Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


Tuesdays, Allergies, and Drama

Yep, tired out, sneezy and congested. Ugh. Today is an all out assault on my allergies featuring several things only accessible with a little note from the doctor. I was a little relieved that after 15 minutes of zazen no one had appeared for yoga tonight. I was able to go home, have some leftover soup and write up stuff for PDX Pipeline.

Cat drama - Atari may have diabetes. We're having trouble getting a urine sample to check him again after the latest round of antibiotics and a change to a high protein/no grain food. Surprise to non-cat owners -- cats can hold it a really, really, worryingly long time. Despite the fact that he had sprayed at or peed on something in the house for several days in a row once we wanted him to just go in the empty litter box... nope. The sick-cat-blues have been extra tough lately, especially for CK who's been dealing with it all on her own for years now.

Add to the sick cat and the allergies another round of guests who don't quite follow the plans we think they are going to follow. Yeah, makes things feel extra unsettled and I think we're both still worn out from the last guest. At least we've made a lot of progress in the basement! Need to build us from cheap-ass bookshelves (bricks & boards, anyone?) and it will do for a while. Even have been getting our altar set up -- nice to light some incense for the Buddha when he wasn't just chilling on the sofa.

Granted, it is all what CK terms as "Very Middle Class Drama", but we certainly do feel it. Yeah, lots of opportunity for practice and all that. Sometimes drama, no matter how trivial it may seem in the overall scheme of things, just sucks.

I'm feeling waves of excitement and nervousness about teaching on Sunday, my first workshop. Same kind of up and down around the mini-class at Open Source Bridge next week. I also sent CK and E a draft of what I'm working on for Chozen. In true form with my writing I hated it as soon as it went to someone else's inbox.


Pubs + Portland

On the long list of things I love about Portland are pubs. Not bars, but pubs, "Public Houses", places where people gather together. Pubs serve alcohol, but they also create space for community to grow stronger, closer. During much of the day children may be present with guardians.

This evening at the Green Dragon in SE PDX there is a table full of parents who have bicycled here with their babies. Across the narrow aisle from me are 4 children sitting with their parents, playing with chalk on the tops of the tables (designed for this purpose). There are bicycle helmets on the bars and computers out everywhere, taking advantage of the free wireless network.

I looked around a few minutes ago and commented to CK that it was such a typical Portland moment. The computers, micro-brewed beer, bicycle gear, rain gear, and people of all ages sharing the space together. It is friendly, warm and noisy.

Yes, the are way more laptops since it is the weekly Beer & Blog meet up. Mostly beer, but peers helping one another with technical issues does happen. CK spent a few minutes helping YW out with a systems admin issue earlier while I sat reading messages. She's also been working on my website.

I'm not sure if it is part the weather or in part that Portland is filled with people that either stay here or move here because of the community energy here, but it is something that elicits absolute delight in me. It shows up in coffee shops, bookstores, at the grocery store checkout, the farmer's markets, the library and too many other places to mention. People of all ages sharing space, knowledge, and in a very community way, Loving-Kindness.

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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.



I feel cranky today, off and on. Despite this I managed to get quite a lot done today at work writing test plans and I kind of enjoyed the very crowded bus ride home (had to climb over luggage to exit the bus) while listening to Joe Strummer and some vintage Clash. I got home in plenty of time to go to yoga but I just felt drained. On top of my my left hand had been aching for a few hours at work.

The hand... yes, well very early Tuesday morning Phoebe spooked Atari by making the coughing-up-a-hairball noise. Atari sprung up from the bed onto the headboard by using the palm of my open, vulnerable, sleeping left hand. Wouldn't you know it, we hadn't done his back claws because he was so agitated the other day. Ugh!

It sucked teaching yoga last night with my hand marked with two angry red, deep scratches (yes, there was blood). I actually didn't do a lot of weight bearing poses and did corrections when those were going on. Regardless, it sucked and my hand ached today.

I'd felt an undercurrent of worry all day about a friend. For the past several days I've been getting news that one of my dearest college friends has cancer. At the most recent doctor's visit, two kinds have been found. That's been weighing on me a lot. Cancer still causes me to flinch, having grown up with it part of my life, and JA-D is really very seriously ill.

I didn't feel exactly or completely angry, anxious or fearful tonight. I felt like doing nothing. I ended up laying down for a little bit then forcing myself outside to water the flowers and vegetables, which helped. Made myself a big pasta salad for dinner, bit strange with the leftover parpadelle (good pic of shape of pasta, but we get a sprouted wheat type that's vegan from TJs) from last night, but really tasty. I also did some laundry and shifted stuff in the basement so we can have visitors stay there later this month.

While I did these simple tasks around the house, including eating dinner, I did Metta practice for myself. It hit me while chopping broccoli up that I've once again forgotten how big the past several months it has been. It is something my attention has been directed to by a few people - that I don't give myself space or time to let things settle. It is the part of me that feels compelled to keep moving, not to stop, not to rest, just keep going forward. That if I stop, something bad will happen.

So tonight I stopped. I watched the apathy I felt coming up, seeing it as a way to avoid the grief and anxiety I am feeling right now. Trying to use the apathy as a way to somehow placate that anxious, pushing voice. Over-rule the prodding to keep moving with an overwhelming case of the Blahs. Not to mention the watching guilt arise around feeling worried and blue since I "should be happy" now that CK and I are getting established. Oh yeah, the big S word, should.

Rather than sink into that dull space I watered our plants, made myself a healthy dinner, didn't chastise myself for craving sweets or for anything else, and did Metta practice. I still feel sadness, but it has been a few months full of life shifts that have been painful at times even though they are for the positive. All the scary medical news about someone I care deeply really had unsettled me.

Just last night I sent the editors of the ZCO newsletter, Ink on the Cat, something I'd written about facing the suffering of others. I had summarized the whole of it by saying that we need to offer fearless compassion. Unflinching and open in the face of suffering. Last night's late news of ovarian cancer shook me and it took me all day to recognize it and open enough to cultivate compassion again.

Regardless of the teachings of the Five Remembrances, it doesn't mean that we will not feel sorrow and anxiety when a loss or illness appears in our life. Nor should we deny loving-kindness to ourselves, it is necessary to care for that hurt. The Remembrances are just a reminder that we all face old age, illness, death, and the loss of those we love. The only thing any of us has is the legacy of our actions. We need to prepare ourselves and cultivate compassion so we have it in great reserves for those times when it is dearly needed.

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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.


The Honey Man

Today's Moment in Veganism for you.

It has been threatening to rain all day so this evening CK & I nipped out to rake up the grass off the lawn. We purchased a reel mower (yes, this means it must be pushed to go) and it tends to get hung up on clumps of wet or drying grass. I was out raking up the long, thin strip that runs the length of our lot.

I heard the neighbor behind us talking to a guy who had stopped in the street. He was walking with a cooler and chatting. I heard my neighbor say something about "You might check with her." I looked up and my neighbor called out to me, "Its great honey! We get it all the time."

With that the man made his way down the street to where I was raking and asked me if I'd like to buy some honey or handmade beeswax candles. Here I made a decision to actually tell him why I didn't want to buy his honey. I started out, "I'm sure it is very good honey but we don't eat any animal products. We're vegan."

He blinked at me and proceeded to explain to me that bees aren't animals, they are insects. "I know," I replied, "but we don't consume any products that use other living beings."

Thus begins a short conversation about our not being able to eat! He asked what we had for dinner (black-eyed peas, red quinoa, braised kale and a ginger/yeast/miso dressing) and then pointed out how our dinner was made from living things! I then carefully restate to him, "We don't consume products that come from any other living beings. No fish, no insects, no animals."

With this he muttered something and continued walking down the street, shaking his head at us a couple of more times. CK called over to me and I explained about the honey conversation. She shook her head at the whole exchange and we finished up the raking.

Yeah, the vegan thing is hard sometimes. Totally random people on the street will argue with you and in the end walk away muttering about the crazy person. Sometimes it gets old.

I don't get angry if someone accidentally feeds me a piece of pie that they were certain was "safe" but in the end contained some dairy because they didn't know that "whey" listed in the ingredients means "dairy". CK told me this week that the bagels we consumed most mornings at OSCON last year were most likely not vegan since the same catering company is doing OSBridge and informed them they didn't have vegan bagels. Once in a while someone gives me something with honey in it, but I don't get mad at them for trying hard to do something for me without realizing that bees count as other living beings.

Being a vegan is a choice I made because I believe it is the best way of living to support my practice. I don't condone other people for not making this choice and I don't try and talk people out of their "meat eating ways". I just make this choice for myself with everything I put into my body. When people ask me questions (because complete strangers seem to think it is perfectly OK to grill me about where I get my* calcium, protein, iron, omega-3/6 fatty acids, etc.), I try to honestly, mindfully answer them without letting irritation arise. I prepare and share all kinds of delicious, vegan dishes.

Which is why I had a conversation with a complete stranger tonight about how I eat. Yes, I could have just told him that I didn't want to buy any. That would have been truthful, but I guess I was trying to tell him that it wasn't him or the quality of his honey, it was my decision about how I live my life.

By the bye, the answers are:

  • Calcium -- found in lots of dark, leafy greens like kale, collards, & chard. Broccoli also has quite a lot as does tofu, tempeh and almonds.
  • Protein -- Legumes and whole grains, like the quinoa we had for dinner (a total super-grain) are loaded in both protein and fiber!
  • Omega 3/6 Fatty Acids -- Walnuts, I eat some most days. Also show up in tofu!
  • Iron -- Legumes, legumes, legumes! Yes, they are the magical fruit!
  • I also take a vegan multi-vitamin most days. This rounds out anything I might be a bit low in on a given day as well as being certain I get enough B12 (although we do consume a lot of nutritional yeast, which is just packed with B12). Pretty much everyone, regardless of diet, does well to take a multi-vitamin daily, not just vegans.
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