Monday, May 26, 2014


matter glides through space
pushed pulled singing dancing
rings and moons and voices

it would be risky
planets deciding to meet in person
it might be impossible
to balance in closer quarters

or something new might be created
black holes and new moons
depending on speed

either way
the universe would never be the same
and maybe isn't ready

either way
who would question
the perfect spaces between 
pieces of stardust

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

compassion practice

I learned something this year I thought might be worth writing about. Especially since it's a huge reason I'm taking this leap.

Lately I have been practicing being in a state of love. I have found I like myself much better when I am in love. So full of joy that it spills over. Exuberant, but gentle. By truly paying attention and practicing being in love with everyone I encounter, it does not inflict itself on others with cloying indecency- rather, someone deeply and safely in a state of love simply brightens a room while normal interactions go on. I'm sure you've all seen this before, it's just new to me.
I noticed that after the initial millisecond of a chemical reaction, being in love has little to do with anyone besides myself. The opening, the clarity, and the newly accessible energy all come from inside me. And they stay, long after the person is far out of reach.
I noticed that I am able to re-evoke a feeling I have explored and encouraged the growth of, regardless of someone else's behavior that may have started it off...
A person can be an safe anchor, a trigger, a catalyst, but another person could never be the source of my love.

(ok ok, metaphysically, yes, we're all one. those of you that are enlightened already can roll your eyes at this post as usual... :) )

So why do I call this a practice? Well, I've found that the moment I allow my desire for a specific outcome to become solid, to become a condition for my happiness, to become an expectation, I am no longer in an open state of love. At that point I have narrowed the possibilities available, I have tried to imagine that I am a better judge of what I want than the universe. I am in expectation. And scheduling disappointment for myself. Life can never go as expected. So there seems to be a need to continually remind myself to return to nurturing behaviors that are more skillful and positive: to practice.

Over the years I have learned ways to refocus if I find my mind latching on to longing or yearning or disappointment or despair: Schedule time with loved ones. Get the feelings down on paper because self-induced melodrama makes for potentially interesting word salads. Exercise. Help someone else.

But the best way didn't come from my mind at all. I remember I said to my catalyst at one point: this is my practice. And I didn't even know how very deeply true that was at the time, but my heart did, and my heart spoke directly through my mouth for the first time in my life.

And so, I found my practice- being in a state of love. Years of meditation finally allowed me to recognize love when it arose for the millionth time... and by finally becoming aware of it, I began to actively practice to help it grow.
There have been moments wherein my BEing in love was also what I was DOing, without expectation, without needs, with desires that didn't need to be fulfilled in any particular way for me to feel complete. This is what meditation has taught me to recognize. To notice these fleeting moments when I am actually aware of the unity within myself. Because this experience is a tiny fractal of what is possible with the entire universe- but for me, a small frail little human, it starts with this little piece of consciousness that I label 'me.'

So this practice is to be in love, to fill with it and do it, to remain filled and grounded in love as often as possible. The more one practices, the more skillful one becomes. I practice with close friends, with family, with acquaintances with expectations of me, with friends that want more, with friends that want less, with patients that are suffering, with students and children with minds like innocent sponges, with the ocean, with my favorite checker at my local health food store, with the cat from next door, with my future dog, with the whales in the channel, with the writer I'll likely never meet whose posts on elephant journal cause me to seriously consider kidnapping him for coffee one day...

And this doesn't mean in any way that I have evolved to a point of boundary-less-ness and oneness. I'm not a buddha, at least, I haven't recognized my own buddha nature to the point where I am one (ahhhhh devolving into philosophy again, whoops)... And since this catalyzing shapeshifting has started I've had plenty of ups and downs and unskillful behavior. But I've finally discovered, with a totally non-intellectual understanding, that the way I behave, the way I think, and the way I feel, are all generated from inside myself. I have choices every time something arises- do I act on it at all and if so, how far do I roll with it? I am lucky enough to be able to practice when I'm not good at something. The teachers in my life have fortunately been myriad and angelic, and my best teacher is always my own commitment to pay attention and learn, to use each miserable failure as a valuable lesson.

So how do I practice? When I realize I've slipped away from love, I return to my intention to understand, to maintain curiosity, to stay open, and to be committed to absolute honesty no matter what. Just like in meditation. Just keep practicing. I practice with myself first, meditating twice daily, and during the day whenever I manage to remember.
The act of loving, as Thich Nhat Hanh says, is to intend to understand. Compassion is "feeling with," and means that I want to understand first my own experience, to build compassion inside myself. I can then maybe be more skillful at trying to understand someone else's experience, to feel what they feel. I might even be able to lighten their burden of suffering by caring, by trying to understand, by asking how I can help.

And this all means I am finally learning how to be in love with myself, so now I have enough to share...
Which is the beginning of a much truer journey, beyond this physical travel plan that is developing as I go... learning how to love, and to love well, is more important to me than anything else.
And I will keep practicing, and failing, and practicing.
Everything is my teacher.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

resistance is painful

Although none of my friends here have said they are happy that I'm leaving, not one person that loves me has said 'No, you should stay.' I suppose it's that obvious. But, like all overthinking-prone people, at first I was wondering if I'd made the right decision, and 'shoulds' wafted up from time to time. But it's funny, as I get closer to the definitive acts of putting things in storage, seeing my last patient, stand up paddle boarding one last time, hitting the REI sale so I have rain gear for London... there is no equivocation at all. Not even slight concern that I have no idea what will come of all this. As if knowing what will happen is ever possible...
I'm more interested in packing in as much joy to my last few weeks here as possible, which is how I'd rather live every day... 
I think when something isn't quite right in my life I tend to forget exactly how joyful things can be. As if there's a joy dampener over the musical strings of life- but only slightly, so there's not something obviously wrong, and I might not even notice it, since I can still hear the music... 
So today as I walked my favorite little 3 mile stretch of the SB coastline near my house, I realized I was smiling like a maniac at everyone. More than usual. (Yes, I am that smiley girl in the hat and purple shoes.) But the real difference was that the heavy sensation I'd felt for the last year, the feeling that something wasn't quite right, despite the beautiful surroundings and amazing experiences... was gone. Totally gone. Lifted. 
When a decision is finally made, especially one that has been a long time coming, if it feels that calm and good deep in the center of myself, then it was even less of a decision than the everyday 'what to make for dinner.' 
It wasn't a decision at all. The fighting of it is what felt difficult. Resistance to what is. Resistance to myself. Letting go of that is always a good thing. A very good thing.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

mind games

It helps the mind to have a story to tell itself. The mind likes a combination of words put into a logical order that rationalizes and excuses any fears or potential drawbacks to a decision. The mind enjoys the idea that it made a decision, that it has power over the way the life will go, that it can wrap itself around enough variables to decide to act in a way that will control the course of life, and that there is some certainty and understandability possible from its perspective.

But the truth is, decisions aren't made on the basis of having enough time or information. Decisions can never be known to be 'right' except in that no decision is ever 'wrong.' Acting or not acting are two sides of the same coin. Alan Watts liked to say that we hem and haw and make a show of weighing our options, but when it comes down to it we make a decision at the very last moment and the mind comforts itself with the thought that it gave the decision 'enough thought.' Except... there is no way to ever know every variable or possible outcome. It may be more helpful to instead become increasingly aware of which actions or non-actions facilitate conditions leading to growth and love, and which lead to harm, and then, to intend to and increasingly learn to actually do that which will less likely cause harm and more likely improve conditions for growth and love. It is much easier in the end to let go of expectations and a need for certainty of a particular outcome from an action, and watch what arises and learn from it, no matter what it looks like, 'bad' or 'good.'

It helps the mind to separate this from that. It gives a sensation of understanding of reality (in order to have a sensation of control over reality) when things can be judged and put into categories. This leads to a sense that some things are 'like' and 'not-like' whatever the mind has judged its experience to be. This leads to attraction and attachment to things that are 'like' and aversion to things that are 'not-like' the mind's description of itself. This is useful in learning survival when we are children, in creating a feeling of safety. But the mind latches onto its descriptions and creates an inflexible system of beliefs and named phenomena that supports its own sense of itself, so of course it balks at anything that questions its version of what it believes reality to be. This leads to fear of losing what the mind is attached to, and anger at things the mind believes itself to be different from.

But the truth is, placing things into categories creates division, and resistance to what is. What is is a pattern, and an interlocking web of patterns, conditions and an interlocking web of conditions, ever changing instant to instant in a dance of unimaginable complexity and simplicity.

It helps the mind to create a persona that it can separate from thoughts, a persona it can elevate and give importance to. Using the words 'me' and 'I' before verbs, adjectives, and words describing feelings, gives a feeling of separateness from those actions, those experiences, those judgments, and the thoughts themselves. But can thoughts be separated from that which is thinking them? Can a personality be separated from the actions or experiences that occur? Can a mind separate itself from the body it is surrounded by or the air, water, and earth that nourishes it?

The truth is, of course not. Krishnamurti liked to say that the very activity of the mind is a barrier to its own understanding- understanding arises in the interval between two thoughts. Self is not thought, nor is it the 'thinker,' nor is it the 'observer;' is it something that cannot be described in words or understood with thoughts. The Self, to the extent it (or any of the following) can be named, is the same as Truth, the same as God, the same as Love, the same as the Tao.

A way to know the Self is to learn to develop the qualities that will allow the Self to be brought forth into the world to be seen and known by experience rather than by description, analysis, or judgment. A way to allow this is to happen, to begin to experience the Self as 'not-thought' and 'not-mind' and 'not-sensation,' is to allow the personality, the ego, to clear itself of habits, reactions, expectations, attachments and aversions. And a way to do this is by becoming still, open, and free of analysis, beginning to illuminate these behaviors the mind (conscious and unconscious) produces. As you practice, these behaviors begin dissolving on their own, and the illusions they are built on start fading in the growing light of consciousness.

'Reality is not of time and it is not measurable.' - J. Krishnamurti

Friday, May 9, 2014


There is a poet that lives above my heart
who sometimes makes the journey to my mind to help me write.
though she rarely speaks in complete sentences,
she is always there, translating the world to me.
on normal days it is a word here and there, but sometimes,
When my eyes catch something beautiful,
she holds my breath for me in her hands while she sings.
on full moon nights, she paces back and forth in my mind,
restless and drunk on moonlight,
spouting insight or nonsense.
When my heart breaks,
she falls deep into the cracks,
poems tumbling whole out of her mouth
as she cries with me and fights not to drown.
When love overflows from the heart beneath her feet
she smiles out of my eyes so I smile with her smile
and her home becomes as beautiful as the world she sees.

taking leave

Funny that saying goodbye starts as soon as you say hello. We've all heard that before, but this is my first time leaving a place I had sincerely hoped to stay.

Santa Barbara seems dreamed up by every person who could use the word 'winter' as a verb, and by every nervous child that looks at a topographical map and thinks a perfect place to live would be one without winter, with both oceans and mountains but little chance of mudslide or tsunami... although that may have been just me...

A few weeks ago I told my patients I was leaving, I gave notice at my office, and told my housemates in time for them to find another renter. Since then I've had wild swings between excitement and despair,  wondering if diving into an abyss of unknown is really the best and least harmful decision. But the hollow feeling in my gut when I think I could try to stick it out here longer tells me there's no real decision to be made. If I'm honest, I know I started moving away months ago when my catalyst first appeared.

I've realized just how much I'll miss my closest friends here, how fun it will be to return to Santa Barbara to visit the lovely people that have been so wonderful to me over the last few years, how I can't imagine finding a more beautiful place on Earth, how much I won't miss the strange plastic culture here, and how relieved I feel when I know I can stop trying so hard to get my life to flow.

This goodbye isn't because there's anything wrong with this place, this time, these people, with life, or even with me. Everything is always perfectly arranged for continuous growth and evolution, and I've lived enough places to know that we follow ourselves wherever we go...

This leave taking is intended to shift the ground of my awareness by visiting people I have loved for years, driving roads I have not before, and finding the holes that still exist in my perception which can only be understood by quiet open listening.

Until I see you again, stay safe, my beautiful adopted city by the sea, and thank you to my ocean goddess that has waved goodbye to me with so many dolphins and whales and sea lions lately.

I've seen all the signs that say 'go no further,' that say 'turn back!' and the maps that are labeled 'here be dragons' to keep sailors safe in waters they know... well, I've finally decided to join the dragons.