Sunday, December 18, 2011

the open road

I was on my scooter last Sunday morning, riding down High Tension Road here in Mysore, India. I was all on my own, searching for a place to have breakfast. Nothing extraordinary, other than this bright little feeling, a lightness in my chest: I felt so very free.

Truth be told, as independent as I make myself out to be, I'm not on my own much. Or haven't been in a long while. I've been in a string of long term committed relationships and, to top it off, I'm a people person. I know that I can take socializing to extremes; I always want to be in the thick of it. I used to have this insane fear: I never wanted to miss anything. And often this meant I was hardly ever alone.

Since June, I've sort of been on the road. Up till October, I was visiting with friends and family between the US and the Philippines. I arrived in India with roommates and have since had a brief but beautiful romance. These companions have gone, however, and I've found myself in a unique position of being quite on my own.

This new solitude is a little frightening but also incredibly exciting. There have been a lot of shifts in 2011, which started here in Mysore over a year ago, where I first realized that I had been burying my own needs and dreams. It has been hard for a "people-pleaser" like myself to distinguish between the wants of others and what I really want for myself.

Though a little lonely, this new space--vastly undefined, full of the unknowable, paved with possibility--is like an open road. I am coming to realize that I can go anywhere, do anything. I am free to want and do whatever suits me, whether its the small things like taking a drive to satiate my desire for Indian breakfast or the bigger things in life--which is coming ever so slowly.

Friday, November 11, 2011

inner dance, india

Pi facilitating my inner dance last March
at Bahay Kalipay, Puerto Princessa, Philippines.

I can barely call it dancing, my right hand slowly grazing air above my brow line until the constant barrage of thoughts (the usual mental assault we get used to day to day) melt away. When my mind quiets, my hand floats downwards, swirling the dark matter hovering subtly over my heart center. My left arm eventually joins in, both hands conducting invisible energy.

I am conscious and at the same time totally unconscious. With my eyes closed, I am observing the strange willfulness of my own extremities, my arms, hands, legs seem to be working--quite coordinated I might add--all on their own.

And I? Somehow, I understand what they are doing. They are intent on healing my subtle body, they want to hush my mind, they want to unclog my heart, they want to ease the seat of my feminine power, which has, out of stress, somehow gone into hiding.

(Does this sound totally weird to you?! To be honest, all this is strange for me too. Its something I have learned to accept because despite its peculiarity, it really works.)

Today is 11-11-11. I wish I could say it was 11:11pm as well, but I should well be fast asleep before then considering my alarm is on for 3am--led class at the shala tomorrow is at 4:30am. Its an auspicious date, regardless of the time. My roommates (Claudia and Chit) and I have done our little part to observe it by having an Inner Dance session here in our apartment in Gokulam, Mysore.

Inner Dance is hard to explain. Its best experienced. Its main exponent is our friend and inner dance teacher Pi Villaraza who is based in Bahay Kalipay in Puerto Princessa, Palawan, Philippines. Last March, he introduced us to this amazing moving meditation that is all about the movement of energy. Its special to be practicing it tonight in India--which, one might say, is one of the oldest sources of this energy. In yogic terms, it can be identified as kundalini energy.

Claudia, Chit and I were last in Bahay Kalipay again just this June, where Pi worked with each of us individually. Inner Dance is different for everyone, so I can only speak for myself. For me, it is extraordinary process for self-exploration and healing. My experiences have mostly been deeply emotional. Like yoga, to dance is to discover, to dig deeper, to remove things that are in the way--which is why I've been frustrated with it recently because I have been so caught up in my own stories that I couldn't get any results from the last couple of times I tried inner dancing. Things would not move. I was emotionally constipated.

Tonight was a breakthrough, however. I would not give up on myself. At least my hands would not as they worked relentlessly shaking (literally too, I must have looked a sight!) what might seem like an unseen energy force field connecting my head, heart, and root chakras. My entire body rattled until I exhaled deeply, sobbing. I purged negative energy from deep within myself. After this release, just as the last song came on, I lay down embracing my own shoulders, my inner voice saying--rather loudly, I might add: "I love you. I will never abandon you. I love you unconditionally. You are perfect for me. I am your true love."

I have often written about surrendering to love, but this particular one is the hardest to accept. Its so difficult to grasp this inconceivable notion of loving ourselves. And I have to admit--quite ashamedly--that I still don't entirely buy it. Part of me wants to roll my eyes and go, "Seriously, dear inner voice, you are so cheesy!" But then there's a part of me--wiser, more open minded--that's ready to invest my life-savings on it, because I know, in the end, this is the love that will unite all loves, this is the love that will save my life.

For more information on Inner Dance/Pi/Bahay Kalipay, check out:

Saturday, November 5, 2011

paying attention

Bird Sanctuary, outside Mysore City, Karnataka.

"Writing about attention, I see that I have written a good deal about pain. This is no coincidence. It may be different for others, but pain is what it took me to pay attention. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to the right now." --Julia Cameron, Artist's Way.

I marked the passage above last week when reading Artist's Way. It resonated then I moved on from it. Now I understand why.

On the weekend I received a Tui Na massage from my friend Joycee. I'd expected it to be intense as so many of my fellow yoga practitioners around Gokulam who have signed up quite willingly to be kneaded by Joycee's deft fingers, knuckles, elbows and rather small but effectively lethal massage stick have come out with serious bruises--along with glowing success stories of alleviated aches, of course. So I was prepared for discomfort, bruising, and soreness.

Joycee identified right away the culprits to my neck troubles and went to work on my lower back and shoulders. She poked and prodded, "tightness is there," as she pointed out where I was having difficulty in my asana practice. Then she got to he underside of my left leg, where she laid it down: this was where I had stored my emotions. She asked me to think, what have I been running away from that my defenses would try to bury it deep within my own body? What hurt and pain had I trapped within myself so adeptly that I did not notice it?

After my massage, Joycee tucked me into bed to rest, as she worked her rolling pin of a massage on Claudia, where I fell into a deep rest. I was exhausted. Physically relieved, but emotionally restless. Something deep within was stirred up. When I came to, I was instructed to shower then to sit and have tea, chocolate and hugs from Joycee and Claudia. Somewhere in between, I uncovered a well of sadness and hurt which then overflowed for the next few hours.

Hmph, I thought I was over all this. In many ways I am. I've moved on, literally, half way across the planet.

All things considered, the drama that caused all this was not so long ago. And in truth, I am still dealing with the fall out. A loss is a loss, no matter whether it makes sense or not. An injury is an injury even when you didn't do anything to deserve it. It shook me, it shook my belief in others, it shook my belief in myself.

So here I am in India, working on my yoga practice, my key tool being my physical body. And yet, here I am using it as a repository for my sad little story. Joycee reminds me of what I am doing here in Mysore and that I need to remove this blockage. She can get my blood circulating again, she can point out this thing that is stuck, but only I can exorcise my own demons. All I can do is feel it, feel the hurt and the pain that is so beyond my physical body but hurts a great deal more than the grinding roll of knuckles against connective tissue.

And the moment I do, I start to feel better because I'm unblocking the flow of my emotional body. I mean, the hurt doesn't go away exactly, but I feel more myself. Everything feels clearer. I see how much I've been avoiding things, whether its sitting still with myself or writing this blog. I sadly realize how I've been dodging myself for the last couple of weeks, I've not been myself, I've not been wholly present, which brings me back to what Julia Cameron wrote. Now, being honest about the pain, accepting it for what it is, and how certain things are not, in fact, ok, I can be more present. Veils are being lifted. My vision clears.

Hopefully, I can now get to the crucial work of releasing, of letting go.

Thank you, dear Deva. Again, you seem to be behind many of my crucial discoveries here in Mysore. And thank you, Joycee, you have a gift!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

diwali, light of love

Fireworks in front of the shala.

(Written yesterday, October 25)

Tonight, the fireworks start in India, launching the Festival of Lights, Diwali. In fact, it has already started. Here and there, fireworks breaking the peace of sleepy Gokulam.

We are blessed with rains today. In fact, it always seems to rain during Diwali—and thank goodness because it does slow down the compulsive need to be setting off fireworks, and has probably saved a great many people from burning down their own houses or injuring themselves.

Last year, I was here too, same as I am today and yet completely altered, same-same but different.

This year, the holiday resonates with me much more. I feel the high energy of the new moon. It is intense like so many of my experiences of late.

I also identify the holiday most with the story of Rama and Sita, which I read a few months back, from the great Indian epic poem the Ramayana, and how the prince and his beloved return to the kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile, and how lamps were lit to light their way home.

As someone who is far from home and who has a personal storeroom of stories of separation, I feel the significance of the story behind the festivities, a reminder of the light of love that beacons us home after a long exile, after a journey, and a battle. It is about returning to where we belong, taking our rightful place in the natural order of things.

Easier said than done, right?!

Later, I will light a lamp for myself, in hopes that it will guide me to what it is I truly seek, that this little flame will illuminate a world of love, possibility, and fulfillment, and that one day I will be able to not just be in the light of love but myself embody this light completely.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

indelible ink

Sutra 23, Samadhi Pada, Yoga Sutras.

Light-handed Jake from P&P Tattoo, Polaris St, Makati, Manila.

Some commitments are not to be taken lightly. And there are none more important than the ones we make with ourselves.

Last week, before I left Manila for India, I decided to get inked. Not my first, though I may not seem the type.

Each time I have been to the needle has been a special rite of passage, a ritual marking a special time of my life, a reaffirmation of the values that I personally hold dear. I had my first done right after I graduated from college at Berkeley, a dragon which is my birth year according to the Chinese calendar. Not too thought out, but I was young and the intention was there.

In my early adulthood, I had "one love" tattooed in alibata, an old Filipino alphabet. Work-wise, I had been through a difficult trial, my personal values had been challenged and my self-belief was shaken. I wanted to remind myself of what is now the spirit of this blog, that there is this amazing universal love that exists everywhere, constant, nourishing, and that I am, like everyone, a part of this infinite love.

When I was in the US this summer, amidst life's chaotic whirlwind, it occurred to me that not only was I ready for my next inking, but I knew exactly what I wanted to have emblazoned on my skin.

I was in a tough spot a couple of months ago. Everything appeared to be spiraling out of my control. I could have fought or given myself up to despair. Neither options appealed much. I felt lost and ignorant. I didn't know how to solve the intricate beatings/yearnings of my mind and heart. So I leaned on love and surrendered to the forces that are beyond my limited understanding, believing only that there had to be a greater plan than all this pain and suffering.

Returning to the Philippines, feeling more grounded and more clear, I resolved to make that commitment permanent by having it inked in a place that for me symbolized suffering and dying. I had suffered, but I had also grown from it. Something in me had died. And I think I had to go through that. New beginnings come after endings. We die, we are reborn.

So, in Sanskrit, burning still on my side is line 23 from the first chapter of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. "Ishvarapranidhanadva." To me it means my surrender to the Supreme, in whatever form He/She/It decides to take.

I surrender to God.

To write it. To feel it. To see it. I can't help but feel this intense connection with myself and the world around me. I fill with love, with goodness, with infinite possibility.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

manila’s parting message

Manila. Again, I am struck again by this idea: there are no coincidences.

It’s been a crazy couple of days, the last in the Philippines for the next 5 months. Totally in keeping with my vata-deranged self, I flew around crazily running errands, seeing friends, spending time with family. I’ve been whining a little, how little time there was to sit and absorb all that has happened in the months that I’ve been traveling.

But now, here, waiting for my flight to Kuala Lumpur at the airport, I see how this short time at home has been grounding, recharging and reaffirming. Amidst all the activity, it has served as a pause in between breaths, a small instance of stillness filled with volumes of new understanding.

Among the many happy “happenstances,” that occurred over my last day here was bumping into Pi, my friend and inner dance teacher who was at M Café to meet our mutual friend Claudia, who I knew was stuck in Caticlan due to torrential rains.

Pi, who’s been privy to some of my recent struggles, asked how I was doing. I explained that I was finding things difficult until, that is, I returned to home to the Philippines.

“Of course, that makes sense,” Pi said. And just like that I realized that coming home did have a profound effect. I know who I am here. That somehow, the heat and humidity, the torrential rains, the tropical green, this land of extremes is a part of my inner strength. I have felt her grounding power. The Philippines has steadied me, reigned in my senses and revived me to myself.

After my brief meeting with Pi, I had the pleasure of catching Martha Atienza’s video presentation at Ayala Museum. An old friend, Martha is an artist and filmmaker whose project “My Heart is Buried in the Sea” looks at her own journey to her childhood home Bantayan Island. I could relate to her journey.

Clara Balaguer, my fellow little heathen and Office of Culture and Design’s mastermind also brought in another amazing director from Spain, Carlos, who captures the “blank spaces” in the lives of ordinary people, seemingly insignificant, but totally thought provoking and meaningful.

I couldn’t help but think that I was meant to be there, to hear from these directors/explorers, to learn about how they documented their journey, to experience the different ways of approaching this process of capturing people, of reaching out, of making meaning out of the everyday mysteries of life.

Later, when I returned home, I was assaulted by a barrage of questions from my aunt’s boyfriend, who I met for the first time. He was trying to understand yoga and decided to interview me. Tired and hungry after being stuck in Manila rain-induced traffic, it was somewhat a challenge, but I managed to answer eloquently. And this amazed me, I’m not often put on the spot like that and he asked some big questions. As I listened to myself speak, I realized, I actually understood what I was talking about. I was actually making sense.

When I muse about those last moments in the Manila, I like to think that the Universe was trying to give me some parting advice: Home is here for me, I can always draw on its strength, it will always welcome me back. But for now, I must travel. And as I do so I should work towards documenting it in creative, new ways. Now as I go off on my second trip to India, I should trust myself and what I understand about this amazing process called yoga, that the foundations are now there to build greater understanding. Thus the universe sends me out on a new and exciting adventure.

intention and grace

I was packing for India, when I found a letter written by my friend Sharz amongst my scraps of paper from last year’s trip. I was leaving Mysore when she wrote, very sweetly, about “grace and intention.”

The two words jump at me. Grace. Intention. They were written for me 9 months ago. These words have new weight for me now. I realize that they have been the big themes in my life recently—not the sadness or loss, but intention and grace.

I have come to an end of one journey and am at the start of a new one.

I have put to rest the infuriating madness of the recent past by accepting it all: that another person’s truth can conceivably be different from my own, that my own stories of separation and loss must be honored, that pain must be observed, but that in the end honest, unwavering love perseveres. Like water, it changes form, but never disappears.

So passes the confusing emotional maelstrom and now things seem to be moving—I think partly because certain blockages have been removed and partly because I have recommitted to my intentions.

So, I go to India, to Mysore, to Gokulam. I will be practicing at the KPJAYI shala soon. I will study, I will write, I will be what I need to be, intentions paving a new path.

And of grace? Grace is intention’s faithful partner. Grace, I am relieved, continues to also flow, as it does so long as I am true to myself and my life’s purpose.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

being verbs

In my copy of Hanif Kureishi's "The Buddha of Suburbia" there is a poem hand-printed lovingly on the back of the sleeve cover, which I am grateful to have in my possession, 14 years after it was originally written. Its a beautiful poem and should be shared. I am happy to have been given the permission to share it (Thank you, Dan! Still one of my favorite birthday gifts!):

My girlfriend is a shifting body of text
She moves, fluid adjectival flow
an endless configuration of consonant and vowel
a poem of her no page can hold

(I fear I am not her perfect reader)

but her transitions of rhyme and rhythm
act upon me
at a touch from her I become italics
a touch from her I cease to be a noun
We forget the present tense, the past imperfect

We become verbs.
Immersed in the act of being
the act of being us
the act of being with

Our love lies between us
encapsulated in the parenthesis of our bodies.

--Daniel Lee Cox

Sunday, October 9, 2011

love biblically

1 Corinthians 13:4-7

New International Version (NIV)

4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

one love, ost

Once upon a time, I was in a band. A spoken word band called Verb. The name of this blog came from my poem, One Love--my own personal mantra--which we jammed out here. Its not perfect. But I'm ok with that now. One of my few regrets in life is that we never followed through with our project band.

Thank you, Ryan Ventura, for sharing this. Ryan, Dan Gil, and J-hoon Balbuena, you were great brothers in music and good friends in life.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

cheesy encounter, seattle in manila

Just when I think I've put Seattle behind me...

My two weeks in Seattle this summer was a very interesting time. It was special--and that I can say this now, that I can say this first, without flinching is a big deal I think. It was full of unique experiences. I met some beautiful people, saw some amazing things. But it was also a complex time, where I had to confront the worst of my fears and I was really hurt by someone I loved and trusted.

But that was late August. I left Seattle first week of September. Since then, I've been to Oakland and San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and Hong Kong. And now, I'm here, home in Manila. Seattle should be millions of miles away.

We are shopping for bread. Or rather, my good friend Christina is at a local delicatessen. I am tagging along with her and her baby boy Maceo. This chain of specialty shops called Santis dot the city, providing Manila's refined with a steady supply of fine imported wines, canned goods, fresh meats and cheeses. We walk to the one closest to her home in Rockwell, where a store attendant steers us towards a cheese tasting booth.

There, an older man dressed in full Dutch national costume, wooden clogs and all, talks cheese. His assistant, a younger blond woman, who looked like a dairy maid in her national attire, cuts cheese. Cheese is on display. Cheese samples are on toothpick ends for tasting. I look at the names and turn to Christina, "I've had this cheese in Seattle."

Ewephoria was its name. Introduced to me by my hmm former-love-interest, not in Seattle, but in Bellingham, two hours away. Small details. He had shared with me that this was the cheese that Jans made. Jans and his wife Catia have a place in Orcas island, where he and our friend Paul Millage held a yoga retreat, the very same retreat where his attention strayed and our love was first betrayed (I can say this too, without flinching much, another good sign).

Later, I would spend 3 days in Jans and Catia's house with Beth, another new dear angel/friend, who was house-sitting for the couple. There in Capitol Hill, I finally addressed the wounds of my bruised ego and broken heart and found the strength to leave Washington state.

"Ewephoria. Is that a general name for this kind of cheese? Or is it something you specifically make?" I ask the clogged man.

"I make this cheese," said he.

"I had this cheese in Seattle," I tell him. His eyes light up at my mention of Seattle.

"Hi, my name is Kaz," I introduce myself and offer my hand, "I stayed in your house when I visited with Beth Leone."

I tell him about how I helped tidy his house and water the garden with Beth. I tell him how I came across his cheese in Washington. I mention the boys and briefly gloss over the time I was visiting them.

Jankos is a lovely, sweet man, very warm, totally eccentric looking in his Dutch national costume. He tells me about his Manila tour promoting his cheeses, which are really extraordinary (Honey Bee, which the boys were looking for because it was so good, is my favorite of the lot).

He invites me back to Seattle and adds, "Next time, come to Orcas. Its beautiful. You must come to our place in Orcas."

Christina and I wheel Maceo out of there, and I'm more than a little weirded out by the experience of meeting this person that oddly connects me back to my time in Seattle. It was wonderful to meet him, to feel excited to share my experience with our mutual friends. But odd too.

Suddenly Orcas is in my head again. Orcas Island, the largest of the San Juan Islands in Washington State, which I could see from Paul and Sonja's house in Bellingham. Its a place of great beauty, I've been told, but I associate it with great heart break too. And, yet, here in Manila, I meet Jans, who belongs to there, who invites me back.

Orcas is in my head and as I drive home I am so totally distracted that I miss three turns, making it an extra long trek to my dad's house. Just as I finally get back on track, I wonder out loud (yes, I like to talk to myself as I drive) what does this mean.

As I turn a corner, I see a colorful truck with two words beautifully painted on it: "I believe." What in the world is that supposed to mean?

Now, I know I could easily just chalk up the whole cheese encounter as simply random and wacky. Still, I pretty much believe that there's a purpose to everything, that life's little coincidences have greater meaning. What this encounter with Jans means exactly, I have no idea whatsoever. Maybe I'm supposed to go back to Orcas. Maybe I have more internal work to do with this strange time in my life. Who knows?

What I do feel certain about is this: there are certain things we are meant to experience, there are certain things that we can't run away from, no matter how much distance we put between ourselves and the other.

Friday, October 7, 2011

manila madness

Nothing makes sense in Manila. And for what ever reason, everyone seems to be ok with that. Everyone's complicit in their total disregard to the law. All sorts of laws. Legal laws. Rules of engagement. Laws of time and space.

I knew it the moment the plane landed, just a couple of days ago. We'd barely come to a stop when the springy sounds of seat-belts being hastily unbuckled could be heard throughout the cabin and people were springing out of their seats to race--where? to what purpose? The seat-belt sign still lit up. I breathe and think to myself, welcome...home.

I've come home to reconnect with family and friends, to unpack, do laundry and repack for India. "Home" right now is where I have the remainder of "my stuff," which is literally stuffed in my old room at my dad's house. Though its been 5 years since I've lived in this crazy city, I still feel its madness. I come home here regularly to visit family and friends and to plug into modern day urban living--necessary when living on a 7-kilometer island like Boracay for the last 5 years.

And while this trip is short, 6 days left now, I am buzzing with the frenetic energy of a developing city, progress amidst abject poverty, people rushing and yet maintaining a snail's pace, so completely different from America's land of plenty--even in these times of economic instability.

I try not to make judgments--I used to all the time, when comparing my two homelands. The US and the Philippines are just different. Plainly, simply different.

Part of what makes the Philippines special is its difference too. I love the heat, so humid, so sultry this rainy season. My practice yesterday morning was, for me at least, the perfect temperature, flexibility so supported by this beautiful warm air. The warmth is in the people as well. I could feel it instantly coming into the shala where I practice. In comparison, people in the US are so serious.

I love the feeling of festivity that seems so inherent in our culture. It's early October and already there are signs of Christmas. And this flagrant love, nay, obsession, for the holiday is most apparent in my own family home. As I first drove up the decor outside was in full support of the up and coming Hallow's Eve. Inside, however, it is a bizarre Christmas wonderland with garlands, holiday knick-knacks, and trees (yes, plural. I'm almost horrified to admit it, but when I arrived October 6 there were already 2 Christmas trees up, fully decorated. The second tree pictured above is dedicated to my niece, which hopefully explains the Hello Kitty theme). Then there's the little Santas (also plural) from different parts of the world--it must be said that my family does gravitate towards the extreme of the extreme here, but they are tapping into a national consciousness that wholeheartedly embraces Christmas to death.

Its weird to be home. And home is crazy. But if I'm to be completely honest that's what I like the best about it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

hong kong healing

Hong Kong. My friend Deva takes me on beautiful morning walk above the Mid-Levels. We sit on a rock nearby this roadside shrine, which overlooks Central.

She takes out 2 envelopes. I smile. I recognize them at once. If Deva hadn’t taken the initiative, I would have eventually asked for mine. But of course, Deva thinks of everything! Within my envelope is a letter which initiated all this…transformation, the start of this journey, which is coming to an end—or rather a new beginning--now, here in Hong Kong with Deva with whom I shared a magical New Year’s ritual in India nine months ago.

We were in Mysore up in Chamundi Hill, with two other friends. We gave our offering to Shiva and then found a quiet corner to burn the old and invite the new.

Mine started with: “I will let love in…”

I cry as I read out my resolutions, nay offerings, because all of it has come true. I surrendered to being honest, to true love, to real connections, to a healthier way of living, to committing to my yoga practice and returning to Mysore in 2011.

I asked and the universe provided.

In one week, I will be in Mysore. Deva will be there too, so saying goodbye today at the airport was more of “we’ll continue this later…” Now, as I fly home to the Philippines for a brief stopover, I’m struck at how incredibly blessed I am.

I asked for love. And love was showered upon me.

Had I learned to become more loving? Am I more lovable than before?

It is not like my life lacked love. I was in a flawed but loving relationship. My friends and family cared for me. I had a dedicated practice. But my heart was closed. I did not wholly love myself and thus could not properly see the bountiful love that surrounded me.

That night conceived my heart opening. And here I am, 9 months later immerging as a more heart-full person. So much has happened, so much hurt, so much love, some much change. But, ultimately, all of it is love. And though I don’t always feel this way, I feel that this is true: Everything is love. Everything.

Though it’s not yet been a full 12 months, my return to Mysore feels like a new year for me. And I can’t wait!

stay hungry, stay foolish says steve jobs

I am typing on my MacBook, across from me my friend Deva is on her's whilst on her iPhone. How many of us around the world are managing to live/enjoy in this modern world thanks to Steve Job's ingenuity and sheer and absolute love for his work?

Though he has passed today, we should celebrate his life. I think he would agree.

Here's a link to Jobs' 2005 commencement address at Stanford University:

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

tearful goodbyes

Our last night together, Pequena in Brooklyn.

I will never get used to this.

Living in the Philippines, I don’t get to visit my sister and mother in America so regularly and saying goodbye is always a toughie. When I was younger and living in the US, it was the same with my dad who lived in Asia. Today, I cried a lot of the way in our livery service to the airport. Luckily my mother was there, in rare form, holding space, her hand on mine, making use of my vulnerability to impart some motherly wisdom on love because for a change I am not fighting her.

How does one feel whole with a heart so spread out, my mom in Los Angeles, my sister in New York, my dad all the way in the Philippines, dear friends spread across those cities and a great deal in between? My subtle center feels stretched out and I’m reminded of my time in Colorado earlier this summer, trying to take in the thin air at 8,000 feet.

I’ve checked in and I’m now sitting at the departure lounge awaiting my flight to Hong Kong--and I’m still crying. I feel like I’ve tapped into this deep well of emotion. At this point, I’m not sure what I’m crying about. So much has happened these last 3 months, which has been full of the blessings of human connection, not all of them easy.

I wrote a couple of weeks back about the expansiveness of the heart, how I felt it could stretch out infinitely. As I try to calm myself, well, from myself, I remember that idea. (I’d also like to stop spontaneously bursting into tears by the time we board, its uncomfortable having a weepy seatmate for a 16-hour flight!)

So, I imagine filling my stretched out heart with love, inhaling into the negative spaces, until my heart inflates, all robust, like a massive balloon. My love stretches across the planet, encircling all those with whom I resonate. And as I presence each loved one, I hope that they can feel me, that no matter where I am, wherever this journey takes me, they know I am with them just as they are here with me, that is true love, refusing to be bound by the rules of physics. I remind myself again, love, the core of our being, is truly limitless.

Monday, October 3, 2011

on effort

Star Wars snaps at the Brooklyn Flea.

When I share things, I swear I'm not being preachy, I'm just like everybody else, totally and utterly baffled by the way this crazy world works, our funny quirks and the play between the crazy world and our funny quirks. I'm just processing it all "out loud" so to speak.

A quote that I wanted to share is from the Gita, off of a yoga flyer (the shala yoga house in Brooklyn) I picked up in NY (currently, recycling all bits before going)
. The second quote is not so ancient but generally the same idea. I love how the wisdom of yoga is everywhere! Hooyah!

On this path effort never goes to waste, and there is no failure. Even a little effort toward spiritual awareness will protect you from the greatest fear.

--Bhagavad Gita 2:40

No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.

--Jedi Master Yoda

changing seasons

There's a chill in the air in New York these past couple of days. Fall comes quickly. Some leaves have started to turn different shades of autumn. It's fitting really that my departure coincides with the shifting seasons, the end of my Stateside summer, spanning New York city, Telluride in Colorado, Washington state, the Bay Area and Los Angeles in California.

I take my leave from where it all started, New York, tomorrow morning.

For the sake of being able to wake up for my flight tomorrow, I'll leave my summer retrospective for another time. But this must be said, it was a glorious summer, reminding me so much of a fairgrounds fun ride or a classic coming of age film, filled with ups and downs, twists and turns, good laughs, heart warming moments and, of course, tears. These months have been jam-packed with so much joy, some drama, and whole lot of lessons.

I feel like I've come into being a grown up. Guess its about bloody time too.

So, here comes fall. And while there is no autumn season in Asia, where I am heading next, I feel the spirit of it. It's a serious time of work, of harvesting the fruits of the summer, of drawing in the lessons, storing it for tougher times ahead. But for now, these are thoughtful times; there is much to think of and much to do before winter.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

from the city of brotherly love

Apple picking in Upstate New York for Audrey's birthday turned into a day trip into Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love due to rains. Here are some of our love-ly snap shots from today:

The Unitarian Church's topic for today. Love the theme!

Dark chocolate hearts at the Redding Market. Much better than the ones
we saw at Mutter Museum earlier that day!

Anyone else seeing a theme in this city? Could I have gone to a better place?

Ah love! Me and my sister on her birthday, in the City of Brotherly Love.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

family yoga, sisterhood

Its my sister Audrey's birthday. We hung out the entire eve, painted each others' nails, drank wine and champagne, watched part of "Meet Me at St. Louis" with Judy Garland, one of our favorite musicals growing up, and waited till midnight. I can't remember the last time I spent it with her.

My mother is here as well. And the fact that the three of us are together is just short of a miracle. I have made some sacrifices choosing to live in Asia for over the past decade. I've missed countless birthdays and holidays. I've lost time with those I love, the daily interaction that color and build relationships.

Its been challenging to return home and spend substantial time enough to realize that there are gaps in our history, that there have been changes in our tastes and in our habits, that we've evolved while the other wasn't looking. Change is good, but jarring to those who failed to notice it.

Having said that, I feel incredibly blessed to have this time now to be able to see the shifts, to be able to bridge certain gaps. Or at least make an effort at it.

I love my sister. She's been a real light in my life. And despite the distance, I always feel her presence and support throughout all my landmark moments, highs and lows. I am astounded by her brain--and have been, in the past, more than a little jealous. She scored much higher on the SAT's when she took them in junior high, at the time I was in high school. I admire her even-mindedness and passion for her beliefs. I respect her work ethic and the choices she's made. I was awed when early in her college life she started to volunteer at the Berkeley Free Clinic, then focusing her energy in HIV-prevention and AIDS education. I wasn't surprised when she got into Columbia for her masters program. I've always been impressed with her style. Not just in fashion, but in person, which I think has always been forward-thinking and brave.

No matter how much she continues to grow as a person, I will always think of her as my little sister. This, however, has its drawbacks, especially since we don't get to interact much in person.

I spent half of my life quite used to my sister being little, following me around, minding what I said (she was that nice, really! even when I wasn't). And now to spend this extended amount of time here, the longest we've spent together in years...

We've both changed, both women now, both willful, both stubborn, both more in touch with our personal needs and both more sensitive to when those needs are being obstructed. So, we've been adjusting to both the old patterns of sisterhood in the context of who we are now, both strong but both really different. We share the same sore beliefs, the same end goals, but our ways our different. We argue the same side of an issue but our delivery is different. We both want peace and sanity. She has her therapy and I have my yoga. Same, same but different.

I have had my moments this trip when I felt the heavy weight of difference. But the "sameness" between us is the key, and the differences are there to help us grow closer as sisters.

To Audrey, I am filled with gratitude for the Thirty-one-derful years you've been keeping me company on this crazy planet. It has been a gift to share so much with you! You are hands down my favorite person in the whole wide world. I love you so much and always will. K

Thursday, September 29, 2011

eating, praying, loving

Its happened a few times now that when I explain that I'm taking nearly a 9 month leave from my so-called life in order to travel back to the US, visit what was home, re-acquaint myself with America, nourish myself with the company of old and new friends, and reconnect with family before launching into a 5 month stint in India, 4 months of it to study at a yoga shala in Mysore I get this response: "So, like Eat Pray Love?" or sometimes, "Like Eat Pray Love!"

Having read the book twice already, I can only sheepishly respond, yes, like Eat Pray Love.

Its been referenced so much recently that I decided to pick up the copy of it that was sitting on my mother's shelf. It was the very first copy I ready 4 years ago, upon the recommendation of my mother. I was going through some major changes. I'd made a huge break from an emotionally abusive relationship. I was healing. And I remember getting so much out of Elizabeth Gilbert's account of that year in her life.

I read it a second time between Mysore and Manila, my tumultuous return to said so-called life after my first two and a half month trip to India. I was going through a shift then too. I had started to gain perspective on my life as it was, on what I really wanted and the disparity between the two.

I love to read. I've always had special relationships with the prose and plays that I love. For me, when a piece of literature is good, it speaks to me. I can relate to it's themes in a nearly cellular level. My body understands it and takes it in. It is like air, food, water, and sleep--which is why I can usually forgo these necessities when engrossed in a book. It feeds me. Plus, I was quite a maudlin kid and books were my escape. I lived in the novels that I read. They made life bearable.

And since, three is a magic number, I've decided to read it again. Gilbert points this out in her book, the perfect balance of a three-legged stool is a beautiful thing, the magic of fine engineering.

This time, the energetic and emotional connections have never been more clear and the parallels to my own life's events are a little uncanny. I know there are new shifts now, though I am still trying to understand it. I'm sad. I'm happy. I'm trying to be nice to myself. I'm free. And I don't quite know what to do with it. So, yes. I guess I am eat-pray-love-ing.

Don't get me wrong, I think, ultimately, anyone who is going through serious life changes will relate to this book. And I don't think I'm anymore special than anyone else. And while I am at this weird crossroad, dealing with my own breakups, heartaches, newly acquired nomadic life, and, yes, freedom I don't think any of the tumult of the last year compares the depth of Gilbert's own story. But still, the similarities are interesting. Its just each time I read this book, I feel like I relate to it deeper and deeper, which is a sign of a really good book.

Gilbert has tapped into three universal themes that will create balance in those who dare to embody them: eat, pray and love. They are like this triple threat. Together, they have serious mojo.

This trip has been touched by discord and struggle, which is really forcing me to identify and seek out what nourishes me, whether its good food, beautiful company of the genuine-hearted, support of friends and loved ones. In so many ways, I've also been more conscious of the devotional aspect of my practice too. But recently, I've really started to pray again. I pray to the sun or to god or to my guru. And, well, love...

Love is trickier than I thought. I am trying to understand my heart. I guess that's why I write about it so much. That's the reason for this blog. There's some kinds of love that are easy for me. Those are bountiful. And then there are others that I struggle with also. There's nothing that I want more. There's nothing that I am more afraid of.

So, here I am, reading about a woman on a journey, just as I am a woman on my own journey, quite possibly the most important undertaking of my life thus far. And Gilbert's tale is a lovely companion, a true friend holding up a mirror. And hopefully, I'll have the vision to see what it is that I need to see, a glimpse perhaps of the real me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

family yoga, light vs. dark

I've been sitting on a piece of writing that's been simmering ever since I came out to NY with my dad to visit my sister just this June. I was sacrificing my asana practice in order to spend time with family. (Promise, Deva, the full article is coming! My good friend Deva first encouraged me to write about the idea of family yoga).

And now, I'm back in NY. This time with my mother to visit with my sister. Just as precious. Just as crazy as the time with my dad.

Its been over 3 years since the three of us were together. I expect its going to be beautiful, mad, enlightening, troubling, insane, lovely and all sorts of crazy because that's what family does to a person. They know you better than anyone and at the same time don't know you at all! And that's going to bring up stuff.

Anyhow, we arrived last night. Its going to be...great, really, but interesting. And definitely funny.

We were hanging out on Audrey's couch. The three of us sitting there when my mother turns to me, as if she's seen me for the first time--although I've been staying with her for the last two weeks in Los Angeles.

Mom: Karen, you are so dark!
My sister Audrey and I look at her puzzled, her face is filled with something of a cross between surprise and shock. She recoils a little, perhaps with a tad of repulsion. She's got an unhealthy fear of aging and is constantly in hiding from the sun, which in fairness has worked out for her because she looks incredibly young for her age.

Its always bothered her that I like the beach, loved surfing and then chose to live on an island resort town for the last 5 years. Light skin is generally favored in the Philippines as a sign of beauty and economic prosperity (don't see any fair girls working the fields!). I feel like I've done a fair amount of work to get beyond such inane social norms and to feel confident about my own earthy complexion.

Mom: Your face is as dark as your body!

Me: I hope so!

Mom: Why did you let yourself do that?!

She walks away, her question more of a statement. My sister and I bust out laughing. My mother's hilarious, if not somewhat offensive. Most of the time she's lovely, really. Stuff like this, however, doesn't bother me. Other things, well...But this, I know is part of the package, part of the crazy stuff we have to endure, nay embrace, because we love our family, even if they press our buttons.

airport limbo

LAX, my least favorite air hub in the United States.

Airports are interesting spaces. They are like limbo. You are neither here nor there. You’re not traveling exactly. You’re waiting. That’s what people do in airports: wait.

In the departure terminal, we wait for movement. We wait for flights. We wait to get going on our business trips or holidays, reunions or great escapes. There is this undercurrent of restlessness that comes before the start of any journey.

At the arrivals, we wait for our baggage, for our rides, for our loved ones. People wait with love and anticipation, with fear and anxiety. There is always an element of excitement there.

Airports can be purgatory for travelers too. Luckily, that’s not exactly how I’m vibing it today. It may be bittersweet being at the airport again, but its not as bad as a waiting room for hell.

I can’t help but look back at the variety of different airport experiences I’ve had this year. Probably the most I’ve traveled within the span of year ever. And since early June, LAX is my 12th airport. In New York alone, I’ve flown into or out of the three airports that service the area. And before this time, there was India and Singapore in January, Palawan in March, Madrid in April.

This is beyond unusual for me. I am neither independently wealthy nor is traveling a part of my job. I feel my blessings. I can only say that when I decided to acknowledge that I wanted to be a part of the world, that going on a journey was a part of my heart’s desire, the opportunities to do so started to unfold for me, some appearing like manna from heaven and others I myself manifested.

I’ve had a lot of intense moments of introspection during my time in these airports/indeterminate states. It’s a fitting activity in limbo, gauging where you are in your head and heart spaces as you straddle two worlds.

When I left India in January after two and a half months of intense yoga study, I felt full and energized, ready for the madness of returning home, by then I think I knew that I would be shaking up my old life, though, in ways that I could have barely imagined. I felt poetry and bliss in Madrid, the possibility of a bright and shiny new love in Telluride, awkwardness in Seattle, and emptiness in Oakland.

And now in LAX, I feel limbo itself. I am between two chapters, or perhaps between a series of books—where does the heroine go before the author pens the sequel? No man’s land? She exists in space but has no form. No story to cling to.

I feel very much between things. I’m at the end of this trip with one week to go before returning to Asia and three weeks before India for 5 months—my next big adventure. This trip itself is a break from that static island life in the Philippines, a time of transition to a different way of living, of loving, of being.

I feel the recent weight of great sadness and loss and the light potential of the unknowable future. I feel the differences between life in America and in the Asia. I feel the pull of my loved ones here in the US as well as those in the Philippines.

I can’t say this is a new sensation. I’ve always felt torn between the East and West, duty and desire, what I love and what I think I should do. Then again, aren’t we all in some way or the other confused by this world full of opposing forces?!

This time, however, I can feel its intensity as if it were both a vacuum as well as this concentrated sense of the entire universe, everything and nothing. And in this dividing line, this crossroad, I am shifting. On the other side I will be as always me and at once will never be the same again.

Monday, September 26, 2011

the heavies

Its been an intense few days, which considering the general intensity which my life has taken on recently is saying a lot.

I partly blame the moon. I get moody near moon days, as my body cycles accordingly to it.

I'm also delirious from three-days of non-stop activity, squeezing in just about as many reunions as I possibly could. My mother's taken every opportunity to mention that I should not have left everything for the last week, which is her round about way of saying that she disagrees with how--or rather with whom--I spent my first week here in LA.

Of course, stubborn to the bone, I tried my best to sweep it aside and get through the weekend, which was my one opportunity to touch base with so many of the bright lights, the real stars, of my LaLa Land. Still underneath it all, that feeling remained, quietly frustrating me.

Last Saturday, my high school girlfriends Tracy and Marissa took me to see a friend of theirs, guitarist Jinsoo, who was playing with acoustic soul singer songwriter piano-man Chris Joyner at jazzy little Hotel Café in Hollywood.

(It was great hanging with my girls! – a statement that needs to be qualified in greater length in another article altogether!)

Though the set was short, I loved the sound of the band. Joyner’s songs were soulful and performed with such heart. And one in particular, a playful tune called “Heavies” seemed to define the sensation I was grappling with.

Its a fun song, but still quite observant of life's struggles. The chorus goes: "Oh no, here come the heavies. They're going to hit hard so you better get ready. Oh no, here come the heavies again."

We all have tough times. We all get our fair share of heavy burdens. I get that. I’m not winging really, I’m just saying: “I know you (referring to "the heavies"). I know you’re here with me. I know there’s a reason that you’re hanging around, and I’m willing to learn and grow from it. But when we’re through, I mean it, we're through."

To listen to the track, you can visit Chris Joyner's myspace page:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

soul food

There are all sorts of different kinds of hunger.

There is the most basic, of course, one of physical necessity. Our stomachs are empty, we must fill it. We eat to live. Though sometimes many of us forget, we either neglect our needs or over indulge our senses. We starve ourselves or stuff ourselves to death. Then there are those that are in no position to do either.

Everywhere in the world there is hunger. I've seen it in the Philippines and in India. And it happens here too, in this fabled land of plenty. Though poverty here in the United States is nothing compared to that of the developing world, it doesn't make it any better. And the sensation of empty stomachs, living on the streets, being down and out is pretty universal.

Yesterday, I joined my Tita Evelyn at the Greater West Hollywood Food Coalition, a small non-profit group that exists on donations and volunteer work. My mother also cooks for them once a week. And I was eager to see what they were doing. I know from talking to them both that they loved their volunteer work, that they had tapped into a beautiful way of expressing their love for their fellow man with the hours they spent there.

Seven days a week, on the corner of Sycamore and Romaine, the coalition food truck parks and sets up a food line, where hundreds of the area's struggling men and women get a nourishing hot meal, for many of them the only food they will eat on that day.

On Friday evening, I poured juice. Later, I washed serving trays and the giant soup pot with a garden hose at the back of their kitchen head quarters. It felt good to take part, to participate in compassion in action. We fed about 250 hundred in all.

I think its a worthy service to feed those less fortunate. But there's more to it than just food. Or rather, just as there are different kinds of hunger, there are different kinds of sustenance too. At the food line, the volunteers served more than just casserole, soup, and bread. They dished out smiles and kindness, encouragement and support.

In truth, everyone needs the nourishment of soul food. We all just need to unlock our personal storerooms and freely dispense hope, faith and love, which when given out is restored two-fold. This is the food that will change our world.

If you are in LA and would like to know more about the Coalition, please check out the following YouTube video:

For more info on how you can get involved:

Saturday, September 24, 2011

roots in city of angels

Blue skies in West Los Angeles today on the way to the Food Coalition truck.

Last week when I arrived in Los Angeles, I wrote this:

"I'm in LA. Home. Supposedly. Though it doesn't feel like it. I look around my mom's new apartment. Different. We were walking around Hollywood to dinner this evening. Different. Did I mention, we were walking, in LA? Different!"

I was feeling what I usually feel when I first touch down in LA: awkward.

But today, with only 3 days left of my time here, I feel what I also feel before each departure, this strange well of love. The city's quirks may frustrate me, having grown up here I feel justified complaining about them, but I also understand her. I've always felt an affinity to her strangeness, perhaps it reminds me of the awkwardness that I feel in my own person, this being struggling to be greater than she is, sometimes missing miserably, other times, well...

With a few days left to go, I'm running around like crazy. (Right now, I'm at Primo Cafe on Sunset Blvd stealing some moments to myself before running off to help my Tita (Auntie) Evelyn who is volunteering at a food truck feeding the homeless). And already today, I've had morning practice with Noah Williams at Silverlake, coffee with a yoga friend Sheila, brunch with my high school girlfriend Tracy, and taught my friend Marcel a mini yoga class at Equinox next door. After the food truck, I have a late dinner with my college friend Staci in Los Feliz. And there's more over the next two days!

Everything is concentrated. Its a potent mixture of nostalgia and love. And I am thinking the unthinkable: that I like LA. Its my loved ones who live here. They make the place. They also can't help but ask the question, when are you moving back? And today, between engagements, I did catch myself wanting more time, desiring to be closer.

I don't know why, but I'm always surprised when I feel all this amazing energy. This crazy place is home to so many people that I love. And because of them I will always have roots here, anchored by their oasis-like hearts in this expansive urban desert.

Friday, September 23, 2011

the weeping willow, woman warrior

My mother and I have been checking out the garden oasis of the Los Angeleno desert. Yesterday, we took ourselves to the Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, a project of the local water reclamation plant. There, we walked around, sat and meditated, and took photos. The 6 acres were filled with little gems: rock gardens, lotus ponds, shrubbery wonderland. But of all the trees, the weeping willows really caught my attention. In the brochure guide, it said that the tree was a symbol of the feminine: kind, understanding, flexible to change. Being very zen of course, the manicured pines that dotted the garden symbolized the masculine, strong (and in my opinion, stumpy in comparison to the elegant willow).

I've been thinking a lot about what it means to be a woman. The roles we take up, some of it cultural, others seemingly built into our genetic code. And the willow really resonates with me. Its inherent softness. In terms of foliage, its a bountiful tree, one you can really take up shade under. Its graceful as wind sweeps its leafy tendrils hither and thither. In the Celtic tradition, it is associated with the moon, water and the goddess, with dreaming and intuition. In other cultures it symbolizes death, mourning and deep reflection.

If I were a tree right now, I would be a weeping willow. I feel so much of its strength, so much of its magic, and so much of its sadness.

I feel like I have to qualify the sadness--though I am, if I'm really honest, filled with a subtle sorrow--as one that sees the difficulties of the world, that observes it, feels the sting of it without being victimized by it because willows are strong too. Though their curtain of leaves bend to the wind, its center is steady, its roots are strong. Her branches are merely dancing.

mindful manifesto

I've been free writing most mornings according to Julia Cameron's methods in "The Artist Way." And although these morning pages are supposed to be exorcised and not shared, I'm going to go ahead and disregard that one rule because 1) I genuinely liked what I wrote on August 15, a month and a half ago and 2) its become really important for me right now to remember these ideas, nay, intentions. I have found myself reading this one passage time and time again. For these are challenging times, and in challenging times we have to embrace the values we hold dear...

I am going to be true to myself, to who I am and who I hope to be. I will embrace all my goodness, all my good intentions, hopes and dreams.

I will, likewise, look in the eye all my fears and insecurities. I will acknowledge them and befriend them.

I will be honest with my endeavors. I will be forthright about my feelings.

I will feed myself with all things nourishing: good food, good friends, good experiences.

I will allow the creative force to live through me, through my actions and through my interactions.

I will be selfish enough to recognize my needs. I will be selfless enough to be able to share my gifts with those around me.

I will love with my whole heart, mind and body. I will trust love as the supreme source of light that binds us all together. I will be an instrument of love. All things I do I dedicate to that purpose: to give love, to share love, to be love.

I will see God in all things and people and will be filled with the divine. And my life in the here and now will be heaven on Earth.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

tangents, star wars and silver linings

I was driving up Highland Avenue this evening on my way home to Hollywood where my mom lives when I see Han Solo, Darth Vader and Obi-Won Kenobi walking down the street, the later two with capes flowing in the wind, light sabers on hand. It made me smile, such is street life in Hollywood, colorful, strange and unexpected.

I love Star Wars and the universal themes that stitch the story together. I love the idea of "the force" and how there is a need to have balance between the archetypal opposing forces, light vs. dark, good vs. evil, man vs. machine, etc. Somehow, there is always a balance. And when things are out of balance, disaster strikes until balance between the two can return.

Balance was something I did not have a good handle on today as I wobbled in my some balancing yoga postures. I wasn't surprised, my body usually empathizes with my emotional state. And today, I was feeling wobbly internally too. So much has happened lately. So many changes and challenges.

There have been a few clouds hanging over my head these last few weeks. Some have been dense and foreboding.

Today, the sky has been dotted by clouds. But with each cloud, there is a silver lining.

I feel the sting of harsh words from a close family member. Through the hurt, though, I see more closely the things that are bothering me.

I feel alienated that many I lean to do not understand me, that the way I am dealing with things is different from their value systems. Then I get an email from Saras, a new acquaintance who just read this blog and understands where I am coming from, offering soothing "balm" and a friendly ear. I also receive a beautiful and understanding letter from my wise little sister.

I feel the heaviness of heart and whirl of emotions. From all sides, I've been feeling an assault. My dog dies. My mom challenges me. My open heart bleeds profusely (ok, I exaggerate, but it does trickle so). Then, just as I feel I'm hitting a low, Denise Hughes, a beautiful devi from the Universal Shivite Fellowship retreat that I've been attending, waves me down from my car quite out of nowhere to tell me that the chaos in the world (I'm amazed that she had sensed it, I think I seemed calm throughout the retreat) is also a part of God Consciousness too (our topic for today). It made me cry to hear it!

I feel the loss of a love, but am comforted by a friend whom I know will love me forever.

Its not an easy world. Things are not always as I wish they would be. Each up has a down. There is good, there is bad. But thank goodness that there is a balance in the force, even when we think there is none, its there, in the sidelines, waiting to have its impact. And while things aren't exactly even right now, I know that they are trying to be. Sunlight peeks behind each dark cloud. Where there is darkness, there is also this all pervasive light.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

multom in parvo, a lot in a little thor

Dear Thor,

Thank you for having such a great personality (insane but totally lovable): for ruining my hardwood floors in South Syquia; for insisting on sleeping on the bed, for developing the knack of rubbing your eyes over all my clothes; for forcing yourself onto the driver's seat or rather my lap while I was driving, your paws at the wheel; for making it impossible to take you out to restaurants because you chased after waitresses because you felt so entitled that everyone at every moment should be fulfilling your desire to consume food; for ignoring all the rodents in my apartment in Boracay; for being jealous of the Loki and Oscar; for having no survival skills, poor eye sight, tired legs, obscenely stinky odor. Despite your perfume, you were the cutest pug I'd ever seen, and the countless tourist photos that were taken of you is proof of it.

Thank you for teaching me patience and responsibility, taking care of you helped make me a better person. You came to me when I really needed something to love and you returned that love unconditionally. Thank you for forgiving me when I left you for trips, I hated to see the look you gave me whenever luggage was out, and loving me when I returned. Thank you for being patient. I don't think I was a really good dog owner. But I think you understood that I wanted to be.

The motto for pugs is "Multom in parvo" which means "a lot in a little." You lived up to that. You may have been small, but your personality was huge, as was the clumps of hair you shed all over, like tumbleweeds they would fly around the apartment. The impressions you have left in my life and the lives of those that loved you is bigger than your life. Thor, you were a lot in a little dog, living up to your namesake, the Norse god. I will always hear your bark, small hoarse thing that it was, but to me it will sound like thunder.

Thank you, I love you,

My friend Claudia wrote to me today, letting me know that my old dog Thor passed in the Philippines. It seemed that whatever took him worked fast. There was no lingering. He stopped eating during the day and looked tired. Then retired by 10pm. He was 7 plus in dog years. I'd given him away to a friend's family in Aklan. They were the best fit. A family with children and time. Thor was a needy little dog, who loved to be loved. And he deserved that.

I gave him up in June, that was a little over 3 months ago, because I'd decided that traveling, yoga and writing was my calling. Life in Boracay with Thor was not. It was not an easy decision. Actually, Thor was one of the hardest things about leaving home. And there were times it seemed like he was my only real anchor to my old life.

And now, he's gone. Not just from my life, but gone gone. I'd like to celebrate him by writing him this letter (let's imagine dearly departed dogs can read for a moment or beyond that postive energy can vibrate through time and space).

Saturday, September 17, 2011

grace and swami lakshmanjoo

Where there is love, there is grace.

For the last 3 weeks, I've been praying for grace--grace to be strong enough to withstand disappointment, hurt feelings, and sadness, grace to be greater than my limited ego and expectations, grace to be true to myself, my heart and the values I hold dear.

And throughout these past weeks, it feels like my prayers have been answered in the shape of compassionate friends, fortuitous coincidences/fate throwing me a bone--or rather a sumptuous veggie meal, and magnanimous actions that seem so beyond my capabilities that I have surprised even myself and bewildered some very close to me.

Today, grace took an entirely new shape altogether as I attended my first Havan at the Universal Shaiva Fellowship in Culver City, where we celebrated the mahasamadhi of Swami Lakshmanjoo, a spiritual leader devoted to the teaching of Kashmir Shaivism.

I've been curious about Kashmir Shaivism since Mysore, where I'd caught a taste of Kashmiri chants, so full of ras or flavor. During this last Shivaratri, I was privy to a Kashmiri puja over Skype. And now, since my dear friend, the architect of this introduction and my co-creator of the above distress, is here in LA to attend the festivities, I was able to tag along.

He talks a lot about Kashmiri Shaivism and Swami Lakshmanjoo with such devotion. I was curious and baffled--baffled particularly about how he could feel so connected to a teacher who died 20 years ago today. And as my brain tried to process the key words "self-realized saint," I couldn't help but wonder, what's the big deal?

I can't even begin to illustrate what kind of deal it is because I can barely begin to fathom how I've been feeling since this afternoon. Was it big? Huge. Nay, gigantic! But at the same time so totally subtle, sneakily quiet.

The day was filled with chanting, so different from the style of chanting I'm used to in my own yoga practice--which I also love. There's something totally enthralling about it. Time passed so swiftly.

As the Kali temple priests stoked the fire, we chanted. And as I chanted, I started to mentally throw different ideas into the fire. When my mind was empty, I started to extract emotions for the fire. After I'd excavated my heart, I dug out at my guts and threw that in as well. At some point I imagined throwing my entire being into the fire, me standing there, burning up, hoping I would be like a phoenix renewed by the flames. I wanted to be rid of all excesses, all the unnecessary stuff. But I could still feel the same thoughts, the same feelings lodged into my person.

Then I remembered what George, one of the facilitators at the Havan, said, that this wasn't about us but was about Swamiji. In the end, I just gave myself up because the truth is I don't know how to make things better, I don't know how to manage all this. So, I decided to surrender myself to Swami Lakshmanjoo, surely he would know better than I.

Magic happens when you surrender. This is a favorite theme with me. I've seen it in my own yoga practice. I've seen it in my own life, which has changed so much since I seriously started to surrender to my higher good.

And today was no exception. Without going into details, which are too new-age-y even for me to repeat, I will say this: I totally felt Swami Lakshmanjoo's presence. I felt supported by him. I felt his guidance, which made me feel totally vulnerable. All conflict, which I'd been working so hard to repress, floated up to the surface. And I cried. I cried until I felt better. I'll probably have other tear-filled episodes, but for now I feel relief.

I feel the light hand of grace stroking my hair, letting me be sad, but also letting me know that after I let it go everything will be better. Thus begins my initiation into Kashmir Shaivism.