Monday, August 26, 2013

the visit

At the arrival's gate, Kansai airport...

In a few moments, I will be meeting my friend Deva at the Osaka airport. Airports have quite a significance for me, especially over the past couple of years having been in an epic, part-time, on-again-off-again long-distance relationship. Today feels like an opportunity to make a new kind of airport meeting memories. 

It is a treat for me to scoop this lovely young lady up. Deva is one of my earth angels. Almost two years ago, she fetched me from the Hong Kong airport. I was a little worse for wear then after an intensely burning summer and a wearily long flight from New York. And for the few days that I was there, she helped nurse me back into some sense of my self. We ate nourishingly good food, most of which she lovingly made, had some sweet walks with sublime vistas--even in such a crazy city as Hong Kong, and just had the kind of recharging time possible between good friends and fellow women folk.

She is going to be the first person to visit me in Japan. And with my time here quite limited, she'll possibly be the only one. 

Again, like so many of the serendipitous events that have dotted this time, Deva's visit is like manna from heaven. A couple of days ago I said my farewell to the one pre-existing friend in Osaka, who over the weeks got me settled in, oriented me to the city, ingrained in my memory a number of "good"--by his Italian standards--coffee shops, then packed up himself for rural Nippon.

For a short moment, I thought that my time to be truly solitary had come. That the Universe, in her great infinite wisdom, had decided it was time to be on my own.

It's true, I've an aversion to "being on my own." I admit, this needs some soulful investigation, but so long as the fates keep throwing loving and beautiful people my way, I'm certainly not going to deny such gifts and blessings. 

Plus, there is something so exciting about receiving a guest. Today, as I cleaned my kitchen cubbies, hoovered my sparse little room and prepared an extra sleeping mat, I felt excitement for my coming visitor. How delightful it was to have a space, however small, to offer to a friend. 

The visit itself I know will be a time of powerful sharing. I'm excited to share a bit of my adventure here and to make memories of Japan with a dear friend. Also, I look forward to being in the company of someone who's been there with me, in the trenches of life's crazy, even over long distances. 

obon and offering to the ancestors

Japanese cemetery at Arayashima, Kyoto.

This may be among my first real Japan posts. The last few may have been written in Osaka, where I've been based since the first of August, but most were written about a different time and a different place. Though I'm sure there's more to glean and excavate from the past months in Europe, I'm also feeling that I've expunged a crucial amount of emotional backlog and that there is a little more space to be in the present.

And at present, I'm in Japan. And everyday here feels a little like a miracle. Two months ago, just as my so-called-plans began to disintegrate and I was asking myself while sitting at a remote Pyranean village in Spain "what to do now?" one email came from Osaka where a mysore yoga program needed a substitute teacher and would I like to be that person?

Arashiyama, Kyoto.
So, here I am. Here and now present, teaching a mysore program at Spirit Yoga International School, where esteemed friends and fellow practitioners have taught before me, sharing a process which I love so deeply, which has moved me to no ends, which continues to push me to the edge and transform me whether I like it or not, a process which I ultimately like, look for, and invite on a daily basis.

And everyday is an offering to moving forward.

Ironically, the present continues to link to the past. Perhaps this is one of the challenges of being me, I think too much. I process. A lot. I've been given a lot of advice too. To not think so much. Easier said than done--but rather than going against my own nature, I am trying to work with it, trying to get this thinking mind to get on my onward moving bandwagon.

What I am coming to realize more and more is that being present isn't about forgetting the past, or disregarding the past. Rather, it's about seeing the past as past, honoring it for what it is, taking the lessons that it has given, and then, finally, letting it go. 

One of the Dimonji at a distance.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I took my first trip out of Osaka to nearby Kyoto for Gozan no Okuribi, the culminating event for Obon festivities in the area, a sacred time to honor one's ancestors, to release them from suffering in the realm of hungry ghosts and to remember the offerings that these ancestors made. Traditionally, Okuribi bonfires are lit on the slopes of Kyoto's mountainsides to remember and release the spirits of the ancestors.

I loved the idea! I had my own spirits of the not so recent past to release, poor tortured souls in the realm of the hungry ghosts. But Obon also had me thinking about my ancestors too as we navigated the crowds along the river, many of whom were not in a good vantage point to see the bonfires.

In the Philippines, we have a similar but more Catholic tradition that falls on All Saints' and All Souls' Day, November 1 and 2 of every year where we go to visit departed family members in their grave sites. We spend some time there, we pray and eat--often it's a grave yard picnic sort of affair. Then we go. We don't recall so much the spirits of far off ancestors, but loved ones we remember, we miss. And for many like myself, the tradition triggers an automatic response, rather than one that sparks deep contemplation and real connection.

In Japan, I realize, Obon has a similar effect. It is widely observed, but the depth of which is not commonly touched by those who perceive it as archaic or those who practice it by rote. The tradition continues but some of the greater significance is a little lost. 

Kyoto: river flows, purifies...
The bonfires themselves were hard to see. We found twice, accidentally, spots in which to get a faint view from a particular angle. But the fires of intention have their moment and burn out quickly.

As I wandered the streets of Kyoto, my friend Andrea leading us to various spots where we might look upon one of the Dimonji, the giant characters burning into the mountain, I wondered about the significance of Obon in the context of my own life. As a tourist, I was looking for a sight-seeing opportunity. But as a life-explorer, however, a different way of seeing--a healthier way of understanding and connecting with my own ghosts, with my own ancestors.

My ghosts, those wily little creatures of my own making, I understood, would continue to shadow me for as long as I allowed them. I had breathed life into them. And I was solely responsible now to deconstruct them, to release them from my mind and to take away their power--or rather to take back my own.

As for my ancestors, I realized that I had none that I could recall directly. I know so little of my family's history. I didn't even get much of a chance to really know my own grandmothers while they were living and no opportunity at all to meet my grandfathers.

What I feel, however, is this: my ancestors are my forebearers, they are the ones who came before me, they are the countless men and women who grappled with their own ghosts; journeymen (and women too, women, especially) who courageously walked their path and those who struggled to do so; writers who wrote and writers who didn't; women who fought for their personal sovereignty and famously failed and those who with quiet grace claimed their own genuine femininity.

All those who have come before me are my ancestors, the steps I walk upon now have been laid down by them. It is them whom I acknowledge, whom I honor. It is to them that I supplicate, that I may learn from their struggles and their victories, that my missteps--because there will inevitably be more of them--be lessons in love rather than mistakes, that their blessings are like flowers strewn on this unpaved dirt road I've chosen, that their love which shines like a light from within me continue to help me banish my own shadows. That they can rest now, too, knowing that me and others like me will continue to walk their path.

The past is past--but there is a power to connecting with it, feeding a human need to honor and embrace it, allowing it to be the inspiration that it can be rather than the heavy weight we often carry.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

bathing in full-ness

Full moon over Osaka as I cycled home from onsen.

Sometimes, the full moon makes me want to howl, or yell, or run amok but there are other times its energy is much more subtle. This last full moon, August 21, had me singing.

Ever since I started observing them, moon days have taken special shape, each one special to the month or season, each one marking with uncanny precision a new or full-filling part of my own personal cycle.

Last Wednesday was a blue full moon--blue because it's a part of a season of full moons. I observed this full moon evening by going with some students to an onsen or Japanese bath house. And though the visit was not intentionally to celebrate the moon cycle, I was tickled at the synchronicity of it.

Here I was in the company of women: Naked, washing with ritual precision, so much attention to loving one's body, to purifying first the external skin, then slowly negotiating out internal toxins as one moves from hot bath to cold bath, sauna or steam room. Then to just lie there, under the night sky, feeling the heat of hot water on rock, breathing. Being. Nowhere to go, nothing to do. Just relaxing into my own body.

There is so much beauty in bathing, in the act of it, in the taking of time.  Of giving one's self time and space to simply be. It is an act of loving oneself.

I had to ask myself: how much time do we really give to ourselves in this way? (It's nice to be in a culture where going to take baths is a common practice. I know that the Japanese work hard, but they also take their down-time seriously, as well.)

And as we give to ourselves, as we nourish our selves and answer our own needs, we have more, more for ourselves and more for others, more to give, more to share.

And even though embodying my fullness continues to be a (life-long) project, moments such as these remind me that I am simply cycling. That becoming full is a part of a process. That, at times, we must empty to make space for newness.

So, bathing with the moon in its fullness had me singing. Singing on the bike ride home. Singing on my rooftop to the blur of luminous white peeking through the cloudy night sky, knowing that the fullness is there, whether or not I could see it. 

Saturday, August 17, 2013

when one door closes...

Light streaming through into the darkness. Monte Perdido
National Park in the Araganese Spanish Pyranese.

It's true what they say about doors. How when one door closes another one opens. And not just one door but many.

Except my story isn't isn't exactly about doors, it is about people. Actually, it isn't' t about people either. It is actually about Love.

We humans are like doors. We contract and close, we expand and open. Sometimes this happens consciously, other times unconsciously. And through us, when we make it so, when we allow for it, love passes. So my story starts when one door closes, when the person with whom I was exploring decides to close the door behind him, I am left on the other side: door in face. Maybe he is contracting, maybe he is expanding--I accept that's his story.

My story, this one part anyway, starts when one path of love and light and transformation suddenly becomes impassable. A relationship ends and all that is warm and loving between two people is sucked into a void. What was once open is closed. And what happens then?

I have been writing for some time now about love. And I'm convinced through my own self-exploration, by this constant compulsion for putting my heart out there that real Love, real grace knows no boundaries. How it honors the free will of us mere humans, but also has a will of its own. It is beyond us. I believe that love exists before us and will continue existing when we are gone. It is never diminished, and if anything, it is constantly expanding. And that we simply experience it in different ways. Our perception of love is conditional. Though love itself is without condition.

And so a door closes. And for a split second, I feel darkness. Then one door opens. Then another. Then another. And light, light just floods in. Because, love, like flowing water, will find a way. How to explain that the rejection of one person can result in me falling in love with over a dozen people? Not necessarily in a romantic way, but really discovering love through others, through people's goodness, their gifts, their peculiarities that make them so special.

I can only say that I was so focused on perceiving love in one particular form, in one particular direction, how for sometime, a beautiful time, my attention was on one person. But as he left, the space which he so lovingly once occupied filled up so quickly, so magically with such a motley crew of young love, of new friendships, of old bonds renewed, of teaching connections, of new cities and countries and opportunities that seem to be made just for me.

I still sometimes feel that door on my face, and annoyingly, I continue to feel it smite me occasionally. But I also see the many doors that have opened because of it, the open hearts of many who appeared seemingly out of nowhere to hold me, to hold my hand, to give me messages of love. How in this short span of time, of loss--supposedly--I have actually connected deeply with so many people and in ways that I might not have done, that the opportunity would not have been present, had I been focused on just one love nor would I have been vulnerable enough to expose myself and invite such love from others.

It is a true testament to how beautiful the heart is, how wonderful people are, how when one sees someone struggling--as I have been seen--people are inspired to help, to give so generously, so without question or condition. And as these now dear friends see me fight for myself, see me rise to the challenge of finding who I am in all this, they are inspired to celebrate. They are celebrating with me, they are cheering me on. And how amazing is that! How grateful I feel!

The love from others and, yes, even from that one closed door, because even in the closing I know there is love there, has reminded me to look deeper into the love that I have for myself and how this needs continued work and attention. And how my perception of love should not be so narrow, that recognizing the myriad offerings of love out there should not be a side effect of loss but rather of fullness.

Love. Always present. Its messengers change, from time to time, however. But love, itself, is constant. We just have to continue to believe, to have presence enough to see it in whatever form it comes. To accept it graciously when it does. To value it. To respect it. To honor it. To allow it to teach us what it is about, to teach us how to love, and how to truly embody it in our very soul and being.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

magkaisa, unite, be one

Almost a month ago, we were sharing songs in satsang in Casa Cuadrau in the Spanish Pyranees, easily one of my top places on the planet--even during the most difficult of circumstances. Boris Gueorguiev, an excellent ashtanga teacher from Vienna and just plain sweet man, was leading the evening's singing by inviting participants from different countries to sing a song. Katia sang a song from Mexico, ironically with a Viennese tune, Chin Chin sang a folk song from China, while Roopa sang a bhajan. Me, I'm Filipino-American, but above either nationalities, I'm Chicken!

It's a real issue, my lack of self-confidence when it comes to singing because I actually love to sing. And my time in Casa Cuadrau has definitely highlighted some issues of self-worth and how I get nervous when I'm put on the spot. There's a real fearfulness of being judged, especially when you know that someone in the room is actually judging you. I do recognize though that the fear is in the mind. That I need to work through my own issues: why do I let my fears diminish me, separate me from my ability to simply be?

I did think about it. If I were brave enough what would I share? I didn't grow up in the Philippines. And can barely bumble through the national anthem let alone pull out a repertoire of Filipino folk songs. But there is one Filipino song from my childhood that I remember pretty well and had I known the lyrics to it, I might have had the courage to share. A couple of days ago, I looked it up. 

It's not Shakespeare, especially when translated into English, mind you. It's a little cheesy, and the tune...well, it's in the pop genre of 80's Filipino music--pop, Filipino music, and 80's, a crazy combination. Released during the People Power Revolution in 1986, it greatly inspired the 10-year old me. My mother tells as story of how I went missing after school during this time, and that apparently I had asked the driver to take me to a rally. I didn't actually make it to any of the rallies, but I wore the signature yellow of the time and I had a cassette tape of the song Magkaisa, which means "Unite."

Looking at the lyrics, a good long time between then and now, makes me just smile because it is still so clear why I loved this song. And how at 10, I was surely always meant to go down this path of learning and sharing yoga. How these lyrics of unity, of one-ness, of hope, of faith and of love have always been a part of me. What stirred me at 10, was this taste of it, and what stirs me now is knowing that even when I don't entirely feel it all the time, even when I struggle, the potential is always there, always waiting to be invited, welcomed and embraced.

Isa lang ang ugat na ating pinagmulan
Tayong lahat ay magkakalahi
Sa unos at agos ay huwag padadala

My translation:

There is only one root from where we've come
We are from one seed
No need to get carried away by the storms, by the waves

I love how the world works. I love how such simple things can draw us back to our center. How looking at Pinoy pop song lyric circa 1986 can help me connect with a timeless philosophy and remind me that all is actually well, that the seas of change may be rough going, but there's no need to get carried away, that connection is magic.

Today has actually been one of those magical days. Timing has been really amazing. Just as I was feeling doubtful, I've received some beautiful, heart-full messages and affirmations that sharing my process so openly online is benefitting others as well. Turned on the roaming on my phone to exchange one text message with one of my favorite spiritual advisors Ate (big sister) Lily, also known as the Little Broom, who sent me a beautiful prayer. Connection is magic. 

Today, I also wrote to a friend who found me online yesterday. Someone I knew for a year a long while ago when we were both studying in Warwick, England in the UC education abroad program. And she, too, had a story of transformation. Connection is magic.

Maybe next time someone asks me to share a song, I won't be shy or afraid because connection, the universe keeps on reminding me, is magic. And this magic is precious.

Being one, coming together in love melts separation, doubt and fear, uniting--whether it's internal integration or an external connection--yields a new dawn, a new day. "Bagong umaga, Bagong araw."  

Lyrics of the song in its original Tagalog and in English translation is below. 

Ngayon ganap ang hirap sa mundo
Unawa ang kailangan ng tao
Ang pagmamahal sa kapwa'y ilaan
Isa lang ang ugat na ating pinagmulan
Tayong lahat ay magkakalahi
Sa unos at agos ay huwag padadala
Panahon na (may pag-asa kang matatanaw)
Ng pagkakaisa (bagong umaga, bagong araw)
Kahit ito (sa atin Siya'y nagmamahal)
Ay hirap at dusa
Magkaisa (may pag-asa kang matatanaw)
At magsama (bagong umaga, bagong araw)
Kapit-kamay (sa atin Siya'y nagmamahal)
Sa bagong pag-asa
Ngayon may pag-asang natatanaw
May bagong araw, bagong umaga
Pagmamahal ng Diyos, isipin mo tuwina
Panahon na (may pag-asa kang matatanaw)
Ng pagkakaisa (bagong umaga, bagong araw)
Kahit ito (sa atin Siya'y nagmamahal)
Ay hirap at dusa
Magkaisa (may pag-asa kang matatanaw)
At magsama (bagong umaga, bagong araw)
Kapit-kamay (sa atin Siya'y nagmamahal)
Sa bagong pag-asa
Magkaisa (may pag-asa kang matatanaw)
At magsama (bagong umaga, bagong araw)
Kapit-kamay (sa atin Siya'y nagmamahal)
Sa bagong pag-asa

To Unite
Now it is evident that the world's suffering
What we need is understanding
Let us give love and compassion to others
We came from only one root
We are all just humans
In the midst of the storm and waves, Don't lose hope
It is time (Hope is just around the corner)
for Unity (A new morning, a new day)
Even if this (He loves each of us)
Is all pain and suffering
Let us Unite (Hope is just around the corner)
And march together (A new morning, a new day)
Lets hold hands (He loves each of us)
In the newly found Hope
Now Hope can be seen
A new day, a new morning
God's everlasting love, Keep in mind always
It is time (Hope is just around the corner)
for Unity (A new morning, a new day)
Even if this (He loves each of us)
Is all pain and suffering
Let us Unite (Hope is just around the corner)
And march together (A new morning, a new day)
Lets hold hands (He loves each of us)
In the newly found Hope
Let us Unite (Hope is just around the corner)
And march together (A new morning, a new day)
Lets hold hands (He loves each of us)
In the newly found Hope

Monday, August 12, 2013

today's practice

In the Green. From Maia Earth Village, Palawan, Philippines.

On the mat this morning. I extend my opening prayer. There is no good or bad practice, I remind myself, as I try to navigate through a gaggle of emotions triggered by an email from one who once professed to love me so deeply. And thus I start the day's process of surrender, to the breath, to the divine, to the forces that keep things moving, flowing...

There is an element of struggle, some continued soreness and pain in neck--triggered a month ago by an emotional breakup--persists, thoughts cut into the scene, but they also go just as quickly. But practice is, as it always is: practice.

Later, as I lie resting at the end of a full-filling morning sadhana, I instinctively put my hand on my heart. Now, these are the very real moments that I love about yogasana practice, when the breath, the postures, the focus, the will to move whittles away at the physical, mental and emotional body.

This is when we are most honest, when the wisdom of the ages speaks through our own headspace, penetrating through so much associative garbage.

Hand to heart, this is what I said to myself, this is today's message from the universe:

"Karen, Kaz, whatever you call yourself at this moment, it doesn't matter because in your deepest heart you know your real name: I love you. I have always loved you. I will always love you. You may have experienced my love through J--- for some time. His was only an expression of my love. Without him, my love continues. My heart still beats for you..."

Yes, dear sage voice, thank you! I get that, I really do deep down in my bones get that. But since we are having a conversation, I need to say I am struggling today. Contact brings stuff up. I experienced a loss. Someone I loved, a relationship I cherished disappeared, died. In her book "On Death and Dying," Elizabeth Kubler-Ross identifies five stages of grief (denial, bargaining, anger, depression, and acceptance), which I feel like I've been through quite thoroughly over the last couple of months. But today, I seem to be cycling through each of them quite strongly.

I acknowledge that this too is practice, that the challenges, all these formidable emotions, are opportunities to go deeper into the rabbit hole, where true wonder awaits, that there is an opportunity to see and feel beyond what I have already experienced.

The love, I see, is still there. It changes but is never diminished. Love, itself, does not die. But I also have to acknowledge that there is a loss, that one of love's ambassadors has gone, his time passed. That along with celebrating the quiet and powerful discovery that love is, it feels right to mourn the loss of one who served loves purpose so well--at least for the time being.

And so navigating this grief, finding the joy beyond it, and being honest about it all is part of today's practice. There is no good or bad practice, I remind myself. It is what it is. And thank goodness! 

Friday, August 9, 2013

face fear and free fall

The photos above were taken towards the end of May. The girl in the photo jumping into the water is not me. I felt for her, though, felt her fear and her gumption when she took the flying leap off the plank and splashed rather haphazardly into the deep blue. And even though she was helped out of the water by the lifeguard below, I admired her.

May seems like another lifetime ago. I started writing this blog entry then but somehow could never quite finish it. Some things, I realize, take time to gestate. Certain concepts, ideas, feelings need time, space and opportunity to be tested by practice before coming into maturity.

May was a strange month of intense work. On top of that, at every turn, there seemed to be some old fear challenging me. I was telling my friend about how the place where I was staying in Boracay was draped in pitch black after sunset, and how I have this irrational fear of the dark. By then, she had heard of my fear of ghosts, of being underwater, and of heights. She replied casually that it seemed that I was afraid of quite a few things.

Now, I don't consider myself a fearful person. On the contrary, I think I can be quite brave. Admittedly, by being brave I mean that I acknowledge the fears I've accumulated and embrace, nay, even seek out opportunities to challenge and unhinge these deeply ingrained patterns. 

When said friend first talked about coming to work with me in the Philippines, she said that what she really wanted to do during her visit was to jump off some cliffs. Jump off cliffs?! Right, I knew then that I was in for it!

So towards the end of our time in Boracay, when our work commitment had ceased to take each and every waking hour and every bit of energy, we boarded a boat to Ariel's Point, a favorite cliff jumping spot on the mainland in Buruanga. With no hesitation, Zoë , who is pretty darn fearless, was one of the first people (along with the girl pictured above) to jump off the wood plank perched on the highest cliff, 20 meters above the cool water.

I, on the other hand, took my sweet time walking onto the 8 meter-high board. Each step was nerve-racking. I looked down, and the water seemed foreboding, especially the distance between me and it, which was amplified by the the lifeguard wadding in the water, managing the cliff jump traffic. He signaled me to get on with it. I could not. The crowd along the rails were egging me on to jump. I could not. Flustered and under pressure, I slowly edged back onto firm solid rock.

I had to change my tactic. I needed to ease myself into this process, I needed to find my own pace, one that I was comfortable with. So I started with the smallest jump, three meters, a kiddie leap into the water, hoping to work my way up.

I managed to jump off the 8-meter board. The 10 and 15 meter cliff as well. It helped to have the support of Zoë  and a couple of new friends who jumped along with me, who waited for me as they waded in the water as I deliberated over each jump, as I negotiated with my fearful self-limiting ego.

And then, finally, time had come to take the 20 meter-cliff jump. Just stepping on the wood board filled me with anxiety. I looked below and the drop was intensely intimidating, I looked out onto the infinite watery horizon and that too was incredibly frightening, I looked back at the rock and saw expecting faces. I just stood there, at the edge, for some time. Breathing, then panicking, then collecting myself, then hyperventilating, then relocating that inner internal struggle of who was boss raging within me as I teetered at the edge, with 20 meters of air between me and water.

At some point, Zoë calls to me from below. "You can do this! Remember engage banda!" And I started to think of practice, of my yogasana teacher Sharath Jois in India, his playfully stern voice in my head: "Why you fearing?"

It was then that I talked myself into breathing, deep, full breaths. I can do this, I CAN DO THIS, and took that small step into air, while pulling into my center as the world of fear closed in on me. I gasped, closed my eyes, and held my breath as I dove feet first into the water, where there was no fear, but instead: joy and excitement and gratitude. I stepped out of the blue shaken but jubilant.

Later, I returned to that top spot to go a second time. I decided that I wanted to take that leap with my eyes open. As I worked up the courage to go again, I started to talk to an older friendly Australian, who'd been watching the day unfold. "Good job," he said, "You know, when I saw you at that 8-meter board when we first arrived, I thought to myself this girl isn't going to be able to do it, that's how scared you looked. You proved me wrong." I felt like I had proven myself--the unconfident, disbelieving self--wrong too.

I did take that 20-meter jump a second time before we left Ariel's Point. And I did keep my eyes open as I excitedly leaped into the air before free falling. Fear was still there, but so was courage.

I've had more lessons in fear and in courage since then. Moments filled with the anxiety and excitement of the uncertain. Moments of vulnerability and of surrender. Moments of heart break and whole-heartedness.

When I think now of that hot summer May day in the Philippines I am amazed at how many times I've had to repeat that process of taking breath, finding center, and asking myself what am I really afraid of? before leaping into the unknown. What got me to jump off that cliff was the same mettle that made me to fly to England for the love of someone, and when that didn't work, gave me strength to leave Spain and to fly to Osaka for the love of myself.

My fear of heights seems less powerful these days. But more importantly, I feel less moved by fear itself. No doubt fear and all its surly little friends will surely persist. Still, I am comforted that built into my nature (and this is true for all of us) is the antidote of fear: courage. And in the heart of courage, which is from the Latin "cor" (meaning, heart), is love. Thus my heart story continues: face fear with love, feel free with love, fall into grace with love.

This article is also greatly inspired by Brené Brown ( and Neale Donald Walsh (Conversation with God) and the many many brave hearts who I have met recently and it seems always--with gratitude to them all! 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

a room of one's own

Creating space in the great Spanish Pyranees.

My belief is that if we live another century or so — I am talking of the common life which is the real life and not of the little separate lives which we live as individuals — and have five hundred a year each of us and rooms of our own; if we have the habit of freedom and the courage to write exactly what we think; if we escape a little from the common sitting-room and see human beings not always in their relation to each other but in relation to reality; and the sky, too, and the trees or whatever it may be in themselves...if we face the fact, for it is a fact, that there is no arm to cling to, but that we go alone and that our relation is to the world of reality and not only to the world of men and women, then the opportunity will come and the dead poet who was Shakespeare's sister will put on the body which she has so often laid down. Drawing her life from the lives of the unknown who were her forerunners, as her brother did before her, she will be born. As for her coming without that preparation, without that effort on our part, without that determination that when she is born again she shall find it possible to live and write her poetry, that we cannot expect, for that would be impossible. But I maintain that she would come if we worked for her, and that so to work, even in poverty and obscurity, is worth while.  --Virginia Woolf, "A Room of One's Own"

Finally, grounding. After nearly two months of living out of a backpack, I have unpacked properly: emptied my luggage and put my things away in a closet. A real closet. A spacious closet. In a real room. All my own. 

Most of you all might be thinking, what kind of world do I live in? Rooms and closets are, after all, common place. But over the last two months, I've been on the road, playing houseguest as I made my way to and fro a 5-week stint teaching and volunteering at a retreat center in the Spanish Pyranees. In the dormitories there was not much privacy and modest personal space, little room to spread out, not for my things anyway. To add to the mix, I was also inhabiting a vacuum in which two people at the end of a relationship collide, where much sense of space, air, freedom is sucked into into vortex of distance, sadness and trying to make sense of things. 

And while there was a lack of personal space, I also recognize how comfortable I could be under such circumstances. How my heart found latitude in the expansive landscape. How I found warm, comfortable, and large halls in the human connections I made in Vió and in Barcelona. How when there's a shortage of anything, a certain resourcefulness kicks in, and bliss is found in those small solitary moments, diving into a task, taking coffee at the neighboring village, going for a walk in the greatly inspiring out doors, or even singing with every fiber of my being in a close circle of people. How the body, the mind and the heart finds room in every possible nook and cranny.

Even settling in Osaka has not been so swift. The first 5 days has been a series of shuffling myself and my luggage between the yoga studio and two different hotels before moving into my shared house in Miyakojima. And now, with mysore classes already going well at the studio, I have unpacked, positioned my futon, set up a makeshift altar, found a corner for my ukulele and a spot against the wall to lean the few books I travel with. It's sparse, but it's home--for now anyway.

There are many things to be said for having a room of one's own, for having space for your person to stretch out, to hang loose, to be naked (not necessarily literally, but this is ok also!), to understand truly who we are without the context of any other. I recognize that I want this also, that the relationship that I should be cultivating is the one with myself. And that to continue to grow a loving and healthy relationship with my beloved self, I must spend time with myself, I must listen to my body, my heart and my mind, I must give myself space and opportunity to work, to love and to create. And in a new city, a new country even, I've been given plenty of room to do just that. So, slowly, slowly another kind of unpacking can now take place...

Monday, August 5, 2013

universe provides

Gara saves the day!

Two Fridays ago, I was in a daze as I wondered the streets of Barcelona. I had just left the Pyrenean mountain yoga center, Casa Cuadrau, after 5 weeks of intensely beautiful retreat and teaching whilst processing the end of a relationship within close proximity of the other.

I was allowing my friends to lead me. Tashi suggested taking the Metro to Paral'lel, on a hunch that it was close to the beach. Helen was trying to contact Pablo another friend who she planned to stay with. The idea was to find a cafe with wifi, have food, land somehow. 

Emotionally vacuous, I decided to just follow and wait until we were settled down somewhere before contacting my Spanish friend Gara who I planned to stay with till Wednesday.

Hauling luggage in the hot summer sun on some street near the Paral'lel metro station, there was no beach--as far as we could see--and no suitable cafes with vegetarian options. We turned on a random street, hoping to head more into the older part of the city. My heart was sinking, I started to despair. I'd traded the pristine though painful mountain landscape for urban chaos. What was I doing? How did I get here? Had I made the right decision leaving the mountains? The feelings of being lost and aimless started to permeate my emotional numbness. The gravity of the change was once again weighing on me. 

Then, just at that moment, as I trailed behind my friends, weighed down by my personal baggage, I saw quite to my own disbelief a familiar face, blond curls a top an angel on a bicycle. Stunned I called out, "Gara!?"

The very friend who I was going to stay with was at that very moment cycling past us! She stopped and sweetly smiled, welcoming us to Barcelona. She said how she was just at that moment thinking about me and wondering how we were going to get in touch, how she was herself taking an unusual route to the market as she thought about what she might cook for me. And would we like to come to her house now, take showers, rest up and eat a nice home cooked lunch? The three of us, stunned at the turn of events, nodded with enthusiasm and gratefulness!

Coincidence? Good luck? A divine act of co-creation? The Universe giving us a break or imparting an important message?

For me, moments such as these are pregnant with purpose. How such a sequence of events can lead 4 people down one obscure little street just at that exact moment? How amazing and yet absolutely perfect?

As we walked to Gara's flat, quite close to where we met, Tashi and I marveled at the might of manifestation. How we drew each other into that moment, with our thoughts and intentions, wild guesses and intuitions, creating together this moment of saving grace. The law of attraction at play. 

With one accidental meeting, I was pulled away from the cliff edge that I was tottering over. I was rescued. And all of us saved from wandering an unfamiliar city. 

We mused at how there were innumerable happy and unhappy coincidences which had brought us to this point. Should we be surprised? Awed? Or simply grateful that we live in a wondrous and mysterious world that provides exactly what we need at any given moment. Sometimes we don't recognize this. Other times we reject it so vehemently because we don't like what it gives. Then there are moments when the signs, the blessings are just so clear.

Amazing lunchtime spread that Gara put
together for us that afternoon.
Moments like these remind us that the world works in our favor. That it supports the right decisions, that it gives us feedback when we are on the wrong road or the right track. 

I had asked a question. I was doubting myself and feeling lost. And the universe answered. I was not alone. I was exactly where I needed to be. Even with the torment within, the trauma of loss, the world was telling me I wasn't lost but rather moving in the right direction.

These are the moments we are asked to surrender, to take that leap into the unknown, to trust that everything is really perfect. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

return to the source

There is no fanfare. No drama. No tearful goodbyes. No last kiss or lingering look to latch onto. There are no cliffhangers in this airport scene. I seem to have drained my well of sadness during the previous weeks of grieving. And the other? The one who I traveled across half the globe to be with (again!)? Long gone too, gone before I even embarked to meet him, gone before I really took notice.

Instead, I take a taxi on my own from Barcelona's Poble Sec, after sharing some potent healing days with my new women folk/guardian angels from Spain and South America, dancing with energy, hugging trees, eating with simplicity and love.

At the airport, I check in through to Osaka. I board another plane, this time taking me eastward, even further east then where I originally set off from less than two months ago.

East: the beginning place, where the sun rises. This is a start, not an end, I remind myself...

Today, after a seemingly endless journey, I walk the city streets of Osaka, in awe of the change of scenery before me, Japanese aesthetics, the sweetness in the people, a whole world translated in a another culture, another lens. I, too, feel different here.

I marvel at the mystery of living. I recall the image of the flower of life, but one that pulsates and transforms, a kaleidoscope of infinite patterns and possibility, whose mathematics is incalculable yet infallible. Every inhale, has an exhale. Every contraction has a corresponding expansion. And at every given moment, we are pulsating, this beautiful creative mess of a living thing, opening and closing, closing and opening, guided by some unseen force to go further beyond the beyond and at the same time delve deeper and deeper within.