Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Tuesday, Jan. 31: Using More of Ourselves

This is an idea with a lot of power and zest, this idea of using more of ourselves. We can lift our hand from the hand, or from the shoulder, or from the back, or from the back connected to the pelvis, or from the back connected to the pelvis connected down to the feet on the ground.

This last way of using ourselves will be the most powerful, and the most easy, and the most efficient, which means it will take the least effort in the long run, though to list all the parts involved might make it seems as if it were a larger project. Well, truth be told, it is a larger project, and if we add on our awareness and our breathing, it is even a larger project, but this is another way of saying, we are involving more of us. Which is the opposite of being fragmented and disconnected.

Some people call this larger state, “grounded,” since they have a vague recollection of the time when human beings were daily and constantly connected to the real ground. But, when we sense from our feet up through our legs and pelvis and spine and from that integral connection to the real ground, then move our hand to reach for and connect with something, say an apple on a tree branch up high above, then we are really grounded.

So, this is it, the simplicity of life: touching through to the ground in everything we do. Even now, as I type into this computer, can I be connecting down into the ground, and the ground that I press down into with my seat through the chair on which I sit? Can I be grounded there? Grounded in the feet, grounded in the seat and what is holding me up in all this? What is keeping me from collapsing into a pile on the Earth?

Bones, or course, the skeleton, that hard set of scaffolding that can move every which way. The bones keep me up and the muscles move the bones into different shapes and if I’m lucky I can pay attention to just what shape I’m in.

Again, literally, what shape am I in? Is my shape such that my legs cross each other? Where are my arms and spine in space? How does it all fit together? For all its misuse as a masochistic self-improvement scheme where most students just push themselves around, yoga is wonderful for this: try this shape and see if you can notice all of yourself. Now try this shape.

The shame of yoga is that you are given so little time to explore and really understand what a given shape is. To really understand something, you must move this way and that. A little too long, a little too short, a little too much to the right, a little too much to the left. The arm a little long, a little shorter, the twist a little more, a little less.

And then there are all the wonderful Feldenkrais variation that yoga misses out on, what if you try head turning one way, while the eyes turn the other? What if you try breathing in with your stomach out, and try breathing out with your stomach out? What if you balance on the inside of your feet and the outside? What if you try this with your eyes closed and your eyes open? What if you do this as a movement in and out of a posture, instead of just pushing yourself into a certain shape and then that is it?

What if the right shape for the posture today is not the same shape it was yesterday? Are you using enough of yourself to tell the subtle differences from today and yesterday? Will you be able to discover something else tomorrow? How much of you can you be aware of and learn about as you go about this business of life?

Monday, January 30, 2006

Monday, Jan. 30: Mind and Body, Pain and Out of the Pain

Want to feel better? If your body is stiff and uncomfortable, that’s hard, isn’t it? And if your mind is full of trouble and woe, it’s hard then, too. So what to do?

Well, you won’t be surprised if I recommend coming into the present, getting in touch with nature and availing ourselves of the Feldenkrais work, and the Byron Katie work. What do these two systems have in common?

They both are about the learning being from within, and that learning is going to be the source of our freedoms. If you are pissed at your father, you don’t “let go,” you don’t do “affirmations,” you write down the accusations and then learn from the four questions. If you have a sore back, you don’t get it fixed with massage or hot bath, though both of course are sweet and nice, but you learn to use yourself in easier and sweeter ways, so that not only will your back improve, but so will your tennis game and your walking and your sleep and your sex life.

Both can lead to a better sense of humor, because both show us not only our habits, but give us a way out of the addiction to our habits.

This is a good way of looking at most of our unhappiness, as an addiction to bad habit. And even if the habit is one of using our body so that we are very painful, there is usually a mental habit as well of saying, over and over, like a mantra: I’m never going to get better. Or: woe is I, this is lasting so long, when is it ever going to go away?
Sensing the real pain in the present, and beginning to do Feldenkrais work will begin to ease and change us. And to write down the story/thoughts/beliefs about the pain and do the Byron Katie work on those thoughts will also begin to set us free.

Life is a trap if we are addicted to painful thoughts and ways of moving, but within that trap we are presented with a marvelous opportunity, an opportunity to learn how to use our mind and hearts and bodies in sweeter, kind, more fun and pleasurable ways.

Off we go. Breathing, sensing, being present. And if our emotions start to feel bad: find the thought, write it down, and do the Byron Katie work. Our pain is a signal: time to wake up and do something different, more intelligent and kinder to ourselves.

Hmm. That’s good.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Sunday, Jan. 29: Don't Wanna Write Today: so what

Don’t wanna write today.

So what?

What else can I do with my attention?

Follow the breathing
And let the fingers of one hand
Open and close in time to the breathing
And sense the arms, legs, spine
And follow breathing
And let the fingers open and close
Now life is interesting
And the don’t wanna
Doesn’t’ matta

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Saturday, Jan. 28: Toes and Nose, Who Knows?

Sometimes we say yes, sometimes we say no, sometimes we are aware of ourselves from toes to nose. This is a lot. The toes are many, and the attention, our attention is usually wasted on trivial and petty nonsense, “Does so and so like me?,” “So and so doesn’t appreciate me enough,” “I don’t have enough…”

Fill in the blank. We never have enough money, or love, or time, or health, when we get into greedy mind. And sometimes it’s true: our health could be better, we have a lousy love life, we are so busy that we don’t ever really appreciate our life, we don’t have enough money to pay the bills and have a good time.

And, even in these situations, we have our toes and our nose. The nose is nice because it points our eyes to what we are seeing, and it sneezes when it needs to , and it smells if our food is good, and if the people we are hugging smell like people we really want to be hugging. The nose is a place of breathing, and breathing is a place of life. Life is moving and breath is a continuous moving that brings in oxygen and takes away carbon dioxide and other wastes, breathing in, breathing out, ha, ha, ha.

The toes hold us down to the ground. Wiggle the toes and suddenly we know how much of us there is, especially if we sense the air coming in and out of the nose at the same times as we are wiggling our toes.

Ten fingers, ten toes, belly, eyes, ears and nose. Wow, that fills up the old attention space, doesn’t it? Ten fingers, mine now typing, what are yours doing, can you sense all ten of them and sense your ten toes, and the belly involved in the breathing, the belly opening and smalling with your air moving in and out, and the eyes are seeing what, not just this page, what’s around this page, and how about the white spaces between the words, and your ears are hearing what?

This is a lot: ten fingers, ten toes, belly, eyes, ears and nose. Can you go for this? Can I? Can we join in, right now, this very now nowish of life with our ten toes, our ten fingers, our belly breathing, our eyes seeing, our ears hearing and our nose knowing whatever it knows? Who knows? It surely is great fun to give it a go, don’t you think? Does that make sense, and don’t think about it, just let the you-ness of yourself sink on in to this fullness: ten fingers, ten toes, belly, eyes, ears and nose.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Friday, Jan. 27: Ha, Ha, Ha, Breathing and Making Sound

This very moment, this very breath, I am alive, you are alive, the miracle continues. This is it. The air comes in, and becomes part of us. The air releases out and something from inside of us merges with the environment. There are no hard boundaries between ourselves and the environment. Every breath sucks in the “environment” into ourselves. Every breath out merges “me” with the outer world, the so-called environment. We are all environmentalists, those of us who breathe.

We are all in this moment, whether we know it or not, breathing, whether we know it or not.

In and out, out and in, belly rising or chest filing, or ribs expanding and then the opposite. To be healthy requires good out-breathing. To exhale ful is one of the secrets of happiness. Get rid of the extra and you will be filled.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Say it once. Say it three times. Press your belly in and a little downward as you puff out your ha.
Ha! Ha! Ha!

Now let’s give ourselves some options. We’ll do the one ha, three ha bit, but let’s hum the ha’s, and let’s do it twice before taking in air.
Ha. Ha. Ha
Ha. Ha. Ha.

There is this interesting idea in the Feldenkrais work, that if we want to be free you should afford ourselves with three ways of doing whatever we habitually only do one way. Three ways of sitting down, three ways of sitting once we are seated down, three ways of brushing our teeth, three ways of holding a pen when we write, three ways of standing or walking or running. And so on.

So, let’s give ourselves one more option in haha land. Sing this bit of jolly nonsense, or little pre-Santa practicum, and sing it three times through before taking in the air. Mouth open wide, pressing in and down with the belly. (Don’t just read this, play along. This now is your chance to be a playful, experimental now). Mere the inner air with the environment. Give it on out to the world, this gift of breathing out, and making a song sound of being alive.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Ha. Ha. Ha.
Ha. Ha. Ha.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Thursday, Jan. 26: Responsibility and Real Healing

I am seeing someone for private Feldenkrais® lessons who is in immense amounts of pain. Even to step up onto a very shallow 3 inch step seems a daunting and fearful proposition t this person, who I will call Sam. With the tools of Feldenkrais -- small movements, paying attention to the little details of real life like what is walking, what is sitting, what is vertical, what is going up a step, gentle touch to give the body/brain ideas of new options for moving and living, setting up conditions for functional awareness—together we can create conditions of deep and wonderful improvement. Healing can take place, where healing is a process that comes from within, and is organic and ongoing, rather than being “cured” or “fixed,” which comes from outside, and usually breaks down again later.

However, Sam has to take three gigantic commitments for this healing to happen.

One: There must be a commitment to being present as a first and foremost obligation. This means following the breathing, and being aware of gravity in every waking moment possible. It means to sense any “pain” as sensation in the moment and to discard all vague verbiage such as “I am in pain” as well as to discard verbiage that conceptualizes the present sensation, such as “My child self is afraid and therefore I am clenching up.”

Pain has to be sensed in the moment in specifics of real life. “I feel a stabbing pain in my left knee, about an inch in, and the pain is about one half inch in diameter, and near the edge of the pain I feel a slight throbbing and about two inches out from this, the skin feels warm, but much more comfortable.” Along with the pain, sensing of the rest of the body/brain is wonderful and useful, so we can realize that there are parts of us that are doing okay.

Two: an attitude of total responsibility needs to be cultivated. Which means that all the “this is happening to me…” frames of reference have to dissolve in the responsibility of “Now I am, somehow, someway, creating this pain in myself.” This sounds impossible, but it is immensely freeing. If I am causing my headache, then I can “uncause” my headache, to coin a sloppy new word. If I am causing my sore back, then I can learn ways of organizing myself to uncause this pain. This is why being “fixed” only leaves me dependant on the “fixer,” whereas taking responsibility and learning gives me a lifelong path of improvement.

This attitude of responsibility dovetails with being present in avoiding the temptation to go back into causes, such popular escapes as “I’m in pain because this and this happened in my dysfunctional childhood.” Childhood is gone. Patterns remains, but we, now, activate these patterns, usually unwittingly. To admit that somehow, somewhere we are behind these patterns is to set the stage for the third requirement.

Three. This third requirement is an attitude of good natured curiosity as to what the heck is gong on. “How am I helping to create this little one half inch stabbing in my knee right now?” This is not self-blame, or self-criticism, but something more like an excitement to go inside and figure out how I work, and by figuring that out, with some gentle help as to options, begin to discover alternatives to what I am doing. But even here, to become my own “fixer” gets in trouble. Of course we want to feel better, but a big commitment has to be to the adventure of discovery, or else we are going to get annoyed and discouraged if some of our experiments don’t result in instant improvement.

Consider a baby learning to crawl. It just learns and learns and learns, wasting not a second being annoyed or self-loathing because it hasn’t learned yet. Indeed, it usually doesn’t even know that it is going to end up crawling, but the discovery path is so compelling that it keeps at it hour after hour. This is the way of real healing, when we get on a discovery path. This seems like great advice for myself, as well, I can see. How about for you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Wed. Jan 25: Someone else who thinks "no pain, no gain" is idiocy

This is from some people in Pleasant Hills, called Sugi Studios. At sugistudios.com, the kind of website I'd like. Anyone out there want to trade website development for Feldenkrais, or Byron Katie work?

This attitude is exactly why I'm inventing Felden-Yoga, a yoga based on learning and being present rather than straining and hurting yourself to "get strong," or "look good natked," or keep up with the others in the class, or get the teacher's approval, or whip yourself in a masochistic frenzy of improvement by effort, rather than intelligence.

Read on. Enjoy.

The Sugi Attitude™
Does it make sense to exercise until it hurts? To be sore and uncomfortable afterwards? To take over-the-counter pain killers so you can sleep at night?

At Sugi Studios, we don't think so.

In fact, our philosophy is the complete opposite of "no pain, no gain." In our view, inflicting pain on yourself while you exercise is a form of self-violence. Instead we teach the "the Sugi attitude" - a mind-set that you can achieve more benefit with less effort by replacing effort with skill. In fact, our focus is on reducing or eliminating the pain you may have come to accept as a consequence of living and aging.

The basic tenet of the Sugi Attitude is to always be mindful of the following fundamentals as we exercise:

Concentrate in improving skills instead of using force or more effort

Focus on finding comfortable and pain free ways to move

Alternate between stillness and movement, so the body can remember what it's being taught

Learn how to observe what's going on in our bodies so we don't do something harmful

At Sugi Studios, we've learned that if the body is comfortable doing something, it will do it gladly. When we ask it to do something painful or really difficult, it fights back. So we focus on gently expanding abilities rather than trying to force.

The result? The body gradually responds, areas of pain and stiffness start to soften and move, and over time you'll be able do things you never dreamed were possible.

You will experience a wider range of movement and abilities, gain strength, increase mobility and improve endurance. All of this leads to expanded self-awareness that can transform and inspire your life to make you happier, healthier, and more balanced.

Wednesday, Jan. 25: Hospital Letter, green hospital at Leveroni

In the last week I’ve had moments of clarity in the hospital dilemma, and some of those moments have been a clarity about how complicated this is. Except for the architects’ in-town version, the remaining three alternatives all have great advantages.

The Romberg site would clearly be more accessible to all the people north and west of the town of Sonoma, some 2/3rds of the people of the district. It would not destroy pristine land. It would be replacing a mixed use set-up, a set up that could better be called rural hodge-podge than “green belt,” with a unified medical center. I can see now why and how the hospital board could pick this site.

That being said, to bring sewer and so much building to this site could easily lead to more sprawl.

The in-town alternative ( community) option is at first very appealing. It keeps Leveroni green and Romberg as it is. It is very convenient for the one third of the district’s population who live in town, minus those who live near where it would be built, who would now be dwarfed by 2 and 3 story buildings. These buildings, though not as cramped as the architects’ version on in-town, would still leave almost no room for the healing affects of nature in the medical/hospital environment.

Which leaves Leveroni, an agonizing choice. Most obvious, it is a marvelous, unbuild piece of class-A farm land, one of the few left in the Valley. It provides a rural buffer as we drive from 5th West out of town. The oaks are magnificent.

In short, it is beautiful.

And, here is the agony to me, it also offers two advantages to my mind, and my mind is not interested in room for future expansion. ( My take on modern medicene, in spite of all it’s technology is: the less you let into your life, the healthier you are likely to be). The main advantage to me is the possibility of building a truly connected-to-nature center, where views, healing gardens ( organic food for the patients, as well as organic beauty gardens of fruit, flower and meandering pathways), and nature pathways along the creek, would create healing natural beauty for staff, patients and community. This could provide healing of the sort I think is the most effective: the healing of returning to a slower, more nature connected rhythm and awareness.

The second advantage is to save the crowding and disruption of the neighborhood that would be swallowed up if the hospital were built in town.

Of course, the downside is the ruining of 16-20 acres of beautiful, untouched farmland. ( It’d say, use 20 acres to guarantee an extra four for gardens and pathways and greenbelt). This destruction of pristine land is why, for me, this is so complicated. Still, with immense reluctance, and only if the board comes to deep and irrevocable commitment to a nature oriented campus ( heliport on a roof, minimize the footprint, ironclad agreement that all future expansion be up not out, a guaranteed percentage of land in gardens, pathways and natural space), I would support this alternative. This is the way I’m leaning, just one person who loves the green.

Chris Elms


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tuesday, Jan. 24: Feldenkrais and Learning, 1

There is a Feldenkrais lesson that seems to involve bringing the foot to the head. In Yoga you might “stretch,” or “release,” or “loosen the hips.” In Feldenkrais, you loosen the brain.


You fool around.

You experiment.

You pay attention to little variations.

You makes less effort, so that you are in a calm state and highly open to learning.

You take lots of rests. You are resting not from being worn out, but to let your brain take the time to reverberate with what you have been learning and experimenting with, what you have been experiencing. Especially if you have been experiencing some new possibilities in moving, the brain, your brain, is excited and loving the chance to make “sense,” literally, of what you just learned and did.

The brain loves to learn. Your brain, my brain, our brains all love to learn. That’s how we evolved as a species. That’s how we evolved from a helpless babe. That’s how we keep evolving if we are lucky and don’t duck into habits of watching the tube, feeling sorry for ourselves, or angry at others, or however some of us love to waste our lives.

So the Feldenkrais way is the opposite of the no strain, no gain folks; it’s letting ourselves be in a calm and receptive state. In the straining state, huge chunks of our brain are working on how to avoid the pain. Which leaves little left over for learning. Then again, many folk have been conditioned to be good masochists, and off they go to power yoga classes (even if they aren’t called power yoga). They love to get pushed into pain, because they confuse the way that pain makes them notice their bodies with paying real attention to themselves. “I am in pain, therefore I exist.” This seems better than numbness, but the numbness or some sort of mindlessness (witness the chatter at the end of a “hard” yoga class) will return the instant the mindless class is over. They have been taught that it has to hurt to be “good for us.”

Alas, you might get muscles that way, might lose weight, but you will be miles from liking or loving or even knowing yourself.

If the goal in life is to be stronger and tougher, then learning to tolerate pain in a sado/masochist yoga or martial arts or exercise class makes sense. If the goal in life is to improve and function with more awareness and ease and grace, then we need an approach like Feldenkrais, one that allows us to explore, to discover, to rest, to learn. ( Marlie’s yoga classes come close. Of all the others in town, none really are based on learning. They are based on either avoiding doing anything hard, or creating pain and strength.)

Your choice: no pain, no gain, or my version in the Feldenkrais mode: no strain, all gain, big learning in the whole body/brain.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Monday, Jan. 23: The Importance of Breathing

Sometimes when I set out to do something all is well. Sometimes, I start with a big charge, and then fizzle. Sometimes I can keep it going pretty steady, and then just have days when I’m not into it.

This is one of those days.

I have a couple of themes: the relationship of diet to health, the necessity of staying present when “working out,” or doing yoga, but I don’t have a real theme.

So,…. What to do? Go away from the computer. Sit it the sun somewhere warm with a pen in my hand and some paper. Set the timer for 35 minutes and either write or just sit there with the paper and pen and if nothing comes, that will be my essay for the day. And if something comes, wallah! I’ll type it in.

If we don’t breathe, we die. If we don’t breathe enjoyably, we don’t enjoy our life. A lot of what we like about things we like is that these activities either loosen our breathing ( laughing, sex, pleasant exercise) or at least distract us from being tense in our breathing ( reading a book, watching a movie or a sports event, puttering in a garden, doing a crossword puzzle even).

If we don’t breathe enough, we feel weak or anxious and it’s very hard to be healthy. This anxiety things is interesting because it has two aspects ( at least). One, the story in our word/imagination/mind. And two, the actual clamping down on our breathing that takes place in our body.

The story can be future (“Ohmygod, I’m going to feel so bad at this party.” “Ohmygod, I’m not prepared for this interview and am going to make a mess out of it.). The story can be a weird confusion of future and past. (“ The bombs went off off when I was in Vietnam. I feel like it might happen again.” “I was mistreated in the past, and it could happen again, in fact, I’m almost sure it will.”).

Or the story can be a denial of the present. ( “I was mistreated back then. And I feel as if it’s happening right now.”).

The way to heal the adverse effects of the story, is to run it through the work of Byron Katie, as I’ve written earlier. The way to help with the breathing shortages is to breathe out more. Breathing in will take care of itself if we can exhale fully.

In Feldenkrais, as in life, there is not one Right Way to breathe out. Here are a couple that can be a great start. Lie down on your back, with your right leg long and your left knee bent, so that knee points toward ceiling or sky, and left foot presses into ground or floor or bed. Push down with the left foot as you tilt your left knee to the right and push out your belly.

In one form, push out the belly and breathe out, pushing all the air out, and thrusting your pelvis toward the tilting knee. As the left leg returns to upright, breathe in by puffing in the chest. Get a strong and full feeling as you press the foot into ground and belly out as the leg tilts and you twist a bit. This is belly out and get strong.

In the other form, push the belly in as you raise the leg, push the belly in and breathe out, as if you want to be as skinny as possible behind your navel. Then when you tilt your leg, let the belly go out and the air come in to fill it. Feel almost as if you are yawning and lazily stretching as you do this. This is belly out and get mellow.

Now alternate, one time belly strong and pushing out and breathing air out, and one time belly lazy and pushing out and breathing air in. This is good. And then switch legs and do this on the other side. Each time you do this, take advantage of how much of you that you can feel beyond your belly. Can you feel your spine and neck and chin and ribs and pelvis. Enjoy being a full and living and aware person.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Sunday, Jan. 22: a good life

A sunny day
A bike ride
Visiting a group of people
Helping in a garden
Easting too much for lunch
Then skipping dinner
A walk up a hill
A sweet friend to hug at night
A good life

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Saturday, Jan. 21: Happiness as a Choice

Happiness is one of the signs I am living my life right. Another way of saying that is that under most circumstances, if I am unhappy it is because I am temporarily insane.

Yesterday I had some of these moments of temporary insanity. I wanted a friend to do something that just then this friend didn’t want to do. To want someone to conform to my wishes, is one thing, but to hold onto that wish, and get bummed out with not getting my way, that’s temporary insanity. It made me unhappy.

No. I made me unhappy. I made me unhappy by being a confused friend. I made me unhappy by not being in the present and appreciating the friend just as they were right then.

The up side to this sort of realization, is that if I can make myself unhappy, then I can make myself happy. I can do that lots of ways, the most straightforward of which is to let go of the thoughts and attachments that are making me temporarily insane.

There are limits, of course, to the conditions for happiness. Some people in the world, under conditions of violence, say, or starvation, need not point the finger at themselves, though they surely have a right to help, both their own and that of others, in correcting these conditions.

But those of us with enough food and shelter can get a lot of mileage out of seeing happiness as a choice that we are either making or rejecting. Or inadvertently rejecting by assuming that other people or circumstances are the cause of our unhappiness. Being present to the moment, of course, is immensely useful here, as is giving ourselves permission to learn and be curious as a way of life. If we have something to learn, we can easily be happy, because we are doing what human beings love to do. If we are curious, we can always rise above our misery by being curious about how we are causing this for ourselves, usually with ideas that are temporarily insane.

Then we can begin to leave behind the ruse of the “pursuit of happiness” and take happiness when it really comes along: right now. And if I’m not happy now, what can I do to make this so?

Friday, January 20, 2006

Friday, Jan. 20: Feeling Bad, 7, Wake Up

Wake up. This very moment is a precious moment which will never come again. Feeling bad is a wake up call, telling us, if we would only listen: you are alive. You are out of rhythm with your own life, out of touch with the potency of awareness in this very moment.

In this moment I can choose to be happy. I can be interested in feeling bad. I can notice my thumbs and breathing. I can notice what I am seeing. I can notice my posture. This is the miracle of now: it is always available: no waiting required. No admission fee, you can always come home to now, no money required, no dress code, no resume required, no membership dues. Come one, come all, the present is always here, waiting for us to slow down and remember.

Life is set up so that everyone is in a complicity of sleep, not the sleep of the night time, but the sleep of sitting and not being aware of feet, toes, spine, posture, breathing,. Which is to say, not being aware of ourselves. The sleep of getting up from our sitting and not knowing how we did that.

The sleep of walking across the room and opening a door, and not knowing either how we did that, or even being aware that we are doing that. And the hugest sleep of all: when we open our mouths and begin to talk, to say those very important things about what we did yesterday or are going to do later, or those very important insights into what is wrong with so and so, or to say, how are you, what a nice day, how are you doing. All asleep. Sleep walking, sleep talking, and the agreement is not to say anything about this.

Is there a way out?

Yes. Right now see and seize the chance to be present. Try something in a non-habitual way. As I write this first time through by hand, I hold the pen between thumb and ring finger. This is not the usual way. I have to be more aware, have to write slower, can’t just rush through. As you sit, sway a little right, a little left, a little forward, a little back. Try something slightly different. As you breathe, notice where the breathing takes place. Can you add on breathing in more of you? When you look at these words, can you see the shapes between the letters? Can you feel the breath coming in and out as you read, and the posture and bones that hold you up in gravity as you read and see the shapes and follow the breathing?

Awareness in, awareness out: this is a miraculous ability we have. A gift. The present of the present.

I went to a yoga class yesterday that was all about getting strong. All about a masochist trap of pushing and straining to be something we aren’t. Any awareness in the present came from the pain of trying, trying with effort. If you wouldn’t mind learning without strain and effort, you might love to join a Feldenkrais® class. Libby has them at Parkpoint. I have them various places around town.

But the biggest challenge is after moving with awareness, because moving ourselves is the easiest way to wake to the moment. The challenge is after the lesson, when we begin to talk about how nice it was, or the important things we are about to go do. Can we open our mouths and stay awake? This is almost heresy to bring this up. The complicity is to pretend we are awake just because we are up and moving around and yapping.

But is it true?

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Thursday, Jan. 19: Feeling Bad, 6, Go Outside

So much of feeling bad is self-absorption, this myth that the world revolves around me-me-me. We forget the bigger world, we forget there are trees bigger than us, that the sky is a ceiling five miles high, that the breeze and the flowers and the sun and the rain all have gifts for us, gifts of reality. Nature is an abundance of gifts, a showering of gifts of something wonderful and beautiful on which to put our attention.

Something to love besides our misery.

Nature is good. And we are part of nature. When we go outside and re-connect with Nature, we have a strong possibility of re-connecting with our own Nature, with loving ourselves as part of Life.

And to be part of Life, now, and know we are part of Life, now, that is to be at one with ourselves, which is to be happy and then we don’t feel so bad. We don’t even need the brown paper packages.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wednesday, Jan. 18: Feeling Bad, 5 : You Pick Amount and Depth

Think of Feldenkrais, and the idea of not just moving the shoulder, but of paying attention to the direction and the amount and the timing. In other words, you don’t just move, you select sub-categories of variation and test and enjoy them all to discover more about yourself.

How about treating an emotion the same way? Something comes along. You do the Work. You breathe into it and sense it. You have the feeling that the feeling needs to be paid attention to, and you have the realization that this is your life. You don’t want to be engulfed in the feeling. But you want to honor it. You want not to run away.

Pick an amount of feeling. As in, I want to feel this as big as I can, or half as big as I can, or a third as big. Whatever. It’s your pick.

Pick an amount of time. As in, I want to feel this for four minutes, or half an hour a day, or seven minutes. Grieving the loss of a loved one you might want to feel forty-five minutes a day for as long as it take. Feeling bad that someone snubbed you may be worth 3 minutes. You pick.

Recently something I read got me bummed out. I did the work and still had residues, so I decided I wanted to be medium bummed out for 8 minutes. I set the timer and lay down and concentrated on feeling bad for 8 minutes. You have to try it. Believe me. It’s very different when you decide to go with an emotion, even if 8 minutes seems like nothing. When you give yourself totally to it, even for so small a length of time, very interesting things happen. I won’t tell you what, because it might be different for you. Just remember: go the length you pick and the amount you pick. Half depressed for 8 minutes was a wonderful experience. I hope your experience is equally interesting and exhilarating.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Tuesday, Jan. 17: Feeling Bad, 4, Write and Roll

Set out a stack of paper, get a pen or pencil, set a timer for a short length of time, like 8, 12, 16 minutes, and write. Write what’s bothering you. Write the work, the Work of Byron Katie. Write your dreams down.

Write your ideas for what you want that’s missing in your life.

Write ideas for how to take some steps toward getting what you want.

Write about the fears you have that you won’t make any progress.

Do the work, on the paper, about these fears, the ideas/stories you come up with. “I’ll never get this done.” “I’ve tried before and couldn’t do it.” “I’m too old.” “This is too hard for me.” “You need luck/money/looks/whatever and I don’t have it.”

And so on.

Do the work and keep writing and have a good time and then when he buzzer rings, set it for the same amount of time and roll around on the floor or on a hard bed or some soft grassy earth for the same amount of time. If you are lucky enough to do Feldenkrais, roll around in some of the remembered moves. If not, just move and breathe and notice what you are as a moving living organism. Forget the words, pay attention to all of you, to toes and knees and legs and pelvis and ribs and spine and fingers and hands and arms and breathing and head and all of you, let you move and roll and stretch and contract and try out all sorts of possibilities.

First write the possibilities in one kind of thinking and then move the possibilities in another kind of thinking, the organic, how can I move in pleasurable and interesting ways kind of living.

Live, live, live, breathe, breathe, breathe.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Monday, Jan.16: Feeling Bad, 3, Do the Work

Earlier ( Jan. 5) there was a section on the work of Byron Katie. This is a premiere tool for those times when our mind is telling us that it is time to feel badly. The work is simple, but the work is work.

Get out the old pencil or pen and paper.

Write down what is bothering you.

Be specific about what it is. It is always some complaint about reality. Write down this complaint, preferable in the “should” or “shouldn’t” form. “My wife should have laughed at my joke.” “My husband shouldn’t ignore me.” “My father should be nicer to me.” “My mother shouldn’t have criticized me.”

And so on. This is our misery, all these other people not shoulding and shouldn’ting when they should and shouldn’t.

Then, having written them down. Do the work. Take each should, take each shouldn’t and run it through the four questions:

Is it true?
Can I absolutely know it’s true?
What are the consequences in my feelings and actions when I believe that it’s true?
Who would I be without attaching to the story/belief that this is true?

And then, the turn-around. What is the upside down of what I’m claiming and is that equally or more true?

So and so shouldn’t criticize me. Is that true? Only if the world is set up just to make me happy. Can I absolutely know it’s true? No. What are the consequences of believing that so and so shouldn’t criticize me? I feel small, or angry. I withdraw. I put. I plot to get even. I gossip. Make the list of all the ways the thought leads to the misery.

And finally, who would I be without attaching to the belief that so and so shouldn’t criticize me? Free. Able to breathe. Able to look at so and so and wonder: what’s going on over there? What is the suffering that is leading to their criticalness? And I can even be free to wonder: what part of their criticism is true?

The turn around is sweet: I shouldn’t criticize so and so. Can I pull that off.

And, most important of all, can I be my own friend and follow this rule: I shouldn’t criticize me. Here’s the key, eh? If I want so and so to stop criticizing me, can I stop?

This is a way back to happiness. To take all these thoughts that are leading to my unhappiness, and not try to ignore them, but to examine them, letting mind meet mind. ( More on this can be found at Byron Katie’s web sit, thework.com)


Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday, Jan 15: Feel Bad? Stand and Breathe

If you feel tired
stand and breathe
if you are discouraged
stand up
shift from foot to foot
feel the weight of you
all the way down into left foot
or right
it’s all right, when you are upright
sensing one foot
go for learning
go for variety
inside of foot, put the weight there
outside, front, back
feel all the toes, one at a time
have a good time
getting interested
in you
and gravity
and breath
side to side, back and forth

stand and follow
the breathing

and follow
the standing

a mind interested in the real
is a mind on the way
to happiness

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Jan. 14: When We Feel Bad, 1: Sense

We all have moments when we feel bad. Good. That’s part of life. Rather than getting in a huff about it, all we have to know how to do is to have some skills and tools and options available to us when we feel bad. Here’s the first one: go back to the now of sensing ourselves. Sense where we are in relation to gravity.

How will that help us feel better?

Well, the goal isn’t to instantly feel better. It’s to have our lives rather than being had by our feelings. Feelings can be absurd ( being afraid that someone doesn’t like us when they frown, and they were really frowning because of heartburn), or they can be indicators of something we should pay attention to ( feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough in our lives, when getting out and walking more or talking to more people isn’t exactly what would be good for us), but when they control us, we aren’t really free either to enjoy ourselves or to make changes that might make our life better.

So, to make sense of life: sense. Where is gravity. What is holding us up? Sitz bones? Feet? Back? A combination? If we aren’t in outer space, we are being held to the earth by gravity. This is part of the Life on Earth deal. To notice that at any given moment is a sweet and important connection back into the real world.

Reality heals, that kind of reality.

And then there is the parts of us that are “feeling bad.” Usually it’s mainly a bunch of words, but there are also physical parts to “feeling bad,” such as a constriction in the chest area, or a tightening of breathing, or a teary feeling in the eye areas. Whatever that is, can we sense that, too? Along with gravity.

And then sense the five lines of ourselves: our two arms and our two legs and our pelvis-spine-head line. To sense all these five and our relation to gravity and the part of us that is “feeling bad” begins to bring everything into perspective. We are alive. We have arms and legs to move and interact with the world, a pelvis-spine-head to coordinate all this and help us orient in gravity.

In short, we are alive and a miracle that has a part of us that “feels bad.” Okay, that’s fine. What else can we do about feeling bad?

Get interested in the sensations of the “feeling bad” part. How big are they compared to the arms and legs and central axis:? Are they a round shape, or cylindrical. If “painful” what kind of pain. Sharp, dull, cold, hot, tight, jaggedly. Feel what’s there and feel the whole self.

And then sense the breathing.

Ah, then we are alive. Then we are interested in what it this now of life is all about. Then we are free, or well on the way to freedom.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Jan. 13: Quarrelling to Love, 4:Fun

This seems almost absurd to posit as a pathway out of quarrelling: having fun. Or, it seems redundant to the already suggested pathway of asking the question: Am I happy now? And, Is my partner happy now?

But it is what we do after we answer truthfully, “No, I’m not happy now, and my partner doesn’t seem happy either,” that determines the quality of our life from that moment on. Amazingly enough, most people when they realize they are unhappy, just get unhappy about that. Not a useful strategy, do you think?

Another, better response is to go deeply into the sensation (not the words) of the unhappiness for some length of time you yourself decide. More on this later.

And then, there is this highly intelligent and often forgotten way out of unhappiness: having fun. Here’s some possibilities when the quarrelling idiocy strikes:

1) Speak in gibberish – say your really, really important stuff in sounds that aren’t words. Take turns listening and snarling away, but only in gibberish. Get to the point where you have to laugh at yourself and each other.

2) Switch sides. You argue the side of your opponent/mate and they argue yours.

3) Take off all your clothes and argue naked. Or argue naked in gibberish. Or argue naked in gibberish taking each other’s side.

4) Stand back to back, lean over and look at each other upside down between your legs and then say your very important stuff.

5) Simplify the argument. Take turns saying, “Me right, you wrong. Me good, you bad.”

6) Take off at least your shoes. Sit on the floor and let the toes talk instead of the mouths.

7) Tell you side this way, “Baby me want….”

8) Sing and dance out what you think are both points of view.

9) Invent your own zany way of making fun of our human idiot tendency to throw our joy, love and lives away in the arguing trap.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Jan. 12: Returning to Love, 3: Truth

This is another way to look at the path from the unhappiness of quarrelling to the happiness of love. The path is one of truth. Touch, truth and fun can be seen as the requirements for a good relationship, and can be seen as the way back to harmony and enjoyment when it is lost.

What is going on now?

That is a fundamental truth that will improve the quality of our lives no matter when we ask it. To notice: I am in an argument with my loved one. I am using this tone of voice, they are using that tone of voice. I am feeling tense inside. They look unhappy. We are in the kitchen. It is evening. I am not looking at my partner. They are not looking at me. I am hungry right now. I am feeling….

Whatever is going on, that’s where the attention, where my attention can go. This does two things. One, it gets me out of the “I’m right, you’re wrong, I’m good, you’re bad” world I mentioned in the last section. Two, it gives me access to something that is much closer to my real self, an Observer who can watch what is going on while it is going on.

So in an argument, there is the principal of stopping, looking and listen. There is the principal of touch. And there is the principal of asking myself: what is really going on now?

I mentioned this question before, the questions: Is this making me happy. Is this making my mate happy?

These questions can bring us back to the truth: when we argue we are destroying the quality f life we most desire, a quality of life in which happiness and love prevail. What is going on right now? Always a good question. Even now.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jan. 11: Returning to Love when Arguing, 2: Touch

Here’s another sweet way to stop the quarrelling we fall into when our me-me-me robot takes us over and we are busy ruining our moments, our peace of mind and our love by busily ( and mindlessly) engaging in attack and counter-attack.

As with yesterday’s essay, the key element is to stop. Stop the words coming out of our mouth. Stop the words rushing through our small minds. Return to a quiet that gives us a chance to get back to our big minds. And if we can’t get to an inner quiet, at least go to the outer silence of no more of the arguing, which is basically this: “I’m right, you are wrong.” Or, “I’m good and you are bad.”

Either version is much better off in silence and then we can go for the easiest and most primitive non-verbal communication: touch. Yep, to solve love’s difficult moments, the solution is to do less, talk not at all and touch more. This will necessitate coming closer. This will call for facing each other. ( Most quarrelers, busy arguing with some ghost memory from childhood, don’t look at each other, but are busy snarling away at the invisible wounds, rather than having any idea of the other person in the fight with them).

Come close, face each other, reach out, hold hands. That’s all. Don’t even need to hug. The hands can hold very softly. Just touch and sense yourself and your partner. That is all.

That is huge.

To touch and sense and follow the breathing, coming home to ourselves in our breathing, living bodies and coming home to our partner as another body on this big planet. Two warm blooded mammals coming close and touching, eyes open or closed, this is the beginning of a great and sweet healing. Next time you argue, try it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jan. 10: Returning to the Love when We argue

I was recently moved when listening to a man whose wife had recently died. He spoke of how, on hearing a series of people give glowing remarks about her at her funeral celebration, he realized that these remarks reminded him of why he had first fallen in love with her. He then expressed his sadness at the times the two of them had wasted in their twelve years together in arguing and struggling, times when he had forgotten the reasons he had fallen in love.

What can we do when we begin to quarrel with someone we know deep down we are in love with? Amazingly enough, we can do the same things that make for a wonderful life when we are all alone.

One. Look at what’s in front of us right now. If we are arguing and our mate feels dad or angry and we look at them, we can notice: Aha! This isn’t making the person I say that I love happy. They look sad and angry. They look unhappy. Is this what I want?

Two: we can sense ourselves to see if we are aware of our breathing and are feeling relaxed and peaceful inside. Then we can notice: Aha! This isn’t making me happy.

Three: We can listen. To our own tone of voice. Is it harsh and ugly? And is that harshness hiding pain and loneliness and fear? And we can listen to our mate’s voice. Is their tone hiding sorrow, or fear, or frustration?

Four: We can notice the story to which we cling. Usually this story is some sort of “You are wrong, I am right, I am the victim.” We can ask the Byron Katie fourth question: Who would I be without the story?

Five: We can do the “Turn-around.” Whatever it is we are demanding that they shape up about, we can see that as a prescription for ourselves. Listen to me more; can I listen better? Appreciate me more: can I appreciate more? Be more fair; can I be more fair? Stop being so critical; can I stop being critical? You are so mean/selfish/thoughtless; can I stop being mean, selfish, thoughtless?

So it’s stop, look, listen. Sense ourselves and breathe. Ask ourselves: Is this making me and my friend happy? Ask ourselves, Who would I be without the story? Get a sense of honesty and humility about the imperfections in ourselves that we are projecting on to our mate.

And then: take a deep breath, say something honest, and begin to move back toward happiness and love.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Jan. 9:The Cure for Dis-Ease

The cure for dis-ease is ease.

Not doctors.

Not drugs.

Good food helps. Exercise in fresh air, especially working in a garden or something useful.
Good sleep helps.
Hugging and touching a friend or a loved one helps.

But ease is the core. Ease of mind, not a mind/heart carrying around worries and resentments. Ease of body/mind, to walk and sit and dance and hop and skip with ease: this leads to happiness, which is, if we are in our real state, the easiest way to be.

Here we are again, happiness, love, nature.

And ease.

The cure for dis-ease.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Jan. 8: For love of sunshine and a bike ride

For love of a day.

This day I woke early and got on my bike and rode to an ashram. I'm not an ashram kind of guy, but I've wanted to go to this ashram out at the edge of town for a long time.

So I did.

I arrived not much after the seven-thirty start time to their meditation. I parked my bicycle, the only one there, and looked for the place where the people would be. A fair amount of cars let me believe that there were others here, that is was at the right place. I went in the wrong direction, opened a few doors that ended what was obviously people’s bedrooms, and finally found the meditation room. The first sun was coming through the east window, reflecting off the west. A pretty woman moved over to share a space on a back wall.

We sat and sat and sat. This wasn’t that great, but it was peaceful and interesting: how to be happy and content with nothing. Once I adopted a comfortable position of kneeling, I was happier.

So the day began. More happened. But that was yesterday, and I’m not really interested in dredging it up. A nice day, though, these ashram people knew how to hang out in the sun and had a garden going and the “guru” made jokes about occasionally needing to get the garden work done by the “dictatorship of the guru.”

Nice people, people who like a garden. People who want to be spiritual and like being quite and outside. A nice discovery. Now, as I write this, the next day, I'm too tired to write any more.

So be it.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Jan.7: Life and Love and Not Knowing

Why are we here?

I don’t know.

The story that I have to know, that I must know, is a story that I can run through the mill of the “Katie Work,” as I call the work of Byron Katie. Is it true I need to know why we are here? No. How do I feel when I tell myself I have to know: confused and pressured and annoyed. Who would I be without it, without this story? I’m be curious, wondering: why am I here?

To be happy.
To feel love.
To learn.

These are the answers that come to me when I’m not trying, when I don’t put the pressure on myself. When I don’t demand that I know why we are here, when the answers I come up with don’t have to be the right answers.

To be happy.

To feel love.

To learn.
Not necessarily now, but I can always learn to keep my attention more happy and more loving.

No, no. I can’t get any better. This is good enough.

Is that true?

I don’t know. Ah, the freedom of that: I don’t know. Yum, yum.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Jan.6: Comfort as danger and reminder

This is a weird thing, the comfort thing. In one way, it’s ruining the world. In another way, we are ruining ourselves by not paying attention to real comfort. Wow, what is that all about?

Ruining the World:
I just saw in the Sierra Club magazine that 27% of the car trips that Americans take are a mile of less. This is how comfort is ruining the world. We are too afraid to use our feet, or to get a little exercise, or to take a little time, or to be a little hot or cold, or to wear ourselves out a little bit carrying something that we get in the car auto-matically to go anywhere. Automatons, automatic, we are in a trance of addiction to this monsters of ease, we just turn a key, move a steering wheel, push some pedals on the floor ( most too lazy even to use a stick shift anymore), and drift off to the next place.

Many with a cell phone at mouth and ear. Another addiction, the yammer of conversation. What are we talking about? Our location as we drive in our car. Our opinions about some other conversations. What we are going to do or eat in the future. What we have done and ate in the past. Comfortable in the fossil fuel car trance, zoned further in the yammer trace, we go about avoiding life in the moment.

Missing Our Moments:
And yet, in that moment, we pay very little attention to real comfort. To whether we are sitting or standing in a way that allows us t move and breathe comfortably. And when we finally unglue ourselves from our offices and couches and chairs, if we do decide to exercise, the big tendency is to take at it masochistically. To strain is to gain. Yoga for muscles. Pushing ourselves. Comfort and awareness be damned, let’s make this hurt, then we feel as if we are living.

We have forgotten how to sense ourselves as an ordinary, all day, everyday practice. We just call in an awareness of our selves as physical beings when we are hurt, or when we are having sex, or when we are pushing ourselves to dance faster, or run harder, or do yoga with more strain.

Again, the present is lost in all this, since the orientation is to get something out of jogging or dancing or yoga. The pleasure of the moment is forgotten, as we push our bodies around “for our own good.”

To slow down and feel just what we’d really like to do in that moment, this we don’t have time for. To do something like Feldenkrais or tai chi, or yoga with real attention, this is just living. This is just now. Not enough for the part of us that wants to be bigger and stronger, or buffer, or thinner, or more “fit.”

Ah, me. And right now, even as I type in these words, am I giving enough attention to placing my eyes and head in a comfortable position, and attention to my breathing coming in and out.

Not really.

But to ask the question: How am I breathing now? And to ask: Where am I tensing now that I can release a little of a lot? These begin to bring me back to a sense of my real self in the real world of air and light and sound and gravity. A sense of myself by sensing myself. A very rich world. A world we all tend to abandon way too often. Luckily, now is always waiting for us. Breath is always there to be followed. Gravity, on this planet, can always be felt in our skeleton, Our awareness can always be placed so that we know, aha, this is what it is like to be me, right now

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jan.5: The Byron Katie Work


We have many habits in this human life of ours, and one of the most deeply embedded, and thus hidden from us is the habit of thinking that, “If only so and so would change, then I’d feel so much better.” So and so can be a spouse, a friend, a parent, a child, a co-worker. Almost anyone can “push our buttons” in such a way that we are positive that they need to fix themselves and then we’d be much happier in life. A woman named Byron Katie came up with a system for getting out of this trap when she “woke up” in 1986 after over a decade of depression, alcoholism, overeating, chain smoking and bitterly fighting with her family.

When she “woke up,” she came to a serene place that she discovered only left her when her thinking got into war with the way things were. She discovered that it wasn’t her husband or her children or her mother that were driving her crazy, it was her thinking about them. Living in the town of Barstow, and having no spiritual tradition, she didn’t go to any path of “giving up thinking,” or “letting go.”

She took a new/ancient approach of looking at her thinking in a way that allowed her to accomplish the old and seemingly impossible advice: love your enemy. (In the bible, Jesus is quite clear on this: anyone can love someone who is treating us well; the real test of love is when they don’t.). Her method, called the Work of Byron Katie ( see thework.org), has four parts and four questions. The four parts are, judge your neighbor (spouse, co-worker, etc.), write it down, ask four questions, turn it around.

Why judge? Because we do. The first step out of a habit is to be honest about it, to realize it. So, writing it down helps this. Instead of just buzzing around in mental obsessions about how troublesome so and so is, write down their crimes. Like this: “So and so should stop talking so much.” Or , “so and so should listen to me more.” We judge, so stop pretending. Write it down to slow down thinking and see clearly, this is what our mind is doing.

Ask four questions goes like this: 1) IS IT TRUE? Is it true that so and so should listen to me more? Well, I think so. I feel so. But can I really know what so and so should be doing, or is capable of doing.

2) CAN I ABSOLUTELY KNOW IT’S TRUE? Can I absolutely know it’s true that can and so should listen to me more? This pushes me into realizing things.

3) HOW DO I REACT WHEN I ATTACH TO THE THOUGHT? When I attach to “so and so should listen to me more,” how do I feel? Usually bad, or victimized, or frustrated, or angry. How do I treat them as part of my reaction to the thought: maybe avoid, or attack, or nag, a withdraw. How do I act in life? Gossiping about them. Thinking about them in an obsessive, tormented way. It’s different for all of us, and kind of the same. Our reactions are not pleasant , and strip us of ability to be present and peaceful.

4) WHO WOULD I BE WITHOUT THE THOUGHT? If I think of so and so, but leave behind my inner yap/yap about how they should be, I just see them as they are: worried, or distracted, or frightened, or whatever.

That’s the four questions, and then comes the fourth part of judge your neighbor, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. Turn it around. This means to see the judgment as medicine that we need to take. So and so should listen to me more “turns around” to: “I should listen to so and so more.” It also becomes self-healing: “I should listen to me more”, which would solve the anguish. If I’m hearing myself, truly and with the respect and understanding I want from so and so, then I’m secure, whether or not they listen.

This seems too simple to be effective. It does work, but you have to do it, not think about doing it. It’s called the “Work” of Byron Katie, because, like any shifting out of the trap of habit, it takes real effort (work). And like real work, it can create enormous changes, liberating enormous amounts of stuck energy. Try it and see, if you are interested.

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Jan.4: Responsibility vs. Victimhood, a Grand Choice

Let’s say I get sick. I can blame the people around me with their colds. I can blame the weather. I can blame the government for not getting me a flu shot. I can blame myself for not getting a flu shot. I can blame the doctor’s for not keeping me healthy enough.

Or, I can take responsibility and wonder what I need to change to enhance my immune system so that the next time cold germs come wafting by, I don’t have to buy into the sickness trip. Maybe I need to eat better, to eliminate sugar and white flour. Maybe I need to get inorganic foods out of my diet, to stop stressing my system with chemicals, additives and pesticides. Maybe I need more exercise, more time outside, more time breathing fresh air. Maybe sleeping with a window open at night can get me more fresh air. Maybe I need to sleep more, or have a calmer, less stressed life.

This sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it? So, that’s why the blame route is easier, since I just have to feel weak and victimized and complain, but I don’t have to do anything to improve or more healthfully organize myself and my life.

And then there are the bad feelings, which I can blame on the mate who growls at me, or the ever popular “dysfunctional” childhood. This is greatly popular, and Lord knows, many of our childhoods could have had a lot more love and intelligence in them. But, I’m talking good old fashioned, cop-out blame here. I feel bad because my parents did such and such. Or, the moods just come out of nowhere, as if they come from outer space, and I’m just in a bad mood. No one is to blame, I’m just depressed or unhappy or anxious. These things just sweep over me, the victim of certain cosmic flows, or the bad vibes of our times. ( And Lord knows, our society is structured to cut off people from real things, real life, real knowledge, real connection with each other, real connection to now and to nature, and still: if I’m feeling bad is this something I am responsible for, or is “society” the next step up from dysfunctional parents, the always handy object of blame?)

And then, on the other hand, if I’m feeling depressed I can take it to the source: me. I’m depressing me. How? My thoughts, my actions, my lack of breathing, my habits of talking trash to myself, or staying indoors all the time, or my habit of not being in touch with what I really like and love in the moment. But, if it’s me behind my depression, it’s me that can do something about it. For English teachers: if it’s I behind my depression, it’s I who can do something about it.

Either way, it’s my call. I can do the Byron Katie work on my depressing thoughts. I can take a walk and not believe the story I feel “too bad” to do anything. I can go outside or read a book or do something I like, even though the part of me that wants to stay depressed doesn’t have “enough energy.” What is the Byron Katie work? It’s a way of letting out minds ask ourselves, “Is it True?” that I don’t have enough energy. There are more questions. Next section I’ll run it down.

But for now, what a relief to have this choice: the choice to say, hey, if I’m feeling badly, this is something that I am, somehow, doing to myself. Maybe I’m feeling badly because I want to play the piano and can’t. The solution is not to raise my self-esteem. It’s to learn to play the piano and learn to like myself when I set my fingers to the keys and am not instantly perfect. If I feel badly about not being instantly perfect, I can blame my childhood/parenting/education/society.

Or I can see it as one more part of myself that could stand a little clarity and understanding if I am to get out from under the trouble into which I get myself.

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Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Jan.3: The Power of Choosing Now

To be alive is to have choices. Very often we take the choice of refusing to acknowledge that we have choices, but that is a choice. We just don’t know we are making it. This is the big mystery of awareness. When we are not aware, by definition, we are not aware that we aren’t aware. When we are aware, life seems full and rich, as if doubled, with one part of us going about our business and another part thrilled and delighted and intrigued to be watching and aware of what’s going on.

It could be breathing in, breathing out. It could be sounds coming in our ears from a friend’s voice. It could be sounds coming in our ears from someone saying something so-called “critical.” This is when awareness gets pretty amazing. The conditioned part of our minds, the little robot, wants to freak out when someone says we are a jerk, or are stupid, or are selfish. But the aware part can hear the actual tone of the voice, can see the face, can sense our own body and emotions as we hear these vibrations of the air molecules that come to us as a message we are supposed to be freaking over. In the present though, it’s just words. In the present, this is another person with an idea of the world that includes calling us a jerk or a fool or worse.

If our image of ourselves is crucial, we freak. If our awareness of ourselves in the present is strong, we are so happy to be alive and aware, that we can treat this just the way we would a novel or a movie where one character rips into another. We can even feel happy, as we notice we aren’t freaking out, because this is a big reason why they are saying their trash, to get to us. When we don’t react, we jam up the robot vs. robot fight fame. This is the beginning of real freedom, when the stakes get high, when someone is not that happy with us. Then we can wise up quickly. Our job isn’t being perfect in their eyes.

We take another choice: to be aware of them and our own breathing and sensing as they rip into us. We get interested in this movie, this movie now. We start to notice all sorts of things we usually are blind to when the arguing begins.

Such as:

Are they having a good time as they go into negative mode? Are they aware of the wonder of being alive? Probably not. We might look at their tight and tense face, and hear their strained and hurt/angry/judgmental voice and feel relief that we aren’t them, as well as compassion for the suffering they are putting themselves through. They want something, that they don’t even know they want. Recognition, love, attention, to be smart, to be right. Whatever it is, if we look at them in the moment, we can see that they are not happy now.

If they aren’t happy, this is one of the choices open to us when we are in the present:: to think about what we could do to make them happier. This seems strange, doesn’t it, the idea of someone calling us a jerk or a fool and we are present enough to see that they aren’t happy right now. Furthermore, we might notice something else on top of their not being happy. We might notice that they are right, and we can be present enough to laugh and agree, ‘Sure, you’re right, sometimes I am a jerk. The time you are talking about, yes, I was a fool.’

Then you can ask an important question. ‘What do you want now?’ Often the other will just repeat whatever they think your crime was. And you can take the choice to bring the affair into the present. ‘Okay, okay. I was wrong, bad, stupid, selfish. But that was then. Now I’m listening to you. Now I can see you are unhappy. What do you want to do now?’

The past is done.

That is one of the choices we can take when we are awake to the present, the choice to bring a conflict into the present where something can be done to make it a situation that isn’t a conflict.

What do you want now?

This is a good question to ask someone who is upset with us. This is a good question to ask ourselves when we are upset with ourselves. If the answer goes to craziness, the wish that we were different in the past, we can nod. (The craziness is not that only crazy people do this. Everyone suffers immensely with the wish to rewrite the past. The craziness is failing to recognize, after all these years, that the past cannot be rewritten.)

“What do you want now?” Maybe the other person will have a rare moment of honesty and admit they want to fight some more. Then we can all laugh and get on with creating a mutually satisfying present together. Maybe they will admit, they want you to listen to them, or agree with them, or help them not feel so bad. Whatever it is, we can listen with ears that hear and eyes that see. We can breathe. We can be present. We can answer their requests, either yes or no, not from a robot of defensiveness, but from a human being of awareness.

This is a great choice to make. The choice to forgo a conditioned robot that wants to run our show and to be instead an aware and present being. A real human being. Nice.

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Monday, January 02, 2006

Jan.2: Waking Up in the New Year

Is what life is all about. That and love. It’s possible to love without waking up, but not likely to last. In the “falling in love,” we are flooded with moments of being in reality, of listening to and looking at and thinking about the beloved as an object of wonder and delight. As I said earlier, we see the newly Beloved the way we would see a sunset or an ocean, as wondrous and delightful in their own right.

Later, we revert to our sleep and our selfishness and want the partner to be more flattering to us, or more attentive, or more ass-kissing, if truth be told. At first, we drop our me-me-me preoccupation and are thrilled to perceive another human being. Then the crapola begins to fill our minds, and we slip back into humanity’s greatest illusion: that other people were sent to this Earth to make our lives easier and more happy.

No, other people are asleep and are obsessed with getting More of some undefined something, of which there is never enough. Call it money, or love, or attention, or recognition, it is more a sense of not enough, not enough that drives us in our sleeping state.

And when we wake?

Then to breathe and know we are breathing is a big thrill. To walk on this wonderful Earth and feel or feet each time they touch ground is the delight and miracle that it really is.

Doubt me? Make a clay figure of a human, putting the feet on as the size that they would be in proportion to the rest of the body. See if you can get it to stand. You can’t. Under-stand this: to stand, to walk, is a miracle, almost. To be a being that can know it is standing and walking when it is standing and walking , this truly is a miracle.

This is our possibility : to wake up to the moment.

What is the easiest way? To follow the breathing, or to follow movement, as in Feldenkrais, or yoga. To move with attention and awareness. To slow down our moving can help become more aware. Sometimes speeding it up and making it bigger, as in dance, can help, though dance can get lost in the watch the me, me, me trip. But dance with real attention in the moving, that is a sweet and wonderful state, as is singing with awareness in the moment.

What’s the hardest times to be aware?

You discover for yourself. Set out to be conscious all day and notice when you fall into the sleep of not knowing what you are doing in the moment. This is one of the most important tasks in life, to set out to be awake, and to discover when and where we fall asleep.

Be encouraged every time you discover something about yourself, even if you discover that you have been asleep to the moment for hours. At least in that moment of discovering, you are awake.

Every moment counts.

Every moment in awareness counts times a thousand.

Go for it.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Sunday, jan 1, 2006: New Year's Poem, the lines of life


The new year
begins every day
sun rising
even behind thick wet clouds
always a sun
even if we don’t see or remember it
breath rising
breath releasing

even when our mind wanders
oh, sweet mind of mine
would you like to come back home
nestle in with me for a year or a day or an hour
tuck on in snug
to the breathing in
breathing out
and the shape of me as this breather

the five lines of me
two arm lines ending
in fingers and thumb,
these fingers and thumb, right Now
moving the pen across the page
as these words unfurl
and my breathing rises and releases
and I know it or don’t know it


the two legs line, marvels of moving
and rising up high from the ground
grounded on amazing toes
wiggle hands that I usually forget
how much fun they can have
when I notice and know and appreciate them

legs rising to hip joint, way in,
not where everyone thinks it is,
hip joint, so hip, pivoting on the marvel
of the pelvis,
goes this way, that, whirls and swirls
bumps and grinds
propels us, walk us, sexes us, power us,
fun pelvis, miraculous pelvis

and up from this magic bowl
the spine line
holding ribs, rib basket, not cage,
protecting the heart and breath
this same breathing in
breathing out
I remember and forget and rejoice to rejoin

ribs that float the shoulders holding
the arms and those fingers and thumb
to reach out and touch the world
and topping the spine line
the old noggin’
full of too much words, too many thoughts

and high up with eyes to see, and ears to hear
and a nose to sniff our possibilities
of amazement, and learning, and loving
and delight
in the sun rising
always new year
cloud rain grass
mountain and meadow
five line, breathing in, breathing out
Ocean of Life.

Sunday, January 1, 2006