Monthly Archives: November 2009

Great Gratitude!

Dear Oprah,
It's all over the news. Didn't you hear? It's Thanksgiving. It's time to be grateful. That one time of year. Because news can only cover gratitude once a year and tis the season, I thought it was appropriate to blog about gratitude.

It's my favorite holiday. The one holiday that isn't forced gaiety (New years), forgiving if you are not a part of a couple (Valentine's Day), you don't have to dress up (Halloween), and you don't have to go into debt buying people presents they will only return (Christmas or insert spiritual holiday around December here).

Oh, I don't mean to sound negative nelly, I'm only saying that if this is the one time of year to not feel guilty but to fill yourself with happiness, carbs and gratitude, then this is my holiday of choice.

I'm also very lucky, because I celebrate Thanksgiving everyday.
Every day, my girlfriend and I write each other a list of things we are grateful for.
Sometimes it's like pulling teeth and I really have to reach for things I'm grateful for. Sometimes, like I've written before, I wish I had what she has to be grateful for.
Sometimes, it's effortless and the list can be longer than the five we have limited ourselves to each day.
Mostly, like anything, it has become a habit, a practice, that I urge everyone to start implementing into their daily routine, like eating, sleeping, going to the bathroom, checking the email etc...
Gratitude has become a practice. It has become my routine. It has, on a cellular level forced me to switch on the thought process in my brain not to focus on the things I don't have but for the things I do have. And they aren't necessarily 'things' and 'haves'. To share a few of the things I've been grateful for only as examples, they are, smiles from strangers, being let into a lane or given a wave when I let someone into my lane on the freeway. It is the long walks I have to my yoga practice in the early morning, walking along the barren Santa Monica Promenade. It is the quite, the sunset, the feeling that my dad is here with me even when he is no longer here in the physical form. It's teaching a great class or taking a great class, giving and receiving compliments to friends, strangers, loved ones. It's support, laughter, the cab drivers that speak Russian and laugh with each other outside of the Huntley Hotel waiting for customers.
I was only going to write a few, but as you can see, it's easy to go on a tear, when gratitude is on the brain.
Abundance is everywhere, even if you don't 'feel' like you 'have' a lot. You do.
Yes, you do.
I can say, I wish I had my dad back, my boyfriend/best friend back, more money, more acclaim, can go straight up into handstand with out a hand from a teacher or wall behind me, more whatever, but I simply understand that if I had all that I wanted there would be nothing to strive for with passion. There would be nothing to look forward to, nothing to reach for, nothing to overcome or learn from, no mistakes or challenges to get strong from.
There would be no trials that I can teach from and guide others through.
I understand that even in longing for more, there is contentment and gratitude for being where I am and what I have right now.

I went to a bereavement workshop last week. As I wrote in a previous blog, it was for people to get through the holidays without there loved ones.
I had commented to the others how I felt pressure from people and from myself to be the strong teacher I was before I lost my dad. Hold it together. Be 'normal'. When all I wanted to do was be held by someone or by my comforter.

One man, who didn't say anything the whole time, told me that even though it might be difficult, teaching might be important now, more than ever as I have just come a scary place of loss and sadness, a place so scary that if I can still give in this time from this place, even with my fear and sadness, it can help show others that they can do the same. That we can all, in a place of loss or sadness share and guide insight through experience. It's just a different place. It's just a different way of looking at things.

It's like looking at a large plate with a small amount of food on it. Then putting that food on a small plate and sensing the abundance.

I made a joke in class today. A totally uncomfortable joke that I laughed at but if I wasn't me, would have maybe been like, oh jeez, nervous giggle. Thankfully it was a crew of students that all know me pretty well, so the laughter was understood and hopefully not the nervous kind.

I said that you could lose your boyfriend, best friend and dad all in one year and still be grateful for what you have.
I miss my family (my mom and my sisters) everyday and wish I were there in NY with them, laughing and crying and mourning as a team. But I'm doing ok and today, 4 months after my dad's passing, I still feel very fortunate and very lucky, that I have the job that I do, the friends that I do, my blog, my mom, sisters, support, sunset, cab drivers at the Huntley, chocolate chip cookies and the list goes on.

Whether you've had a crap year, a good year or you won the freekin' lottery, Thanksgiving is everyday.

I got a ticket today, returning a $19 item and Bed Bath and freekin' Beyond. My meter expired by two minutes. The cashier was new, holiday help and having a horrible time. But, she was nice. And I could have been nasty. But I remained nice...and patient, something I'm still learning to do. Go me! And I could have missed the ticket if she got her act together. Just kidding, if she didn't have such a hard time, I mean. The ticket was more than the item. I haven't thought about it at all till just now, because right after Bed Bath and freekin' Beyond, I took an amazing class with an incredible teacher at Liberation Yoga, I heard the new Lady Gaga song, Telephone and sang along even though it was the first time I heard it. I chatted with my mom, had tea with a dear friend, taught an awesome class with my favorite students at Liberation, had dinner with an old friend and got home in time to blog.

The ticket will be paid and I won't think about this day for the ticket. I will look back at this day and be grateful for what I did have. I will download the new Lady Gaga song and listen to it as I run along the beach tomorrow, on Thanksgiving Day. The first Thanksgiving without my dad. And I will be grateful for the friends I can share sweet, sweet carbs with and laugh and probably cry and unzip my pants and take an alkaseltzer and zone out to horrible Lifetime television movies from the 90's when I get back to my lovely apartment in Santa Monica with no one to hold but my comforter...
And be grateful.
Gratitude is a practice.
The news can't cover it everyday.
But we can, every day.
Abundance is yours, just practice looking at that and not the space around it.
And give when others need us.
Happy Thanksgiving.
Gobble Gobble,
PS, woke up this morning without the alarm, with abundant energy and the drive to run, the sun bright, the smell of apple pie and roasting turkey hit the nose buds as soon as I left my building. Everyone smiled at me. My breath and lungs were full and expansive. I couldn't stop smiling. I was hit with the holiday happy. Every person I passed, I felt tremendous energy to press on. My feet were light. There was no pain, just lightness and energy. The waves were tall and buoyant preparing to be surfed. Groups meditated, walked, smiled, ran along the shore. I never felt so happy...and I was all alone, with strangers, and Lady Gaga and the sun and the smells, and the intention to plan to be surprised today. And enjoy being full...of potential.

An oldie, but a goodie…

Dear Oprah,
This is an old blog I found in the archives. I liked it and thought I'd share it with you. Such a long time ago, livin' in China. I feel like I'm a different person now. I don't think this is necessarily complete, but, in the season of gratitude, giving and finding peace, I was drawn to this, again I guess. A time to revisit and contemplate who we are and where we are going. Who I am and where I am going. Maybe comin' around again...A memory...

Creeeaak, open and release...

It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

This seems to be my biggest test in life and I always come back to it through all of my challenges big and small.
It’s something we all want, really. We find that lovely peace when we go to a tropical island, abandon our worries for an itinerary of sleeping till noon with no cell phones or computers. We vow to stay as peaceful in life as we do on our vacations only to be catapulted back into our routines and day to day muck and chaos as if we never sipped those pina coladas, as if we never got those spa treatments.
I have always thrown myself into the eye of the storm and fought with myself tirelessly over disappointments and failures of living my life fully. I have never hid away from life, but rather grabbed it by its reigns and yee-haad through its ebbs and flows.

On the TV, you hear all about extreme makeovers. You see it in our America. We are obese. Or, in Hollywood, emaciation nation.
I’ve tried for a second to live my life evenly but it just doesn’t make my heart pump.
I find myself right there in it too as I am an extreme liver. I’ve never done anything half assed whether it’s been being overweight myself or being anorexic, being a marathon runner or a chain-smoking pill-popping neurotic.
And now, it is my job, it is my responsibility on a daily basis to teach people to return from their lives of chaos to their original state of being…calm, relaxed and clear. How the hell did I end up here??!!??

It’s from my experiences that I found the ground beneath my feet as I moved back and forth from my home on the moon and my apartment in hell. It’s only because I have lived in darkness that I understand light. It’s because I know what balance is because I’ve tipped the scale so many times in one direction to the other that I finally moved into a state of stillness among the two sides.
This is my job now because I understand.
We have the choice to embrace the state we’re in rather than fight against it and this is my story.

1. Whenever I look through the catalog of memories in my brain, I’m taken straight to the turning points. The places in my life where a clear shift had occurred within, without forcing it to happen.
I am in NYC. My boyfriend has taken all of our stuff to LA. I will stay here for four more months as I finish my yoga teacher training then join him. All I have is one box of clothes to get me through the fall to winter season change. I have a TV, a towel, a blow up bed and my journal. I have never been happier. I see myself as a young kid with my emergency back pack full of necessary stuff in case I need to runaway or in case there is a fire. It’s when there is too much stuff that life becomes too much. I move in my life and I move inside. I have always loved having few things to really give me perspective on my needs in life. There are so few ‘needs’ when you really look around outside of yourself and inside.
2. I am a western trained yoga teacher that goes east to a land we hear so little about. So few people I talk to have ever been or thought about China. Their thoughts about Communism and treatment toward women cloud any other ideas or images I may have had about the country and there is an instant impression, until you get there. It’s not what anyone thinks. Isn’t that where yoga came from? Well no. And it wasn’t until just recently that yoga as well as pop music or tattoos or thongs were even allowed inside the country walls. What’s up with that?! I go there thinking I am a relatively peaceful individual until my patience is tested on a daily basis. Nothing in my yoga or meditation books trained me for this! Everything from finding a toilet to finding food to taking out money, paying bills and dealing without electricity and water and not even being able to attempt to speak the language is daunting and scary and could lead anyone to smoke or drink or take up valium (it’s easy to get there). Watching people watching me, shitting, spitting and urinating in the streets was all very new. Deciding through this difficulty to be ok with it, ok with being lost and not speaking the language, looking differently than everyone, accepting the filth and pollution and learning to love it, yes LOVE it, was, um interesting. Not only that but observing such a different culture than I could ever imagine opened my eyes and my ears and my lungs and my heart in a way that through this chaotic extreme, insane culture, China taught me to live yoga and mindfulness. Something I had read about for years and trained to understand and teach, but never really understood until I was thrust in the middle of crap to feel and find the bliss and sunshine within and in everything I experienced in that crazy world. Only living can teach you.
3. I’ve lived in a world of extremes my whole life, from being overweight to being Anorexic, from running marathons to taking diet pills. I’ve always known I have had the choice and yet I couldn’t possibly understand life until I knew a little bit about death and I died a bunch of times inside. One might call me obsessive or compulsive, but I had to do both to find the happy medium. I have to walk the walk in order to talk about it.

I don't, even as I look at this, remember exactly where I was. I see a lot of hope and a bunch of questions. Years later, I still see a lot of hope and a whole lot of questions even though I have a whole bunch of experience now. I'm still questioning.
Never stop.


Rest assured…

Dear Oprah,
I can't believe you are leaving us. Yes I can. Now, moving on.
Rest. 7-8 hours a night, to feel replenished and restored.
You can rest when you're dead.
Who said that?
I can't really remember the last time I rested but that's not your problem.
I set my alarm the other day, like I always do.
I often get up before my alarm. Not because I feel rested, but out of routine.
I slept through said was set but not turned on...
Slept through client number one and number two, only to wake up at 10:11AM,
to my internal alarm, that blasted panic.
I felt rested. But I slept through my responsibility.
I began to rush, make amends, calls, and apologies.
I began to add up, the money I lost, the rest I gained, and the guilt I felt.
I was forgiven, but felt awful and awesome at the same time.
Rest. I need more now then I ever needed before.
Time. I need more now then I ever needed before.
To mourn the loss of loved ones takes time. Everyone’s timetable is different.
I know.
I knew.
My sisters and mother had the worst part of it being around my dad when he was dying, day in and day out.
For me, it was hard, but I was only around it in spirit.
My sisters and mother, have the best part of it, mourning the loss of my dad and having each other, day in and day out to laugh and cry together.
For me, it is harder, I have no one.
I have friends. I love them, but they can't understand.
They try and I love them for it, but it's just impossible to understand. Not even if they've had a loss of a loved one. It's just too different and unique for each individual.
My family, they try, but I'm not around them, to feel them and to feel the necessary feelings to let go.
I know.
I knew...
That it was time to seek help.
So I did.
Thank goodness for the YMCA.
A bereavement workshop for mourning the loss of a loved one and getting through the holidays.
They had a similar workshop, a six-week one that I really wanted to join but the group was held right when I was teaching so I missed out.
And, I missed.
This time, I got a substitute for my class and attended the one-day.
The pastor, leader of the group had us go around the room to introduce ourselves, tell each other who we lost and a little bit about ourselves. Miriam (renamed for the blog) went first. She lost her husband on September 9th. As soon as she started speaking, I began to cry. It did not stop. Chandler lost her daughter several weeks ago to a brain aneurism. Her daughter was my age. Never sick, just died suddenly. Nancy lost her mom. Janice lost her dad. Kevin lost his wife. All within one year. My emotion was bottlenecked and within moments, I began to let out in a Kleenex brand cacophony, tears that I had felt well up on many occasions but kept in because I had my responsibilities and obligations. And there it was, support and understanding, by people I had never met. And I had no idea what they were going through. And they had no idea.
I was moved and stilled in 5 minutes. If I didn't get the Starbucks coffee in the holiday red mug an hour before, I would have been blowing my nose into my yoga mat, but alas, I had my napkins to blow snot and tears in, not latte lips.
It doesn't get easier. But, it gets easier...?
I was so alone. I wasn't alone.
After we went around the circle, a bright light in the corner of the room went off, then an alarm. It was a fire drill. We were ushered out of the room and down the stairs. We were then told it was just a drill and to go back up stairs.
We continued our group, but the flashing light and the alarm didn't stop. Ok, well it stopped for a bit, just enough for a story, or half, then it would start again. The leader of the group, a local Christian pastor just stopped until the alarm would pause, pausing the group. Control, it must be had, right?
Then the alarm would start again. Everyone was silent.
The alarm and flash was so annoying that I just spoke up, between my tears and said, this, this is how I feel, the flashing light and the alarm. This is how I feel in my head.... all the time. The grieving, by myself, the mourning, I don't get. It's been three months and I should be 'over' it or back to my normal life and all I feel is sad and confused...and alarmed!
What the fuck. Yes, what the fuck!!
This alarm that is causing us pause, causing a stir, making me agitated because I subbed out my class to be here and we're not getting anywhere, this is how I feel all the time.
We all agreed and laughed at the matter and the ice was broken. Tears were still shed, but we added some laughter. I felt good that even here, in this circumstance, among strangers, I could still bring a laugh.
I learned a lot. Mostly that those who are mourning, no matter what the time frame or who the person, the experience is so personal that it can not even in the slightest bit, be compared with another. Mourning is so personal.
No matter what is said to the mourner, it is never appropriate or good enough. That is why mourning and death is so hard for so many to understand or confront. When one is faced with a death, there is nothing that can be said or nothing that will make up for the feelings, that certain phrases like, I'm sorry for your loss or if there is anything I can do, is just enough to get you to the quiet you need when the voices outside of you become quiet and you are alone.
There is NOTHING anyone can say and that is ok.
There is nothing that will make you feel better, but what you know in your heart to be true.
You can only do what you need to get through. Only you
Be around friends, be with no one, write, take meds, vent, the list goes on.
So, I sit here with my blog. I talk to my mom and hear a bunch about what her and my sisters are thinking and feeling and doing to 'get through'. I just want to be there, but I know my life is here and so 'I deal.'
I was told, by the pastor and by the other group members to come up with a blanket statement to make to friends and others to 'get out of' engagements or obligations.... I’m just not ready yet.
It seems like an escape and yet, I find myself using other excuses to get out of things, because they are more acceptable.
My car broke down. I have a cold. Maybe the swine flu? Funny, but not acceptable.
And lies are not acceptable either.
So I instill this new mantra as the holidays and obligations get thicker and I get weaker.
What's not acceptable or understood, is that months after my father's death, I still need time. I still need to retreat, say no, do nothing and lie in bed. Lie. And I'm clearly fucking up, sleeping through an alarm or searching for an excuse to get out of my responsibility or obligation to friends or loved ones gatherings because I am still in the need to be sad and deal with my mourning in the way that I need. And I feel guilt for that.
Is there an ap for that? Huh, iPhone? Is there an ap for dealing with loss, mourning?
Is there an ap to make you feel ok with being sad?
There are yoga classes geared for laughing.
There are classes to instill positive thinking.
What about feeling god awful sad, looking like shit, eating cookie dough in bed while watching Lifetime movies (my dream but not reality), just feeling like crap and being OK with feeling like crap. Proclaiming the crap so you can feel better after the proclamation? I would like to lead a class or workshop where it's ok to show up, not looking cute, not ready for a sweat or advanced yoga postures, not ready for anything other than a good old fashioned cry and maybe a scream fest into your favorite pillow, or no pillow, just a fucking scream fest of sadness and mourning and crap. A good old fashioned bitch, crap fest. How about that?

I would like to teach that class where you can just have a big old pity party for yourself, and then move on to the rest of your life.

For me, and it took me months to get, my mourning comprises of me shutting off my to do's and getting to this place, my blog, to be quiet and summon the words I can gather to flesh through the process of mourning.
And swear. And be sloppy and grammatically incorrect.
I am so sad so often.
I am so happy so often.
It is such a tremendous feel both so fucking much.
I can't even explain in words how I can feel such bliss and happiness from teaching a class or running along the shore. Feeling so good that I can't imagine feeling any better in my life, then coming home to the quiet and dark of day turned to night to feel so sad and alone. To wanna cry and drink a bottle of wine (I don't, but c'mon).
I think of Miriam who still reaches her right foot out in her cold bed for her husband of 35 years to find it still cold, no foot or body to warm her body or soothe her mind as she searches for the answer to her loss, her life alone.

I don't search for that. I search for the connection, deep, sad and sporadic that I always had with my dad, on the freeway, behind the wheel and on the blue tooth. Such few words. Always few. But the words were always more than words. They were slight attempts at connecting our souls from miles and miles away, if we were inches apart and I was a passenger side of his car or his daughter with a three-hour time difference on a cell phone.
And we never got along like friends.
We never got along, like anything other than father and daughter and small exchanges of love between crossed lines and miss understood tries at communication, between my mother, my sisters and experiences that took us away from actually connecting one on one without distraction.
We were never anything other than what we were and what we were was surface to the core. A love that missed, connected, gotten, forgotten and so, little, so fucking great and so fucking gone.

Ahhh, to remember, amidst strangers, with only Starbucks napkins to block me from the feelings within that well up as I hear story after story and I just long for the pee in your pants funny escape that I know my mom and sisters experience as they connect in the laughter and sadness of it all.
I don't have the funny.
I don't have the laughter.
I hear the stories, but I don't have it.
So, I'm here, with the old biddies in blue hair, the Christian pastor, my Starbucks napkins and the fire alarm and I can't help but cry...and laugh...and say something...that makes the others laugh amidst there own personal tears.

Drink a box of wine to get through the holidays!
Take the rest of the Zoloft prescribed to your cancer struck loved one that is now gone.
Just tell 'em, my____'s dead!!! That'll shut'em up.
And I listen, to what they tell me because beyond the funny, I need help. Help to get through it myself, by myself.
And we all connect. In a way that's indescribable because we all know what each other is going through and we all have no idea.

We are all tuned in to the grief channel and are longing to tune into something a little lighter, a little Lifetime or Showtime or HBO, or something that will take us away from the 24 hour uninterrupted sadness we are feeling.

When the alarm finally stopped, when we were all cried out and talked out and the workshop was about to end, a woman entered the room and pulled up a chair.

She sat herself down and the pastor asked if anyone else had anything to add about going into the holidays without our loved ones.

The woman who just entered spoke up immediately and told us that her husband of 17 years had left her for another woman.

The idea of mourning took on a whole new definition and we all wrapped our words and thoughts around her in support of her loss and her teenage son that was now, without a dad.

I thought of Miriam with her foot astray to the right. I thought of my mom, her foot astray to the left. I thought of myself, my mind astray on the 405 without my dad to talk to, and myself again, my foot astray to the right, as I have also just mourned the death of an eight-year relationship.

And a whole gang load of tears resurfaced.

Mourning has so many meanings.

Loss has so many stories and so much judgment of how we are supposed to be and what we are supposed to do.

If we had more groups like this, if we had more than just two chat about the loss and how to deal, I think we would be a better people.

Instead, we are expected to move on or get over the loss of someone who had died or someone who has left.
To be left.
How do you make it right?
What if we just were, with our feelings, like a scab, until it healed?

Instead of picking away to get...somewhere else.

Any loss of someone in our lives, that has meant something to us, that has been part of the fabric of our lives, must have a mourning process. It might last a month, a year or longer. Instead of filling the void, with business or distraction, we must work through the void and the pain to get to the good stuff, search through and be with ourselves till we are stronger, strong enough to be on our own and with each other, without being fragile to outside circumstances that can break us down, beyond pain and vulnerability to a space of peace and balance.
There is no way around mourning.
There is a no way around the process.
There is no way around feeling the hurt of loss, whether it’s from a death or other circumstances, loss is loss and it cannot be judged or negotiated with.
It must be felt, personally with as much feeling as one can muster.
And when it is worked through, there is something on the other side.
The hurt might never be over, but it will be replaced with something else.
And that something else will be so much greater.
It is a place reserved for those who have gone through and succeeded such deep trials.
Whether you are mourning the loss of a loved one or a breakup, there is a process that must be gone through and felt fully before you can go on to the rest.
You will know when you are through it and then you can rest.
Rest assured, it will be over.
Rest assured, you will be through it.
Rest assured, you must go through it, to get to all the good stuff beyond it.
It is there for you to nurture you through the process.
It is there for you.
Rest...for you Oprah, you will have to wait till 2011.