New Adventures

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Viktor-Frankl-quote change and freedom

Last year, I had a coworker who wrote on a white board all the names of his coworkers and what spirit animal he thought they may have with them. He assigned me the Mojave Green, which I had found a bit offensive at the time because I don’t think of myself as a venomous snake! He explained to me that he thinks of Mojave Greens as powerful (able to change a life with a single bite or a slither) and he thought of me as synonymous because snakes shed many skins over the course of a lifetime. He explained that he had met it as a compliment because I was a creature to be revered and whom could adapt to change by shedding skins. Lately, I’ve been thinking about his words. You see, when I last posted a blog post, I had written about going to Panama. These days, I do not spend my time in Panama, but the territory is probably as foreign. I have left behind my past lives in customer service, education, behavioral science, and wellness and now work in the aerospace industry. While the budget and jargon in each field is completely different from the next, the concept is the same: build good relationships with others and things begin to fall into place. My job has only changed on the surface. Titles mean nothing and dreams continue to mean everything. My path is written in sand, not stone. I await the next wind to sweep me up and  take me somewhere new as I take in and enjoy the path it has now left me on. Soon, the winds will pick up once more.

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Perceptions of Pain and Perfection and Perhaps Panama

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Perception is everything.

I perceived Sunday to be the perfect day: I awoke and spent time with my boyfriend. I downloaded an audio book, an English translation of Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning and listened to it as I drove. I taught yoga. I went to the crowded grocery market and returned home where I cooked dinner, ate and spent some time on the piano. I showered, did some yoga and went to bed. That was a perfect day. Unextraordinary but remarkably enjoyable right down to finding the parking spot at the in the parking lot at the market, a feat in itself at the location I where I was shopping.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, but I did not perceive things to go perfectly because my mind was back to being anxious. Winter break ended and I started back at my various part time jobs. I awoke and did my yoga. I laid down and listened to the rain. It was easy to meditate yesterday because we had the rare and precious sights and sounds of rain: a sound bath. I know I need to work on meditating under all conditions (I picture Thich Quang Duc’s 1963 self-immolation protest…The man meditated while being burned alive!), but the practice is yet new to me.  I went for a run, ate breakfast, dressed and went to work at one of my jobs after making a phone call and email for another job. At some point in the day, I was speaking with a young red head I had just met at work. We spoke of work and then my gaze drifted to the window and we spoke about how much as desert natives, we enjoyed the rain. She mentioned that she once studied abroad in Spain and the people never understood why she enjoyed the rain and snow there so much. We went back to our seats where I checked my email. I had gotten a reply with bad news from the job I had emailed in the morning. It’s the first day of the spring semester at the university and they had not gotten me any interns to supervise because all of the interns this quarter had chosen to study instruction of students with mild/moderate disabilities rather than my specialty: moderate/ severe disabilities. I reacted by going straight to the websites I frequently peruse and immediately found a job to apply for in Panama. When I got home, I got another unwelcome message from a different job and I set out to obtain this job in Panama. I applied for it and got a confirmation this morning that the agency had received my application.

I reacted emotionally. I was told the university needed someone with my expertise several months back. I had put so much time and other offers aside for this job at the university that I knew wouldn’t pay much because I wanted to use my knowledge and skill base. I had jumped through so many hoops and online seminars for them unpaid and now they give me a quarter with no students and no pay.

A few weeks ago, one of the ladies whose organization I teach yoga for started coaching me through the process of starting a non-profit, but I feel like my ideas are going nowhere. Nothing seems good enough yet. Maybe I need a break from working on something that kept me going for weeks.

I feel like I’ve met so much failure lately and want to do something completely different. I feel like there is no room for growth around here: only stagnation and more of the same.

Tomorrow is my mom’s next appointment. It’s been a while since she’s asked me to go with her. Tomorrow I am supposed to go with her to see the doctor so that I can help her ask for a new nurse. Her current one has a talent for bruising her : the bruises are ginormous. I welcome spending the day with my mom at the doctor because it’s one of the only ways to see her any more. She has dedicated herself to working as much as she can in hopes of making enough to retire within a few years. I haven’t told her about my day yesterday and how I reacted by applying for a job in Panama where I would be so very far from everyone and everything I love and know if I got the job.

I told my boyfriend about it. He is always so calm. “You’ll figure things out,” he simply says reassuringly, no hint of anxiety in his voice. Maybe yesterday WAS a perfect day after all.

 

Gratitude, Nostalgia and Well Wishes

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Hope all of you enjoyed Christmas (or whatever holiday/ vacation you may have gotten) as much as I did! I went caroling for the first time. I saw Santa’s reindeer…

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…Including Rudolph. (Doesn’t this ride give new meaning to the song Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”? This was what Santa showed up in this year at the equine therapy center Christmas party.

IMG_3421I enjoyed pretending to be Martha Stewart placing poinsettia on wine bottle and creating a giant bow for this popcorn tin. Gift wrapping is not my forte but I love to decorate the gifts because it hides any possible wrinkles in the wrapping paper when I wrap and place bows and other decor on. IMG_3419

I had the great fortune of being invited to go on a camping trip for a few days with some friends. Here’s the view from my tent.

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IMG_3493My friends whom invited me came very prepared with their RV stocked with all kinds of goodies including this lobster.

Here’s a panoramic of the lovely beach we stayed by:IMG_3530 (1)

I thoroughly enjoyed my Christmas and hope you did too!

I then had the honor of celebrating my boyfriend’s 30th birthday with him. Here’s what he chose to eat for his birthday  dinner:

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He had the four asada tacos. The asada fries and elote were mine. We went rollerblading afterwards.

I invited a few local people to spend the New Year hiking with me as I did not feel like driving. I was bummed and starting to thinking no one was going to show because they were all hung over from New Year’s Eve festivities when my boyfriend pulled up. We went to see the first sunset and moon rise of the new year together. We hiked about two or three miles up a mountain….

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I had to stop to photograph these:

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Here is my darling waiting for patiently and holding my sweater for me while I shot my photos:

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We came upon a few people up there including the mother and daughter with their family dog in the distant background and  this novelist who said he hiked up to this point  from another trail, another city almost every day  to contemplate life and work on his writing. He said that it was a miracle that we were looking down over 3 million people and there were just the three of us up there enjoying the New Year at that exact moment.

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Here are the last rays of the sun of the New Year:

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May your New Year be filled with much peace, prosperity, health and happiness!

Life’s Meaning and Horses

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uncertainty elizabeth gilbert

Every time the universe tosses my life path into uncertainty, something interesting happens. There’s so much anxiety about uncertainty, yet if one thinks about it, every uncertainty is an opportunity for rebirth knocking on the door and one must decide whether or not to answer it.

In my own life, I would say it began with Kodak’s acquisition of Bell & Howell where my father had worked for over a decade. He was laid off and unable to find work for almost two years. As a child, I did not know the implications of work and money. When I was in third grade, my parents opened a restaurant in my hometown which they ran for ten years until their divorce when I was about 19 years old.

During the uncertain times of their new divorce, I eloped. I had always expected my parents to divorce my entire life and had always promised myself that I would not choose between their two house if it ever happened. I believe the short-lived fantasy romance I had must surely have been some form of escape because I was truly blinded by first love. (Ironically, I have now been divorced for 9 years now and have lived at both of their houses to pay off student loans. It’s still a struggle to pay off the student loans which makes me realize maybe school is not the way to go for me. No amount of additional degrees will increase my level of income by much more and I certainly cannot afford to go to school just for fun.) The next life transition came when I left my ex-husband for the first time: I got my second teaching scholarship and thought, “Now I have to finish this degree. Surely, this means teaching is the right track for me.” I have been to so many places since then!

After a week straight of substitute teaching last week, I found myself without work for several days. At first, I was ungrateful for my spare time outside of work. You may recall that I used to find most of my fulfillment from work. It’s something I’ve struggled with quite a lot over the course of my career: over dedication to work. Every time I become overly dedicated to work, the universe reminds me of how unimportant work truly is and how little power one truly has…. It doesn’t matter how many programs I create for the kids because I’m not wanted at any of the schools at which I’ve worked. I have not mastered the politics despite politics being a part of every environment.

horse direction

I’ve been following a vlog at amandaoutside.com for some time now. In one of Amanda’s most recent vlog postings, she describes her life: three days of work and then off to the outdoors backpacking for several days. I thought to myself, “That happy person could be me… ” I have an ex-boyfriend who lived that lifestyle for years and climbed at least a thousand mountain peaks (his ego counted the exact number). And I recalled all of the beautiful photos I used to photograph each non-work day before my teaching days years ago when I substituted.

Last week, I opened my heart to adventure again. In that space, the most interesting place I discovered is a local equine therapy place for which I am so grateful! I had the pleasure of volunteering there from 1:30 to 5:30 pm on Friday and from 8:30 to 11:30 am on Saturday! I was reunited with a former student of mine whose mother recounted how her daughter cried for days when I did not end up continuing at the school. She is now in high school and was thrilled to see me and I was thrilled to see her. She is the horsewoman I hope to become one day! The place has been here for 19 years and I’ve never had the time to go check it out until now! They provide horse riding lessons to people with disabilities as well as art therapy. It is a very happy place and the skills and confidence the students have developed are just amazing! Everyone (people and horses) there has been super friendly, helpful, patient and loving! The owner of the non-profit ranch taught for 15 years before opening up this place. I can see and have been told that she has physical handicaps and illnesses herself and yet she continues to run the place with the help of volunteers, which I find truly inspiring!

In almost every place I’ve lived, I’ve developed a special relationship with the horses, so I’m very excited about this new opportunity to learn about hippotherapy so close to my home. I’ve been looking at a lot of non-profits and this one is truly one of the most well-run and happiest. The art therapist there has worked at multiple hippotherapy locations across the country and has informed me that this is the case from her observations too: this is a place where it’s not about the money nor required service hours of locals because the people and horses really bond. This weekend, Santa (the owner’s brother) is making his annual visit. I have been told that year, he comes in a unique mode of transportation; VW bug, Clydesdales, Sheriff’s car, convertible, etc.  I look forward to volunteering this weekend and seeing the joy on the kids’ faces as they are greeted by Santa.

Life happens for me, not to me. I am so grateful for my mother’s health, her new business, all of the new opportunities with which I’ve been blessed and the support of my wonderful boyfriend. I am grateful for each ray of sunlight and each precious breath I am provided on this beautiful earth.

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Written 4 Months Ago

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Last Saturday morning, my yoga teacher wrote an excited email notifying her students that we would have a guest who she called an angel who helps her through her troubles and can see her soul. In my mind, I pictured a white bearded sage.

We were surprised to see a humble, handsome young man with beautiful tan skin, broad shoulders and calm smiling eyes wearing a gray t-shirt walk in. She invited him to speak to us and young Prince Siddhartha seated upon a yoga mat and yoga bolster, explained that he had been raised in privileged background and had felt much guilt for the discontent he hid under his skin. Unlike Prince Siddhartha, he did not cast away his materials and wander the streets for the answers to relieve humanity from pain and suffering. Instead, he studied Finance at Harvard and lived a very driven life and then studied Spiritual Psychology, reading every work he could get his hands on to figure out what he thought the cause of suffering could be.

He used stories to tell us about things he had learned. He had learned that the constant business deals and emails really didn’t matter. Most of the time, people welcome real connection even when they seem like they are in a hurry. He learned that as much as he tried, he could not always be present because ideals and reality do not line up and he could accept that. He learned that his unconditional love for others stemmed from his belief that we are all connected, not separate and that things are as they are…

When asked whether he believed whether each individual has his/ her own dharma, he replied, “Where does the tree begin and end? When I ask my son to draw a tree, he draws a trunk and leaves, but what about the roots, the sky, earth…? If we see ourselves, as separate from the world, we will hold our responsibilities separate. If we see ourselves as one, we are living our responsibility.”

I keep thinking back to those words now. I chose to work in Education because I saw myself as the branches and the trunk. I never saw the sky, earth and roots before. I want so much to learn to love myself as I love the sky, earth, roots and all with which my roots are entwined.

Copper doesn’t know it’s copper

until it’s changed to gold.

Your loving doesn’t know its majesty

until it knows its helplessness.

-Rumi

 

 

 

 

Inertia and Momentum

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Someone I care about had me read a copy of Steve Job’s inspiring Stanford University commencement speech. In one part of the speech, Jobs describes being rejected from Apple and spending the next 5 years using his creativity to establish NEXT (which was later purchased by Apple) and Pixar. For some reason, after reading this article, I feel pressured to be as creative as the famous Steve Jobs. I know that is funny! I feel rejected and see it as an opportunity for creativity but create what, I know not what yet. So far, I have made a little progress on a Special Needs Support Group (found a partner to help me with this and we’re meeting in a week!), a Adapted Family Yoga Class (discussing how to move this forward with the city on Tuesday) and a yoga class for former and current foster girls (started last weekend!). If anything, I am learning that one doesn’t have to have a good paying career to be valued, though I do hope to get paid better eventually down the road before my savings runs out.  I think I want to create something for travel accessibility for people who do not have good access to travel or just take a job overseas in about a year. Who knows? We’ll see where the road leads! The greatest thing about being unemployed is the lack of routine means I get to see more of a diversity of things so that I never know who I will meet or what will happen because having the same routine daily means being in rut where you see the same people and places daily. Sometimes, it does it get a little lonely when everyone I love is at work during the day. Overall, life is treating me well! Living the good life and hoping you are too! Namaste!

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In Their Shoes

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I read the other day that the refugees from Syria and thereabouts living in camps along the European borders live with only the limited food and water provided to them through charity. They often live in the camps for 10-12 months at a time without knowing where they will end up the next day. Will they be sent back to their country of origin? Will they be accepted to a country where they will have the means to seek and sustain employment and feed their families? Months of waiting for answers and assistance from more fortunate countries go by and they wait with uncertainty. I cannot imagine the anxiety of having to live through months worth of anxiety about such an important life or death transition when everyday uncertainties that are not life or death occasionally keep me up at night.

A Memorable Summer

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IMG_2127-EFFECTS.jpgFor the past few summer months, I have enjoyed unofficial beachfront yoga retreats every weekend. How? I signed up for a yoga teacher training (viniyoga) about an hour away from my house. During the first two weekends, several classmates found out I live an hour away and invited me to stay over at their homes every weekend of the training! It is such a kind gesture that I will never be able to repay as there is no way I could ever afford to live in the area they live in on their lovely luxurious beachfront properties. One classmate told me I could nap at her place if I needed to before my drive home on Saturdays. Two classmates invited me to stay at their homes with their families instead of driving back on Saturday evenings. One classmate has cooked dinner and breakfast for me and often brings us food from her organic garden. Every weekend, someone in class is sharing something or other with such generosity. So, because of the kindness and hospitality of strangers, I have been able to enjoy many weekends of relaxing yoga retreats away from the sweltering desert at home. I wrote of my gratitude in a homework assignment I submitted and my teacher is asking if I would be comfortable to share the writing. I do want them to know how appreciative I am but I do feel very shy at times and I know that I am ahead of everyone on the homework assignments which I have been told has caused some envy. Here is what I have been asked to share… Please have a look…Should I share it?

Write a short essay explaining your Dharma and what it means to you.

My dharma is:

      1. in continuing to discover and feel daily joyful reverence and gratitudes
      2. in sharing my blessings within our world
      3. to render kindness and unconditional love in servitude to our fellow living beings, as we are but branches of a single tree.

What does this dharma mean to me? It means that things either happen for a reason or we make our own meaning of life. As Emilio so aptly put it, life happens for us rather than to us. For life to have a purpose/ dharma/ meaning, we have to see what has been set for us and in so doing, we feel reverence, gratitude, joy, blessed, generous, kind, loving and connected.

An example of this in one of the most recent chapters of my life occurred only a few months ago. A coworker became very ill with cancer. Her doctor wanted her to take additional time off for further treatments. She did not have any sick leave left and had mounting bills. She looked to her coworkers for help. As a group, we all donated many days to her… I donated several years of sick leave and neglected to leave myself any as I figured she needed it more financially than I did. I experienced mild regret when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer on Valentine’s Day. I ended up taking many days off to see her to doctors’ appointments. The days I was absent from work were deducted from my paychecks and I was asked to resign by HR. The HR Manager gave me a speech about how teaching is a calling that I must continue when he explained that I could resign or be let go of, which I found strange. Maybe he didn’t want to feel responsible if I did not continue on as a teacher… I continued to tell myself that I did the right thing because my coworker needed the money more than I did. Then, my coworker wrote a “Thank you.” When she returned, she expressed her gratitude and said she would pray for me every day because the time we had collectively donated to her had not been wasted. While she had been away sick, her own mother had passed away from cancer. The time she had away from work had been used not only to heal from her treatments but also to spend with her mother on their last days together. “Things happen for a reason,” she said to reassure me that things will be okay even if I am jobless. Life has been good despite and perhaps because of the turmoil because life happens for us. I had time to pursue my yoga studies and hope to share my joy for yoga with others. I have time now to take my mother to weekly appointments and to help her at her job until she is able to return. My generous yogi classmates have opened up their hearts and homes to me. You have taught me more about yoga/ life than I ever expected to learn! There is no way any other yoga training would have provided so much knowledge to reflect upon. Giving brings about more abundance and I was mistaken to have felt regret.

Aside from the time I now have to spend with my mother, I have much appreciation for everything and want to share my blessings and joys so that others too may be blessed with love and joy. The cotton from the clothes I wear was picked by someone and spun and dyed by someone. Water and nutrients were provided to nourish the cotton plants. Someone made the lavender soap I used for the shower last night where there was also fresh water that came many years of precipitation and someone else grew that lavender. Many hands built the house I reside in. The wood came from trees that grew for many years. The cement was made from gravel and sand that took thousands of years to form. The oil in the car I drive formed for thousands of years from the energy of many once living organisms. The metal pieces from the computer I am typing on came from a mine deep in the earth. The plastics came from the oils that formed for so long in the earth. Somebody’s blood and sweat was poured into meals I eat daily as they toiled to grow it, sell and distribute it. Even the body I inhabit came from generations of ancestors before me.

The teachings you are instructing us upon came from generations of teachers: from the generations of teachers of Vyasa who made it possible for him to compile The Mahabharata, the generations of Aryans and the oral storytellers from whom Patanjali imbibed so many lessons and wrote them down. By teaching us what you know, you are planting many seeds that will continue to grow and transform as generations pass like a Mother Tree whose seeds are scattered across the mountain range where the forest takes root. I am honored to have the dharma to continue to disperse our joys and blessings.

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