Monday, February 1, 2016

Chiang Rai to Luang Prabang, Slowly

Rachel and I have now made it over the border and into the chilled out jungle town of Luang Prabang, Laos. Like all cute places, I'm already in love and considering staying forever. The journey to get here was long and stressful, though, due largely to the fact that we didn't plan ahead very well, and information on how to do it isn't very good. Things do change rapidly here, and information isn't disseminated very well, so its understandable. However, I'm going to map out our research and how we did it so you don't also end up nearly getting stuck in the sticks on a Laos roadside like we did.

The first thing you should know is that there are two bus stations that service Chiang Rai. There is the old station (Station 1) in the city center which is currently under construction and kind of a cluster. There is a new station (Station 2) outside of the center which you pass on the way in from Chiang Mai. Not all buses got to both stations, so be aware of which station you are choosing when you book a bus to get across the border.

Rachel and I booked a last minute slow boat ride with a private company, Shompoo, because we had heard so many mixed reviews about the public slow boats. Shompoo's guide meets you outside of Laos immigration and takes you to the pier for the boat, but pickup is by 9:45am at the very latest (they prefer you to be there by 9:15am). Had we know this ahead of time, we would have made it to Chiang Khong the night before to expedite border crossing in the morning. Since we booked the day before the cruise, we weren't able to make it to Chiang Khong the day before, thus leaving us scrambling to get to the border crossing very early in the morning. There is a local red bus which leaves from Station 1, but the first bus isn't until 6:00am and takes two hours, which didn't seem to leave us enough time to get through Thai immigration, across the Friendship Bridge, and through Laos immigration.

The local red bus is a very reasonable 65 baht, but we were concerned about time, so we went to a travel agency in Chiang Rai, Kochaporn Travel & Service, who booked us on a private bus to the border for 750 baht. We explained our time constraints and were guaranteed to leave by 6:30am at the latest- an hour and a half ride, still cutting it close but doable. Long story short, the driver was very late and we didn't leave Chiang Rai until 7:30am. They took a very beautiful, creative shortcut through misty rice patties which was enjoyable, but we didn't arrive to the Thai border until 8:45am.

Crossing through Thai immigration was a quick breeze (keep your departure card and have it filled out ahead of time!! But if you happen to have lost it, they do have replacements). The bus over the Friendship Bridge had been taken care of by the travel agency, but it is 20 baht with an extra 5 baht fee if you're riding on an off time or the weekend. The bus won't leave until its full and the ride across the bridge is incredibly brief (about three minutes). On the other side you then begin the process of getting your Visa on Arrival into Laos. It was now 9:15am.

There was already a sizable queue waiting for visa processing. We scrambled to fill in our paperwork and join the throng of people who turned out to be waiting for only two Laos officials. There was quite a bit of pushing at the front of the line. Once we made it to the front, which took about an hour, we handed our passports, completed paperwork and one passport photo to the official. They take all this and your visa application is then processed while you wait.

Approved applications and passports are then brought in the order received to the payment window. They flash your passport information page and you approach the window to pay the fee- $35 USD, more or less depending on your country. Be aware that, again, during off times and weekends, you'll be charged an extra dollar "overtime fee". Off times are early morning, the lunch hour midday and later in the evening...basically all day. Just have an extra dollar on you. I handed out a few spare dollars to people who had brought exact change. You can pay in baht, but you'll be charged more. Try to have as close to exact change as you can. They'll make change for you, but they don't like it.

The processing took another hour, which meant we had, as they say, missed the boat. This was a weekend and later morning, so it is likely faster other times, but from border to border, this whole process took two and a half hours. Be prepared for that. I was in touch with Shompoo's rep, Alex, who informed me that we could make it to the evening stop in Pakbeng on another boat and meet up with the Shompoo cruise the next morning. Through this whole ordeal, Alex was incredibly helpful and supportive. The local Laos reps for the Chiang Rai travel agency were also very helpful and sympathetic to our situation. They were very apologetic for the lateness of their driver and understanding that it was the company's fault for our missing our boat. I asked that the company pay for Rachel and I's slow boat tickets to Pakbeng (110,000 kip each) but the company's owner refused my request and to take responsibility for her driver's lateness, instead blaming our missed boat on Laos immigration. As it were, had we arrived on time, the queue would've been shorter and we would've made it through to meet our local Shompoo guide.

The local Laos rep, Lan, took incredible care of Rachel and I, though. We didn't have enough kip to pay for the public slow boat, so he took us in his car to an ATM, then drove us to the slow boat pier and helped us get our tickets. He is a wonderful man! If you're so inclined, please say a little blessing for Lan and his family. We also met a group of fun travelers on our (late) bus ride who we rode the slow boat with, spent a very fun evening with in Pakbeng and continue to see around Luang Prabang.

The public slow boat was an experience. Like many boats we had read about, the owner crams as many people in as possible. We had about 160 on our boat that day. It got quite hot and there was very little room to stretch and move about. The motor was very loud and where we were in the back of the boat would occasionally and inexplicably get splashes of mysterious water from overhead. The ride is so incredibly gorgeous, though. I'm officially obsessed with the Mekong.

Our overnight in Pakbeng was really fun, and I wish we could've spent a bit longer. Rachel and I split a pre-booked $28 USD room at Monesavanh Guest House, which was really lovely and highly recommended. It's run by a sweet family that also has a restaurant and bakery, and our morning cashew banana muffins and croissants were pretty spectacular. On the way to dinner in the evening we ran into friends from the boat and ended up in a colorful and wild restaurant whose proprietor lured us in dancing outside yelling, "BANANA WHISKEY!" We had a delicious first Laos dinner and a whole lot of laughs before enjoying hot showers and an early bedtime. Also, due to the remoteness of tiny Pakbeng, there is almost no light pollution and the most visibly starry sky I've ever seen.

In stark contrast to the public slow boat, the Shompoo cruise is deliriously, deliciously luxurious. It is $150 USD, which is about five times the cost of the public slow boat, but if you're going to splurge on any part of an otherwise budget conscious trip, do it here. We were among 19 people on the boat, we had tables with cushioned seats, lounge chairs and enough room in the back for me to roll out my mat and do yoga. There was also a deck at the front for sunning, reading or just taking in the breathtaking views. It was foggy chilly in the morning and they had blankets for as and all the coffee or tea you like. At lunchtime we were served an incredible traditional Laotian meal, and made interesting stops at Pak Ou Caves and a Laotian "whiskey village" where some impressive weaving was also taking place. It was an incredibly comfortable and relaxing day. When we arrived in Luang Prabang, porters brought our bags up the steep hillside stairs from the river and we were driven in a van to the door of our hostel. You get what you pay for, and this is a lovely experience worth every penny.

Summary of Lessons Learned:
-DO NOT BOOK ANYTHING WITH KOCHAPORN TRAVEL IN CHIANG RAI. They do very bad business. Take the local red bus. Don't pay over ten times as much for lateness and poor service.
-Either stay overnight in Chiang Khong to expedite the morning border crossing or go all the way into Huay Xai, the Laos border town, and stay at a hostel near the pier. The distance between Laos immigration and the pier is quite far and requires a tuk tuk ride. We didn't pay for that part, so I don't know how much it usually costs, but link up with other travelers to get a better deal.
-Get kip before you arrive at the pier. There isn't an ATM there and it's cash only. You can change out your currency at a window as you leave Thai immigration or get kip from an ATM at Laos immigration.
-If you do happen to try to make it from Chiang Rai in the morning, plan for the border crossing to take at least two hours.
-Have exact change for your Laos Visa on Arrival, and bring an extra dollar overtime fee for yourself or a friend if you happen to arrive during off hours or a weekend day.
-We read that the public slow boat leaves at 11:00am, but the boat we were on left at 12:30pm. I don't know if that was just a lucky happenstance but it seems that perhaps there's a later boat if you do get caught up at immigration.
-When you arrive in Pakbeng, there will be hostel owners hawking rooms at their places. We had heard that there aren't many options and to book in advance, which we did. If you don't, you'll have choices but if you like to be picky, screen and book ahead of time.
-Shompoo was a wonderful experience for quality but the local slow boat was, generally speaking, more fun for company. We did meet some well traveled folks with good advice on the Shompoo cruise, but the budget traveler crowd are the friends we continue to hang out with around Luang Prabang. I'm glad we got to experience both, but I'm also sad to have missed out on Day 1 with Shompoo. I would cruise all the bodies of water with them. If you need a gentle, calm travel experience, that's the way to go.
-It's also possible to take an overnight bus from Huay Xai to Luang Prabang. That's 12-14 hours on rough roads in an area not know for bus safety. Just take the slow boat. The Mekong, man. It's wildly beautiful.

Joyous times to you, intrepid Southeast Asia travelers! I hope this helps you understand how to get from Thailand to Laos over "Friendship Bridge No. 4."

xoxox

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Notes From The Road: BKK and CNX

Holy holy holy
Sa wat dee kha from Thailand, where, in a hilarious turn of events, we are having a nasty, wet cold snap. No part of the Asian continent has been spared; it's so cold in Shanghai that the water pipes have frozen. So much for skipping winter! Luckily my friend and travel partner, Rachel, had previously visited Thailand and warned me that it might be cooler in the north, where we now find ourselves shivering in the outdoor restaurants in which we were sweating a couple days ago. Still, I'm layered up and having the time of my life!

Thailand is beautiful and wild, rich with daily devotion in the form of big, ornate temples and tiny ancestral shrines which dot the streets outside businesses and sometimes stand alone, seemingly random yet well maintained. We began our journey in Bangkok, which possesses the manic magic of New York City but with far more interesting street life. Because Bangkok is so consistently warm, so much life is lived outside. We stayed in Chinatown, which is enormous and incredibly dense. Every alleyway leads into a winding vortex of things to buy; from
Street cat
unidentifiable, delicious foods, to innumerable plastic trinkets, to produce markets, to clothing stalls, you can find pretty much anything tucked away in a Chinatown back alley. The city is adorably overrun by stray cats, many of whom are so tiny and all of whom I want to bring home. We came across so many strange treasures, like the huge monitor lizards which live in the lake of a public park. They're so intimidatingly big and dinosaur-like, I can't comprehend how they're allowed to run free.

As much delight as I found in BKK, after a week it electrified my being to the point of short circuit. When we boarded the night train north to Chiang Mai, it was with relief for a drastic change of pace. The
Little dinosaur
night train was such a sweet, special experience all on its own. We opted for a 2nd class AC sleeper car, affording each of us our own shockingly comfortable bunk. Our tin can chariot lumbered and swayed through the cities growing smaller and into the lush green of the Thai countryside. Jungle opened into neatly domesticated farm land. Ban Pin. Mae Mo. Khun Tan. Occasionally we would groan to a creeping halt to pick up or drop off a lone traveler at a brightly decorated train station which seemed to have sprung directly from the earth amidst dense vegetation. I have a crush on you, Thailand.

We're now passing pleasurable time in calmer, more comfortable Chiang Mai. The turn of weather led to some much needed rest after dozens of miles of walking over a week and a half of travel. I feel a terrible sense of guilt staying in and taking naps when there is so much splendor left unseen. Yet there is no way to sustain the level of activity we've been averaging over the course of this lengthy journey. After the ecstasy, the laundry...which am close to needing to do. Life still requires maintenance. Ordinary things still need to happen, even in extraordinary places. In the flow of the strange and the new, the mundane can feel delicious, though.
Wild and untamed

And once again we're reminded that it's all a gift. Savor every flavor of experience.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Spiritual Fitness: NYC Edition

Exhibit A
People who are interested in beginning a practice in yoga often ask me for advice- how to get started, where to go? Yoga has been a part of my life for 17 years and the amount of yoga selfies I shamelessly take in all manner of places make it obvious that I'm a little bit smitten. I will certainly grow old with yoga and it will stand as the longest intimate relationship of my life. (The traditional 17th anniversary gift is furniture. Yoga and I are registered at Pottery Barn.)

Yoga serves different purposes in my life. It's a spiritual practice, for sure, but the classes I've been taking lately barely have so much as an OM. They are slower and full of rich, technical instruction. As I grow up in my practice, I'm far more interested in the Why behind the poses. I've become a big fan of good alignment and intelligent sequencing. Since my constitution also demands that I move vigorously, I take powerful, fast paced flow classes. The commonality in all my movement is that I pour my full attention into each breath with total devotion. This linking of breath to movement has been proven to very effectively combat PTSD, as well as anxiety and depression. For me, it has the added benefit of doing what yoga is designed by name to do: to yoke. It gives me a personal,
Exhibit B
visceral experience of my innate and unbreakable connection to The Divine. As I practice, I feel God operating in me and myself operating in God. Overtime, I have learned to take this off the mat and into my daily householder life.

The rise of corporate yoga has proven that God doesn't have to be anywhere near yoga; the practice space can be safe for those who don't desire to sing out to any gods or to the ones they don't recognize. From my perspective, chanting a mantra doesn't make you or yoga spiritual, though. It's the attitude and intent you bring to your practice. We don't have to be in a house of worship to worship. My body is the sacred space. In my practice, whether slow or fast, I honor the Breath behind my breath as I lovingly, mindfully move. 

If you're in New York City and wondering how to begin, or bring more depth and richness to, a spirit-filled life, I offer you a list of my favorite places to move, breathe and be.

Devotional Movement

Yoga to the People: Their foundational flow is basic and the classes are often too crowded to get attention, but it's good yoga and donation based- a good place to start that is also very affordable! I wouldn't recommend their hot yoga, as I'm no longer a hot yoga advocate, but I love their class offerings at YTTP2. If you're up for a challenge, Doorways to a Deeper Practice is dynamite.

Annie Piper is the boss
The Shala Yoga House: Shala is a teeny tiny Ashtanga-based studio in the basement of a Fort Greene apartment building. As unassuming as it appears, it offers up the most consistently good practice I’ve found in New York. Annie Piper’s classes in particular are not to be missed! Annie teaches a deeply grounded, slow, mindful class that is readily accessible to anyone and very healing. She is now offering a monthly, donation based meditation event called Breathe-In NYC (see the flyer on the left!). If you can't make an Annie class, everyone else at Shala is awesome! 

Abhaya Yoga: Another Brooklyn gem! I've enjoyed all the classes I've taken at Abhaya, but particularly appreciate Tara Glazier, the owner and founder. Bhava Friday is my favorite way to close a week. And if you're a yoga teacher or enthusiastic student, Tara's Wednesday afternoon Advanced Practice is amazing! Tara is very anatomy smart and I learn so much from her.

Sacred Sounds Yoga: At Sacred Sounds, it's all about Liz Mandarano. She teaches an open level class on Monday mornings, but her Tuesday 2/3 class gives me so much life...while also very quietly kicking my yoga butt. Liz is incredibly smart and talented, offering a class made challenging by how slow and mindful it is. "How am I sweating and shaking so much when we've barely done anything??" I find myself thinking every time.

Yoga Vida NYC: Saturday afternoon Deep Flow with Dominic Savino is my favorite weekend highlight. His playlists are always killer and his flow is indeed deep, but also fun, intelligent and sweaty. It's my favorite yoga party in town!

Yoga Shanti: Urban Zen is a really beautiful restorative class that helps me unwind so deeply that I have to sit for awhile before heading back out onto the street. If you're in the mood to move, I can't recommend Ally Bogard highly enough. Like the lady teachers above, Ally teaches a smart, mindful class that feels great. She also teaches at Twisted Trunk Yoga. Yoga stalk her! She's so good!!

**All these studios are on Classpass, with the exception of Yoga to the People.

Meditation and Contemplation

Dharma Punx NYC: You'll find the Dharma Punx meeting all over New York (and across the US), but the richest offering for me is on Monday nights at Maha Rose in Greenpoint with Josh Korda. The class begins with 30 minutes of seated, silent meditation, followed by a themed lecture that seamlessly blends Buddhist wisdom and neuroscience. Josh is a brilliant neuroscience researcher as well as a Buddhist teacher, and his bringing the two together grounds what might otherwise be considered hippie woowoo in scientific reality. Meditation changes your brain. Here's how! Dharma Punx is a non-judgmental, diverse, compassionate community and the classes give practical solutions for dealing with all manner of suffering. It's one of the most valuable things I do in New York and enriches my life immensely. It's also donation based, so accessible and affordable!

Spiritual Home and Community

Liberty Church NYC: Speaking of spiritual enrichment! Liberty is full of recovering Catholics like myself; people who love and believe in a New Testament God who is about compassion, not fire and brimstone. I'm not much of a church person, but Liberty is the real deal. The founders, Paul and Andi, are fully committed to bringing everyone who walks in the door not just to Jesus but into a loving community who will do life with them. Every Sunday is a vibrant, joyous Jesus party. I never knew worship in church to be such a lighthearted celebration. Aside from weekly services, there are seasonal small groups where you can explore your faith, or just be social, with kind, supportive hearts. I'm so grateful to have found Liberty and to do life with this beautiful family.

Have a very happy, spiritually fit 2016, ladies and gents!

xoxo

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Joy Of Missing Out

DTLA is cute even when it's grey
It's grey in LA and I'm holed up with one of my best and oldest friends listening to rainy day music and being creative. Prior to leaving New York a few weeks ago, I was experiencing terrible FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). New York doesn't care if you're there or not! New York is going to continue being a thrilling, interesting place. New York waits for no man. In all my lamenting about missing out, my friend Mary told me that I needed to have JOMO...the Joy Of Missing Out on winter in New York and everything unpleasant about being in the city that never stops yelling. After walking around LA in the sun without a jacket or boots, I'm happy to report that my FOMO has been replaced by JOMO. I love you, New York. See you in April!

Trans America
Returning to San Francisco was a strange experience. Several people warned me to expect the changes that have evolved the city so rapidly. SFO was my return ticket at the end of every trip for a long time, but it stopped feeling like home when I left in 2010. I could sense the turning tide. When I moved out, I was paying $825 for my studio. The rent then went up to $1200 and is now over $1700. It's a cool old building and a great apartment but it was then and remains a crack block in a spicy neighborhood. I had the sense that if I moved out I wouldn't be able to afford to return. I'm sad to be right, but the steep rent hikes are merely symptomatic of the larger cultural shifts that make San Francisco unappealing to me now. If I won the lottery I still wouldn't move back.

It's an odd sort of cognitive dissonance to know a place so intimately yet feel completely foreign there. When I emerge from the train station, my body knows exactly where to go. I can function entirely on autopilot. I walked through my old neighborhood the other day, the same years long well tread path, and it felt like deja vu, like a memory from a dream or another lifetime. Did this really happen?

In a way, it was another lifetime, though. Even being back in LA, which is a homey place for me, has me blinking with wonder at the woman I've become in the 18 months since I was last here. New York has been an intensely clarifying crucible that while harsh, has brought out the smartest, sharpest, savviest version of myself yet. It's taken a lot out of me and turned me into a coffee person, but in return it's trained up my hustle game to Olympic level excellence. I have surely set a world record for fastest reply to an email for a gig.

In a way I love the hustle. I've really enjoyed learning how capable I am at making money. If you have a strange or difficult relationship with money, move to New York. There are equally expensive cities, but it's also wildly competitive and will constantly demand, "How badly do you want to be here?" To survive in New York, you have to make friends with money, which means treating it with the same respect and care you would anything else that's dear to you. I track every outgoing dollar to make sure that its being thoughtfully spent. Money doesn't rule my life- I share generously and will turn down work in favor of fun- but I've made it a partner in doing cool and beautiful things in the world. We're as happy together as we've ever been.

That being said, I did decide to check out for four months. I'm experiencing great JOMO on refreshing my inbox every 30 seconds so I don't miss a good gig. I have enormous JOMO on the melting snowy sludge garbage piles of early spring, slipping on black ice or the feeling of thousands of tiny knives stabbing my exposed skin on particularly bitter days. There are nice things I miss, but I'm too drunk on sunshine and real Mexican food to be totally overtaken by this.

There's no way that we can be everywhere doing all the fun things all at once. By choosing one thing, this sometimes makes other choices unavailable for the moment or forever. We will always be missing out on something, but sometimes that something isn't what we would enjoy anyway. Put other times and places out of mind. I too often find myself lamenting what *isn't* rather than celebrating and appreciating what *is*. It's something I'm working on because gratitude feels better and makes every day so rich.

And let's be real: when you have the option to take a months long, exotic dream trip, gratitude is the only appropriate response. Please remind me of this if I complain at any point. Traveler's diarrhea and jet lag are a privilege.

(p.s. If you have intel on beautiful/delicious/fun/magical things and places in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia or Bali, I'm all ears. I'm usually a fastidious planner but this time am relying on whimsy and all your good ideas.)

xoxo

All in for the moment

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Flight Lessons for Land Mammals

The journey is the sacred place.
Last week I applied for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection's Global Entry program. The background check paperwork requested my addresses for the last five years, which amounted to eight homes in five cities and two states. This doesn't even factor in the couches, floors, hotel rooms, camp grounds, yoga studios, goddess dens, buses, trains and planes where I've lived life since commencing Project Wild Freedom.

When I started this blog five years ago, I initiated with a meditation on Letting Go. I had just moved out of my beloved San Francisco Tenderloin oasis, to date the longest I've held an address in the last 13 years. I wrote about a sense of mourning to be closing that happy, stable chapter and shedding so much physical history. It's unimaginable that I used to have so much stuff! When I moved out of that apartment, I got rid of half of what I owned. When I left LA a few years later, I got rid of everything else, save for a few boxes. When I moved to New York, the standards for what got kept became even harsher- "Is this worth shipping cross country?" The answer is usually no.

As I prepare to move once again, it's surprising to observe how skillful I've become at nonattachment. I've learned that it's not that you don't love things, it's just that you can love them from a distance without ever seeing them. Even after gutting my physical possessions so thoroughly, I'm still filling a box of giveaways. I know that the things I've loved will go to someone else and I will still love them, even if they live in a new home...and eventually I'll probably forget about them entirely. Perhaps all letting go is this way. You don't have to stop having love for someone, but you also don't ever have to see or talk to them...and eventually you may forget all about them. This is love without grasping, without any kind of need or agenda. It's love without attachment, and it's as pure as winter's first snow, which, with the way the weather has been, I may miss entirely this year.

Yes, it's true. I love you desperately, New York, but I'm in the unique position of having the time, freedom and money to travel. Thus, I'm making like a migratory bird and flying south for the winter. Project Wild Freedom has left me exceptionally well prepared for this kind of movement, training me how to live comfortably with the barest of roots. This is a revolutionary concept for someone so at home in routine. What's an earthy yet wild, gypsy hearted, bird lady to do?

First of all, your body is the only lifelong physical home you're guaranteed. Keep it clean and use it well. Chasing wild freedom sometimes means going it alone. This is much less lonely if you're friendly with your body and yourself. For those of us who have a strong physical experience of life, being deeply rooted within is the only viable way to sustain sanity and calm while living in uncertainty. It's made much harder to root within if you're being unkind to yourself. Eat clean. Drink plenty of water. Sleep amply. Take your vitamins. Push yourself just far enough. You can't run free if you're totally run down.

You can also establish normalcy in abnormal circumstances. My friend Regina has known me for a long time and thus has observed my years unchanged bedtime routine. She will undoubtedly poke fun at it (more) as we travel together in the upcoming season, but it's an anchor. No matter where I am, I know how to take off my eye makeup, floss and brush my teeth, and wash my face. Regardless of how grueling or disoriently strange the day has been, I can come back to this and be at home in the routine in the moment. Be comforted by the simple, ordinary things you can do in extraordinary places.

When all else fails, make a little nest when ever you land someplace new. For all my talk of nonattachment, there is still a collection of items I have labeled on my packing list as "Precious Necessities." These are dear things to me which assist in a feeling of home wherever I go. If I lose my inner stability and grounding, these are the breadcrumbs to lead me back. The perfect tone of my singing bowl, the floral burn of rose incense, the smooth touch of my grandfather's rosary beads between fingertips. Home home home.

It's contrary to my basic nature to live as I've come to live, but the new thing being born of me demands my evolution. On the first day of my last major trip, after a night of dinner and gallivanting, I sat alone in my friends' London kitchen and wrote that it was so important to walk foreign streets and sit writing in foreign kitchens. But why? There are many benefits of travel but it's not a necessity. There is much to learn being still in the same place. I've mined great wisdom from my own depths sitting on the floor of my childhood bedroom.

And yet! I know that if I don't sit writing in as many foreign kitchens as possible, my life will not fulfill its purpose. It feels too terribly important. The call of the wild is too clear and alluring. So even though we don't understand it, even though it frightens us, we fly anyway. We radically redefine what is truly valuable and necessary. We release the rest, and love and forget it from afar. We develop techniques to support our nature as it evolves. We connect to other weird, wild, wonderful hearts who understand the importance of sitting writing in foreign kitchens.

We stop worrying about being abnormal and what it may mean and oh gosh!

This path is a gift. Even if you're shaking, walk it anyway.

Let go let go go on.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Echo


Thoughts of him are hardly present anymore in my waking life, but last night he crept into my dream life again after awhile away. I awoke thinking about the way we allocate our attention. In yoga, we say that energy flows where attention goes, but what happens when that energy arrives where it's going? How is it received?

For years I payed an enormous amount of attention to him and he had very little to offer in return. He didn't see my attention as a gift, or an invitation to deeper intimacy. Or perhaps he did. I don't really know. In any case, however he perceived what I offered, what was returned didn't match. I wanted to pour an ocean of love into him and he didn't want to get his hair wet. I battled him at this impasse, playing out an old story that if I just said the right thing and was very good, that I would finally be paid the sort of attention for which I longed.

It didn't work.

He became increasingly uncomfortable. I felt wrecked every time he refused me. It was a nightmare of my own making, born of my stubborn desire to get what I needed in an unskillful fashion. It's never wrong to have a need, but how we go about trying to get that need met matters. Some people are not the right people to ask. They already know that they can't help you. and will show you this if you're willing to see. Be willing. Believe them the first time.

Three things happened in my decision to move to New York:

First, I dreamt that I received an address in the Upper West Side and was told that's where I belonged.

Second, I visited for the millionth time and for the first time ever felt that this is a place I need to be.

Third, the small bit of attention I paid to making life happen here was paid back quickly and generously. New York answered my call with a resounding Yes. It wanted me and even if I wasn't totally sure that I wanted it, I bought a one way ticket and went all in.

When I think about what I could've accomplished with all the unreciprocated energy I sent him, I feel a profound sense of loss. I can never get that time back. However, from here on out, I can become very sensitive to the way my energy is received and adjust my behavior accordingly.

If you call out and nothing echoes back, stop calling. The currency of your attention is valuable. Only pay it to those who see this, and who are willing and able to offer just as much. Pour your ocean of love into an open container, and be prepared to receive. You are worthy of having others invest their time, attention and love in you. Anyone worth investing in will respond to your payment with just as much generosity. Never accept less.

What are you investing in?

Wisely choose how you spend the valuable currency of your attention.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Leviticus Also Prohibits Bacon, Sooo...

In honor of today's SCOTUS decision and to satisfy my own curiosity, I spent my evening doing a thorough reading of Leviticus, a very small section of which is oft quoted in relation to the status of the souls of gay people. I have much to say on this, but these are my initial thoughts:

-In Leviticus 18:22, God does indeed decree "Do not have sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman." In Leviticus, God also decrees many other things...

- The first 10 chapters are dedicated almost exclusively to how one properly goes about being pardoned of sins, which involves the sacrifice of various types of animals, their blood being sprinkled in various places, and their organs/fat being burned on the altar. Definitely not a practice in the modern church.

-You're also not supposed to eat pig, or anything from the sea/streams that doesn't have fins and scales (so no shrimp, prawns, shellfish). Definitely not a practice in many modern churches.

-In chapter 13, God decrees that if you have a rash or lesions, that you have to go to the priest and he'll decide if it is a "defiling skin disease" and whether or not you're clean or unclean. Definitely not a practice in the modern church. But the priest's duties don't stop there!

- Later in chapter 13, the priest is also tasked with evaluating the cleanliness or uncleanliness of any fabric that may be moldy. And in chapter 14, you're asked to call the priest in if you happen to find mold in your home. Definitely not a practice in the modern church.

-My personal favorite, though, is the assertion in chapter 15 that a woman is unclean during her monthly period, so much so that anything she touches, or anything that touches her becomes unclean as well. To atone for this, us ladies are called to sacrifice two doves or two young pigeons as sin and burnt offerings. Definitely not a practice in the modern church.

-Chapter 18 asks us not to wear clothing woven of two different types of material, eat any meat with the blood still in it, get tattoos, pervert justice, spread slander, do anything that would endanger your neighbor's life, steal, seek revenge or hold a grudge.

-Chapter 18 DOES ask us not to mistreat foreigners, but to treat them as native-born people and to love them as ourselves, something so many so called "Christians" have trouble wrapping their minds around when speaking about immigration.

-But then chapter 25 gives the go ahead to buy slaves so long as they're from neighboring nations, "or temporary residents living among you and members of their clan born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life." So that's weird.

While the Bible does have a few, possibly contextually misleading assertions that homosexual *sex* is wrong, what it never condemns is BEING gay, and it certainly never supports shaming or otherwise harming someone because of their sexuality. Leviticus is an absolutely bizarre list of rules, many of which read like the public health code of a people who had no understanding of science and medicine. Using this text to justify violence or discrimination against gay people is ignorant as hell, and is the real sin.

You know what Jesus never mentioned? Anything about homosexuality. In all His teachings it never came up. Not once. What He did command is that we LOVE our God with all our hearts and LOVE our neighbor as ourselves. He said that there is no commandment greater than these.

LOVE.
We're called to LOVE.