Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Spring Frogs

I woke up with a start when the alarm went off and seemed to stay that way all day long. Feeling anxious and drawn in tight. Combined with a day at work that felt both unproductive and frustrating it meant I arrived at the Dharma Center anxious.

I hate sitting zazen when I'm anxious. Near the top of "most uncomfortable meditation periods" list.

Instead I sat down, awaiting the racing of my heart, heard the bell ring 3 times, then silence, and a chorus of frogs reminding me something I love about springtime zazen! My mind settled swiftly and softly, occasional bursts of anxiety creeping in during the first sit, but then the frogs would sing again and I'd feel myself smile inside. By the time the second sit came I felt like I was in my body instead of my anxiety.

Vernal Chorus

Outside the zendo
A choir of frogs is singing,
"Wake up! Wake up now!"


Late March Sunset

Yep, I'm in a mood where I don't want to do anything. Don't really want to write, especially not a poem for the Sangha Challenge. A little zazen? Nope. I had a somewhat frustrating day, an enjoyable meeting with a group of folks that are all contributing to the PDX Pipeline site, and managed to help make dinner even though I didn't feel like doing that either. Didn't even make up a decent title for the post, just used the title of the poem I did today (which I don't particularly like). Bleh.

I want to curl up in bed with a novel or silly DVDs... sleep would be fine too. I am actually feeling better today. My neck still isn't hurting the way it was and my sinus pain was a bit better today too. Still taking decongestants and ibuprofen pretty regularly, but the pounding sinus pain doesn't resume immediately upon their wearing off.

Had to be part of the decision to pull my project from the release this weekend. Will still be putting out part of it, but we've found a bug a couple of users can recreate but I cannot myself nor have I been able to get a truly clear understanding of exactly what they are doing. I also had to tell someone in the same meeting they couldn't ask for any more changes, at all since little last minute changes appeared to have introduced the bug. I think... and I'm back to the lack of clarity.

There is some tension around the finality of AM moving out of the house. Not bad, I think in part it is the usual tension of moving combined with the divorce finalizing earlier this month. Just an awareness of how the body and heart tighten up a little around it all.

I was pretty nervous about meeting all the Pipeline folks this evening. I was conscious of my mind trying to pick out clothing that would be casual but "cool" (whatever the hell that means). The whole meeting new people isn't always my best and I immediately felt how carefully I was about being open, the old habits of holding back, guarding coming up. Interesting to note how much easier it is to perceive that tightening happening.

I realized about 20 minutes after things got going that I was possibly the oldest person, which felt a little strange. I wonder if I would be so aware of it if I wasn't having a "milestone" birthday this year. Why is it we focus so much on the decade birthdays anyway, well most of them. 20 is kind of a wash since you're really just waiting for 21 to happen.

A note on venue: I liked the Goodfoot Pub & Lounge a lot. Nice art display on the walls, open space with a few nice pool tables. I heard there's some great dance parties in the downstairs (a place I seem to recall as being a lesbian bar I'd been to years ago when I lived in the neighborhood). Tom Waits came on while we talked, which is a good thing in my book.

And therein lies the difficulty. Great place to hang out, not so great for listening to details and getting to know people a bit better. I found it a little loud to actually hear people and a couple of times missed something because of it. Look forward to checking it out some evening with CK when we can play a little pool.

Poetry seems to be especially hard tonight. Like prodding Zonker to do much of anything. Ugh, this feels so, so, so very lame tonight. I don't even have the tingling of a haiku I could piece together... So here it is, purely the disciple of practicing poetry no matter what.

Late March Sunset

A break in the
Spring rain
Reveals sun
In pink streaks
Against clouds.
Lingering along
The green edge
Of the hillsides
As I head home.


Although They Are Only Breath

Today began my experiment with greater "word exposure" for myself. This morning PDX Pipeline posted a short piece I wrote about watching the series finale of Battlestar Galactica at the Bagdad Theater. Which is pretty cool and a lot of fun, plus good writing practice!

Seeing it published on the site reminds me a bit of when a piece I wrote for my Sangha journal came out. Looking down at a picture of myself next to my words. Today it is seeing something I wrote, with my name and little bio line there, on a very public site with a growing amount of traffic. Then there's this sharing poetry thing I've been doing, the Sangha Poetry Challenge. I think more people have read my poetry than ever before in my life, which is kinds strange and nice at the same time.

While chatting with the person who runs PDX Pipeline this morning before heading into the office we sorted out trying to arrange for me to do a phone interview of the guys behind a musical act I'm a big fan of as well a go to one of their shows next month and take some photos. I was just hoping for the show & photos bit, the interview thing... Wow! Don't want to write a lot of details about this one since it is still getting sorted out, but it is enough for me to be excited and nervous about.

Although I checked out another new yoga studio tonight, had a really nice class that even helped my neck feel a little better -- I'm not going to write about it. I'm just going to leave it at reflecting upon the interesting emotions, inner dialog that arises around writing, sharing my writing. Which brings me to my poetry offering for today:

My Words

“But, why?”
I ask myself
And wonder.

Why is it I even
Want people to
Read my words.
Why do I think
My words are
Worthy of the
Eyes of others
Taking them in,
Holding them.
Letting my words

My critic reminds
Me that I am
No great hand
With words,
Daring me to
Compare my
Crude lines
With those of
Other, greater

A defiant child’s
Voice, I barely
Recognize as mine,
Repeats with small
Words she’s heard.
My words may
Transcend darkness
To bring illumination.

My words are
Potent medicine.

**The title of this post is taken from a bit of Sappho someone from Dharma Rain Zen Center reminded me of when she saw today's poem for the Sangha Challenge.

Although they are only breath
these words of mine
will live forever


Illness Anxiety

I am tired, cranky and generally impatient feeling tonight. I am irritated with my slow-healing body and that the continuing headache makes writing feel like I'm swimming through black-strap molasses in winter. Usually when I feel lousy I'm still able to focus on some writing, but I have been just staring at the screen lately.

Still haven't done up a review of the M. Ward/Port O'Brien show at the Aladdin from last week. I started to write about the amazing discussion around generosity the Love Based Living group had on the 9th. Wanted to post some stuff about the Ashtanga Vinyasa class I took weeks and weeks ago. Trying to finish up the piece I've started looking back at the service practice of maintaining the Transfer of Merit list for my Portland Sangha. My teacher still wants me to write on my weight loss, and the way I came to see mindful eating as a practice of very literally "feeding peace" within myself.

My inner critic likes to make lists and point out how I skipped a day of writing practice yesterday, including failing to produce another poem for the Sangha Challenge. It doesn't matter to that critical voice that the decision was made to not write after teaching a class, running errands, attending a Sangha tea, and helping CK with the week's shopping. By the time all that was done I was exhausted and my head hurt, not that my inner critic cares about how I feel physically or emotionally. Instead of writing CK and I spent the evening making a simple dinner, talking, watching a DVD and attempting to get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

Honestly, what I think is underneath it aside from the thoughts that I should just be producing MORE, is feeling anxious that I'm still having a terrible sinus headache. Today it moved to the right side, including the pain in neck, and I am fatigued again. I took my last dose of antibiotics with dinner tonight and am worried that not feeling well is going to hit me with a thump later this week. I've been taking pseudoephedrine, ibuprofen and drinking lots of water. I really don't have the time to spare to be sick and will have 5 days packed with yoga classes next week to get finished with teacher training.

When the Self is Slow

I am impatient
With this body.
It heals slowly
And reminds me
That I am not
Comprised of
Limitless energy.
Even my mind,
Well, most of it,
Resists prodding
To make it go.
Instead it mostly
Ignores criticism and
Lingers instead
On thoughts of
Sleeping late
And spending
A day going


Glory of Words

I wonder at the way I have a difficult time embracing the word, "Writer" when it comes to myself. How my inner critic bristles and mutters invalidating comments. How I feel the need to avoid this label, feel unworthy of it.

Like the uncertainty, downright dread of singing in front of people, I wonder if there is something underlying feeling like I don't deserve to call myself a writer. All the times I was told I was too talkative, too inquisitive, too argumentative (a prelude to my spending days at a time in my room, grounded)...

Anyway, in trying to keep up with the Sangha poetry challenge, which I've now missed a couple of days of, I came up with a poem tonight inspired by thinking about this.

Glory of Words

Just some words,
Any words, really,
Would do now.

As I child I was
Told I used too
Many words, but
Impossible to explain
Without opening
My mouth to
Share that my
Head felt full
To bursting
With the glory of
Words, of knowledge
Available, open to
Me in the long
Library stacks.

I find less words
Now, although the
Silence feels familiar.


General Impatience with Illness and Napping

I never have liked naps really. As a kid it was absolutely punishment to say I had to go lay down for a nap. I'd offer to read quietly, anything but napping. I usually wouldn't fall asleep and on the rare occasion I did, I'd end up feeling groggy when I was awakened.

Napping is a sign of illness or extreme fatigue for me. Today I took a nap. I felt like I needed it since I didn't actually feel much better at all today. Although my head and neck feel better I was weak and shaky feeling from the moment I got up today.

Another day on the bed with the laptops. I worked on stuff until about 1 at which time I felt generally lousy. Cleared my afternoon meetings until tomorrow and Monday and had some leftover stew. Then I lay down and was surprised that I fell truly asleep for about an hour -- yep, definitely sick.

But same as when I was little, I woke up feeling groggy and not well at all. I made myself get up, drink some water, and put some split peas on to cook so we could have an early dinner. That helped me feel like I was back out of nap-land again so I did some dishes and got back to looking at a bug that had been found.

I stayed home from zazen tonight, something that provokes a few words from my inner critic about how I'm well enough to sit around at home so I should be well enough to sit in the zendo. I know though I'm making a good decision for my health, especially considering another busy weekend starts tomorrow. I'm just tired of feeling sick and fatigued.

I am discovering that writing poetry is harder when I'm fatigued. Writing anything really, even writing this blog post I feel like I've just gone through the motions and have come up with some boring nonsense about my day being sick. I'm getting started out with PDX Pipeline and told JC I'd write up the M. Ward show at the Aladdin this past Sunday, but even trying to put together 300 words about that seems like a tremendous effort.

Ugh! On that note, here's a haiku about trying to write with a sinus infection.


My eyes, just staring.
Seeing white space, waiting-
Wanting words to come.



My terrible headache was diagnosed yesterday as a sinus infection. Today my physical therapist worked on all the headache points in the neck, top of the shoulders, jaw and cranium. She noted that I had nearly every trigger point for headache active, including the important muscle points around the glands and lymph nodes in the throat. She thought that nothing was probably processing effectively in that area which likely contributed to the infection.

So I'm on day two of a massive dose of antibiotics and taking ibuprofen regularly to help with the pain when I move my head around. After IW worked on my neck tonight I can feel it is released but everything is aching a lot. She warned me that I might feel a little worse this evening. Ugh.

I made a decision last night not to write for several reasons, being sick one of them. I then spent much of the time trying to get comfortable enough to sleep listening to the voice of my inner critic who sees the body it inhabits as inferior, weak and pathetic. Deriding my decision not to write a poem for the 30 day challenge, noticing how I can't even keep with something for 30 days.

Making space to be sick is really hard for me, in addition to being flogged by my critic for getting sick in the first place, I feel anxious. There is no space for compassion for feeling unwell. A grudging willingness to admit my head hurts so much that I want to cry. Then I end up crying, it makes my head throb and my critic goes off on how I'm acting like a big baby.

I was sick a lot as a kid and seriously so and felt like I caused my Mom a lot of worry, was a burden to her. When she started fighting cancer I especially felt bad for getting sick so easily. She felt barely well enough to look after herself much less me sick again.

As I became an adult I learned that if I was sick things would fall apart. In my early 20s I lost a job because I was sick too often. During my first marriage things I normally took care of around the house were just left until I was well enough to deal with them. I jumped from the guilty, semi-support from my Mother as a child to being entirely unsupported after leaving home.

Now when I get sick I feel guilty, anxious and burdensome. I feel driven to keep working on everything, not letting go. It is easy to look at the reasons and think they make sense, but harder to let go of the way they drive my reactions.


For now it is
Enough to watch
The voice impatient
With a frail body.
To observe how the
Voice drives the
Anxious fear of
Illness, of needing
Compassion and care.


Love Based Living

I had the pleasure of facilitating the Love Based Living group I meet with tonight. I haven't been able to in many months since I teach on Tuesdays and most Sunday evenings I'm overloaded already. Last month they changed one of the meeting days each month to the second Monday of the month -- a night I am free! Before I could think too long about it I offered to facilitate the group.

Facilitating means you keep the flow of the sharing moving as well as come up with a theme for everyone to talk to. I arrived with a theme centered around generosity. How we define and express self-generosity. How we engage our Inner Critic to work with self-generosity. The final round of discussion being what we'd take with us from the evening out into the world -- how we stay compassionately engaged with the Inner Critic and foster self-generosity in order to cultivate generosity towards others.

And that all said I'm going to devote more time later to everything that came up. In the past when I've gone we often wrap up the questions quite quickly, but much to my surprise this topic had such depth for everyone that we used up the whole two hours for the meeting! Mindful of the evening I am being generous with myself and accepting that I need to go to bed, I want to spend time with CK who was too tired to join us tonight, and I don't need to try and cram everything into one night.

A poem that for today that came out of some of the realizations I had tonight:


I feel my body
Pull away from
Kindness, the
Generosity of
Others, with a
Tightening of
Muscles and mind.
My heart prepares
For the withdrawal,
The betrayal,
Even before the
Offer is finished.

Even if wincing,
I try to offer
Gratitude and
Be present
To receive-
The offering.


Unexpectedly Free Afternoon

It has been generally quiet today. Wasn't sure how the day would go after I woke up at 5AM disoriented and aching. I got back to sleep, Phoebe tried to help by curling up next to me again and woke up later than I'd expected when my Mom phoned at 9AM.

She sounded terrible, had been coughing a lot, and there were 3 inches of snow with more coming down! She said that she thought it would be better if I didn't come out. I told her we'd figure out another time, although it would be very difficult for the next few weeks. I hung up and observed the ache in my sinuses, felt the relief of this cancellation.

Two students showed up to class today and we spent a long time in less poses. Going deeply, taking time for me to work with them on alignment. It felt really good to offer that kind of attention to detail with just two people. I was aware of how enjoyable it was to have the freedom to really focus like that.

With my afternoon suddenly free I took some ibuprofen my still aching head and decided to take a long hot bath, dozing off while I soaked. After I felt that kind of groggy, heaviness I get after a nap. Unfortunately my head didn't feel much better. I washed the dishes and decided to go ahead and make stew even though I'm alone. I've been making a stew or soup most Sundays but didn't think I would today with the plans to see Mom.

AM rang up while I was getting started. We chatted for a little bit about his experience at the Beginner's Mind retreat over the weekend. It was a good experience, made him see that trying to go into residency at Great Vow may not be the best choice for him right now.

After getting off the phone I decided to just be with the silence this afternoon, resisting the urge to put on music or NPR. I'm going to see M. Ward at the Aladdin later this evening and it seemed like a good idea to spend the afternoon being mindful in the quiet. I have come to really appreciate preparing food in silence, just being fully present for the act of cooking.

The apartment smells wonderful. I'm writing early on account of the concert and will wrap up in order to eat some of the stew. I miss CK a lot and am very grateful she will be back tomorrow afternoon. I sent her a message about the stew, something about having made it so she'll be able to enjoy it tomorrow feels comforting.

Stew Meditation

Under my hand skin
Comes off in
Long brown strips
Revealing jewel
Orange flesh.
The knife moves,
planes, strips, cubes.
The hands set aside,
Move to the next
To be made into
Small pieces.
Then into a
Humble pot.
The order a
Kind of ritual.
First lilies to
Soften, grow fragrant.
Then roots,
Stalks, fruits.
Water rushing
In to give depth.
Then sitting while
All ingredients join
Together in silence
And heat.

I am nourished
By the act
And result.


Hearing Through my Mother’s Ears

Joy had us working on the things we felt most uncomfortable, uncertain about teaching. She had all the trainees doing various Sun Salutations and abdominal series over and over. I may ache in the morning.

I hadn't volunteered for anything since I feel pretty steady with teaching all of those things. I've been teaching them for months, if not a few years now. When she put me on the spot about which one I wanted to practice I said really the thing that makes me most nervous is chanting and "Om" at the beginning of class, something I was doing today.

I practiced it with my training class and Joy was commenting about how to go beyond that nervousness. She was noting that she didn't want to "play therapist" but was alluding to the ways in which we're told we're too loud, etc.

I said that it wasn't all that hidden. That during childhood I was repeatedly told I was too loud, talked too much, and no one was interested. When it came to music I was told I "couldn't carry a tune in a bucket" and, except for one embarrassing talent show (all my peers thought my performance was completely, laughably lame) was actively discouraged from any interest in music. It wasn't until I was in college, over 2000 miles from home, that I took some vocal lessons.

I never got comfortable with it. Never have felt like I could just sing and get over it. Chanting service after zazen at the Dharma center has been excruciating but I've gotten a little more comfortable with it. Chanting at the beginning of a yoga class feels closer to singing and everyone looks directly at you, unlike chanting service where no one really looks at me.

What I noticed was how I'd curled up into a protective ball talking to my teacher training class about it. I'd gone from sitting cross-legged, body open, to a tight posture with knees drawn up and into the chest and my arms wrapped around the shins. Several of my co-trainees and Joy noticed the incredibly protective, defensive body posture I'd moved into.

But I chanted Om at the beginning of class with 8 co-trainees, 1 teacher and 18 students looking at me. It was OK. Not comfortable, but OK. I felt better once I moved into teaching pranayama and a meditation on the breath.

And on that theme, today's poem:

My Mother's Ears

My voice sounds
Too loud.

The ears that hear
my voice belong
To my Mother.
Her ears that
Decide the voice
Is too much,
Too often,
Too loud, and

Not sure when
I began to listen
To my voice through
My Mother's ears.
When I talk about
Singing I hear
Pure tension and
My body curls into
The smallest
Possible ball.