Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.



It has been a full week.  I have been reflecting upon the past several years a lot this week, which is only to be expected.  The 24th was my seventh marriage anniversary and we celebrated it by hanging out at home and discussing our impending divorce.  AM has been so open, understanding and supporting of wanting me to be who I really am.  It has provided space for him to be honest about his feelings of disappointment, dissatisfaction in our relationship.  It has been sad in that regard, mostly because it is painful to change even when it is for the better.

I have been nursing a persistent ache in my left shoulder.  It occurred to CK and I last weekend that it is the arm I injured last spring, playing on the swings.  I'd went to jump off and caught a finger in the chain, wrenching the entire arm and shoulder.  I've taken most of the week off of doing yoga, especially anything weight bearing on my arms.  I'm icing the shoulder, which helps it. After teaching my beginning asana class today I find my lower back and hips ache; they have not appreciated the break.
I've been able to spend the past two days with CK, reconnecting after her being visiting home for the week.  While she was away I was aware of the ways in which she has become part of my life; the ways in which I felt her absence from the space in my life.  I found myself feeling anxious about my age, about my physical pain.  I've been aware the past week how often I feel so young, but I'm aware of the aging of my body and afraid I won't be able to be a good partner to CK.  Last night this fear bubbled out of me as I lay next to her.  Through her feeling ill from a terrible headache she offered reassurance and understanding.
She's across the room from me reading right now.  We've spent the day in close company.  It is easier to feel open around her now.  I'm starting to feel like I can relax into the spaciousness, the connection between us.  It is this constant back and forth still -- I feel myself pull away, resist trusting this love, and then remind myself again and again that it is OK.  
CB asked us all at dinner at Great Vow Zen Monastery on Thursday what we were grateful for.  I first noted how much Great Vow means to me, what a refuge it is in my life and how cared for I feel when I am there.  I also said how grateful I am for the people in my life who are open and compassionate to me, who encourage my growth and support me.
AM who is supporting me by wanting us to get divorced so we can both more wholeheartedly pursue who we really are.  It is strange in a way to call this support, but it feels that way.  He isn't calling me names or bad mouthing me, like my ex-husband of nearly 9 years ago does.  Instead he is trying to find a way to make sure everyone knows that we're doing this because we need to, that it will improve our friendship ultimately.
CK who wants to support my teaching yoga, being a freelance project manager and analyst so I have the time to do workshops.  Who likes to snuggle up with me and talk about raising children together; something that moves me to tears and fills me with such abiding wonder.  She expends energy on being observant, very thoughtful, and encouraging me to be silly.  With her I feel as though several truths have finally been revealed and I understand myself more deeply.


Open, Deep Places

Tonight I am up late. I've been cooking quite a lot and picked up one of my dearest friends from the airport at 9:45PM, in from San Francisco. Then cooked some more.

CK is down in Sacramento and I miss her. I know I've written something like this before. I remember being aware of missing her when she was home in July, but this feels different. She has commented noticing the same thing. How she didn't feel this way even just a couple of weeks ago.

Over the past few weeks our relationship has moved into a new place. In trying to put my mind to it the place it seems as though we have lost some of the urgency that is felt during a new relationship. In the place of the insistent sensations of want and uncertainty there is a feeling like moving into a deep, open space.

Another memory of swimming, this came to mind while thinking about the more open place my relationship with CK is now --

Before my third year of college I was teaching swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and synchronized swimming at a girls camp in central Oregon. On a day off I hiked over the ridge from the camp to a small lake a couple of miles away. The day was tremendously hot and the sun bright in a dark blue sky. There was no one else at the lake, I walked all the way around it and there was not another person to be seen. The water was still, dark and clear.

In the quiet I slid out of my clothing and slipped, naked into the cool water of the lake. Not my usual behavior, but I felt entirely at ease. My inspection of the shore, the other trails leading to the lake, had left me feeling safe to just enjoy the water alone.

I did breaststroke out several feet from shore, using a very causal, quiet form as to not break the silence. Then I floated, gazing up at the sky, pine trees at the edges. It was so quiet. Nothing but a slight breeze, an occasional bird, and the sound of lake water against my ears.



I remember RC saying to me that he felt that anniversaries are more important in our lives than birthdays. We weren't party to the choice of our birthday, we just arrived for it. But anniversaries often mark an event we choose or an event significant to the lives we're a part of. I reflect upon the years I've been teaching yoga, the times my Father and my Dad each died, the first few times CK and I went out together, and the time when AM and I got married.

Compared to each of these times I can reflect back on the years that have passed. What has changed (much) and what has stayed constant (little) and how I still relate to the anniversaries. Those dates remain fixed in time but I am remain in movement. This autumn and winter marks the 8th year since my Dad died, the 7th year since my Father died (just a little over a week ago), the 7th year since AM & I got married, the 3rd year I've been teaching yoga, the 3rd year I've been practicing at Zen Community of Oregon, and one year I've been seeing CK.

The next year will be full of changes. All of these anniversaries will remain, perhaps a couple of new ones added, however the way I relate to each of them will have changed. Next year I will not be taking CK to the airport to share the holiday with her family -- either I will be with her or she will remain here and will creating new anniversaries and traditions. I find myself really excited at this thought and that helps offset the undercurrent of crankiness that has been there since I kissed her good-bye at the terminal.



Last night it felt like the words were still percolating down through the layers to be able to write about them. Tonight it seems like there is more space between them and writing.

Shossan was done last night after zazen. Like sanzen, it is a chance to get to ask the teacher a question about your practice. Unlike sanzen, which is done in a room, privately with only your teacher and you, shossan is done in the zendo, standing, in front of the entire sangha. It provides the opportunity for everyone to share in the teaching being given.

First of all, I tried very hard to not practice questions in my head while sitting zazen. "Just be in the body, feeling the breath in the body.", I reminded myself when I found myself rehearsing. And it didn't go too bad. I felt some of the stillness of zazen settle around me like a blanket.

When shossan started I tried to be attentive to the sangha members, the questions they asked, Hogen's responses. When the row I was sitting in was given the indication that anyone with questions could get in line, I got up with a question in mind.

Even now it is gone. I stood a few steps behind the teacher's bowing mat, tried to be attentive to the person in front of me. That's gone now too. I moved forward when it was my turn, bowed to Hogen and went blank. The nice, safe, un-revealing question I had in mind was gone.

So I went back to a question I've had for a few weeks. I've not asked it in the past two sanzens I've had because I've been focused on the immediate change occurring in my life, but this question is what came out of the quiet anxiety I felt at realizing my question was gone.

When I talked to Hogen about the shame I felt coming up, what to do with it when I had checked out and knew I was making an ethical choice. This shame feels like some awful echo again. When it and some of the fear come up I tell myself again and again that it is nothing but old emotions, feelings that were unsafe for me to experience during the events that created them, ghosts. I try to send myself compassion, loving-kindness, and stay in the present.

These things feel like they get between myself. Last year's Ango was around the theme from a Teisho from Maezumi, "Close the gap between yourself and yourself." Hogen also had me practice with learning to have more pride for my achievements.

This Ango arrived and I felt like I was still working on the gaps. I try to assimilate what happened during my childhood, acknowledge that I had been so afraid and hurt. When I try to think of some of the things as part of who I am my mind just stops. It doesn't want to move into those spaces. It stops cold at the precipice and says, "Everything but this."

Hogen told me to be patient with myself. To stop expecting myself to be done with this already and feeling like I'm not making progress. There isn't a time line for my way on the path. He focused on one of the other of the Paramitas for me, shaki which translates to peace, patience.

It isn't that I'm judging these things unfairly. There's no way they can be looked at without expressing sorrow that I experienced them. I try to picture myself as that child and recall as much love for her as I can. It is reasonable that I judge what hurt me as a child as bad.

To be patient with letting the scope of my childhood fear surface and be acknowledged, that feels like the practice Hogen was talking about. To not rush these emotions off and want to be done with them already. To treat them with loving-kindness, again and again if necessary, until those emotions feel comforted and quiet down.

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Fear with Fear

This morning CK and I were walking to MAX to ride into downtown to our respective offices. We had fallen asleep the night before talking about the anxiety felt around all the changes going on. How close we are now and how there is fear that living together full time might compromise that. As we walked the topic resurfaced and CK noted that I wasn't participating.

In part I was just trying to listen, be present and open to her feelings. However, I was also very mindful of the fear I felt rising up inside of me. I was feeling unable to respond to her anxiety without the voice of my fear rising to the top. I didn't want to respond to fear with fear so I was silent.

Finally I just told CK what I was feeling. That I felt afraid of the changes hurting our relationship and was trying to keep silent until I could respond from love and compassion instead of that fear. As I spoke to her I was aware that I wasn't sure it was the best thing to say. I felt relieved at her positive response and that she appreciated knowing why I was silent.

I am sure at times my silence must feel like withdrawal and at times it is, when I pull myself around my pain and shut down to the world. At times, most times now I am just trying to run through all the routines I've developed to keep my anxiety in check, being mindful of the precepts, and trying to find words, hopefully skillful ones.

Since this mental activity is a new tool I'm trying to use for my PTSD I never gave any thought to it being worth sharing with someone what was going on inside my silence.


Off Balance

More than anything I feel entirely off balance. I feel anxious but not entirely connected to anything other than the sudden, large changes coming. Although I was surprised at AM's quick decision to move us both into a new life, separate, he's not wrong.

I remember swimming off the coast near Newport, at Beverly Beach or South Beach maybe. I was 14, maybe 15 -- one of those moments where I can't quite place the actual year. We were camping nearby with family from Washington. My cousins, both scuba divers and strong swimmers, and I were out past the first line of swells so we could catch waves forming to body surf in. The surf was huge and pounding that summer's day.
I had turned to look back at shore for a moment when a wave caught me in the back of my neck and shoulders. The force of it pushed me into the sand and rocks a few feet below the surface. I could feel the riptide grab on to me and I tumbled backwards across the ocean floor.
Salt water burns the eyes and I didn't have goggles on that day. We were just body surfing and goofing off. I kept my eyes pressed tightly closed as I staggered and fell, tumbled and was pulled along. It was impossible to get my bearings, to actually know which way was really up.
So I opened my eyes and looked for bubbles, where the sand was, turned my body around until my feet were below me, and pushed up off of the sand. Breaking the surface I could see how far I'd been pulled out. My eyes ached and burned, I was crying as I breathed in huge gulps of air.
After a few minutes of treading water I swam back to shore. As I stood to walk to my stuff I felt heavy and flopped down onto my towel exhausted. I lay on my belly breathing hard, feeling my heard pounding against my ribs, listening to the roar of the ocean.
I never told any of them, especially my Mother. I feared that, having confirmed my swimming out so far was dangerous, I'd have that pleasure forbidden me.
Since Sunday I've had some memory of that, being pulled along, buffeted by the tide, and at a loss to where my balance is. I am trying to keep my eyes open for the truth.


I was unprepared for things to go they way they've gone. At first I thought I was merely asking for space, acknowledging that I didn't think I would change back into someone who felt the same level of passion.

AM is checking into housing. He spoke to the manager at our bank today and got advice on the steps we'll have to take disconnect our finances, our shared accounts. He feels excited, nervous, worried, and glad we are taking this step. He talks about what things he would like to keep when he moves, where he would like to move.

I still feel stunned at the sudden nature of the change. I thought we might keep the relationship going longer, but I really didn't feel like things would get better. I didn't expect AM to fully agree and set things in motion quickly. Part of me was so busy bracing for anger that I didn't expect harmony in situation known for acrimony.

Tonight I was sitting by the fireplace knitting a scarf for CK's mom. I had a moment of thinking of her there, sitting near me reading aloud to us by a fire. It was a good thought, I noted it and just enjoyed it without the worry and guilt swirling around it.



For a while now AM has been telling me I'm a lesbian. And I got it, mostly. Some things started to make a little sense -- all of adolescence being nothing but mostly feeling like I just didn't get what everyone was going on about. I tried to figure out the whole dating boys thing, but it never felt like anything other than hanging out with some guy and all this strange tension around him looking at me funny. Ugh.

A couple of days ago he commented that it has been the elephant in the house with us for a few years. It has been a quiet elephant. Keeping to itself, generally neat and tidy, unobtrusive. Still an elephant, taking of space and required that we work around it. But since things have been relatively comfortable, companionable and safe neither of us has really wanted to address the issue of the elephant.

Now that we've looked at the elephant, talked about it, we're both able to see, acknowledge the depth of the disconnect. Both of us pretending we were the exception, my sexuality had a "grandfather" clause in it that meant I wouldn't have to change. AM and I could stay together, best friends who happened to be passionate about the other despite the fact that our sexuality did not align in such a way.

The level of change is pretty damn big. AM at this point in time is still sad things have changed and will continue to do so, but happy we are both moving towards who we really are. We're both missing what we were, what we thought we had. Things change, relationships change, people change and here we are acknowledging that they changed a while ago and we just ignored it.

I'm mostly feeling overwhelmed at details. It will make more sense to do the legal things more quickly than I thought. It will help AM get things arranged from himself more easily and quickly. He won't leave quickly, taking most of the next year, but he's figuring out what he can do now. It feels strange. I'm debating when I should tell my Mother. We'll have to start telling friends soon and have already told SJ who is coming up next week.

It isn't grim and angry, not like when I fled out of the house after telling AP I wanted a divorce while cringing in the shower, where he had followed me, yelling. No packing up some things and fleeing to a friend's house until AP had gone to Los Angeles. We enjoyed dinner together and are watching episodes of Top Gear online; a pretty ordinary Monday.

When CK and I were hanging out yesterday we talked about some furniture issues. Making this house some place she will be happy in for a few years while we figure out what to do. I realized when I assured her it was fine to think about such things, to be excited about them, that I was happy about the same things.

After talking with AM today I felt more of the sadness of acknowledging the disappointment we've both felt for some time now. It also felt good knowing we were both going to be OK, it will have some challenges, but we're both moving towards what right. That knowledge took me back to the happiness I felt hearing CK's excitement on sharing a home with me, how I can finally just enjoy it.

HB told me last night not to feel any emotion just because anyone or situation seems to dictate that I should feel any particular way. It finally occurred to me today that I was feeling guilty for my sexuality, feeling guilty that who I am is causing everyone to change. Regardless that it is "just biology", as HB also said, and we all have the chance to change for the better, I felt guilty.

Most of all I felt guilty for being happy about CK. Not because I behaved unethically, but because I assumed I should feel guilty for shaking up everyone's comfort zone. I assume everyone is going to think I'm doing something wrong, inappropriate, and unfair. I need to keep focused on the fact that I'm choosing to live as authentically and ethically as possible. Lying to myself that it didn't matter because I didn't want to upset the calm was not ethical.

I'm going to try to start allowing myself to feel the happiness that is there through the work and pain. Just as much as I need to honor the friendship AM and I are rebuilding, I need to honor the happiness at CK & I fostering a life together. It will be work telling people, but the people most important in all of our lives honor the truth and will be able to share our happiness too.


The Hands Speak

I was too tired to write last night. I know when trying to approach writing as a practice one must do it daily, just like zazen. I also forgot to sit Friday night... and it is ango, when I am meant to intensify practice. Not to mention my commitment to taking Jukai next October. I am trying to let go of the inner task master, espeically given the intensity of last week.

My hands tell the truth of my anxiety this past week. The cuticles red and tender. I feel guilty looking at them today. I've been trying to catch myself when worrying them, but haven't been that good at it. The increasingly chilly autumn weather only adds to the tendency of my hands to be dry, peeling at the nail beds.

I'm in this strange space where shock and sadness co-exists with growing closeness, honesty and love. HB shrugged when I said this, "That's life." was his response.

The next year will be challenging and interesting, joyful and sad. I find myself not looking forward to sharing the planned changes with friends. The same conversation, assurances, and explanations over-and-over again. Time we need to spend reassuring everyone that this is not an end so much as a change allowing several people to live more authentically.

As for my hands... clearly I need to go back to the practice of constantly putting lotion on them. Whenever I feel the urge to, or notice that I am already picking at the dry skin and making things worse I need to run lotion into them. This helped before -- both in helping with the skin being dry in the first place and giving me something to do with my hands that is less destructive to them.


Shared Practice

My hips ache from mostly sitting for six hours today at teacher training.  I can easily see how people train for 500, 800 hours.  Even the over 200 hours I'm doing means some things are done quickly.  Part of an afternoon to discuss the limbs of yoga when each limb could easily be taught in over 6 hours apiece.  

I know that I will be studying all of this for the rest of my life.  Reading more translations of Patanjali's sutras.  I look forward to reading from the teachings of Pattabhis Jois.  I've been so deeply steeped in the teachings of B.K.S. Iyengar and I look forward to studying the works of the other students of Krishnamacharya.  
It is through this practice that I think I may be of most help to others.  Today, while studying additional pranayama methods, I felt more ideas come together around a workshop for working with trauma.  The time broken up between deep, supported poses, pranayama to balance the mind, time for writing in a journal, and meditation.
Last night I got to watch CK come up into half handstand.  The teacher in me watched the assistance my teacher offered CK; learning how to help a student in this pose myself.  The rest of me just watched with absolute pleasure to be sharing this moment with CK, being there for it and the joy of seeing her smiling at meeting this challenge.  I barely did the pose myself because I wanted to watch.
I don't think I've ever shared a practice with someone.  I was the only one in my family who really swam or bicycled.  I had some cousins who hiked, but I often felt like a hindrance than really a part since I would struggle with my asthma while hiking.  It feels very special to share practices with someone.