Today on The Mindful Word


Please enjoy a little shared yoga after glow in today’s The Mindful Word.

In a mind-drifting moment during Yoga practice this morning, I flashed on a childhood fantasy about leaping in zero gravity like the astronauts. How fun it would be to float freely without burden, without weight forcing me down to the earthbound reality that I could never fly…read more.

Stillness and Presence


“At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity, 

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.”

T.S. Eliot, “Four Quartets” 

The dance is ongoing. It is presence. It never was nor will be but at the still point of our ever turning, evolving world–that is us. And the dance is lovely and freeing if you stay there.

Preview of Upcoming Publication: Yoga and Gravity Unbound


Happy International Yoga Day. In honor, I have written a soon-to-be-published essay about yoga, meditation, gravity, growth, language, presence and play.

“Growing up” is the metaphor, like a slow-rocket burst through the air in defiance of gravity. So many metaphors about that first half of the arc that rainbows our lives bespeak struggle against warring forces like the pitfalls of acquiring experience called trial and error and raging hormonal bodily take-over that is puberty. Not only the breaking through, busting out and bursting metaphors of rising roots characterize maturing, but also minefield metaphors of making mistakes as we learn, falling in missteps (failing a driver’s license test, picking the wrong partner, losing a job) and picking oneself up from such falls. Struggle.

Learning our bodies and minds requires overcoming. Charlotte Joko Beck in Everyday Zen writes about the spiritual growth of achieving zen and states that “the process of becoming fully independent (or of experiencing that we already are that) is to be terror, over and over and over.” Our struggle lies in the fear of breaking free of our own mind chains–of falling.

For No Apparent Reason

Like any other morning, I wake up to muffled door rattles or slams,

And the crystal plea of a squeezed bladder–release, sweet release.

The blinds drawn and the clock radio dead for a few years now, I reach

For my phone to check the time: the usual 6:38 a.m. flashes retinally.

Taking inventory, I listen for a high schooler soon to fly out the door,

Perhaps her older sister stirring in poor sleep or kicking the disruptive

Cat out the door to purr in someone else’s ears, perturbations unleashed

For those battling anxiety and depression: IBS, TBI, PMS and US politics.

 
Challenging gravity’s rest, I aright myself and further assess the day’s 

Bone placement as they all align, sink and press in allotted pegs, dips

And slots, and all measure properly without incident or undue notice.

My body has not joined in some stealth overnight rebellion for unpaid

Dues or sins of my youth just yet, and I take my first steps into morning.

Upright, leaning into space opening up to the bathroom door a mere six

Steps from my launch, I begin to feel it: the heaviness, not in step or 

Weight, but an anchor-dragging shadow that resists verticality from

Scalp to balls of the feet, slowing the advancing doorway  to a shuffle.
 

I know I’m already late, but the excursion’s effort, to pee and back, 

Begs my re-bedding just for a hair’s breadth of a moment, I bargain.

Soon, the phone or entry door will vibrate with his questioning call or 

Needy knuckles, reminding me that it’s time for his intravenous push 

And his diabetes blood check and his arm wrap for his shower and his 

Pill box re-filling as it is Monday: the array of multi-colored, go-gemlets 

Shaped like candy paper dots or pez ovals popped out of a clown mouth.

The anchor widens and grows tentacles, linking chain to arms and chest,

Pulling down shoulders and the corners of eyes and lips no breath can re-

Vive, no gratitude check can lighten and release like an emptied bladder.
 

I glance out the now-opened blinds at the orange clusters in threes and 

Fours, heavy with juice, hanging impossibly high at the thinnest branches

At the top, mightily fighting, irresistibly drawn downward while floating

The resistance between soaring, maintaining and falling: mass, space and

Time–all illusion, as is this overwhelming dread and angst that will dry,

Crumble and dust, blown into an afternoon breeze that kicks up after June

Grey dewy mornings drip, clear and stiffen to bolster tender leaves against

The love, need, hate, and anger over their circling heads tethered to a sun,    

The same star that guides ships, unanchored, daylight drifting or swiftly 

coursing waters tumultuous and calm to destinations charted yet unknown.

Another rudder-less morning steering me blindly, I have survived the first

Passage and make my way to the door, enjoying the last five, quiet seconds

Before the physical proof meets the prescient mood, while nothing is wrong. 

 

  

Butterfly wise

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In the days of our illusions

A certain shadow passes like a cloud momentarily obscuring the sun,

Its ray-beams struggling to burst free.

That darkness backlights the rolling images,

Reels of grass, sun and bare feet

Spliced with grimaces and shouts,

Cheers of hurray and way to go and not this time

Flash like solar flares boring holes in memory’s crust.

Dual reality of being here and gone, I

Split-watch now and leave this, then and thereafter–all behind, all ahead–

Like spinning wishes for days like these already gone in nostalgic longing,

While breathing the day’s passing–now–before future eyes.

Lazy time, lazy mind, the butterfly blinks and I am wise.

And then I am the grass, sun and bare feet–once again as never before.

Meditation

  
Hold hands in equanimity,

knuckles to knee, soft palm up,

elbows east and west to the sea,

or thumbs poised right angle to

index, cupping the joint round.

Lotus springs from the dead

but loving breath warms limb, 

left foot rising over right over

left again, balance in the being

synced forth in a becoming to

the rhythmic beam’s third eye.

Hold hands, heart with mind,

hear the calm of 10,000 years

in lungfuls of uncharted time.  

cause and effect

 
 
Though once a huge fan, I have become disenchanted with cause and effect. Formerly hailed as counterpart of or precondition to logic, itself some powerful amulet to ward off irrational emotion since the Age of Reason, cause and effect aka reasons or origins, somehow dissolve into explanations and/or excuses, thereby de-motivating change.

For example, my struggles with anger, judgment and mind-chatter, seem endless. Now, I certainly can and have traced the origins of each of those behaviors as inherent or learned. My father flips into uncontrollable, body shaking, nerve-wracked rage on a hair trigger. His primary feature, besides negative, might be dubbed anger. Whereas my mother never was prone to anger–as much. But she was awfully judgmental, and over the border of cautious into the territory of suspicious. She was quick witted, the product of an agile mind, but also quick to judge. She carried pre-conceived notions and prejudices: “That long-haired boy is dirty,” she once complained to me, though I knew intimately well that he showered–with soap and shampoo–daily. 

The mind chatter may be inherited or environmentally induced or unique to me, though I seriously doubt it. Mind chatter is nearly everyone’s 21st century (and much, much longer) problem. But analysing roots to my own traits and those of my husband, children, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins and parents is a favorite pasttime in the post-Freudian/Jung era. My family loves to do it. However, tracing origins does little to eradicate unwanted behaviors and knee-jerk reactions. In fact, the comfort, even downright smug confidence, in the careful analysis of reasons–for me anyhow–thwarts efforts to eliminate unthinking behavior by believing the job half completed.

  
No doubt changing behavior, especially ingrained thinking patterns and involuntary reactions, is enormously difficult for most. It is for me. Most emotional reactions go unrecorded, unthought of. My litany in the driver’s seat on any given day is one such example. An hour of yoga in the morning concentrating on and then achieving a connectedness with the universe, its inhabitants and all that exists flies out the car window a half hour later in the 15 minute, muttering-filled drive to school: “What are you some kind of a moron?” I might ask aloud to the car swerving into my lane ahead of me, without a mite’s notice. The violence of that question, that mindset, goes completely undetected mostly. Maybe not undetected, but completely unrestrained in the uttering. 

And then I judge myself for lack of control, criticizing myself–Miss Yoga–for the irony and absurdity, for its impeding progress to judge and anger less and focus on chatter-free presence more. Now, I might lapse into congratulating myself for a clever analysis of the causes for such “bad” behavior, like lack of sleep, lack of yoga, lack of control, lack of you name it, when that happens. Knowing and admitting my weaknesses is half the battle, right? That is the psychological lore anyhow.

But that comfort in doing half the work–incorrect math–is illusory, justificatory, rationalization. Enormous effort effects change, enables me–or anyone–to cease automatic behaviors acquired before consciousness. First, the mind chatter must quiet, reduced by half at least, so as to hear, see and smell immediate surroundings of the moment. Quieter still, to “listen” to emotional reactions as they occur or watch them arise. And then neutral observation may have a chance once the way is paved–stillness–to regard the workings of the mind and body. If I can watch the anger gather me up in the car (or anywhere I perceive my efforts thwarted or my path blocked), note it and think of it without judgment, I might short-circuit the cyclic occurrence, the connection between driving and anger severed–one street of one drive at a time. Baby steps. 

The requisite discipline overwhelms me just the thought of it, sometimes. I am too tired to separate myself out like that most days. But at least I know I have this problem and how to fix it, right? Wrong. Cause and effect unconsciously, silently and insidiously strikes just like that.

Mornings

Morning quiet, 

the children and their father 

 are visiting far family 

–the other coast kin.

Silence woke me at 5,

in nature’s alarm,

floored by fleeting time’s passing.

So I padded through a dark kitchen

out the French doors opening

to trees, wall-ivy and cement.

Fog painted my yard early or 

late last night.

  
My morning treasure hunt,

gathering fruit like ancients before me,

I pluck a near ripe tangerine.

  
Dew muffles the circle’s slow awakening.

Only the witness and I ruffle the thick, cool air, 

she inside, me out–both dark of day denizens.

 

Inside, the brewed elixir–arisen–awaits 

the heat of my lips, warm breath

chicory and oily coffee bean permeates.

  

Drawn along softly in my wake, 

unprepossessing, anticipating

every  step and saunter, click

and rushing air precipitated by

daylight’s motion in muted tones,

she watches–just in case.

I feel her eyes and cast mine downward.

   
  

Patience–she sits center in wait,

eyes beaming a steady pinpoint plea:

Notice me. Give me hand.

And I do, bent over her supplication

until the toaster pops and

the noise straightens my knees 

and takes my face away.

  

 

A bite of breakfast timed to her arrival,

stirrings from rooms behind, 

the caretaker wheels her in,

the ritual rousing now complete.

   
  
My first meal companion–

brain-shut in stifled words

uttered inside an airy maze,

once an ordered, meter-mind    

sounding poetry and song, love

and laughter, the mothering kind.

“Good morning, Mom.

Another unpromised day greets us,

so let’s play the lottery with our luck.”

Her inward stare toward the window

flickers only hair trigger slightly.

And the powerful sun, 

still swallowed in mist 

nods assent.

   

In want of the can’t have: love poem of the mistress addiction

  
(LOVE – Oil on Canvas by Michel Ditlove)
 

Be my bittersweet, 

my never have, 

never and always want to have fantasy. 

Be the ever longing up my sleeve 

to pull out on a rainy day 

when love is dried up, wasted and wanting. 

Be my can’t be, 

my dying to keep and ready to lose everything. 

Think of me with you, 

carry me deep, 

breathe my outside in 

and draw me near as I do you

however far you are from me. 

Dream me by your side upon awakening 

and let me lull you to sleep

with my weighty invisibility. 

Let my curdling heat linger on your skin, 

arouse your thickening drowse 

til you darken the conscious keep, 

lights out of your mind. 

Be my owner, 

the idea of us, 

on the leash of imagination 

impossible to lock and cage 

for wishes bait but won’t be bound.
 
Be my whisper’s discrete,

my here and only now,

for no past is ours but pretend,

no future to go there ever be.

My one true zen love,

be my soft kiss of the hand

that airily slips through mine 

like a memory’s warm breath

upon the shadow of my nape.

Be my long lost lover never found

and not a care for caring til it’s gone.

Be the stinging sleight 

and the honeyed finger slid in sheets.

Be mine of the moment gone for good.

Be my sweet bitter sweet.

The Machine Smiled

  
The world swims along–get up, get dressed, get on the road, get to work–in a toneless hum.

My work entails a thousand unpatterned steps and hundreds of mindless arm movements a day.

But flashes hit, halting the me-machine, sudden quiet in chaotic movement that feels like a foot’s firm landing on the ladder’s higher rung–the one I climb ’round the clock.

Something short of an ephiphany but more than a realization. Like an incremental lift culminating from hours-a-day stuttering repetitive mantras: stay focused, present and observe. 

Today motion and mind melded in the dance called machine washing at the shop, otherwise known as surrender to the method.

When thrust into each step of the process from disassembly to reassembly,  acknowledged, full-felt respected, pleasant peace befalls the me-participant in the giving way to–

no resistance, no rushing and no disrespect for time and space yields a tiny nitrous oxide blast-like high in awareness of all is well and right and good–peace in the core, litheness in the limbs–and

confirmed in the machine’s smile.