Is weeping speech?

I’ve been thinking on the poem I Have Five Things to Say from Rumi, (translated by Coleman Barks, down at the bottom of the post). So many of Rumi’s poems leave me feeling as though I’ve been struck in the heart and this one is no exception. I’ve only recently been reading some poems from Hafiz and find they too have such depth and such ability to touch the tender places.

I have a lot of internal struggle around crying and have been actively working with it since 2008. One thing I remind myself over and over is that Kwan Yin’s response to the cries of the world is to weep. The vessel she is often depicted with contains her tears, which have become a healing elixir. I remember this when my Inner Critic is beating me up for crying, for looking silly because I’m crying, for causing me to worry that I’ll be caught crying and punished…

Ugh! I spend a pretty ridiculous amount of time worrying about crying. “Just cry!” is pretty much what all my teachers say to me in one form or another. All of them. It is damn hard to relearn this stuff and some days I feel loads of Bad Student Guilt over seeming to need to hear the same message over and over again.

When I read the line in the poem, “Is weeping speech?” I thought of Kwan Yin, She Who Hears the Cries of the World, and her wordless response, suffused with compassion for all the suffering of the world. Her act to hear terrible suffering and respond with the open vulnerability of crying reminds me of the very positive quality to tears and how they are a way of speaking when words utterly fail us.

I HAVE FIVE THINGS TO SAY

The wakened lover speaks directly to the beloved,
“You are the sky my spirit circles in,
the love inside love, the resurrection place.

Let this window be your ear.
I have lost consciousness many times
with longing for your listening silence,
and your life-quickening smile.

You give attention to the smallest matters,
my suspicious doubts, and to the greatest.

You know my coins are counterfeit,
but you accept them anyway,
my impudence and my pretending!

I have five things to say,
five fingers to give
into your grace.

First, when I was apart from you,
this world did not exist,
nor any other.

Second, whatever I was looking for
was always you.

Third, why did I ever learn to count to three?

Fourth, my cornfield is burning!

Fifth, this finger stands for Rabia,
and this is for someone else.
Is there a difference?

Are these words or tears?
Is weeping speech?
What shall I do, my love?”

So he speaks, and everyone around
begins to cry with him, laughing crazily,
moaning in the spreading union
of lover and beloved.

This is the true religion. All others
are thrown-away bandages beside it.

This is the sema of slavery and mastery
dancing together. This is not-being.

Neither words, nor any natural fact
can express this.

I know these dancers.
Day and night I sing their songs
in this phenomenal cage.

My soul, don’t try to answer now!
Find a friend, and hide.

But what can stay hidden?
Love’s secret is always lifting its head
out from under the covers,
“Here I am!”

Inner Critic Out of Control

Not sure when it happened, but my Inner Critic has gotten the upper hand again.

My therapist today commented in the midst of my ranting about how angry I am at myself, that only I would find some way to manage to avoid giving myself credit for something I’ve done by saying I was ashamed of having to do it in the first place. I’ve taken my weight loss and turned it into anger at myself for gaining weight in the first place, a way to beat myself up for something in the past rather than appreciate my accomplishment.

Yes, that sounds even more ridiculous typed up than it did a few hours ago. That’s how powerful my inner critic’s voice can be. I’m not even sure when it started up, but here I am. Am I that terrified of having people read my writing that this has come up

So back to the hard work of hearing the voice that offers gentle encouragement and reminding. Reconnect again to the part of me that remembers how to over loving-kindness to myself.

Body

It was one of those realizations during zazen that felt like it kind of thumped into me. Why writing about, talking about the weight loss is so difficult.

I feel shame for having gained all that weight in the first place. For having abused my body so much.

Every day I’m reminded of it by the skin. I mention it sometimes, like wanting to wear something with long sleeves to cover my upper arms, the underside of which have a great deal of loose skin. People shrug and say how that happens to a lot of people, it is genetic.

Only really, this isn’t like that. It is extra skin. One of my dearest friends, who has had a lap band surgery, calls them her “Bat Wings”. More exercise and different body care products will not make the skin go away. There or any of the extra on my belly (upper and lower abdomen), breasts, and thighs particularly. There is quite possibly 10 extra pounds of skin. That’s what happens when someone goes from 290+ to 140 +/- (I stay within a few pounds of that in either direction).

I mentioned it to Chozen and Hogen after sitting. I was reminded that instead of shame I need to honor my accomplishment by helping others. I joked with Hogen, asking if he kept a tally sheet under the sazen cushion for how many times I’m told this lesson. He laughed and said only for me. Chozen noted that I needed to go back to the piece I’m writing for her with this mindset.

And Loving-Kindness, of course.

I haven’t done it yet. We were in Sacramento all weekend visiting CK’s family. It was an inferno there compared to Portland, painfully bright. There was a lot of family dynamics and tension I was getting introduced to at the same time. It brought up some tough stuff in my past.

On top of that CK’s step-dad, a professional photographer, took a series of photographs of me. Well over an hour of going through yoga poses again and again, turning to get different angles. It was exhausting on so many levels.

I shouldn’t have looked at the images mid-way, but he was making a light adjustment for me to do standing asana, so I looked. He was complimenting my chaturunga, how great it looked to get it in series. He does yoga, so often he had a comment or suggested a couple of poses I hadn’t done.

I couldn’t stop looking at the way the loose skin on my upper abdomen hangs down. Gravity being what it is there’s just this round line. It doesn’t matter how strong or lean my core muscles are in my abdomen, nothing will make that skin hang smooth against my body again.

I continued on with the asana, working up a real sweat in the warm house in my yoga outfit with long sleeves and pants. CK expressed surprise several times, noting how I could do some poses she didn’t even realize I was capable of. I wasn’t able to move away from feeling shameful about my body for a while, it wasn’t until I looked at other poses that I could work my way back to appreciating my alignment in the asana the way a teacher would. Moving towards looking at my body as just a students, not actually my own.

Back to the writing for Chozen. Now that I’m out of excuses and have zeroed in on at least one big reason I’m so uncomfortable with it. I suspect there’s others but this appears to be a good one to start with.

Writing About the Weight Loss

I’ve gotten OK with writing about quite a lot of stuff. I’ve now even managed to write three things to be put into zine-type publications and have the work be personal, from my own experience. Writing about the weight loss is tough, weird, and it is one of the topics I think I get asked about the most.

Chozen was at the Dharma Center tonight and thanked me for writing a nice review of her book on Amazon. This prompted me to blurt out that I’d finished a draft of my assignment from her but I was still unhappy with it. I noted that CK had thought my voice seemed distant in it. She said usually reading my writing seems as though I’m there talking with her.

Off to the zendo and zazen I went with that little burst of anxious, “bad student” guilt, courtesy of my Inner Critic. It struck me in that first period why I find writing about the weight loss so difficult, why I try to distance myself from it. I feel ashamed for having abused my body with gaining that weight. Every day I see the loose skin as some kind of testimony to my guilt.

Second sitting period starts. I breath in… and Hogen’s telling us to work on feeling satisfaction with ourselves, our breath, our bodies. Ugh! I feel like I’ve just been double-teamed by my teachers. Then I directed the madly spinning brain wheels to some Metta practice.

In chatting with both my teachers after sitting I was reminded of what I am told again and again. To take this history, the lessons I’ve learned from it, and use it to help others. Turn it all into potent medicine to heal the world. I sighed and laughed, feeling a bit sheepish (which is a variation on the bad-student anxiety, only with more kindness).

Chozen reminded me that she asked me for this writing because it means more for me to say that it is possible to change your life through mindful eating. She said that they might listen to hear about struggling with chocolate desires, but I truly speak the voice of someone who has successfully lost 150 pounds and kept it off. Proof that there is a way.

So I’ll pick it up again over the next few days. Read it aloud, feel the words and where my discomfort rises up around them. Practice Metta and remind myself why I’m writing about this stuff (to help others, not so I won’t feel guilty around Chozen… OK, maybe both).

Down Time

I feel at loose ends tonight. I could have went with CK to go stuff the bags that will be handed out as people show up for Open Source Bridge starting Wednesday morning, but I didn’t feel like being around a bunch of people talking. I didn’t feel anxious or anything, just not very social. I’d also rushed to go to the post office, drop off DVDs and picked up some veggies for dinner. Then a rush to make dinner so CK could eat and dash off.

Dinner’s star was the beet greens. CK thought I was inspired by the tattoo of a bunch of beets sported by the woman who helps manage Scapegoat, maybe I was. I picked up a bunch of 4 small beets with gorgeous, lush greens and popped them into my bag along with kale, zucchini (soon won’t need to do this) and other yummy produce. We’ve been eating out so much that it was really nice to have a very simple diner at home, even if it was rushed.

I had felt all fired up to get started on some art projects and have had some very clear thoughts as to construction, etc. I got upstairs and just felt unfocused. I ended up finishing Chozen’s book, Mindful Eating, finally. Then I went downstairs to put away leftovers and do the dishes. After that I popped outside and tried to get the cages around the now very grown tomatoes. The effort of this and dinner have left beet

Mostly I’ve cleaned in my little office that lacks all things from an office (no desk, etc.). The space has been quite cluttered during the move and I’m feeling like it is contributing to my feeling unfocused when I’m in there. It isn’t perfect and I need to make a plan to take a pile of clothes to the Useful Goods Exchange swap shop my friend runs in Southeast. It is a bit better, am shifting my sitting arrangement too.

I’m trying to remind myself, those voices inside that criticize and push me a long, that pretty much all of September through April has been change and upheaval. Yep, all for the good, but BIG. Things have just kind of piled up ad still seem to be piling around. I don’t have to be constantly producing all the time – whether it is teaching yoga, making art, cooking (I turned down CK’s idea that I make cookies tonight), writing, or anything else those inner voices deem as “Good Productive Work”. Once in a while it is just fine for me to do nothing but finish a book, do the dishes and call it good.

Open Source Bridge Butterflies

Back during the craziness in March, finishing up teacher training, relationships all sliding around, that’s when proposals for Open Source Bridge were due. I really wanted to find something to present but felt so swamped with finishing up stuff that I wasn’t sure if I could do anything and resigned myself to just going as a participant.

That’s when I got some very positive encouragement, especially from CK, to send in a proposal for a mini yoga class. I thought I could pull that off and sent in a proposal. Immediately upon sending it in my Inner Critic started commenting about what I could possibly be thinking. I mean, really, a yoga class at a conference for developers? Come on…

By the time I left for the Loving-Kindness sesshin I still hadn’t heard back if it was accepted. CK had heard back on one of her proposals, several people had. I guessed that I was right, that although some people were interested, not enough of them to pick yoga for a tech event. I was really OK with this and started thinking about a proposal on change control I could put in next year. Then I went to sesshin.

It was after returned, when popping by to join the monthly Code-n-Splode in April, I got the news in person from the conference chairs that they wanted me to do the yoga session! It was a great surprise, especially since I’d written it off in my mind. Now it is just over two weeks away and I’m feeling a little nervous.

The 45-minute class I did at BarCamp felt like madness! So fast, not a lot of time to do corrections or anything. This is another quick session, 45 minutes at the end of the first day. My Inner Critic has reminded me several times that everyone will leave for beer rather than do yoga after all the “real” sessions. I won’t have any props this time, so talking people through using props isn’t necessary.

I’m going to focus on some breath work and postures that could be done at a desk, in a line, really anywhere. Quick, short things that really help relieve a lot of the wrist/neck/shoulder stuff computer people get. I’ve joked with people that this is the yoga you’ll do when you get out of a frustrating meeting.

It is a stretch for me in that it isn’t my usual free-form approach to a class. It is very focused on a limited area without a lot of time for in-depth answers. I hope people come, have a good chance to wind down after a full day sessions, and THEN go have a beer. Heck, I’ll join them and go on about how I really do think Yoga and Open Source have a lot in common! I am trying not to listen to what my Inner Critic says about it.

Angry Tai Chi Man

First of all… I am feeling sad, cranky, and questioning myself.

Good thing dinner with CK was nice.

I had a good day back in the office after a couple of weeks – and that’s after having been in only one day in three weeks before getting bronchitis. It was nice to reconnect with co-workers, but the day was filled with sad news and my throat hurt by then end of the day.

I’m hoping it is because I’ve been talking so much more.

Then home via Tri-Met. Kind of nice sitting on the bus. Instead of reading on the way home* I put my book away and did Metta practice for everyone instead. I wasn’t able to take part in a Dharma-brother’s “Zen Flash Mob” idea this past Sunday since I was teaching at the time, so it was nice to do this as my evening commute meditation.

A quick change and off to Dishman for my Tuesday class.

And another confrontation with “Angry Tai Chi Man”.

I’ve been teaching a class at 5:45, which was moved to 6PM at the request of students, for about a year now. A month ago I opened the door to my classroom to discover a Tai Chi class underway.

Uhhh…. There went my precious pre-class minutes to get myself set up to teach!

I checked in with the site director who informed me that he’d scheduled the class to end at 5:50, a short 10 minutes before my class started. Pretty tight since students really like to have time to ask questions, gather belongings, etc. He suggested I chat with the other teacher about the close time commitments.

I gathered my courage (I hate confrontation) and let the Tai Chi teacher the next week know about the close scheduling. At that time one of her students, who was listening in despite my efforts to take the other teacher aside and explain things, suddenly jumped in and confronted me angrily, “So what are you saying? To get out?

It left me feeling anxious and upset the rest of the evening. I had tried to explain to him that I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful and that I was offering to start my class even later, just that there was a tight time commitment and it would be most helpful if the Tai Chi class ended on time.

I missed teaching last week and was grateful for it.

This week I waited until 5:55 and went in with my stuff. My mat, very unfortunately, landed on the floor with a thud having slipped from my hand as I went to unroll it (Natural latex, surprisingly heavy). I quietly walked along the edge of the room to hang up my jacket and open the closet where the props are stored.

The Tai Chi class ended and the same student as a few weeks prior rounded upon me immediately in anger with phrases like, How dare I enter their room, obviously projecting my anger at them? How little respect I showed.

He parted the room with, How can you call yourself any kind of yoga teacher?”

The worst part?

I couldn’t immediately curl up into a little ball around the wound, the hurt of this anger. No, two new students were waiting for me to teach them. Ugh.

After quickly introducing myself I slipped outside to apologize to the Tai Chi teacher for interrupting her class with the heavy “Thud” of my clumsily dropped mat. I confirmed with her, “You class ends at 5:50, right?”

“No, 5:55.” she answered.

Uh. Problem!

“Oh, the program director told me 5:50!” I said back in surprise.

For weeks I have felt the chafe of irritation that this teacher would consistently end her class 5 minutes late! I felt the irritation turn instead for the activity director who made this ill-timed planing decision without informing either of the teachers involved! Then I took a deep breath.

I left a note at the front desk to tell any students who ask that my class will now start at 6:10, instead of 6PM. This gives ample transition times between the classes and hopefully will mean I may get to avoid another interaction with Angry Tai Chi Man. In addition to offering Metta for my students, the memory of Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, and all beings, I tried to offer Metta for the Tai Chi class, teacher, and especially Angry Tai Chi Man.

I forgot about myself. I have a habit, generally considered to be unhelpful, of forgetting myself.

Then I went home and broke one of our new dishes. Admittedly kind of cheap, but I still felt hugely bad about it, growing more and more upset with myself.

After all, I had picked out said cheap dinnerware and I had broken it by microwaving it.

The voice of my inner critic, which had already grown strong stewing over the words about my worthiness of being a yoga teacher, stomped in an angry tantrum all over my heart and I started crying. CK, who had been trying to read me a proposal request, was a little surprised at my upset over a dish. I admitted that the interaction with the Tai Chi student had really hurt and I hadn’t really been able to acknowledge it because students were right there.

She just hugged me an said she was sorry I had to deal with a jerk.

I didn’t feel awful to cry, not that if felt exactly good, but it felt OK. Not as crushing, overwhelming, or anxious feeling as crying usually feels. I just cried a little, with her comforting me, then got back to finishing up dinner.

We’ll see how next week goes. Honestly, I’m hoping to miss Angry Tai Chi Man entirely!

Graduation Depression

Everyone keeps asking me how happy I am now that my second round of yoga teacher training is completed.

I haven’t made it to happy yet. I’m beginning to wonder if this is the next entry onto the list of accomplishments I don’t truly feel happy for finishing. I feel unfocused, anxious and sad.

Some of this sounds like it is normal. I touched base with a couple of my fellow trainees this week and they echoed my less than happy feelings. I have heard from others how they felt down after finishing something like this. Tonight after the Dharma talk Nan called it “Graduation Depression” and gave me a hug.

I want to feel energized about the piece I’m writing around responding to the suffering of others. I had a moment last week where I just wrote flat out and felt good about it. My thoughts really came together around the idea that what we can offer to others, what we always have available to offer. Instead I sent a copy to CK and immediately hated what I wrote.

“Ahh, I hear the voice of the Inner Critic.” said Chozen with a smile when I mentioned this to her tonight.

Chozen wants me to feel energized about writing for her blog on Psychology Today. I told her I had an outline done and she was happy to hear that I’d made some progress. I felt like a bad student. I also told her I hadn’t written in days, felt unfocused, depressed, and not at all wanting to attend her sesshin starting the 20th on Loving-Kindness.

Being Chozen, she heard all of this and smiled at me. She insisted she is not nagging, merely reminding me with kindness to help me focus. She asks people to reminder her in this way when she is writing as it is useful to her. She is looking forward to my writing about responding to suffering and said that my reaching a point of hating it is not necessarily bad. She said that she gets that way too sometimes and then later, when the writing is read again she discovers that there’s some good stuff.

AM is moving the bulk of his furniture this weekend. We had some tense words yesterday and I still feel the energy of them. These two endings, strung together, seem very heavy. As the teacher training progressed to a celebratory, loving end my marriaged progressed towards as loving a divorce as possible.

Saturday I am going hiking with CK and whoever else shows up at 10AM by the Zoo MAX stop. We’re going to have a picnic after the short hike, if it rains we’ll do it in the shelters at Hoyt Arboretum. On Sunday she and I are going to Easter dinner. Ham will be served so we’re making a hearty, vegan soup to take with us.

I feel guilty for not being excited about CK moving into the house with me when I am back from sesshin. I know inside there’s a part of me that is so happy, so grateful, so excited and yet I feel very disconnected from that part.

The Monday After

Not too much today. I was tired, poorly rested, and in a funk all day. Come down from finishing teacher training on Saturday on top of everything else going on. Spent most of my day feeling unworthy of living up to the positive things people said about me on Saturday. Heavy with the responsibility of that praise.

Yes, today my inner critic showed up right on cue so I would spend most of the day distracted with negative feelings. Generally a lousy and unproductive day. Feeling unproductive, when I’m not intending to be, it really irritating to me. I feel very impatient with myself when I have trouble focusing when I feel I should be.

CK and I made tacos, even picked up and enjoyed an avocado with it. Such luxury! We watched Wilde, which was as well written and acted as I’d heard. It has been a nice quiet evening together. I really was happy for it since she’ll be at the Inner Critic workshop this weekend.

Today should be the official end of the 30 Poems in 30 Days challenge in my Sangha. I find that I have 28 poems at the end, which is pretty good. Given the day I’ve had I’m trying not to focus on not having 30 and to allow for a simple haiku to end on.

Moving Forward

An ending becomes
Just another step forward.
My way along the path.

Fourth Noble Truth

Tonight during the graduation ceremony for completing my 200+ hour yoga teacher training my teacher said that I was the Fourth Noble Truth. The way I teach yoga is one of the paths away from suffering.

I’m still just trying to be with this compliment. Trying to not listen to the voice of the inner critic and move away from these words. I’m pretty stunned, really and am just trying to stay with it being a compliment.

E said some pretty amazing things too and made a yoga octopus pendant for me. I so love the design she came up with and the meaning behind it. It has already crossed my mind that the design would be incredible on a t-shirt or as a tattoo. I’ve also wondered if CK could use it on the website we’re going to come up with for my yoga teaching practice.

And then CK said wonderful things about me after being put on the spot because I forgot to warn her that JW would ask her to speak. I felt so happy to have her there with me. I mostly just focused on the flower in front of me and tried not to cry. She also brought these lovely, orange flowers for me and made awesome vegan mac & cheese.

I am actually rather amazed I wasn’t crying all evening!

…thinking about all this stuff to keep from thinking about something else… keep from thinking about how I embody the Fourth Noble Truth when I teach… It feels big, too big to get my mind around, so I’m going to stop trying and rest.

Fourth Noble Truth

There is a way.

That is the simple
Beauty of the
Fourth Noble Truth.

All one needs is
Just the knowledge
That a path exists.

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