Sunday, July 27, 2008

I think I can Warn the Stars

This poem was read at a workshop I attended this past weekend.  The poem reminded me how much I love Anne Sexton.  The workshop reminded me of the kinship I feel with women writers, the power of women + words, and the lineage I feel indebted to.

The Black Art
A woman who writes feels too much, 
those trances and portents!
As if cycles and children and islands
weren't enough;  as if mourners and gossips
and vegetables were never enough.
She thinks she can warn the stars.
A writer is essentially a spy.
Dear love, I am that girl.

A man who writes knows too much, 
such spells and fetiches!
As if erections and congresses and products
weren't enough;  as if machines and galleons
and wars were never enough.
With used furniture he makes a tree.
A writer is essentially a crook.
Dear love, you are that man.

Never loving ourselves, 
hating even our shoes and our hats, 
we love each other, precious, precious.
Our hands are light blue and gentle.
Our eyes are full of terrible confessions.
But when we marry, 
the children leave in disgust.
There is too much food and no one left over
to eat up all the weird abundance.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Was OSHO the Indian Mystic George Carlin?

This weekend I was exposed to Dynamic Meditation with some friends, created by Indian mystic Osho.  It was like a combination of channeling a Sufi whirling dervish, playing freeze tag, and mindfulness meditation.  Some people loved it.  Others hated it.  It wasn't my thing.  At the end of the day, I prefer old skool sitting meditation.  By the last part of the technique I just really wanted to sit in lotus and watch my thoughts.

Before this weekend all I knew of Osho were some quotes I'd read in books with mind-twister titles like "All Your Answers Questioned."  I liked the fact that he had twin Os in his name, like a double-stuff Oreo.  Some of his philosophies made me want to dog-ear and re-read pages, but in all, he never made a big impression on me.

So some of my companions filled me in on what they'd heard of Osho.  Turns out, no matter whether or not you were helped by his techniques or turned off by them, this had been one Interesting Guy.

Oh, Osho.  What can I say?  He had 93 Rolls Royces at his Oregon ashram.  He allegedly wrote his books under the influence of laughing gas.  He was called a "sex guru" with a narcissistic personality.  His followers were said to have committed a bio-terror attack against the citizens of Oregon using salmonella.


Last night, my friend sent me this clip of Osho from YouTube, which made me wonder...Was Osho the Indian Mystic George Carlin?

I won't comment on the substance of this clip, but I will comment on the style:  Ahem, this guy was pimp.  I don't know about you, but I like all my Indian mystics wearing silver spacesuits on tinfoil thrones.

My Arch Nemesis Lands a Speaking Role

I have lived at least a few of my 9 lives in NYC. I was a studious college student hopping over the velvet ropes of the Institution, past the bouncer of a Dean, and into the straight-A-list. I was an editorial assistant, wading through other people's writing in the slush pile and wanting to slip in my own. Then I bagged it all to be an actress/model, auditioning my creativity all day and working the dinner shift at the restaurant at night. Then, of course, things changed again or, I feel, finally settled into a comfortable Truth. All of these different eras have had enough characters to fill volumes of books. And occasionally, one resurfaces in the present.

Like last night. I was just trying to lull the day away with some Conan O'Brien jokes when, during the commercial break, I saw her. My arch nemesis, with the killer eyebrows I could never pluck my way to. Teeth as white as 10 Crest Whitestrips boxes stuck together. Blue eyes as piercing as high noon in the middle of July. And blazing red hair. Oh the hair, red, like mine. We worked the NYC audition circuit with the same calling-card, the red hair. Which is what made her my....nemesis.

That and the fact she bagged every audition she walked into while my odds weren't so good. She and I used to cross paths all the time. She was usually walking out the studio door while I was walking in, looking all triumphant. And everyone at the casting desk looking all star-struck, like they didn't need to see anymore girls but, hell, I'd come all this way and there were a few more minutes of tape on the reel, so....I'd walk to the masking tape mark and stare into the black void of the camera lens and use every last one of those 30 seconds to make my impression. "Thank you," then I'd leave.

And she'd always get the call-back while I'd be back on the casting couch, which started to feel like the revolving shrink's couch, holding all my worst fears and secrets. I started seeing her everywhere I wasn't...on the front of hair color boxes in Duane Reade, her face smiling out at me in multiple with endless eyebrows out-arching mine. On the cover of magazines at the grocery store check-out, convincing customers to impulsively take her home. And now, here she was, twirling around a white-as-heaven studio, in and out of a spotlight, talking about Some Skincare product.

Talking! She had done it! Landed the ultimate....the holy grail of commercial modeling jobs....a Speaking Role! She was in a Talky! I knew what the sound of her voice was really saying.....Ka-Ching!....Over and over, rolling with every airing into her bank account.

But I'm being dramatic. I guess that's where my drama lives, in my writing, while hers is teleported into living rooms and onto grocery store check-out stands in the flash of eyes like gold coins glinting in the sun. And now, twirling around in between Conan jokes to the sound of flash bulbs and scripted lines about.....

Anti-aging creme?

Ah! The only thing worse is landing a tampon ad or some ointment spot that offers so much money you can't turn it down.

And with that last twirl into the camera, I thought I saw a flash of embarrassment in her eyes like a small cloud passing through her July sky. And I didn't envy her, smiling her somewhat retouched baby-crows-feet into the screen. There's a price for everything, and her big paycheck came from telling everyone it was the end of an era. You know you're over the model/actress hill when the jobs go from zit-cremes to wrinkle-repairers. Oh, Arch Nemesis, we're both older now and the times have changed.

*opinions in this article have been changed.....of course there's nothing wrong with wrinkles and I'm happy for ol' Archy. Really, I am. :)

Monday, July 14, 2008

Yoga Poetry

I have been up till 3 every morning writing, like my old self.  Always thinking there's not enough night,  as Kerouac said, "Not enough ecstasy for me, not enough life, joy, kicks, darkness, music, not enough night."  Most of the writing is not anything I want to post to a blog, but is being downloaded instead to the cells inside my head and heart, making up the novel I'm constantly writing, the epic poem of my own psychology and physiology.  I really think we're all stories, walking around in the guise of humans with so-called barriers of skin.
In addition to writing, my summer has been dedicated to yoga.  I've been pivoting around the back injury which stopped my story in its tracks with a big Period.  last November.  I've crawled into that injury and am trying to listen to it and respect its yes' and no's.  It was hard to slow down, and now I'm moving at a slower pace in my Vinyasa, taking things into the windows of my eyes and heart like a slow Sunday drive, no longer the Friday night rush I used to ride on the mat.

If our bodies are stories, is Yoga poetry in motion?  I'm thinking Vinyasa Yoga is like free verse poetry, a flow of constantly changing elements in a dance of personal expression.  And Ashtanga is like form poetry, with freedom to be found in the repetition of strict form.  I used to feel stifled by such form, but have broken through to the freedom there, find myself resting in the foundation of knowing the externals of what comes next, to fly in the internals of never knowing...wings sprouting from roots.  In both poetry and yoga, whatever form you choose matters, and breath matters, the pauses between movements or words hanging heavy as summer fruit...

Walt and I have always been on close terms...reading those Leaves of Grass and feeling him under my bootsoles.  I came across this good ol' quote the other day and think, even though W.Whitman had a Buddha Belly which would be tricky to maneuver into a headstand, he was a yogi, a nomad seeker reading the stories of flesh and fluency constantly pulsing on the city streets like one, long, run-on sentence.....

"This is what you shall do:  Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church and dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body......"
-Walt Whitman

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Amma's Hug

For years I've been hearing about the "Hugging Saint," Amma, a spiritual teacher known as "the Mother" from India.  I've been hearing about her mostly from yoga friends, and mostly from Laughing Lotus yoga friends, the center with the big Amma picture on top of the bookcase.  She visits The City every year, and people will wait in line literally all night to receive darshan from her, which is a hug.  So, OK, I had to finally check it out....

I arrived at the Manhattan Center at 7 with an open mind and heart accompanied by a healthy dose of skepticism rolling around in my pocket, for didn't even Buddha say, seeing is believing?   I was greeted by a chorus of "Om Namah Shivaya"s spoken so quickly it sounded like one long word rolled off the fast tongues of auctioneers, dressed head to toe in white.  There were tables of mala beads and OM scarves and books and Ayurvedic vitamins to wind through, and the smell of amazing Indian food wafting up from downstairs.  I'd been to the Manhattan Center before, once for a rock concert and once to hear Bill Clinton speak, but it had never looked like this.  I felt like I was in a different country, at a bazaar.  There was a gentle hum as people moved to and fro, and the hum seemed to be radiating from Amma.  Over the heads of the crowds I saw her, a physically diminutive woman sitting on a stage surrounded by translators and musicians, dressed in white herself, a symbol of purity and devotion.

I listened to the satsang, which was basically what all satsangs are about, Love.  She also spoke of women's rights and equality and feminine power.  Right on, sister.  I listened to the bhajan/devotional music and wondered what it was about the Sitar that strummed my heart strings.  I sat in the meditation.  But mostly I marinated, in the vibes and experience.

It was getting late and after samosas and conversation and all that marinating, I was getting tired,  and darshans were going into the wee hours of the morning.  Just as I was about to leave without my hug, someone gave me his Hug Ticket, and directed me to the line pointing directly at her "lotus feet."

With every chair shift forward in a game of spiritual musical chairs, I got more nervous.  I didn't know what to expect.  How does one hug a saint?  Do I hug back or just receive?  Was I supposed to feel something, and what if I didn't?  I was given a hot pink dot sticker to wear on my chest, meaning First Timer.  As I got closer I got to watch others being hugged, the largest of big guys kneeling at her feet and bending at the waist to rest his head on her chest, her powerful, all encompassing hug, the whispering in the ear, the slight release and then the second hug.  The prasad, a chocolate kiss, pressed into the hand of the huggee as attendants hurried him away.

As I approached Amma, I was told by a translator to bend at the waist as, even kneeling, my head was above Amma's.  I was to put my arms on the chair arms, not around her, to simply receive.  I walked forward on my knees, and then she pulled me in for a hug.  

This is where I loose words because I really am not sure how to describe it.  It was more of a fierce hug than a soft one, reminding me of the kind of mother energy that is fiercely protective.  It was like being hugged by this one aunt of mine as a child who kind of scared me, with her large round soft body and loud voice.  But Amma wasn't loud.  She brought her mouth to my ear and whispered somethings deep inside of it, in a language I couldn't understand.  She whispered over and over.   I could smell and spices, and was engulfed in the darkness of her bosom as she pulled me away and then pulled me toward her again, with more whisperings and kissings on my head.  It was so intimate I wondered if it was too much.  I felt like I went somewhere for a moment, though I don't know where.

And then I was released to the light again, and whisked away and to the side by attendants in white.  It felt like being tossed out of the vortex of a tornado, where the stillness was.  I grabbed my bag and walked through a path of people, feeling a bit stunned and shaky.

I am still digesting the experience of that night, the elements of hoopla mixed side-by-side with elements of purity, the ideas of spiritual teachings vs. the attraction people feel to teachers themselves.  In many situations like this, I feel myself deeply resonating with the teachings of service out of love, and compassion, with the music and chanting and stillness of meditation, and with some of the people I meet.  Other people and elements feel slightly off path, as if they are kneeling down at the feet of a particular teacher instead of a Truth.  But if we can separate the sand from the sugar in these situations, and find our nourishment there, well....hug me again. 

Monday, July 07, 2008

fishbowl heart

The moment the humming stopped 
my heart squeezed out the fishbowl of my chest, 
relieved to be in a bigger room.  
The noise in there had been unbelievable -- 
bones crunching like metal, 
the high screech of unfulfilled dreams 
swirling around. 
The heart had been yelling for release, 
but only came out as a beat beat 
pushing the body forwards, 
leaving things behind-

east village enlightenment

She got up to go to the bathroom, leaving me on an East Village fire escape with colored lights strung above my head and tree fronds tickling my cheeks as they sucked down seltzer.  She was gone, and I stared at the fronds, waving in the early summer breeze and suddenly my third eye opened like a golden red light and I was strung up with the other bulbs, shifting in the wind.  My atoms sparkled with night air, and I felt the miracle of them, strung together in the shapes and formations that made me, for this moment, on a fire escape in the East Village, sipping seltzer.

I wondered if someone had spiked my water, felt a moment of panic flush my face with hot, What Was Wrong With Me?

Nothing.  That was the point.  It was as if she and I had chewed on our problems so much they'd crumbled like cookie in my mouth and I was left with just the sweet.  They dropped away, and I was tuned in, and Knew, for that moment, the miracle of my life which if I could just remember would treat differently, would not be beating up this way.

I wondered if a friend of mine was on retreat somewhere, meditating, sending metta to me in large bundles.  Maybe one of my ex-boyfriends was thinking of me in one of their Brooklyn apartments, sending me the love they forgot.

But, no, this wasn't about them.  This was just a random moment of release, of expansion, of oneness...maybe the result of hours of moving meditation on the yoga mat or hours of lucid dreaming, or hours of soul searching in the eyes and sights of the City, or hours of writing questions in the form of poems.  Or it was just a moment, delivered, saying...Look Here.  Feel That.

"What are you doing?"  she asked, my head in the bushes.

"Thinking."  She sat, and we served each other more problems on cold dishes, the human ritual of anti-grace.  I chewed on the tough bits, as was my habit.  But underneath I felt a deep sweet spot humming in my heart like chocolate on the tongue.  That part was bored of this conversation and wanted to toast it instead.  That part was real, and was love.

city love

boys jump off me everyday and into the river
girls burn my feathers like pages turned to air
and i write poems in my mind like lists of excuses

i'm trying i'm trying
once i hit center
i always return-

i've forgotten what punctuation is for
no endings only line breaks
which are like breaths

i write in breath
were you an inhale or an exhale?

lines break
boys jump off and
girls burn
we commemorate
with names etched on metal 
on brownstones and under sidewalks
Lived Here Once-
wings pressed under glass at the museum of natural history


Saturday, July 05, 2008

the 4th part

A couple weeks ago, my yoga posse and I celebrated the summer solstice by hitting up the yoga party in Times Square, playing our part in filling up the nexus of this materialistic city with Some Soul.  We did Sun Salutations in front of the Jumbotron, like little balls dropping into a new summer.  We filled 42nd Street with Peaceful Warriors, the way we should everyday, not bowing down to those billboards and Nasdaq tickers, but teaching them a thing or two.

Yoga is always teaching me a thing or two.  Or four.  Here's part of something I wrote recently.


The 4th Part

They say OM is made of four parts, A, Au, M, and the silence afterwards.  The fourth part is a full silence, containing the vibrations of all that came before and, if you get really quiet and subtle, hints of what is to come.

I've been thinking about this fourth part, the part we usually skip over or take for empty.  In Nada Yoga, the yoga of sound, the 4th part is the actual space after the sound, which is supposed to connect most to the heart chakra.  I feel in the physical practice of yoga, tadasana/mountain pose is kind of like the 4th part.  Its the resting place a  lot of us take for granted, or skip over to get to the next pose.  Its the space between the pose/movement that came before it, and what is to come, and I think we often use that space to think about the past or future instead of really staying present there, and feeling the reverberations of the movements around it.  In yoga class recently, I tried to really inhabit the space of tadasana, fixing my shirt or hair, no thinking about what comes next, but really landing for a moment and feeling what was there.

But what about the 4th part in the rest of life, that landing pad between two things, that moment that a lot of us take for blank or hollow, that is in reality full of the subtle reverberations of what came before and what is to come?  A lot of us rush through that 4th part, too, just like we rush through the 4th part of the sound of OM or tadasana.  Or we are unconscious to it.  But what if we could rest in that space, and feel and learn from it?  Instead of trying to fill or transform it, what if we could take it for what it is?

Sitting practice is a lot like the 4th part to me.  Since I identify so strongly as a writer, and someone of movement, to stop both the flow of words and body is counterintuitive and powerful.  I normally attach myself to words (or they attach themselves to me) to let them label them "thinking" and not grab a pencil to jot them down....allows the vibrations under the words to emerge.    Afterall, we're not writers to look at squiggles on a page, we're writers to get to the vibrations/meanings words represent.

On that note, sending you all the vibrations under the printed words on this screen.