Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Fence Post Story

"Up and at 'em."

I guess it was always my dad's job to wake us up in the mornings for school. He liked to clap and turn on the lights, turn the radio way up and say "Up and at 'em!!" I don't think I've ever woken up with that kind of enthusiasm. Not once. Don't get me wrong, I love mornings. QUIET mornings... I even told Chrislyn, my roommate, that sometimes I don't even talk until around 10:30am, and not to take it personally. We laughed. We always do. So I was up at 6am today. It's only Thursday and I've taught 7 classes already this week. I'm on a yoga high. And when that happens, you simply float around. Sleep is fun but not always necessary. I was writing in my journal this morning, something about how beautiful it feels to spend time with my parents these days, and with my new baby niece, Brooke Jean. It seems that lately my heart breaks at least 3 times a day over the slightest things. Like I said, I'm a big fan of crying. And it has been interesting to watch the shift in what my triggers are. Lately it's the beautiful things that are triggering tears... like the light in my mom's eyes, my niece's long fingers, and the stories my dad tells me about his childhood (he was always barefoot, so his feet were permanently black). If there's a crack coming up to the surface, I let it come, fill it with some tears, and watch it drift away. It is strengthening my will to step out of the way of my own healing process.

So while I'm writing in my journal, I grab my I-Phone because Libby, my sister, texts me at all hours of the day and night. Rules simply do not apply. She was here when I came in to the world, so I adapted years ago. And she's the funniest person on the planet, so that makes it easier. So here's the text: it's a photo of a man who was in the grocery store with her last night. She said he was the only one at HEB besides her at 10:30pm. He was an old man, and looked really sweet. I'm sure she felt some cosmic connection to him. So much so, that she probably took something out of his basket when he wasn't looking.

Since I was lost in a sea of late night HEB shoppers, I decided to open up the Icon I have that I'm just starting to use, called "Notes" so that I could start a grocery list and plan a date with HEB on my own.... bananas, honey, loose green tea, RICE MILK... and on that thought, something else popped into my head, and it was this, which I think is the beginning of another story, so I thought I'd share it here and that way I've sent it out to the Universe and I can watch what it does.

From Jamie's I-Notes, "Fence Post" is born...
Somewhere in the midst of a hoarder who loves strawberry sodas and cigarettes, an artisan who was last seen standing on his roof of steel beams over rammed earth blocks, a photographer who feels most at home behind the lens, and a brother who tracks wild pigs, I found my heart again. She was hanging on a fence post watching for hawks. How she got there is another story. I gently lifted her up and wrapped her in my scarf and carefully placed her in my dad's truck next to me. She mentioned her desire list to me again as we drove through the hill country.... "I still want salty air, warm studio floors, open windows, a garden, children close by or a baby of my own, music, laughter, and the smell of freshly cooked meals always lingering in the kitchen. I want a man who sees ME, and not just YOU. I want to continue to make the decisions on what you wear and who we really connect with. Stop doing Yoga obsessively and find some quiet space again for us to chat. I miss our talks about dreams, mermaids, God, and the need for winter blankets and candles."
"I know," I said. "I'm sorry I left you on the fence post. I haven't forgotten our plans. I just got distracted again by the noise in the chicken coop. I'll keep you close, and we can stay up late and have hot tea and read and you can show me some more of your magical dreams."
She looked up at me with a deep sense of relief. She was tired of watching for hawks...

I like my drift. I like watching where it goes...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Turning the Radio down

This is for Betsy Young Hudson. Thank you for looking at me with your wondrous eyes a couple of nights ago, and saying "I love your chickens. I have chickens, too." And for Kate McLennan. I hope you enjoy reading this while you're recovering from your hip surgery. You inspired me so much. Thank you.
It's about turning the radio down...
Summer, 2009. Right out of Bikram's Yoga Training. I came home after 9 weeks in the yoga bubble and my old friend, The House of Fear, my chicken coop, was open and ready for business. I felt it as soon as I set my huge suitcase back down on the concrete floors of Michelle's guesthouse. "What now," I thought to myself. I looked around at what was familiar... my paintings, my books, the hot pot I use for making tea every morning, my gold blanket I wrap up in while I write. I opened the fridge, and in my fog of trying to mentally return back to my usual environment, I pulled out 2 month old rice milk and made some hot tea with it. I had a few sips before noticing the black flecks in my cup that were floating around. I inspected the rice milk. There was a giant black ball of unknown matter sitting it. I almost threw up. Then I died laughing. Who the hell drinks 2 month old rice milk?? Oh yea, Octavia, that's who. She rode in on her magic carpet yoga mat and landed back in Austin that afternoon. I was in a daze. I'm actually really obsessive compulsive about expiration dates. But there I was, letting my brain swallow me yet again in fear, and sipping on tea laced with black-ball-mold-funk like I didn't have a care or a clue in the world. I needed that yoga training environment to last much longer - for months, maybe even years. I felt like a small child who was forced to wake up from her nap before she was ready, and she is foggy and cranky for the rest of the day because she never hit that stage of deep, restful sleep. I simply hadn't gotten to the end of what I needed from that experience. I didn't mind putting my body through such physical challenges because I just wanted to get to the very center of who I am, why I am the way I am, and how I can live my life with trust and faith, self love and some inner peace. Training, for me, meant safety from the world for a while. I finally felt what I saw in a musical production when I was a teenager and have never forgotten. "Stop this train. I want to get off." The train would stop and all of the people froze except for the main character, who just walked around and looked at the world from the perspective of stillness. (I think I have been craving stillness since I came into this world). I didn't get on line for weeks at a time. I checked my cell phone for texts and voice messages every few days. I simply got up every morning and did what was required -- yoga, attended lectures, lunch, swam in the pool to survive the heat, posture clinics, more yoga, dinner, more posture clinics, and watched Indian movies with Bikram until 3 or 4 am. We got up at 7:30am and did the whole thing all over again. Lather, rinse, repeat. It felt like the movie "Ground Hog Day" with Bill Murray. It was therapeutic and cleansing, and it helped me peel back layer after layer of my wiring, my thoughts and my anxiety, my ego. It helped me let go, truly, of all that I thought I was, and I watched as someone else emerged. It was amazing getting to know her, and I still feel like our relationship is new and fragile. She was not so entertaining, and yet she loved life more than ever. She didn't feel separate or insecure. She didn't have any need to judge, compare or analyze. She preferred staying quiet more often and just being. And nothing external about her mattered as much. Yoga clothes were what I had to put on each day so that I could go sweat out another layer on my mat. My face and body just wanted to feel clean and soft. My hair was no longer something to style and play with so that I felt more beautiful. It became, and still is, just an extension of me. I watched as the old Jamie stripped herself down into something I recognized from long ago - something much more beautiful, because it came from the inside. I watched my thoughts drift through me each day, and I watched them drift right on by. This part of me, my spirit, my true essence, I call "Turtle." She's a slow mover and a deep breather.

Journal Entry while at training, May 9, 2009:

"Something is happening to me. With this yoga. I feel strong and capable. I FEEL it. I know it like I have never known anything. I know it because my bones and muscles, tendons, heart and lungs tell me so. My bladder, the balls of my long skinny feet, my fingers, my small, imperfect breasts, the sun spot on my right cheek, my dirty, unruly hair, the yellow coming out of my eyes every morning, my cramping uterus - all the way through to my spine... they are all singing a chorus to me. They are all in unison. The old, painful, embarrassing and now beautiful stretch marks across my hips are smiling at me. My heat rash leaves beautiful bumps across my chest. My strong, thin arms, still riddled with old memories of saggy triceps... are saying "see? I was always here for you. I am your wings!!" I never knew how to love Jamie with reckless abandon. I never knew how to truly embrace myself. I just knew how to pick myself a part. Bit by bit. So what is this yoga showing me? I feel like the answers have always been there, waiting for me. God is there, too, waiting for me, deep inside the ocean of my heart. I feel it. I know. Jamie is there, too. Beautiful and free, and a light in this world just like everyone else."

I was so relieved when training was over, and I also felt a deep sense of dread. I was seeing for the first time what it felt like to be a part of a whole, that we are all spiritual beings having a human experience, and that we are all LOVE. But I wanted to bathe in this newness I felt. When training was over, I felt like all I had in that pool of love and deep connection was my big toe. I knew that coming home would mean I had to face the fear of separation all over again. Separation from my yogi tribe, yes, but deeper than that, I knew I had to face my natural and ingrained tendency to separate from myself, my heart, and God. I had to face my life again, just as it was before I went to the desert for 9 weeks. I faced Austin, Texas, again, which meant facing my family, my friends, the healing wounds of an old relationship, and a yoga studio that didn't feel like home anymore but I didn't understand why. I faced feeling totally defeated, scared to death, completely annoyed, cold shouldered and complete warmth. I faced old habits and desperately wanted to kick them all the way to the moon. I stared at cigarettes and said "You are no longer a part of me. I thrived without you for 9 weeks. I will continue to let you drift by me." I faced alcohol with the same resolution. I stayed close to my yoga practice but drifted further away from the studio where I started my journey. I didn't feel connected to them anymore. And I started to unravel. Again. I came home with hope that my ex-boyfriend and I would spend time together again. It was with the hope of a child. It was Grace. Grace loved Colin more than anyone or anything. And she loved him like a child - it was full of expectation and disappointment, rage, need and jealousy. It was reactive and hurtful. She was still taking over my brain for long periods of time back then. At the time I lived with my friend and often my other mother and big sister, Michelle, in her guest house. I was going to stay there a few months after my break up with Colin. I stayed there for a year and a half. I finally met Grace there. And she left me paralyzed in that sacred space for months at a time. I remember seeing Michelle one morning as she left for work. My legs were weak from too much yoga, and my body felt racked with emotional pain. I looked at her with Grace's sad eyes, and I said "I don't care anymore if I live or die. It just does not matter to me anymore. I really don't like this life." Michelle gave me a mama bear hug and said "I know. And it will shift again inside you just like it always does. I love you." She went on with her day. I crawled back inside my cave, laid on my side, and cried my eyes out. I cried everyday back then. I cried so much that I got intimate and comfortable with the feeling of sadness. Eventually I started welcoming it. I saw it as another teacher. I laughed one day as I was telling Michelle another T-shirt idea I had. I called myself a "cry baby" one day because I was so tired of crying. And through my tears, I rearranged the phrase into "CRY, BABY!!" As in... let her rip!! Cry until you can't cry anymore. And so I did. For several more months.

July, 2009 Journal Entry, two weeks after training:

I feel like a crazy person. My head feels nuts. I think it always has. My only reprieve is the thought of moving closer to the ocean again. I feel like if I’m close to the ocean, I can sink to the bottom of it if I need to. And that will be peaceful. And that will be how I leave this earth. This body. Who knows about the rest, but right now I feel like I want to have that choice right in front of me, everyday. To sink, or not to sink. And yet, underneath this deep sadness, I have some hope that the ocean will heal me, and give me life again – give me back my soul, give me some freedom from this crazy head of mine, and maybe I can breathe easier. It’s not the location. It’s not that I’m done with Austin – it’s that I’m done feeling this way about myself – my life. Soul swimming freely. UNRAVEL ME.

That was two and a half years ago. It's interesting how the brain processes things like "time." Patty says to me, "you should have made much more progress by now." Grace pleads "Where's Rodney? Where's Colin? Where's ANYONE???" Octavia just keeps me on track with my yoga schedule, knowing that I will find more clarity there, again and again. Tomahawk, who I've yet to write about because he is still revealing himself to me, says with a long sigh "same song, different dance... or is it same dance, different song? Who gives a shit. You know exactly what I'm talking about. You run from your own truth." Hank just spins another record. This time it's Eric Clapton's voice drowning out the chickens, and it's the slower, unplugged version... "Lately I've been running on faith. What else can a poor boy do? But my world will be right, when love comes over you."

The truth is, I came home from training and went back into a very familiar, old cycle in my brain. I know one thing really well. I know how to be hard on myself, and I know how to act from fear. I know other cycles and patterns exist in my brain, but none are as well worn as that one. It's like an old record that plays over and over again. You choose it because it's your habit, without even realizing your taste in music has completely shifted. I KNOW that yoga helps me break out of this cycle. My mat is where I gain insight. It's where I find my inner flashlight to see into my heart and head and I can see what it is I need to do to reset the wiring. It's like opening the hood of a car and checking the engine and the fluid levels. Bikram used the car analogy a lot. He'd say "if you people hear something wrong with your engines, you just turn the radio up." Brilliant, isn't it? We LOVE distraction. What I know now is that on some level, the radio has been up in my brain the last couple of years, by choice, and I am once again choosing to turn it back down. Once again, I am on the hunt for silence and stillness in my life so that I can be a better listener to my heart. For reasons I cannot yet see, this has become my highest priority.

I still live in a world where I barely make ends meet so that I can continue to seek, explore, observe and share my journey through teaching yoga, painting and writing. It has been this way for almost three years, and honestly, for all of the sacrifices I make, I know I can't live any other way. It would go against my heart's wishes, and I refuse to live that way anymore. Sometimes I get really frustrated with my bank account, or the fact that so many people don't "get" what I'm about anymore, but those frustrations are short lived. What really matters is how I feel about how I am living each day, and the amazing truth is that by simply having faith in God, the Universe, and me (all the same to me), I am still making ends meet, and doing what I really love to do.

Yesterday I taught three yoga classes. In my last class, I mentioned to the students that I read and write a lot about what my thoughts are, and how I focus on shifting those thoughts into something more loving and productive. I said "I can brush my teeth in a way where I am being hard on myself. I can wear the bristles down on a toothbrush after a week if I'm not careful. I also scrub too hard sometimes when I'm in the shower. Do I really need to knock off that many dead skin cells every time I shower?? Do I really need my teeth brushed that hard? I'm 41 and still cavity free. I may be gum free by the time I'm 65 if I'm not careful. I'm starting to see that even in those small actions, I can take steps toward being more loving with Jamie. It's exhausting, being so hard on yourself." And I wrap it up by telling them to just pay attention to what their brains are telling them, and if it's not loving towards yourself, STOP it in that moment and shift those thoughts into something more loving and productive. Class ended and a student came up to me who recently found her way to my class. She said "Are you writing a thesis on that subject?" No, I say. "Because if you are," she says, "I'd make a perfect case study. I've spent thousands on every kind of therapy you can think of, and I still say things to myself that I wouldn't say to my worst enemy." I said "But you're recognizing that they're just thoughts and you can change them, because you're saying that to me." I think we'll have tea soon, talk about our brains, and check the expiration date on the rice milk.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sitting by a Moon Beam.

"Quietly while you were asleep, the moon and I were talking. I asked that she always keep you protected." ~ Sade

I can see myself as Grace, when I was 8 years old. I'm sitting under the stars, hugging my knees close to my chest. I'm beside my oak tree, the one I used to talk to when I needed someone to just listen. I'm asking the tree about her life and I want to know what it feels like to stay in the same spot all day, and have your branches sway side to side in the breeze. I want to know if it feels magical to have a bird choose your branches for a nest, since you get to peek into the nest at your leisure and check on the new babies. The moon is out and she quietly watches over me, spilling her light through the tree branches, and over my small shoulders. I am peaceful here. The night air wraps around me like a blanket, and I am lost in the magic of being a child, and of simply being.

I realize that I am, in some small miraculous way, actually living in the moment of my life like I did as a child. My thoughts are not screaming at me. My heart is content to just enjoy the ride that is my life each day. I am moving through with Grace, Octavia, Patty, Hank, Tomahawk, and a few other chickens I haven't named yet. Presently, they're all content inside the chicken coop that is my house of fear, my brain. I feel more settled in my bones than I ever recall feeling.

Transition has been moving through me again. Sometimes I can actually hear a clock ticking in my body. Each tick requires that I pay attention to what my body is saying to me. My heart has been asking for what I recently gave her for a long time. She simply wanted to be free. She wanted to spread her arms out wide, and let that feeling of deep inner peace run through her veins. I am getting better at becoming an observer of my own thoughts. I am getting better at honoring and following through with my heart's wishes. But it can be a rough ride at times. It can mean that someone you really care about and love gets their feelings hurt badly. But what I know now is that if I am taking the best care of my heart, and following through with those feelings I intuitively have, then by doing that, I am also taking the best care of everyone around me. The truth shall set us all free. We get so foggy about what our own truth really is, that it can become our greatest challenge to gain clarity and move from that place. And so it was with me. I saw that I needed to walk out of a relationship I have been in for over a year. I saw that it would serve us both for the better in the long run if I spoke my truth and walked away with love and grace. And so that is what I did. And the truth, my truth, set me free.

I came down with a head cold the same day we decided to split up. Some of my yogi tribal women who are older than me, and watch over me in that tribal sort of way, said I was detoxing the relationship. I hadn't heard this one before, but it certainly felt right when I asked my "internal pharmacist" if that was what this head cold was all about. The answer I got was an absolute yes. And so I treated myself intuitively ~ the way I know how. I took lots of B5 - Pantothenic Acid, lots of Vitamin C, fresh juices, green powders, green tea, some Ibuprofen, and I stayed in the hot yoga room for atleast 3 hours a day, either teaching or practicing. I taught 8 classes last week. I think I practiced 5. It has been months since I've put myself through that heavy of a yoga schedule. The results were what I knew to be true. I sweated out the toxins. I sweated out my head cold, which really translated to: Grace's fear of being alone, Patty's anxiety over transition, and Tomahawk's anger over not being able to play his role of being a victim. I let the tears come in the hip-opening postures and the backbends. I stepped out of the way for once, of my own healing process. I became an observer to what my body was going through, this letting go in love, this passing of something beautiful, but something that needed to shift. I sweat out fearing the unknown, and I loved myself more and more each day, honoring my spirit, nurturing myself back to good emotional, mental and physical health. I honored that I am grieving a loss right now, and that it's necessary to feel every second of it. I'm still in it, and I am grateful for it.

It is Sunday night. My heart is peaceful. I am not getting ahead of myself. I am not letting codependent or addictive cycles step up and run my heart, my life. I am curious about how I feel, and what I am experiencing. I have never been through a "healthy" breakup, because I never understood myself well enough to feel "healthy". I do now. And the shift is amazing. The snapshots I see of me, when I was a child sitting by a moon beam, were from a time when I was peaceful, staying in the moment, and feeling a sense of wonder around just being alive, in this body I was given. And while my heart is heavy with sadness, I feel a deeper sense of peace for having honored my own wishes. I am grateful to have felt so much love in my life, and I am trusting that God has my hands through this, just like He always has.