Showing posts from 2014

Commitment, or, The Sisterhood of the Nonexistent Pants

Growing things used to be a mechanism much like breathing. Maybe because I grew up with my hands in the dirt, eating all the strawberries as they ripened. Maybe because I'm a woman and it's our biological inclination. Whatever the case, all this changed as I barreled into gypsy life just before Thanksgiving four years ago. In my very first blog entry, the 26-year-old version of myself mused that "our reality often unfolds in ways we never would've imagined" and blessed be, how naively wise she was in that assessment.

In the intervening months and years, I have suffered mightily in my desire for things to be other than the way they are. Of course hindsight is 20/20, and I encourage the weathered, wizened version of myself to be kind to the woman who struggled through so much illusion to come into this current clarity. Deep in her discomfort, she rushed to "get it" and move forward, sensing the mystery of the journey, but taking well over a year to under…

Choose Ease

New York City is not known for being easy. It is known for being intense, fast paced, loud, crowded, dirty, culturally rich, diverse, beautiful, the best city in the world...but easy? Oh no.

Yet here in the mecca of highly productive, famously neurotic millions, something very slow and gentle is happening to my whole being. My anxious and neurotic mind has begun to still and clear. My control mechanism, forever tightly wound, has begun to relax. Where I used to see only one possible path, I am beginning to actively recognize the endlessly creative array of ways in which life can happen. My summer goal was to learn how to have fun again, and as we tiptoe into autumn, I feel the cumulative effect that a season of playfulness has rendered: so much lightness, so much ease.

Summer wasn't entirely joyful, though. True to form, New York put me through the hazing that seems typical for all new recruits. When I got the keys to my apartment after sweating through an insane handful of weeks …

The Worth of Your Sex

Prostitution has always baffled me. It's not a question of morals. As my friend Darrin once said, "Giiiiirl, you gotta get it any way you can!" No judgement here.

What's confusing for me is how it's possible to put a value on sexual contact. It is something I consider to be priceless and (potentially) sacred. It is also something that I consider to be less valuable than other things like loyalty and honesty. Sex is powerful and can be a wonderful exchange of energy, but aren't we worth more than that? Aren't we worth more than our sex?

As you may know, I recently relocated to New York City and have been stumbling about like a giddy, newborn fawn trying to find my feet. In an effort to plant myself in a quiet place for a moment, I threw an ad up on Craigslist offering my services as a house and pet sitter. Although I should have expected this, I got a surprisingly large amount of dubious replies from men offering me lodging in their home in exchange for my…

SurThriving New York

New York City is the most electric place I've ever been. A month ago I plugged into the grid with all the other millions upon millions that call this place home and it lit me UP. I was so immediately electrified that I buzzed hard for about 10 days, fast talking, fast walking, fast living. So. Damn. Alive.

...until I blew a circuit, unaccustomed as I am to running such a high voltage through my heart and nerves. During my subsequent recovery, I began to grasp at a more subtle understanding of the current that moves this place and its people. Every time I stepped out of the house and into the flow, I could feel the urgent pull to move at lightening speed even if I wasn't in a hurry. It's a compelling force. I find it's giving my body and mind immense power and a sharp clarity that I've never experienced anywhere else at any other time in my life. Something different is happening here.

My friends and I declared 2014 "The Year of the Upgrade" and my move to…

Dirty Summer

The air is wet like breathing underwater, as pregnant and expectant as a new mother long overdue. I never knew water to be so heavy yet so immune to gravity's pull. How can it hang so still there in the air? The tension reaches a climax as window panes tremor with the low rumble of war drums, lightening splits the sky, and rain spills out hot and thick until you are drenched through.

This is my tropical urban jungle, everything sticky and sticking to everything else. Sticky, warm, bare skin sticking to plastic subway seats. Sticky, damp clothing sticking to skin. The riot of sights and smells and sounds sticking and sinking deep into my subconscious, playing back in the late night/early morning when we finally dance home after having all the fun. This is my paradise and I am home.

The shaman of our over sized village is covered in tattoos, only his faced spared the bore of needle and ink. He leads us deep into meditation, reminding us that we ride the wave of our breath even in t…

All In

In the spirit of radical honesty and transparency, I have a confession: I have been making fear-based decisions. For the sake of time, I'll avoid avoiding what I've been avoiding and tell you straight up that I've been avoiding vulnerability. While it's been healthy and helpful to be single and celibate, and I really am happy alone, this is not the whole story. I had the chance to be in the presence of my teacher in LA recently and he gave a talk on receiving what we've worked for in which he said, "Your desires will be ridiculous as long as you believe you can't fulfill them." While I have been going through the motions of romantic relating for years, claiming that what I wanted was real, lasting love, my actions spoke otherwise. There has been a part of me which does not believe in the viability of this desire; indeed, not only is it impossible but it is unsafe. The inner, subconscious script goes something like, "No one will ever love me like…

Happy. Alone.

There is a strength, steadiness and comfort in aloneness that you cannot know until you are immersed in it. From the outside, all anyone sees is a tree standing naked on its own in the middle of the field. In their perception, this is a vulnerable, weak position. They don't see the roots reaching deep into an intimate connectedness with the earth. They don't feel the solidness at the core of the ancient, sturdy trunk. They don't know how full and satisfying it feels to be empty.

If I ever marry, I want the world to exclaim, "My goodness, what a man it must've been to finally tame such a wild heart!" Women of a certain age are far too often painted as tragic things that are saved from ruin when some savior man rescues them from a lifetime of destitute spinsterhood. Apparently some people are living in a Jane Austin novel in their minds. Women are supposed to aspire to marriage and family above all else, so of course if one has not achieved that or is not on t…

The Weekly Tithe: It's Fun to Stay at the YMCA!

This week in The Weekly Tithe, I give a big shout out to the summer camp that raised me.

YMCA Camp Loma Mar
One of the ideas behind tithing is to give back to an organization which helped to form your faith. While I have passed through countless houses of worship in my life, few affected me as deeply as the sacred, magic woods of YMCA Camp Loma Mar. The YMCA has become largely secular over the years, but every morning we would bundle up against the coastal fog of the Santa Cruz Mountains and troop to the outdoor chapel for Inspiration. I've never been much of a morning person, but raucous, joyful clapping and signing about Noah and the ark, and feeling happy, healthy and terrific was an always enjoyable start the day.

When I was older, I took on the challenge of participating in the Ragger Program, which played a huge part in forming the woman I would become. The story goes that in 1914 the Program Director of Loma Mar, Thomas "King" Caldwell, was faced with a dilemma: at…

The Weekly Tithe: Space and Freedom Behind Bars

This week in The Weekly Tithe, we celebrate the practice of mindfulness in the least likely of places: prison.

Prison Yoga Project
I first learned about PYP in December 2011 while seeking to expand public perception about what yoga is, who it belongs to and what it looks like. I had seen the incredible documentary, The Dhamma Brothers, a couple of years earlier and was aware of the application of alternative healing methods within the prison system but had yet to learn how widespread or effective yoga had become in this context. The project was started by James Fox, who began bringing yoga to at-risk populations when he received his certification in 2000. Some struggle to understand why prisoners should be taught yoga, something that's come to be considered a luxury. I will share PYP's statement on this, which was offered on their Facebook page today:

"Some people can’t understand why we teach yoga in prison. “Why cut a prisoner any slack at all? They’re getting what they …

Uncommon Woman

For any woman who’s ever been told she’s too much: You, who broke out of the mold before they even cracked it off you.  You, who came out inventing your own how-to-scale-a-wall with only vowels.  You, who fireflash in the eye of so many midnights, so many men who want to taste your hem,  who dream of being desired by an Uncommon Woman, if only because their dressers are empty of anything but brand name cologne and predictable portrait.  Let them call you different.  Let them bait the minnows of you heart.  Show them your heart is a school of fish, a solar system of all moons.  When asked, say, "My heart is always causing the mating season."  When they call you full of yourself, say, “Yes.”  Breathe in their scorn and breathe out Atlantis.  Let them come with their saw blade smiles.  Let them come with their saw blade hands. Let them come to see if you slice small enough to replace their handkerchiefs,  the ones they’ll loan to who they’ll call easier girls.  Let them choose…

The Weekly Tithe: Growing Community, and my charity:water birthday

Oy ve, so much for weekly. I've had a whole lot of life happening lately and haven't been grounded for long enough to keep up on regular writing. This week we return to The Weekly Tithe with a profile on Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project.

My amazing friend Kelly started Acta Non Verba (ANV) in response to the gaping inequalities present in East Oakland in the areas of access to nutritious food, health education and extra-curricular activities for children and teens in the area. ANV uses the garden as a classroom to not only teach kids about where their food comes from, how to grow it and prepare it healthfully, but also leadership skills and community building. My favorite part of the program, though, is the seed fund. The garden sells fresh produce to the community, which is considered a "food desert," and puts the proceeds into college funds for the kids and teens in the program. This supports and encourages young people to aim not only to graduate from high…

One Breath at a Time

He went to rehab this morning for the fourth time...or maybe it's the fifth. My memory doesn't serve me particularly well normally and this is something I'm keen to let fade. I've been running for two weeks, living out of a tightly packed bag, moving about the world in search of the path of joy. I touched back down just in time to say a sad, strained good bye.

The first time they go to rehab, you will be bursting at the seams with equal parts wild hope and anxiety. You will visit the first weekend they're allowed guests, attend the afternoon AA meeting with them and take a walk around the property, talking idly about nothing. You will be proud of them and afraid for them. When they leave early, disappear and relapse, it will feel like the entire world is collapsing on your chest. You were warned that this might happen but that did nothing to prepare you.

The second time they go to rehab, your optimism will become cautious and jadedness will creep in quietly. You wi…

No Sex in the City

The last time I took a new lover I spent a few months learning about him and carefully considering his candidacy before shifting the relationship tone. This was a new thing for me. Sex with strangers is not a normal occurrence but jumping right into a sexual relationship with someone I already know has been. I used to say that all my sex was surprising because I never thought about it ahead of time. It would just...happen! Whoops! This area of unconsciousness began to stick out like a sore thumb in my normal life of thoughtful reflection and self-examination. I recognized within myself the tendency to only act in the interests of my short term self in the arena of sexuality, living from the groin on instinct, and how this short term thinking was negatively affecting my head and heart.
So I made an earnest attempt to properly vet my next potential partner. I asked him big questions, met his friends and family, and spent neutral alone time with him. I waited, yes, in this I was successf…

Fire Sale

Every time someone publicly dies of a drug overdose now, two things happen for me. First, my heart tears in two and I feel sick to my stomach. Next, comes the flood of relief and the selfish thought, "Thank God it wasn't anyone I know this time."

A very dear friend of mine is a brilliant, creative musician. In line with the terrible stereotype, he also has a very serious drug problem. Today my friend sold his guitar, the center of his musical life and heart, to a stranger on Craigslist. Were he not an addict and had this not happened before, I would've believed him when he told me that he just wanted to buy a new one. I asked him once, in a moment of clarity, how much money he'd squandered on drugs in all his many years of using. He told me that it was probably somewhere in the neighborhood of $100,000.

I wonder how much time and money and health and brilliance has to be wasted before he returns to the land of the living.

I wonder how many times he has to almost …

The Weekly Tithe: Sacred Sleep, Yogic Renewal and Harnessing the Nepalese Sun

True to form, the faithfulness of my tithing (and let's be honest, my sheer awesomeness) led to an uptick of work over the last two weeks. What can I say? People like to have me around and sometimes I even get paid for it. Mo' money means mo' to give, so this week's tithe was split between three projects which spoke to my heart. Sleep, yoga and light- all personally important to and well loved by me. Please learn a bit about these awesome projects and consider giving what you can. Give good, do good, feel good!

The Gubbio Project
In my early 20s I decided that it was important for me to live alone but the only place I could afford to do that was in San Francisco's infamous Tenderloin. The Tenderloin is a tiny neighborhood known for its abnormally, disproportionately high amount of bars and liquor stores, pimps and hos, dealers and addicts, and public urination. It is also the home for people who contend with sometimes lengthy periods of homelessness. While San Franc…

A Case For Tithing: Making Something Beautiful

Growing up in Catholic church, I never heard the word "tithe." The wicker collection basket would weave its way around the pews every Sunday, and my brother and I would fight over who got to put the money in, but I had no idea what we were doing. It wasn't until my adult life when I made a friend who grew up very Christian in the Midwest that I became aware of the practice of tithing, but it bore a very negative connotation. In her church, the pastor made tithing mandatory for anyone who worked, including young people, and would demand their checks to ensure they were giving the church their proper share. I've never liked being told what to do and this disturbed me deeply.

For those unfamiliar, a tithe is one-tenth of something, paid to either a religious organization or a government. Tithing is an ancient practice present in slightly varied forms in Judaism (ma'aser kesafim), Christianity (tithe) and Islam (zakat). While the details vary, the basic premise is t…

The Easy Way Out, Over, Under, Around

As a noun, a bypass is a road that passes around, rather than through, a city. You can also receive a coronary bypass, wherein a vein or an artery from elsewhere in your body is grafted to your heart to create an open channel for blood flow when one of your coronary arteries becomes blocked. As a verb, to bypass describes personal behavioral decisions: go past or around, avoid, evade, dodge, escape, elude, sidestep, shortcut. Choosing to circumnavigate something rather than go straight through the center of it can be pragmatic (i.e. The Fire Swamp with its quick sand and R.O.U.S.). It can also indicate fearful avoidance. Are you being intelligent or cowardly? Thoughtful or weak? What motivation lies beneath your course of action?

There are places we may never want to go, towns to which we may never want to return. We would drive 100 miles out of our way to avoid catching so much as a glimpse of the skyline. No matter how far, deep and wild our travels may be, these places follow us l…