wide and tall as my thigh, slightly taller, that stays tubed by a rubber band, awaiting a frame as it sits vertically atop my desk, white, serene, divided in half by that serpentine rubber band. Inside, I have seen the cow skull atop the man, sitting in the foreground with powerful arms and lean body, brown man in the heat, in the background a rustic desert cafe one sees in dusty towns off long, leaning highways into the horizon. He wears a skull as ritual, in his town, an African town, somewhere outside Johannesburg. 

The line sketch print, presented to me as a birthday present, one I asked for after spying this piece at a friend’s house art gallery opening, pleased me softly and widely. Perhaps the cow bones spoke the truth in human animality, like the Native American mask that hangs above the fire place: antlers, fox skins and painted man. They came to be as someone’s vision. My husband bought both pieces for me, witnessing the missives sent without reading them. Perception. Vision. 

That is my story, my detail of notice and narration, memory and matters. 

Bastille Day No More


Ten Minutes for July 14, 2016. 

I remember a couple of Bastille Days in France, one at Versailles with synchronized fireworks to Beethoven and Mozart like I had never delighted in as much before or after. I recall another one sardine sandwiched among Parisians at Trocadero, crazy packed and loud but joy-mad in celebration.  And then there was today….

My heart breaks when the world’s horror intrudes. Another mass killing by a mad murderer. And we just live with the inevitability. Will they ever stop if we just continue as we do, seeking the perpetrators, the sources of the infection, wait their lunatic lords out and then strike them dead? We do get to them eventually, but a handful at a time when they scatter the planet like vermin. Yes, they live insanely, with lust for blood and hate, and perhaps we (the rest of the sane planet in habitants) have given them reason and perhaps not. They may just be walking under the zealot umbrella disguised as faithful when they simply lust for power, blood, self-expansion in the sickness of pure cold emptiness and disconnection so vast that nothing short of annihilation can make them feel anything.

Compassion for soulless killers grates at me. I want to feel it. There must be a way to forgive them their sick hearts, but I have not found it yet. I still wish they had never come to be in this lifetime. I wish they had been killed before they killed. And I cannot deny that. 

No solace anywhere, not for victims or murderers. Grieve hard all of us, as we slip past the rifle scope.

 
Image: Wikipedia/Bastille Day

Republished today in YogiTimes: Yoga and Compassion in Prison

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​Please enjoy my republished article in Yogi Times todaytoday. 

surviving darkness in light of a yoga life

I was a bookish girl from an early age, always about with one under my nose in my Long Island suburb. That early reading passion eventually turned to a career in teaching high school and college English. So it’s no wonder that the first encounter with yoga was through a pocket sized hand book with pictures of a woman in leotard and tights performing various poses. I imitated those pictures as best I could but remember…read more here.

Forced Remodeling

image
I don’t mind a fearless toilet every once in a while,
but there comes a point at which it’s all too much.
I mean, having your downstairs toilet just up and go,
slide out the back door into the yard and disappear
for Crissakes.  
What’s worse, however,
I mean the absolute worst,
clearly it took hostages.
Now the upstairs toilet has gone missing,
and I can only suspect coercion or bribery,
some sort of malfeasance.

Upon closer examination,
they–the runaway toilets–lifted a few items
from both bathrooms.
One medicine cabinet and linoleum flooring
left blatant voids,
a rectangular hollow
in the canary colored wall downstairs and
the 1960s avocado and brown squared linoleum vacancy
in the top.
A chalk dust trail of scuffle and drag into the yard
made my detective work easy. 

image

No motive to hang my ass cheeks over,
but I’ll gamble a guess that they got tired,
fed up with getting shat upon,
chided for being old, chipped and wasteful,
and so walked.
They’re definitely gone–
no trace but the chalk prints.
Rather an aggressive move,
but not much else to do now but find replacements.

Game 

zero-sum

Your move. Now mine.

Yours, mine, yours,

we play politics, soccer and love.

Games of words and alignments under-girded by

luck, skill, wiles, wit and speed, overlaid intention,

drawing a letter, or a trip and cheat,

fallen, kicked and stalled, all tactics:

dive, grimace and grovel.

End goal?

Save, fail, score, win, promote, chest-bang, leave, shout,

cry out your props, boost your stature, grow tall and shiny or

make other plans; just so you know

might makes right

might makes right

might makes right.

You’re damned right.

No one ever won quietly fostering

connections and alliances, powerful

listening before empathetic action.

Subtlety, often like soccer games, ends

scoreless, some zero game.

 

Image: zero sum portent

Travel Notes Sitting on a Bench at the Farmer’s Market

Woke up to sleeping bodies in the dark, slurping in sleep’s sweet succor. I was ready. Yoga at the hotel fitness center cured the morning blank canvas of what will it be today? It will be all right, says yoga on the mat in a small hotel fitness room with one other exerciser on the treadmill making miles go statically by.

Before long, the world intruded. Breakfast with Pascal and talk of more violence, Facebook posts on how to understand Black Lives Matter and white resistance to the reality that no white person has ever awakened black in America. How can anyone not black know for sure? Listen. What can we do? Keep compassion in our hearts; let it soften fear at the lack of control we all surely have over what happens despite our illusions. And no more than ten minutes pass and my voice raises in anger at the lack of care, people, fear, ignorance, helplessness. People die, no stopping it. But people got to live too, be allowed to live.

For now, however, the warm breeze in a characteristically cold place soothes the upsurge in remembering the world out there spreads chaos inside. But oh, there is a bass fiddle and tuba piping out deep sonorous puffs of scales, notes and contrapuntal tunes, while the appreciative fold claps. Two low lying dogs yap at one another in the passing. There are dogs and people and stores with reggae music drifting in the rests of the two live musicians on this wood and concrete terrace along the store fronts, sidling the quaint corner farmer’s market.

The booth in front of me advertises Capay organic cherry tomatoes 2 baskets for $8. And now the bass fiddle takes up the bow, and there is a sweet, lilting classical tune that tells the story of parlors past with hooped skirts and tight ankled pants, wide buckled shoes. 

The air passes in muted bustle, not quite loud and frenetic as Saturday morning’s cruising in this Sacramento side street tucked between a bank building and artisanal strip mall, boutiques and coffee shops, and Peets coffee, the largest one I’ve entered.

Pregnant young mom, ahead of trailing chapeau’d dad and stroller. They are on their second. He wears mustard colored shorts with his felt feathered bowler and sky blue shirt. She wears running shoes, baggy grey shorts and beige shirt. They scuttle between tomatoes offered here, mini watermelons there and cantaloupes.

Straw stetson’d tattoo young man with a full bust of some man tattooed on his left calf and a mythical looking,  hair-flowing, witchy woman on the right. He and his son pull up on mountain bikes. The son plops the mini melon on the scale.

Colors of the market cheer up the asphalt upon which merchant stands rest under canopies like a parade of white circus tops. One stand sports a red umbrella for shade: Certified California Grown. And the bodies saunter and browse, dogs or kids in tow, some singles and childless, dog less couples. Mostly white folks selling and buying. Very few people of color. And there it is, the crying toddler that incriminates the moment’s peace.

Sipping a one pump vanilla soy long pull latte from Peets, Bob Marley says, “Everything gonna be all right…don’t worry ’bout a thing…” And it’s true. Buy the shirt or shoes if it pleases you. Small pleasures. Dogs bark to each other, communicate or ignore one another, just like we do. Hey, see me, I exist. See me. No, huh? Maybe the next one. And so it goes. 

Travel Meanderings


A yellow school bus slices open a wide swath of chaparral, the road it travels invisible to the distant traveler, me, him and them. We travel north til nearly the northeastern edge of the state, destination Davis soccer tournament. Mounds of tomatoes peek above the semi’s trailer, slowly steaming along this blanched roadway from heat, oil, dust and wind. 

Passing telephone poles look like cemetery markers, wired crucifixes, testament to scorched lives and anonymous death. 

Stockdale Highway in one mile, roadway to The Tule Elk State Reserve and CSU Bakersfield. Never far from a Jack in the Box and Subway at a gas station, even when the surrounding desert flecked with patches of green, low lying crops of indecipherable genus paint the landscape endless. Astonishing that this waterless wasteland harbors any life: bleached rock and sand. But there they are, tiny patches of great pines and firs engulfing secluded ranch homes visible from the highway, a contrast forest green to the sage, amber and tans of the desert floor.

A glance at a blur-by motel housekeeper outside the door of a room leaning upon her cleaning supply cart, seemingly hinged on the highway’s terrace, checking her phone. Who texts her at work? Who stays at this hotel in the midst of nowhere?
 
Long green corn stalks half grown, foreshadowing the kernel largesse to follow in a month’s time when seeking the sun’s vigor–sustenance–the sturdy stalks stretch open to the sky 8, 9 and 10 feet tall, or so it seems.
 
The hay tractor kicks up the dust as it slowly rounds the corner of a field’s dirt pathway, and of course, he has to say it, “Hay!” Hominem of humor on repeat. Now I know I am on a road trip. That and the question, “How far are we?” To which we reply in unison, “Half way.” No matter where we are, we are half way. That is our tradition–to torment further our restless children, now adults, or nearly so.
 
The almond trees. I’m not sure why they pique curiosity in me: Where did Christo install his umbrellas? Was it in the Grapevine or somewhere past Bakersfield? I tell my students the latter when we read Dillard’s essay about the stunt pilot who renders the air art in shredded ribbons of lines drawn and dissipated. 

Lost Hills Paso Robles sign reminds me of the trip we made in the 90s to the Central California wineries. The two-lane highway dips and dives through hilly tree covered expanses ranches tuck into. We found our dream ranch home hidden just off this little traveled wending way.

San Francisco is 238 miles away. She wants to go to school there. She and her teammate traveling with us plan to attend SFSU. Or prepare to by attending the JC there. Far away enough to inhabit her styled rebellion and independence but still an hour’s plane ride for safety net parents.
 
Romas on the side of the road arranged like marbles readied for the game do not look like they fell off a truck so much as were placed there, a peculiar sight.
 
Low lying shrubs dot the clean shaven desert floor in tans and ecrus. Twisselman Road. Spell check tried mightily to fight that last road name. 

Heather lined highway, peppered with sage colored brambles and bushes, blonde dirt, sticks, twigs and tumbleweeds every where halved by the steel girded dividing rails. C.R. England semi sidling by. Slower traffic to the right. We travel the passing line a bit just like the other California drivers. Except we know better. They probably do too. Some of them–with impunity.
I tease, “You think you’re thug coming all the way from Huntington Beach? Oh wait, you were actually born in Fountain Valley. Oh, you bad.” I laugh.
She pipes up in a flash, “I’d kick your ass even if I came all the way from Belmont Shores!” Her friend and teammate spits her water in laughter. Some of it splashes on my face turned to my opponent in the rear most bench in the van.

Coalinga Canal, near Fresno. Trucks parked, their cargo brimming over in red roma ripened in stark contrast to the surrounding dessert. A dairy farm, dismal to witness and inhale. The heat, dung, lethargy, exposure and pollution overwhelm the senses. Factory farming. 

A burst of Gerber daisies or black eyed Susans flash by, a couple dozen in a row, brightening the heather in sun bursts. Card board boxes fallen from some speeding vehicle mar the steady stream of browns and tans, sage and hunter greens. We swerve. He’s typing on his phone. “Do you want me to drive?” No. Apologetic and slightly defensive.

A faraway lover professes sweet adoration in my memory chewing upon the scenery. Warmth in the desert.