Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.

10Jul/142

July 2014 Update

tap. tap. tap. Hey, is this thing on?

I feel that at least a short summary on all the things that have been going on is long over due.

By October of last year work became intolerable to the point of triggering my PTSD and my Mother flat out told me that she didn't want to work with me/us to live together or even have a relationship with me. In early November 2013, as I was trying to put on Ignite Portland, Mother pulled the granddaddy of all tantrums in order to get her own way and strike out in one massively hostile, abusive, dangerous action. And I? Well, I just had to stop and was encouraged by HR to go on short-term disability.

I was granted the benefits for two months, but instead of personal recovery I had a couple of frantic months where I was still dealing with Mom's stuff and hostile behavior. I also frantically looked for another job. Then day came where I was supposed to go back to work and I really just kind of halted, the human equivalent of a core dump. My health care providers told me to stop all of it and sleep, take walks with the dog, make art, read and take lots of hot baths. There's new medications too, which have helped me to start sleeping again and keep my PTSD at a more manageable level. I have also officially left my position at my old company.

So I run errands during the weekdays and have been working on organizing more things around the house. Spending a couple of years constantly dealing with my Mother's stuff has had me taking quite a few trips to Goodwill to get rid of things I realize I no longer use, read, wear, etc. A friend of mine and I created two new flower beds in our yard last month, one in the back and the other right outside the front door. I love that whenever arriving home or leaving, the first thing we see now are flowers.

My health care providers remind me that I am doing the necessary work of healing after years of exhausting work from being on-call for so many years and the even harder work of healing the wounds from the abusive relationship with my Mother. Lately there's been more good days than bad, which helps me feel like there's "progress".

Still, there are days were I find it hard to get myself to leave the house. Seeing old co-workers causes panic attacks. News or contact by my Mother causes a week of nightmares and days-long anxiety. Finding yet another box of her hoarded, expired medication exhausts me. I'm told that the level of breakdown and extreme exhaustion I was at in December was pretty severe and recovery may take a long while. I have been strongly encouraged to "retire" early from high tech positions and instead teach yoga and start selling my artwork.

If I were to be hoping to return to tech, my doctor has said that she would consider releasing me to that kind of work until January at the earliest. However, my care providers have enthusiastically released me to start teaching occasional yoga classes. I'm going to be trying to get on the substitute teacher list at some of the community centers, athletic clubs, and yoga centers.

A June Wedding!

I also am now legally married to CK, which is amazing and wonderful. In early June Oregon's ban on same-sex marriage was overturned and we got our license within hours of the legal ruling. On June 14th we were legally wed in our backyard with a few close friends, CK's Mom & Step-dad, and sister were in attendance.

I've been adding a few new recipes to Vegan Nosh. I love that my food photography has improved so much from the class CK and I took together last year. I've found a linoleum block carving class the day before my birthday and have broadly hinted to CK that I'd love us to go together.

This weekend I will be attempting to spend some time at the World Domination Summit. Ticket was bought a year ago, when spending a crowded weekend with a few thousand people sounded fun. Giving myself permission to just go for the things I want to go to.

29Jan/100

The Body That Practices

I finally brought my notes together into a rough draft of the workshop on Metta Yoga, "Union with Loving-Kindness". I've been thinking about this for so long and tonight a question from a Dharma Sister wondering if I'd set a date in a few weeks reminded me I needed to not loose focus. I'd brought up to Hogen that I was deeply committed to teaching this workshop, that I see it is so necessary to cultivate love and compassion for the body that practices.

Once I started writing down times and what practice went where I was surprised at how quickly I brought it together. A morning introducing Metta practice before moving into Asana to warm the body and open the hips before resting. Sharing lunch, including some time to just eat, perhaps even 10 minutes of silent eating before people talk. Then gather people back together for discussion about the body, how we view it, how we compare it, and how we stop that cycle in favor of cultivating gratitude and compassion for it. Deep focus on Pranayama after discussion before moving into another hour of Asana practice to open the heart and focus the mind. Time to practice Metta during meditation and then ending in full Savasana.

There it was, a full day of yoga built around Loving-Kindness practice, cultivating love for our body. A part of me feels like a big fake. I have a lot of days where I rush to put my clothes on, even more disappointed with my body after weight loss than I was when I weighed 290 pounds! I certainly have times when I feel entirely unqualified to teach anything and no one wants to hear about my experiences.

And then I'm brought back to center. I become present to my body, that which supports me even on days like today when I don't feel very good. I've become better at recognizing when I need to rely upon the loving support and encouragement from CK, my friends, my Dharma family, and even my Mom. These people are all my Sangha, the good company of people seeking the Way. Like falling backwards into the thousand arms of AvalokiteĊ›vara, I let myself feel the support of all of those hands of my Sangha and through that find belief in the truth they see in me in those moments I am unable to see it myself.

I am grateful for the belief of my Sangha and for my body which supports my practice, the Sagha of me.

8Dec/090

Loose Ends

I taught my last Tuesday class at Dishman tonight. I was a little sad before heading out, but felt OK once I got teaching. Which is usual.

I was surprised to end up teaching a more vigorous class including some sun salutations to warm everyone up since it has been so cold (for Portland standards). The requested hip & leg openers got right into some of the "crunchy" congested energy of my hips. The left one doesn't hurt as badly after all the acupuncture earlier today.

It was another long session focusing on detoxifying the meridians. More of the heart-protector again. Some discussion about the energy being caught in the muscles being anger. Not the kind of overblown rage that we often think of as anger, but the energy that arises to set a firm boundary. Something that was denied or taken from me growing up.

In five element acupuncture anger also represents the energy of spring that causes buds to open. It is the energy of rebirth and creativity. It is represented by wood. This is the block that stands out most dramatically.

The needles went into the surface of the back, the tender points between the shoulders, and tears came and stayed for a while. Not hard, just constant. It was a long session, sitting for only 10 minutes before lying on my side, wrapped in blankets except for the bare back for the needles and feeling the energy zoom around.

After teaching a delicious potato & broccoli soup for dinner made by CK while I was teaching. She's been working while I've been finishing up a couple of small art pieces. All the energy drained out of me about 90 minutes ago and I'm hoping I'll sleep better tonight.

4Nov/090

Ch… ch… Changes… (and a simple novel)

I'm still kind of stumbling around mentally after that snapshot of the Inner Critic moment. I am considering the suggestion of giving her a "non-threatening" name, so I can talk to her. I thought about staying home on Monday after taking that picture but went out instead to the women's Dharma group I participate in. I was glad I went even though I felt very resistant to it.

Tuesday I talked with CS at Dishman and resigned from teaching there now that CC & EB have said they will take over the two classes. Feels weird even now typing it. Felt big and shaky doing it. I immediately got off the phone with him and went to Dishman to teach a class. That felt even weirder. I've not told them yet, I'll bring it up over the next 5 weeks, my last classes. I'll officially end teaching at Dishman on December 20.

And I have no where to teach. I've been talking about teaching at our Zen center, but I have a whole lot of back-and-forth feelings about it. In some part I'm worried that the space, so amenable to Zen practice, is not the best for yoga practice (carpeting, everywhere). I sent a message over to a new studio in my neighborhood today and have been chatting with a new studio in Northwest Portland.

I've been considering other changes too. Looking very strongly at what I'm doing at work, what my motivations are for that work, and considering all the feelings I have about work carefully. At the very least it might be good for me to do the practice of writing my resume (it has been nearly 8 years since I did that) and see what kind of response I get to it. Might convince me to tough out this rough patch, might remind me that I do possess a lot of skills, and it might be a new step on my path.

And I've been letting myself wholly enjoy a good novel. I picked up Sunshine at Powell's the other day, it was on sale, on an end cap as I walked through and I've always enjoyed Robin McKinley's books. It is fun to be reading something so lighthearted, relatively, compared to my stacks of poetry, Dharma and yoga books!

19Oct/090

Transition Practice

Stayed home and rested much of the weekend. I still feel like my energy just deserts me at times, but the head/ear pain has subsided. I'm feeling a bit gloomy that I have 5 more doses of the antibiotics. They're working but they make me feel a bit nauseated and leave my mouth tasting as though I have a handful of pennies in it.

I taught a class on Sunday that ended up with many adjustments, to such a degree that it was good practice to stay with compassion even while I felt frustration arise. When I finally gave space, silence to it I am able to see that frustration really arises out of the fear that my students will feel like I don't give individual attention fairly and that I worry some students may need assistance but I am often asked to help a very stiff, over-achieving student.

Today I took a big step in my teaching. I've started to contact friends who are also yoga teachers to see if any of them want to take over my classes at Dishman at the beginning of the year. Right now I have the luxury of working out details to offer a class at my Zen center. I see it more of a way to enrich my practice of teaching by letting it become even more deeply co-rooted to the Dharma. I'm also checking around at other studios to see about teaching a class somewhere else.

I think I am finally being able to let go of the "guaranteed money" of teaching at the community center. I have these two classes, I'm always on the schedule, and I get paid regularly. Not a lot, but for the past 4 years it has become something of my personal fund for books, a couple of my tattoos, and clothing. Once I could start to let go of that I could start to approach people I'd really like to take over my class.

I have a big soft spot in my heart for these classes. I've learned so much in teaching them and I want to leave them feeling as though I've done everything I can to support those classes continuation. I believe at least one student will follow me when I move to the Dharma center, so perhaps I'll get to experience that connection to my first teaching practice as I move into new waters of teaching.

And I've been having fun working on two "Artist Trading Cards". Autumn themed and I've been playing around with pressing leaves then decoupaging them down. On one I've drawn a very simple tree in pastels against a grey, about-to-rain sky. Another has three leaves on muted, smeared oranges and yellows.

The Autumn rain awoke me early this morning, before the alarm, and I snuggled down a bit with a cat while listening to it on the roof (I love that my bedroom is under the attic so I can hear the rain on the roof). The day that ended with an orange-y sunset peeking through dark grey clouds. All that in mind, a haiku for the rain.

Autumn Downpour

Dawn and hard rain sound,
Thrum of water on my roof.
Autumn serenade.

18Jun/090

Late Nights of Geekery

Another late night tonight, haven't been home since 8:30 this morning and am currently on the top floor of the Hilton downtown in the Hacker Lounge for Open Source Bridge. CK brought the snacks from the car, which helped the low blood sugar cranky/coldness I was feeling earlier. Someone from San Francisco handed me a porter a few minutes ago and there's been a great sharing of and talking about tattoos.

Yesterday I gave my session on yoga and was totally delighted and blown away by the number of people who showed up, tried the poses I suggested, dove into the breath work and all laughed a lot. Several people told me how much better they felt afterward. Tonight someone in the lounge asked me if I'd posted up the notes from it on my website yet and another asked me where I teach!

CK and I were chatting last night on the way home and noted how my offering yoga in the midst of a developers conference, as "one of them", makes it seem more accessible, not as imposing as going into a studio filled with flexible, toned bodies in tight yoga clothes. To me it really just confirms for me once again how yoga really is for everyone.

Tonight 32 people showed up for CK's session on meditation for geeks, "Re-factor your brain". She did a great job, I felt very proud and so happy for her. I get such a kick getting to watch her talking about the things she has a passion for. I am feeling so fortunate to have someone in my life to share these things with. We have these areas were we overlap, like meditation and yoga, but there is never this feeling of competition, just a wonderful synergy that continues to fill me with gratitude.

14Jun/090

New Tattoos and First Workshop

After the sadness and quiet of Friday we slept in late on Saturday before hitting a very full day. We popped by the annual Buddhist Festival in the Park and dropped of flyers for my class today as well as running over to the Dharma Center to pick up the post cards CK had printed of the various meditation times. Saw several members of ZCO there and we had planned to get back, but the day's errands just took over!

We decided we would take advantage of the Let Live fundraiser being held by Scapegoat Tattoo, a $30 tattoo with a vegan and/or animal rights theme. We lucked out and were the last ones to get our names on the list for my 9th and CK's first tattoos. It was a good thing we had several errands since we ended up being all bandaged up around 11:30PM. Afterwards we went off to Whiffies to get celebratory pies!

Today CK made some maple walnut cookies to share after my yoga class in the morning. Given that we hadn't had much time at all to publicize the event and there were so many conflicts this weekend (the biggie being Pride) I was thrilled that 3 students came and donated money towards the Heart of Wisdom down payment fund.

I learned a lot teaching this mini-workshop on Metta Yoga. I started by doing some simple stretches to open the body a little in preparation for meditation. I allowed several minutes to just settle into the breath and then introductions the three phrases of loving-kindness practice for five minutes each. After meditation we moved into an asana practice that included sun salutations, abdominals, and a warming of the legs in preparation for some heart openers. I offered Side Bow as a challenge option at the end before moving into some twists and forward bends, still opening the hips up. I allowed over 15 minutes for a long savasana and used a guided body scan that offered appreciation and loving-kindness to the body. At the very end I read the translation of the Metta Sutra from the San Francisco Zen Center that Chozen read to us one of the days during the Loving-Kindness Sesshin.

I would like to offer this workshop again in the fall, maybe September and perhaps for 3 hours. I don't want to cut down the meditation at the beginning or the body scan at the end, but the asana practice in the middle felt a bit rushed to me. I'd wanted to do a few more poses to go more deeply into the hips and legs, especially prepping for bow pose at the end. I also felt like I offered too few hands-on adjustments since I was moving quite quickly - only getting up to correct in bridge (four-footed-pose) since the precision is very important for the feet & knees.

I had a good chat with another member of ZCO after teaching and a meeting for the Founder's Dinner next Sunday. I expressed that I was feeling like I was to a point where I wasn't sure I wanted to keep teaching at the community center. More than anything I'm tired of asking students to come put their faces down on a floor that is often covered in glitter, dried mud, Skittles, and bits of popcorn. I also walk around on this floor barefoot - ick! The absolute privilege and joy of getting to teach at the Dharma Center highlights just how nice it feels to teach in an enviroment that supports practice.

I don't require a fancy location, but I look forward to a clean environment that supports the practice (Saucha!). To that end I expressed interest in working out teaching a couple of classes at Heart of Wisdom, when we have our own building, instead. I just felt that if I was splitting the earnings from teaching with a studio space, I'd rather split that money with my Zen center to help support it. It was wonderful to hear her agree that this seems like a good fit for Heart of Wisdom and my practice of teaching. I really look forward to working towards this goal in the future and helping support my sangha in this way.

4Jun/090

A Flurry of Words & Code

We hid from the storm, which seemed to diminish right after we decided to stay home, and I have been writing most of the night. CK has been building my website. Occasionally she looks up and says, "Your going to like this!" in a gleeful voice.

I have been writing a lot of content for the site tonight. Finishing up a bio plus a bit that talks about my teaching style and influences. I also sorted out using the space at the Portland Dharma Center to teach a yoga workshop as a fundraiser for the Heart of Wisdom Zen Temple fund to purchase our own building. I asked Hogen permission last week and he said I could do it. Rinsan asked me to sort out with Dharma Rain if I could get into the building ahead of our usual 3pm Sunday time.

That got worked today and I suddenly was in need of text to put on a flyer! CK is going to put a black & white one together for me using the text I used. I believe it will also show up on the new website! We also have ordered fantastic business cards for me too.

Suddenly, in a flurry of words, code and intention Samatha Yoga is coming to life!

I also finished a draft of an article about how I have used yoga & Zen to help manage my chronic pain. E is friends with folks who do a zine about chronic pain called, When Language Runs Dry and has sent me the call for submission twice now. I sent a copy of the draft to her to see what she thinks.

All this writing must mean I really will write the piece for Chozen's blog. I think I needed all this other writing to build up momentum to let me zoom on past my Inner Critic's voice and write my story.

2Jun/090

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.

19May/091

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!