Meditate?

Back in September I traveled to Glasgow, Scotland with my daughter to take her to University. It was our first trip there, and we had a lot to do in the short time I could stay in town. Every day was packed with paperwork, finding our way around town, and a good deal of shopping to outfit her kitchen and flat with everything she would need for the coming school year.

Weave in the intensity of taking my first baby off to college. Off to another COUNTRY to college.

Yeah.

So one morning we’re first thing on the subway, zipping into the city center to shop for bedding and kitchen items. My mind was very busy with lists and we were both steeped in the emotionality of this big change. Sitting on the train I realized; I had not taken the time to meditate that morning.

So I closed my eyes; Resurrection Breath (a quick double exhale through the open mouth over the left shoulder; it’s a Kriya technique); and began my little inner routine. Bringing in the light through my crown; letting it fill my body; growing light roots down into the Earth. Then filling the planet with light; and sending that light out through our solar system and beyond to the entire Universe.

I have a technique for protection for my beloveds; and a regular practice of various techniques to work with energy. But that morning I didn’t have much time. So, I let my mind clear with “Hong Sau” Kriya and after a few moments I wrapped up my literally four-minute meditation by posing the question “What do I need to know today?”

Most days it is a very benign thought that arises; usually encouragement or some minor insight. On this morning, the little voice said “Watch out for the man in blue.”

Watch out for the man in blue? Huh?

Okay.

Wrapped up with my prayers of gratitude, and when I open my eyes, I mention to my daughter the warning from my meditation. She gazes around the subway car. “Mom, every man on the train is wearing blue.” Ahhhh – yes, okay. Right. The train stops and it’s time to go.

Off to our first adventure in the shopping district of downtown Glasgow. In and out of shops, someone is playing the bagpipes; we’re taking pictures, soaking up the scene. My emotions are flooding me; a hot mix of excitement and fear and awe and fear and pride and fear and fear. This town, this place I’ve never been to before – this is where I’m leaving my baby!

As we are walking down the crowded street a man with a clipboard approaches me and comments on my malas – the prayer beads I wear on my wrist. He knows what they are and begins to talk to me about a kirtan camp that he leads somewhere in Scotland. Now, anyone who knows me knows I talk to EVERYONE, something that drives my children absolutely crazy. So here I am, having a little chat about kirtan. And suddenly, I glimpse over his shoulder the face of a young girl; she looks me straight in the eye and says “run.”

Run?

And I’m looking from him to her from him and to her and again she says – “Run.” In that two second gap while I am processing what she is saying, and he is talking and my mind is racing and there are crowds of people all around us. She says it a third time, though this time she is yelling. “RUN!!!”

Suddenly my mind seizes what she is saying, and I wrap my arm around my daughter and we literally begin dashing down the street. When we coast to a stop she chastises me. “Mooommmm, you do not have to talk to EVERYONE Mooommmm!”

We continue on with our shopping trip. So many decision and things to consider; what is essential, what is frivolous. Purchase pillow, blankets, bedding, silverware, cutting board, plate, mug, peeler … it goes on and on. I want to think of everything; want my baby to have what she needs.

It isn’t until we are sitting at dinner that night when my daughter casually says to me “Did you notice what that weird guy who stopped us was wearing?” I paused and thought back …. “No – was he wearing a white shirt?” “No, Mom” she replies. “He was dressed all in blue.”

Oh wow. The man. In blue.

I still have no idea what possible danger he posed. Was he a well-known pickpocket or something? Do people native to Glasgow know him as a con-artist? And who was the angel-girl who appeared to tell us to run? I don’t know.

So why am I telling you this story?

Because I want you to meditate.

Seriously. If we’re gonna save the world, we’ve got to start working with the incredible power of our minds. We need to take the time to listen to ourselves, to our guides and to our untapped connection to all of LIFE.

Often people think you have to sit for an hour to meditate; that you must have some secret technique or live in a cave. People think that those of us who do meditate sit for long periods of time with no thoughts; no mind, as it were.

Let me dispel that myth.

Most of your meditation practice is just concentration. It’s training the mind. Think of it like a puppy; if you don’t train it to sit; if you don’t train it to do certain things at certain times and in certain places, then it just makes messes. Like a puppy, your mind gets into shit it shouldn’t get into. With the untrained puppy there will be literal shit, everywhere. With the untrained mind, we unconsciously create and gravitate towards thoughts that are precisely what we do NOT want.

Mindfulness is the current sexy lingo for a meditation practice; but really one yields the other. To be absolutely present in the moment is a form of meditation. When my dear friend talks about surfing, he talks about completely being in the moment and all else dropping away – that is a type of meditation. When you’re loving on someone and you merge together, the moment of orgasm – bam – your mind stops grasping. It’s a glimpse at perfect happiness and contentment; for even just a second. That’s meditation, too.

Sitting on your cushion thinking “sheesh, my back hurts.” Yes, that happens in meditation practice, too. Cause remember – it’s a PRACTICE. You have to do it over and over and over. For me, it’s taken years of practice to be able to slip over into a meditative state with little effort. And even now, there are days when I sit on my cushion and all I do is watch my poor little brain spin on something and there is no true meditation. Not a single gap or moment of peace.

It is still worthwhile on those days because it helps me to be compassionate with myself and my mind. Even if the only place I get to is thinking “Goddess bless Jill and her little spinning brain today. She’s doing the best she can.”

That glimmer of compassion for myself is enough.

My dear friend and Uttara instructor Wendi Wagner is holding a workshop on Mindfulness and Meditation coming up on December 10 from 1:00 to 3:00 pm. If you’ve ever had an interest in learning to work with the mind; learning to harness that power and find peace and stillness within; this is a fantastic opportunity to explore.

Another option is the Guided Meditation class we have every Sunday morning at 9:15 am. It’s only $5 to drop in and take it and each week one of us is there to guide you through a half-hour meditation.

There are lots of resources online; plenty of podcasts and books and information. But one of the best ways to start is just to sit down; to close your eyes; take a couple deep breaths; and effortlessly seek out those tiny gaps between your thoughts.

They exist. I promise that they do. And those gaps of silence and space are more healing than you can imagine.

Shanti, Jill

mindfulness2016

Food for Thought

img_20160404_130730908This past Spring I attended an incredible week-long course at the Ashevillage Institute (www.ashevillage.org) in Asheville, North Carolina; it was called “Resilient Living.” The premise is this: what happens when sustainability becomes … unsustainable? That is where resiliency comes in. To be resilient means you are adaptable; how do you work with what is available to you?

Reminds me very much of what Goswami Kriyananda predicted based on astrology about this time frame in history. As the systems break down, we have to figure out what works; and do THAT.

It was like summer camp for grown-ups. And I think going back to some of the old ways, to claim a certain level of food independence and to become even more adaptable are going to be critical in the coming cycle.

So I spent a week with a diverse group of people from all over the country who had come to Asheville to learn a variety of skills that I am sure our great-grandparents took for granted. We learned garden design, permaculture and seed saving techniques. We learned about catching water and creating water systems; how to build soil and how to compost. Listened to lectures and took workshops on beekeeping, homesteading and mushroom inoculation. We studied with a master herbalist; learned about tinctures and natural medicines; and also learned all about food preservation. Canning, drying, fermenting, freezing — the works.

There were lots of written handouts and hands on experiences. A couple field trips, too. We spent a memorable day at Wild Abundance (www.wildabundance.net) with the incredible Natalie Bogwalker, work with natural building materials and see her gardens and homestead. Her fire, enthusiasm and independence were so inspiring.

We spent an afternoon with Luke “Learningdeer” Cannon (www.astoundingearth.com) learning about wild plant foraging. So much to learn from this incredible man. I can typically walk through the forest and identify a few trees and many plants and flowers. But he had befriended them all and knew their uses, habitats and how to spot them in all seasons. From him I brought home the idea of trying to eat at least one wild-growing food every day – even if it’s just the leaf from a violet. That plants that seed and grow wild have a very different vibration than plants that are farmed in neat little rows at the farmer’s discretion. One of the many fascinating concepts we were introduced to during the week.

Other inspiring teachers included Marc Williams (www.botanyeveryday.com), Asia Suler (www.onewillowapothecaries.com), and Becky Beyer (www.bloodandspicebush.com), not to mention the incredible staff at Ashevillage.

We also had a lunch lecture with Charles Eisenstein (www.charlesiesenstein.net) to discuss his book Sacred Economics. I really enjoyed listening to his viewpoints on society and the future as it relates to economics.

Interestingly enough both Charles and Asia, people I met that week in Asheville, have posted very pertinent and informative pieces on the recent election. They both offer a unique and, I think, incredibly wise ways of looking at what has happened to our society and where we can move forward from here.

Sometimes when you come across writing on the internet you are uncertain whether to trust what you are reading; you want to know the source. I feel very connected to both of these people having spent time in their presence; I really hope you will sit down and take the time to read both of these articles. They will help us through the coming days, months and years.

The Election: Of Hate, Grief, and a New Story

Your Power Can Change Everything

 

Shanti,

Jill

Who Tells Your Story?

 

tumblr_nx6jtjac2j1ucpacoo1_1280

The incredible soundtrack to the Broadway musical “Hamilton” (which tells the story of Alexander Hamilton and the American Revolution) has this line:

“Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?”

I have three stories for you.

Story #1.

My son and I were playing foosball; I was getting my ass kicked, as per the usual.  The subject of the election came up.  He told me the story of how children were chanting at mock election (before the actual election) “build that wall” in the lunchroom.

I had not heard that story.

So a discussion ensues; one of the topics was that our country was founded by immigrants.  That Americans, unless they are Native American, we’re from everywhere.  I asked my son “Do you know your heritage?”  His response:  “Aren’t we from Mexico?”

Now, before you ponder that any further, let me tell you that my son is a blonde, blue-eyed boy.  And we have no family from Mexico, at least that I know of.  His heritage is England, Germany, Scotland and Ireland.

So why would he think his family tree originates from Mexico? He’s grown up hearing both English and Spanish; we still use simple Spanish phrases in our every day conversation.  He grew up listening to Spanish popular music.  We celebrated some holidays not typical to other households.  For example, Dia De Los Muertos; we have fond memories of the annual celebratory trip to the local Panaderia for pan de muertos, breads marked with a little skull and crossbones made of dough.

It was never intentional, but we have very few traditions that hail specifically from the various countries of our heritage.  I don’t have as many stories to tell that connect us to those cultures.  Yes — I burn a bayberry candle all the way down on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve; — that’s a German tradition that was passed down to me.  But most of the other celebrations; the egg-dying, the Christmas tree; they tend to be woven into the fabric of America culture.  They don’t specifically bring up tales that would connect him to these faraway lands.

The other point I recognize is that we’re not surrounded by family; it’s pretty much just me and my children; and I’m realizing that he hasn’t heard the stories of his family from a voice other than mine.

Story #2.

Fast forward to another evening; my son and I are driving and we pass a local chapter of the VFW.  It’s in a grand, old house and there is a war memorial and a tank out front.  We drive past this place often, but usually in the daylight.  That night it was late and it was dark; the tank featured prominently in the spotlight.  “Umm, Mom … why is there a tank in front of that house?”  I explained how it isn’t a house – well, yes, it IS a house – now it is a place for Veterans to gather.  And that the tank is a memorial to remember that real men and women died. “Oh” he calmly replied; “Maybe we need more of those.”

 I’ve heard some stories of war from my parents, but none directly from my grandfather who served in World War 1.  I have heard some stories from my brother, who did tours in both Iraq and Afghanistan.  But those stories have never reached the ears of my son; the horrors of war are far removed from him.  Even the tales from my parents of blackouts and shortages and there not being enough food; he doesn’t know those stories.  All he sees is a tank.

Story #3.

A conversation with a new friend; we were discussing the flu shot and I casually mentioned that I don’t get them.  He began to feel me out on the topic of vaccines.  You know, being Ms. Crunchy Yoga Girl some people might assume that I am anti-vaccine.  But that would not be true; I  believe in vaccines, just not the flu vaccine for me, personally. You have to dig beneath the surface; you need to know the filter of my experience.  The story of how my mother contracted polio as a child, the symptoms were recognized early; she received immediate medical care and she suffered no permanent paralysis.  The story of my mother’s brother dying of tetanus — a teenage boy who fell out of a tree and broke his arm. The doctor forgot to administer the vaccine; he contracted tetanus and died of lockjaw.  These stories shaped my viewpoint and informed my decisions.

I wonder, have I told my son these stories?

In our communities and in our nation, we have lost track of each other.  Our insulated and casual electronic connection means broken communication.  Lost connection with friends and acquaintances.    Our interactions with strangers has become more and more defensive.

We’re afraid of each other.

And because we are cut off from each other, the exchange of ideas has ceased.  We are separating off into groups.  I’m black; you’re white.  I’m rich; you’re poor.  I’m blue; you’re red.  I’m wrong; you’re right.

And that right there is the danger.  We have become less than human to each other.

When we become less than human to each other, society breaks down.

When we become less than human to each other, that’s when people start getting carted off to be put in ovens.  When we become less than human to each other that’s when people get strung up in trees and nailed to crosses and burned at the stake.  When we become less than human to each other, that’s when good people can get lost and do horrendous things.

So much of what is happening is happening BECAUSE we don’t listen to each other.  We talk and we post and we tweet and we spout and we offer opinions through the filter of our experience; but we don’t listen; we don’t have the back and forth exchange of conversation.   We spend less and less time interacting with people who are different; we spend little time considering what it is like to walk in the other person’s shoes.

Often because those can be some damn uncomfortable shoes.

We are, right now, at a tremendous crossroads.  We are writing the first chapter of a new story.  Will it be about community and connection and healing and understanding and doing what must be done for the good of all?  Or will it be about warring and factions and death and hatred and separation and so much SO much pain?

You have the power right now both to tell your story and to write the new one; so, tell me; what’s your story?

Shanti,

Jill

Division

So in my lil’ ole neck of the woods there have been a LOT of Trump/Pence signs going up this week. Even my son noticed; we discussed it tonight in the car. It made me think of a friend of mine who has been adamantly online in social media blasting Trump; calling out racist views. Very vocal, opinionated.

And I get it. This is important.

But I resist such expressions. And it causes a conflict in my soul. I actually do deeply fear Donald Trump becoming our President. For a lot of reasons, but mostly because he appears to have that very powerful combination of smart enough to be mean and mean enough to be smart. We all remember our high school bullies. He reminds me of them in every evil way.

My soul wants peace. I don’t want to fight – with anyone. I have friends, family – people I admire and respect – who are very sure that Trump is the right choice. And then there is Hillary Clinton. Who, I am so sorry, I just do not trust. I do believe she is a better choice than Donald Trump; I actually believe she is a very smart woman. But I also believe she is a choice that simply locks us back into the status quo; of the powerful retaining power; of politics as usual; of keeping us at war.

What to do?

I do not pretend to have the answers; but I have made a decision. I will vote; and I will vote for Hillary Clinton as I pinch my nose. But I’m not digging in on either side. I am not rejecting my friends who strongly support either candidate. I’m staying on the side of peace; on the side of connection; on the side of “okay, you think this and I think that … can’t we still talk? Can’t we still be friends?” Even if it relates to really large issues that push ALL my buttons. For example, I truly cannot understand disliking or judging someone from the color of the skin or their choice in religion.

But I also know that we learn what we live and so many of us have been steeped in hatred and it is hard to let it go.

I really do not believe that my simple opinion will be enough to sway anyone; we all need to think for ourselves. But I do believe my life and my actions speak for me; that my talk and my walk line-the-hell-up, at least most days. And that THAT speaks louder than my words.

The answer to all this conflict lies in this connection from person to person. Do you see me? Do I see you? We are losing our communities; we are losing each other.

A sweet moment occurred last week as I was teaching at Roanoke College. I teach a yoga course there, this is my second year. It is a great gift to bring this powerful practice to these “children” who are about to launch into the world.

Last week a young man stayed after to talk. He talked about how interesting the course had been, which was sweet and made my soul sing – and then he asked if I had ever traveled and yes, I responded, yes; I sure have tried to see some of this amazing world.

He said that he used to think he had all the answers; that he understood how things were and how there really wasn’t anything out there to see or learn. And then he traveled to London, and everything changed; he realized there were other valid ways of thinking; other viewpoints. And that was the catalyst that led him to taking yoga to find out more about Eastern thought and philosophy. And he learned this just by going to London, an English-speaking place. So interesting.
It was a sweet reminder of how I have always told my children “I will never take you to Disneyland; but I will show you as much of the world as I can.”

And I have.

When you travel; whether it is 20 miles away or 2000 miles away – you have new experiences; you are a stranger in a strange land. It helps you to have new perspective. To meet new people, to be uncomfortable; to be the only white person or the only blonde person or the only brown person or the only English-speaking person … or maybe even just the only person who doesn’t know where the hell the subway is … Traveling helps connect us to our humanity; to our need for connection; to our need for each other.

When you meet someone from another country you might take the time to find them on a map; when there’s an earthquake, you think of them. When there’s a bombing, you worry. The planet; the universe; it shrinks.

So, maybe this is a very long way of saying – my friends are my friends. I hope no matter what the outcome this Fall, we will still be there to support each other. I hope that our personal connection will be greater than some philosophical division. I hope that everyone will realize that people are people are PEOPLE and it doesn’t matter if they have red hair or brown eyes or curly hair or worship Durga or adore Jesus or kneel to Mohammad.

I don’t judge you decision this Fall; we’re all struggling, we’re all hoping, we’re all trying. But maybe the answer isn’t about our decision. It’s how we treat each other. Less division, more inclusion; less fear, more faith; less short-sightedness, more consciousness. And hopefully, heaps more love and … some day … some day my dear friends … peace.

Shanti,

Jill

Lost or Found

Earlier this Summer I wrote this piece … and for whatever reason it seems now is the time to post it….

There are times of great change; of huge shifts. The thing is, we cannot always perceive them clearly. Enormous change sometimes occurs in tiny little cracks; in the briefest of encounters; we go right instead of left; we say no or we say yes; a new destiny is formed in the smallest decision.

Look back at your life; at the momentous moments; the BIG shifts. Sometimes the events are cataclysmic; but often, they are so tiny. Like a mosquito, it just doesn’t seem like it’s that troublesome or important but then….

Such are these times.

I went for a walk tonight; just down the street. My new home, it is very far out; in the woods; on a mountain. I can sometimes forget the majesty that exists outside my own windowpane in the hustle and swirl of my life and responsibilities. Sometimes I forget to look; and even if I look, I forget to see.

This past Summer I traveled in Europe; went to beautiful, famous places; saw incredible mountains, lakes, rivers, vineyards; timeless cities, historic places; I made some amazing memories with people that I love.

But tonight, I simply went for a walk; probably 1,000 footsteps, just a wander; wasn’t meant to be an adventure. Two of my cats following along, so I didn’t want to stray far. Just the three of us and my deep breaths; and tens of thousands of trees; and the barely-wet grass; and the steaming pavement; and the wildflowers; and the cicadas; the first blinking of stars; and the mountains. Oh my goodness! Soft, green, sculpted mountains; the mountains that are my home; that have been my home for … well …. I never intended to stay in this town; yet I have lived here for 27 years; this place; these mountains; these TREES; they are my home.
Fog coming off the ponds; the tiny hum of the train in the distance; the queen anne’s lace and the song of locusts.

So often lately, I feel so lost. A moment on Facebook or looking at the news and I am crushed with fear and apprehension. Lost in doubt and misunderstanding.

Why is it so hard to remember; all I ever need to do is simply step outside; and I am found.

Remember that all is an evolutionary process; that we only have our small part to play; but play that part! Live that life! Breathe that breath! Love that love! BE that PEACE.  Do everything you can to stay grounded; unplug your television; put down your phone.

Our minds will not save this word; but our hearts? Well, they might …

Turn off the noise; step outside; breathe; LIVE.

Shanti,

Jill

Complicated Life

My life is complicated. I am complicated.

Example; morning last February. Woke; after restless night and a stink bug falling into my palm and I fling it across the room reflexively and at the same time in the middle of the night I recall my daughter laughing the last time I flicked a stink bug off my computer and said “welcome to the space program.”

Sleep should be safe; but it is not always so.

Wake; snow; a LOT of snow. Luckily a light-schedule-day, especially since I don’t have to drive three children to two schools.

What to do with said free day? Pondering …. Clean or Organize or Accomplish or Work or Play or Fun or Read or Study or Hike or Exercise or Write or … well, so mostly I make a fire. And an actual lovely burning wood fire requires a certain amount of maintenance.

I spend most of my day tending the fire; and appreciating its warmth; and reminding myself that I need more firewood …

Coffee; journal; snuggle cats. Clean the disastrous kitchen.

Um, okay, clean is too generous; deal with the worst of the kitchen …

More fire tending; a LOT of texting. Open the business today? Close the business? Emails, Facebook … ugh; Facebook.

I probably forgot to mention I’ve checked it six times now and it’s only Noon.
One cat keeps going from back door to front door; ONE of these doors must not have snow … right? She eventually ends up at the door in the basement … cause the basement door is surely snow free …

More firewood. And some amazing down-encased man is clearing my driveway on his four-wheel. Feelings of gratitude; side order of guilt. Must bake cookies and soon …

OH – retreat in Germany this Summer; kids joining me in Italy; Googling itineraries; train rides; car rentals; AirBNB; so exciting! Absolutely terrifying too. Booked Venice; only three more towns to figure out.

Sheesh. Open a beer.

And stoke the fire. How the hell did anyone do anything other than keep the fire going? You know, back when there was no power, no heat, no light? Wait, did I get enough milk to last 48 hours? …

Okay. Excellent. Found a place to stay in Venice; a flight to get to Munich. Take at least forty minutes to ponder how weird and amazing it is that I’m living a life that involves visiting Venice and Munich.

OH – yeah; shoveling; uncover the car. But the forecast is for rain? Go shovel, just in case.

And meditate; you meant to meditate; and you had breakfast; and you texted; and Facebooked; and AirBNB’d; and some other stuff; and Goddess waited for you; she always does.

Mediation was amazing.

Insight into 500-hr teacher training; the birthing of a new project. Along with emails and calls about normal business; and 200-hr; and teaching at the college; and privates; and workshops; and Spring schedule.

And you come across a beautiful article about men in relationships; and your whole damn life has been wrapped up with men and relationships. Light bulbs explode; a whole new pathway opens up.

*Sigh* Surely do miss being in love; having someone to care for and care about; lose a full hour feeling sad about the loss of my relationship.

But life continues; hey Mom, what’s for dinner; oh yeah – potatoes-carrots-asparagas-cod; ewww. Only one child excited about eating dead fish. And there aren’t enough potatoes. And some other stuff happens too.

AND she’s coloring her hair PINK? Today? And will it work? Whose fault if it doesn’t? Playdate tomorrow? Work tomorrow?

This is complicated ….

Shanti,

Jill

On Presence

This past Fall I saw the most adorable “confrontation.” My six-month old kitten, weighing in at just over 5 pounds; and a young spotted deer.

I walked out on the front stoop, glass of wine in hand – had just finished skimming Facebook for what I am sure seemed like five minutes but was more like, um; thirty. I was enjoying the last few moments of peace before someone asked me “what’s for dinner;” and immediately, I realize what I almost missed. THIS is happening; in my, literal, front yard. MY life was happening, just outside my door. But I was; busy. I was looking at adorable quotes; pictures of other people’s lives; instead of living my own.

deer picAlmost.

The tiny deer’s tail was flicking, back and forth; she was only about 15 feet across the driveway. The teeny kitten; stock-still; mesmerized. This moving thing was clearly larger than the katydids and grasshoppers she has been entertaining herself with. And I got to watch; I was inside and outside of the situation. Those moments you are granted that access as witness are magical indeed.

It feels a lot like watching my eldest child become a high school senior. I get to watch her grow and evolve; I am inside and outside of the situation because I can no longer protect her from her life and her choices. And I’m wondering — am I missing things that I should not miss – that I could regret. Am I too damn busy to notice? There are other children to tend to, a business, a boyfriend, a LIFE. Distractions! Deadlines! Responsibilities!

I try to remember that one reason I teach yoga, mindfulness, meditation — is because I must be reminded – over and over – that the present moment IS all there is.

A quick update on the kitten situation. After a few long but short moments, the deer gave a snort; and lightly bounced over the hill. The kitten followed; for a bit. And quickly ran back, looking for a scratch under the chin, and dinner.

There are a million beautiful pictures; beautiful quotes; beautiful people. Some of them are completely worthy of my attention. But, in the end; when I’ve given this life my last breath; what will I wish for? One more virtual moment? Or one more moment of MY life?

Shanti,

Jill

CSA – Community Support Agriculture

It’s time!  Even with the cold and snow outside, it’s time to sign up for your local farm share; for a bag of delicious, local and (in some cases) organic produce from a farmer near you.  They need your commitment; cause it’s almost planting time.

Have you ever planted a garden?  Maybe a couple tomatoes in a pot? Or even a full-on-dug-out garden? It’s hard. Real hard. Spring tricks you with her gorgeous weather; her warm, breezy days; you WANT to be outside; you want to crumble black dirt against your skin; you plot and plan; purchase, plant and water. Food, flowers, herbs — Yeah!
But then life goes on; you go away for the weekend; no rain; no one waters the plants; things die.  Or things grow like crazy; weeds take over.  Some years, you have a thousand cucumbers that you don’t know what to do with; the next year you have three; three crappy little cucumbers. You remember the song where they sing “to everything there is a season; turn, turn, turn.”
But for your local farmer; the smaller operations; we’re not talking agribusiness here; they take the same gamble; but if they lose, they can’t make the mortgage; pay the insurance; take care of the kids. This is their livelihood.
Why is it that this society, this culture, ranks low the most important people? The people who grow our food?  Those who educate the children?  Our elders who have lived most life and seen so much?  In this culture, our priorities are broken; and our world reflects this broken-ness.
I’ve talked many a friend into signing up for Seven Springs Farm CSA (Community Supported Agriculture); I have been sharing with them for at least 12 years.  My friends, they all love the beautiful, fresh food. Knowing it’s organic; being able to work at the farm and contribute to the good in the world. But several times when it comes to the next year, they don’t sign up again. They don’t like being given certain things each week; they don’t understand the harvest and the risk; they feel it’s expensive paying for it all in chunks instead of just buying what they want once a week. They worry about waste and prefer to go to the farmer’s market.
I understand; I do!  And I’m not down on the farmer’s markets; they are amazing places which create community and connections. Hopefully there will be more and more direct connections between farmers and consumers.  But there is also waste, just like with a CSA; sometimes we buy things we don’t use; we let some fabulousness compost in the back of our fridge.
Remember though — at the farmer’s market; those luscious vegetables laid out before you in the sun on the table; what do you think happens to what you do not buy? Compost — which is a better fate than the grocery store produce.  So be thankful that those vegetables just become fresh new dirt for your local farmer; because the organic vegetables at the grocery store that have been flown thousands of miles for your dining pleasure go into the landfill when you do not purchase them.  Keep in mind when you purchase a farm share, there is not necessarily more waste; there is just waste that you feel responsible for; that you can see.
Food is everything; control the food, you control the people; so who controls your world? Take responsibility; make a commitment; decide that there are things more important that convenience and cost.  Make a commitment to someone whose hand you can shake; someone who is saving the world in their small-but-large way. I can personally recommend both Seven Springs Farm and Good Food Good People locally; do some research; ask some friends. And become part of the solution.
Shanti,
Jill
 

Safe Journey, Beloved Mary

Just received word that a beautiful guiding light has transitioned from the Earth; my friend, Mary Whitney; brilliant astrologer and all-around gorgeous human; it is hard for me to understand; she seemed to have so much more to do here.  But that is the thing about karma; it is not for us to understand another soul’s journey; only to be grateful that we crossed paths.

My first-ever astrology reading was with Mary; I met her on retreat; along with her darling husband, Gary. Just honest-to-goodness-great-kind-earthy-real people.  Had no idea what to expect from an astrology reading; I was just beginning attempt to grasp even the tiniest bits of the vast science. My entire sense of self and perspective on what had happened in my life transformed as we discussed my natal chart.  I remember so clearly, she said to me “Oh my God . . . what happened to you between the ages of 18 and 25?” 

“Seriously!” was the first reaction of my mind; and it the first time that began to understand that the dark years; the terrible, terrible hardness of it; it had been decided; foretold; I had chosen these lessons, and they were not easy.

As I thanked her for that observation she commented, “Well; if you didn’t die, and you didn’t kill anyone else, you managed the karma well; the transits are astonishing to see.” 

It changed my perspective completely; from the outside to the inside and then back out. I wasn’t a failure for what had happened; for the choices I had made; I had managed the karma.  All those years spent beating myself up for what had happened; this knowledge gifted me with the ability to set that burden down.

She was a direct disciple and devout student of Goswami Kriyananda; one of his original students of astrology; and an ordained Swami who loved to perform weddings and other ceremonies.  When we last spoke she told stories of listening to Kriyananda lecture; the same lectures I now listen to many years later on CDs; I love to imagine her sitting in the room with him; taking note; smiling and laughing at his sweet jokes. 

The last time I hugged her was at my dear sister Gracia’s ordination as a Swami in the Kriya order; since that time she suffered from a major health crisis; fought back hard to regain her regular life and practice as an astrologer; my last reading with her was in the Fall.

She had to work a little harder to do the reading; to think things through; to speak clearly; but she demonstrated over and over her great memory of not only what she learned through the years but even small details of the very few times we had been together.

“Are you still dating that lovely young man we met at the ordination?” she inquired, referring to my 55-year old boyfriend.  I was so happy to be able to say yes; especially because of her magical relationship with her husband; Mary fully understood the power of love.

She related the plans for their 50th wedding anniversary celebration, even though it would be a couple years away. My heart goes out to her husband; theirs is a love story that makes one be assured that there can be soulmates.

So go hug your children; send an “i love u” text to your mamma; or stop and take a moment to count your many blessings.  This life, it’s very short in the context of things. Try to take no one or no-thing for granted. 

In classes lately I have been playing a spoken-word version of the poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.” It’s from the Interstellar soundtrack; and it’s lovely. 

Oh Mary, I shall miss your light. Though I know it will shine brightly for us in our dreams and meditations.  Om Shanti, Shanti, Shanti-h.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

 
From The Poems of Dylan Thomas

Walk Unafraid

If you’ve read this blog over the years you will recall my son is quite the sage; his nickname from friends is Buddha Boy; incredible wisdom flows from his young heart.

Often my children introduce me to new music; and often, I introduce it to them. Recently the song “Walk Unafraid” has been rotating heavily through my playlist; lovely cover of the original 1998 REM song by the group First Aid Kit; it’s on the “Wild” movie soundtrack.

My son and I often connect with music; having the same favorites and style. And he’s been listening to this song as well; I’ve found him in his room on his recently acquired iPod, listening to it over and over.

Last night snuggling on the couch he inquired about the lyrics; I didn’t know some of them – a job for Google! So he looked them up and printed them off. Brought them over to me on the couch. “You want to sing it together?” he asked.

He just turned 12; sweet boy on the cusp of changing from a boy to man; so bittersweet and I know he’ll have to break himself free from me on some levels very soon. This is a moment I will cherish.

“Sure,” I responded, and so we settled in together; not quite hitting the notes perfectly; not quite ready for prime-time; but so beautiful; I never want to forget us singing together; reminding each other to walk unafraid.

So here are the lyrics.  Me and my son; probably some of you too; are walking into an a new and unknown phase of life filled with incredible changes.  I don’t know anyone who isn’t right now.  But perhaps these words from the song will help guide you on your way. Just like they are guiding us.
As the sun comes up

As the moon goes down
These heavy notions creep around
It makes me think, long ago

I was brought into this life

A little lamb, a little lamb
Courageous, stumbling
Fearless was my middle name

But somewhere there I lost my way

Everyone walks the same
Expecting me to step
The narrow path they’ve laid

They claim to

Walk unafraid
I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold me, love me or leave me high

Say “keep within the boundaries if you want to play”

Say “contradiction only makes it harder”
How can I be
What I want to be?

When all I want to do is strip away

These stilled constraints
And crush this charade
Shred this sad masquerade

I don’t need no persuading

I’ll trip, fall, pick myself up and

Walk unafraid
I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold me, love me or leave me high

If I have a bag of rocks to carry as I go

I just want to hold my head up high
I don’t care what I have to step over
I’m prepared to look you in the eye

Look me in the eye

And if you see familiarity
Then celebrate the contradiction
Help me when I fall to

Walk unafraid

I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold me, love me or leave me high

I will walk unafraid

I’ll be clumsy instead
Hold me, love me or leave me high


Shanti,

Jill