Saturday, September 29, 2012

The red leaves are still on the trees, fall is still with us

A friend sent me this quote a few weeks ago from the Gospel of Thomas (I know nothing about Thomas or the Gnostic Gospels so this quote stands alone for me). This was near the beginning of my time here, and it's been holding space in my mind ever since...

"If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you.If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." 

I think, I hope, that each one of us has had moments or long stretches of time where this quote embodies our thoughts or feelings. For me, it's exactly right now. I'm nearing the end of my time here, at this particular first phase in this journey and so of course I'm wondering or recalling what I came here for and if I found it or achieved it and if there is anything I am supposed to be doing before I go. I don't know and I don't know are the answers but I also am not sure I care...

What I mean is, this experience has been deeply important, even if I can't define exactly why yet. None of us, or at least mostly none of us, ever take time to breathe. We don't take time to stop and to take care of ourselves and I hope I have done those things. Simply giving ourselves the space for breath and movement, and not just in the practice of yoga but in life, is such an easy thing to do and yet it can feel paralyzing. I feel a lot of pride and gratitude in having given myself that...

And yet, of course, there is the absolute insane restlessness that I feel too. What will I do next? Where will I live? Where will I work? Am I going to let myself have this year as I intended to have it, or will the anxiety of pushing toward the next thing and settling in to the next impossible to imagine phase be too all consuming? I am going back to New York for a few days before I move into the next month on Lake Champlain in the all familiar fall of apple pies and clear cold nights. And I'm scared of New York, I can't seem to leave it. It's a break-up and I keep going back to him over and over and I don't want to leave but I know it's the best thing for me. Though I can't help but think that it's the leaving that I need to bring forth what is within me... do you ever feel that way?

( I don't know if that question is rhetorical or not, I'd love if you answered it, but I certainly can't... and speaking of, thank you to those of you who are reading and especially those of you who are sending me gorgeous messages and comments. The love feels good.)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Still looking for trustful surrender (and I ate chocolate today)

I'm not really sure what I'm doing. But there is a new moon and it is the first day of fall, so I suppose these things are natural. That is what I'll believe tonight. I spent the morning painting the walls in someone else's home today. I didn't mind doing it at all. In fact, I found it incredibly meditative and almost therapeutic. But, inevitably, as I cut across the fields to lunch, paint on my palms and in my hair, I couldn't help thinking, wow, I have nothing to paint, no kitchen in which to bake apple pie when I leave here, no shelf on which to place these new books, no refrigerator on which to tape a photo... all of this is on purpose of course. I created this space. But. It feels very strange. So I keep going back to this word I've been spending time with.

Pratipaksa. Essentially, stepping away from a situation in order to be able to see more clearly from another standpoint. I am all Pratipaksa on this first day of fall.

Also, A very important side note. I'd like to cut any comparisons to Elizabeth Gilbert off at the pass... just to be safe. Taking a year off, leaving New York, going to an ashram (albeit in Pennsylvania, not India, just to begin the many differences), writing a book-- all I'm afraid could invite unwelcome comparisons. So let me just say this: I do not have a bajillion dollar advance to write said book (in fact, I'll be thrilled if it sells at all), my travels and my book are not intertwined, Im writing a novel about a character who is not me, no self-help involved, a much younger boyfriend did not lead me to the ashram, Italy is not part of this story, and if I fall in love in a tropical paradise and sail off into the sunset at the end of this blog I will give you $100.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Seven days and one dessert

There is a sense of overwhelming discomfort I feel when people name me as a "writer"... it happens when I tell people I write, but for me there is a huge leap between the action and the title. Or maybe it's the title I'm uncomfortable with altogether. And then, when I'm introduced as such, do I need to justify it? I often say well no, actually, I'm a School Counselor. But now I can't say that... no, actually, I'm a person who likes to write and hopes to publish another book someday (okay, sooner than later) and I used to be a School Counselor, but I quit my job this summer and I'm not sure what I'll do next...

Or maybe I should just say sure, yes I'm a writer, and leave it at that.

This is one of the many hundreds of thoughts I've over-processed in the past seven days, while I've been in this completely unreal beautiful place

I am doing many things here, and I find that I don't want to go in to too much of what and why. I am spending time studying the philosophy of yoga and meditation, both the intellectual study, the physical practice, the lifestyle understanding. There is so much more to all of this than the Vinyasa Flow I've fallen in love with over the past few years, and while I feel fairly certain what I'm doing will enhance my physical practice (holy core work) the unexpected has been how much I have been thinking about my work as a counselor, and how deeply the study I am immersed in here will, I think, inform that work. So here's to being without expectations.

I am in a situation where I am meeting new people at each meal, settling in to time with people about whom I know nothing, and wondering how deeply to delve into their lives or let them into mine. My intention in being here, in this time, is of course to write, but it's also to take an inward focus, to step back from the safety of routine, and to learn the ever-illusive state of non-attachment in which yoga is so deeply rooted. But in the meantime, I have done two things that I have intended to do for months. I fixed the holes in my sweaters!

And I stopped stream-of-conscious-rambling and finally set out to begin plotting this novel that has been filling pages and pages and my brain. Good ole' index card plotting.

I have been without coffee, without wine, without my family and my best friends, without the morning routine of the G train and black coffee from Sage General Store and the hometown sounds of the B63 bus groaning down fifth avenue and the endless lines out my office door during Drop-Add. I miss these things in an almost physical way and I wonder what things will look like in October when I step out of this world (maybe almost exactly the same); but I've also been with sunrise yoga and Kale that is, I mean it, still warm from the garden in the sunlight, and the most beautiful walks. In fact this morning, coming around this pond, I thought, you don't have to decide anything right now. In fact, make sure to make no decisions. At least this week. Here's to making no decisions.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Packing... again

I've been staying with my friend Lena this week, in a neighborhood wedged between Carroll Gardens and Red Hook in Brooklyn. I woke up this morning and went out into the foggy humid air to get breakfast and found myself suddenly and completely swarmed by first day of school madness-- scooters and strollers, nannies and moms, dads and crossing guards, new shoes and new headbands and while I usually love this energy, am usually in the center of this energy, I couldn't wait to get my coffee and muffin and back to the safety of someone else's apartment.

And here is what I have to contend with

a month of living rolled and tucked inside this suitcase. I sit still as I can in front of the turning fan, wondering what I'll find besides cooler mountain air at the end of this day. Because in a few hours I board a bus at Port Authority (sort of perfect that it's a bus, a little bit of Greyhound nostalgia for 1993 journeys up and down New England) and I have little expectation about what I'll find at the other end besides some peace and some retreat at the American ashram where I'll live until October.

I am missing so many faces and voices that I haven't even left yet but I'm giddy, too, with my own kind of first day and anticipation.

Monday, September 3, 2012

The latest beginning

I am afraid of many, many things. Though as I get older and I live through more of them, I realize there isn't so much to be afraid of. Uncertainty, though, still has its own brand of terror for me. And yet I am beginning a year of it-- a year without a job or a home of my own or a plan or health insurance-- but in the moments when I stop to think about what's ahead of me or imagine what I can't picture or wonder how irresponsible I have become, I'm reminded that this uncertainty is something that I've been dreaming about since I can remember. And at least part of me felt brave enough to take the proverbial leap. So I'm leaping and, it seems, coming back to this blog to write all about it.

Though it has been more than three years since I last wrote here, all of these posts and stories are of course still just sitting patiently in inter-space and it only seemed fair that I come back and, something. What is it about crossroads, transitions, beginnings, that inspire us to reflect, and reflect in public no less? I don't have the answer. But I know that I left my job in June, my apartment, uprooted my roots, and in three days I'll leave Brooklyn, all to begin a year of new beginnings without a certain end in place or even an exact destination.

For a month at least I'll be at a place called the Himalayan Institute, without caffeine, but with morning meditation, yoga, service, and hiking trails blanketed in morning fog, apparently. And that from there I'll go places like Vermont and New Mexico, Oregon and South Carolina and that I'll finish writing a book, I hope, that starts like this...  

He had been driving since Charleston, West Virginia and the back of his thighs were numb. Between his hands on the wheel and his right foot on the gas, his body floated invisible and weightless and the sun rose over corn fields and low mountains on either side of him. He’d lived everywhere but the two-lane thruways of New England still filled him with the nostalgia of other people’s histories. 

And I will finally learn to stand on my head, because I'll stop being terrified of upside-down. And I'll write about it here. And maybe you'll check in with me. Because I'm not going back to school tomorrow, and that feels impossible and free and uncertain and sad and inspired, and some of the leaves are blowing off of the trees, and even turning red in southern Vermont, but I'm not going back to school.