14 June 2010

In Which Twitter Debates Whether I am Priscilla, Queen of the Desert

OK, actually they were debating whether I was Guy Pearce in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, but that makes for a less fabulous blog title.  Read from the bottom up for the conversation chronologically; I was too lazy to screen shot each individual tweet and put them in the right order.  Besides, then they wouldn't have come out the same exact size and I would be shedding sad, perfectionist, Virgo tears ;D

I really, really love my friends. And will be re-watching Priscilla as soon as midterms are through.

11 June 2010

Back from Jupiter

Where do you go when you meditate?  Today I might as well have been on another planet.  I did my psoas release work as I have been every day and did some energy work at the same time.  Then I moved into yoga.  I decided before going right into savasna, I would release my hips in supta baddha konasana.  That is is reclining pose with your hips open and the soles of your feet touching.  From there I went to savasna and I find that doing it every day, I am falling more and more quickly into a trance.  More than that, I am feeling more and more grounded immediately.

Starting from my head and moving all the way to my feet, I visualized each part of my body falling into the ground.  When I got to my feet, which in a fully expressed savasna pose I think would end up fully turned out, I not only felt a very significant release, but I literally felt hands wrap around them and gently pull them down, like a gentle body worker might do in a reflexology session.  That was comforting and yet feeling so connected to the earth was actually disarming and I felt a substantial amount of anxiety.  I snapped out of it, but immediately went back to grounding myself with the intention that I would ride through the fear and release it.  I grounded myself again, felt myself once again pulled very close down on to the ground and my whole body relax deeply, and for the first moment things were so intense that I stopped breathing and my palms curled up.

A very good practice that a friend has taught me is simply noticing and sitting with a sensation before reacting to it.  I waited for breath to come rather than forcing it.  I immediately thought of the energetic significance of one's palms - they contain the minor chakras (incoming on the left, outgoing on the right) that receive and give unconditional love and healing, and are connected to the heart chakra.  I imagined unconditional love coming into my left palm, and moving back out of the right to whomever needed it.  My whole body relaxed and gave over to the grounding, my palms flattened to the ground and remained upward and open, and I deepened even further into the trance.  I was surprised to find my flatmate napping in my bed as a came to, although I had vaugely heard her enter early in the meditation.  I then did what i know only as triangle pose, or ankle on knee pose - I don't know the Sankskrit and I do know that it is a hip opening pose for those of us who cannot (yet) achieve pigeon pose.  Perhaps it's because I've done this pose a lot lately, or perhaps it was the earlier supta baddha konasana, but my knees, rather than hovering their usual four or five inches above my ankles, were only a half inch above or so and release very quickly.  It is exciting to see such remarkable progress after only a few days, especially when it seems that several years of yoga didn't do as much.  Perhaps it's because I've been doing the psoas release along with it, perhaps it's the holy basil tea, or the geranium oil, or the meditation.  Whatever it is, it works and I'm thrilled.

Now, I've done my yoga for the day, so that must mean I'm off to write next.

10 June 2010

21.5.800 Day 2

A lot is different now, as opposed to last semester, which ran from January to May.  I'm still in class, and an intensive one at that.  And yep, I'm already behind in the reading, though I'm catching up.  Plus, being as it's a gendered history of food class, I really like the material and it's not hard to get through.  All of this makes me feel like I can breathe and actually take the time to do yoga, go to the gym, and write.  I guess the key here is to learn how to make those things doable priorities all of the time.

I have also been cleaning a lot lately.  In my experience, clutter means anxiety and depression while tidiness and cleanliness mean more energy and a better attitude.  I think it's a little bit like smiling - mostly we smile because we're happy, but smiling can improve mood.  Likewise, I think generally when we're well balanced we tend to keep things orderly and thus our energy and emotions orderly, but disorganization can cause anxiety and cleaning can improve mood and energy.  I've been organizing, scrubbing, and regularly burning sage.

I don't know how many cultures burn sage as a space clearing practice, but it definitely works for me.  For whatever reason, saging beforehand, sometimes as much as by a day or two, seems to make all of the cleaning easier and more manageable.  It also seems to draw my attention to things that I didn't even notice needed tending to, and as soon as they are put at rights, I feel much better.  I've also been trying to keep myself particularly healthy and clean, drinking dandelion tea and using a variety of essential oils, but especially geranium.

Apparently at least one of the chemical constituents of geranium oil actually reduces stress at a genetic level, by inhibiting the transcription of genes that are activated in stressful situations.  Prior to learning this, my experience of geranium was first that it helped remove old depression from this body (as opposed to helping with a current depressive episode) and then as I felt to use it in significant quantities after training for and running my first half marathon, usually directly on my thighs, I experienced much quicker healing time and less pain after long runs.  I'm now fascinated by the mind/body/spirit interplay going on.  Learning as I am about the psoas muscle and the way that we literally hold stress and fear in our muscles, I am interested in the way that geranium seems to work on multiple levels to reduce inflammation processes and, in turn, also have an emotional effect.

I'm exploring the connections of an unbelievable tightness in my mid back (behind my heart chakra, as understood in that system of organizing the body's energy), my slight scoliosis, and the tightness in my hamstrings.  There are certain stretches that simultaneously release my back and hamstrings and this is often accelerated by meditating on releasing old emotions; additionally, if I apply geranium oil to my hamstrings immediately before doing my morning pages, which are often free writing, I tend to get a torrent of memories from my childhood, often very distant memories.  They aren't necessarily all good or bad, or even seemingly significant, although they are often things that I haven't thought of in years or even decades.  I wonder why it is that releasing tension in these particular muscles, which started at a very young age, seems to release even mundane memories.  Then again,  feel very emotionally cut off from my childhood, so perhaps just remembering is significant in and of itself.

Regardless, I am extremely please to have the 21.5.800 project as a framework for continuing all of these explorations.

(FYI - Posted without proof reading.  I've got notes to take for a midterm coming up!) :)

08 June 2010

21.5.800 - Corpes and journals and stretching - oh my!

I don't know exactly when or how these things became so appealing, but it seems every time you turn around there is another opportunity to write or go to the gym or complete items on your bucket list over some fixed period of time.  I tried my hand with National Novel Writing Month (fifty thousand words over thirty days) last year and it didn't quite take.  My first week of November was hellish with meetings and work and by the second week I had lost my job.  You would think that unemployment would be the perfect opportunity to catch up with that first week and bang out the required 50,000 words for a month, but between getting unemployment compensation settled, interviewing for an internship and unwinding from a three-plus year stint an a job that I grew to detest, it didn't happen.  However, the writing bug has been biting me hard lately and I've returned to that project, albeit without a time frame.

This morning my friend Nina, fab food blogger over at Cooktivism, sent me info about doing savasna pose every day for twenty to forty minutes.  Also known to practitioners of yoga as "corpse pose"it is basically just lying down on your back, palms turned upward, and allowing mind and body to be restored.  Typically, every yoga class ends with this pose.  After an intense practice, it is not uncommon for me to sort of "trance out" and experience extraordinary mental and spiritual restoration and rejuvenation in a relatively short period of time.  Curiously, this was being touted as part of something called 21.5.800 so of course I had to find out more.

Basically, it is twenty one days of writing eight hundred words per day, and doing yoga five days per week.  the twenty to forty minutes of savasna was suggested as one way to achieve this if it isn't possible to do five yoga classes per week.  With a summer intensive college course three days per week, rehearsal several days per week, plus my own research for the show, five yoga classes per week, while I would adore such a schedule, are simply not doable.  However, I have recently returned to the practice from The Artist's Way of writing three "morning pages" every day, and I have just started working on releasing the psoas muscle based on Liz Koch's The Psoas Book.  Interestingly, the basic maneuver is very similar to savasna and doing it yesterday at the gym I coincidentally did one after the other, plus some hip release work afterwards.

To me, this is just perfect.  I have already committed myself to working my morning pages and psoas release and yoga into my day.  Now I have just a little extra motivation, plus perhaps I will be inspired to blog or write just a little bit more when I can squeeze it in.  It doesn't feel like an extra burden to take on; more like an affirmation that I'm already doing exactly what I need to with the added bonus that others will be doing it along with me.

06 June 2010

Sunday Reading & Interconnectivity

An amazing experience to me is one in which, before we are old or educated or wise or experienced enough to put words to something, we have an unbelievably strong, pre-linguistic reaction.  (To clarify, I'm 25 and very nearly a (late) college grad and there are plenty of things that I lack wisdom or experience  or education to express adequately; I'd consider this a phenomena largely, but not entirely, of the chronologically young.)  One such moment was serving as an acolyte in church at the 8 AM service which, because it catered to an old(er) (OK, ancient, dusty, one foot in the grave) crowd, used prayers originated in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church, as opposed to the 9:30 family-oriented service with the super up to date seventies era prayers.  Anyway, one of these prayers was basically a bunch of groveling horse shit about how we were nothing but dust before God.  Although only a young teen, I was deeply offended by this.  Nothing in my spirituality, then or since, regardless of whether or not it has invoked or regarded a creator or deity, has ever indicated to me that we need to shuffle and scrape.  We're all just doing our level best and if someone stronger than us created us weaker, then apologizing for said weakness or imperfection seemed (and seems) nonsensical.

Another visceral reaction, probably not much later in life, came in my tenth grade honors English class, reading Thoreau and Emerson and William Cullen Bryant and generally learning about transcendentalism.  There was a certain beauty to that interconnectivity and inspiration from nature that speaks to me still today.  There were writings of such beauty and power that I, ever the loquacious master of my mother tongue and eager student of other languages and modes of expression, was speechless.  Beyond being moved, I was faced with a beauty and unity so much bigger than myself that I could not fully conceive of it in any single moment, but simply face it with a bright and wondrous awestruck look in my eyes and on my face for as long as I could hold the idea and the feeling in my consciousness.

Transcendence is something I still pursue.  I don't perceive Taoism, acting, or particle physics to be distinct fields of study.  To me, Taoism and art are ways of coming to stillness and allowing ourselves to be the vessels through which manifest beauty is expressed.  Physics, chemistry, and biology are just the operating rules for the construct in which these actions are playing out.  To me, the great joy is when I see a poetic principle by another name in science, or when a spiritual principal may be fully understood as something that facilitates my acting.

That brings me to today's reading.  "The Psoas Book," by Liz Koch.  "The Essential Reiki Teaching Manual" by Diane Stein.  "We are What We Eat" by Donna Gabaccia.  The final book is one I am reading for my first summer class, "A Gendered History of Food."  I am excited to be taking this class for so may reasons.  The professor, Ann Marie Nicolosi, Ph.D., is one of the best I've ever had the privilege of being taught by, and her African American Women's History course last semester was transformative.  Additionally, this course brings me back full circle to where I was about five years ago, as I made the journey from omnivore to pesciatarian to vegan.  In the semesters following this dietary transformation, fueled first by health concerns and a newfound level of self care and bodily self respect, but then by a concern for animals, the environment, and worker's rights, I found feminist critical analysis as a unifying set of political and theoretical beliefs for activism an life.  I see this course as a way to renew and refocus these interests and find new insights in the interconnectivity of the way we eat with every other aspect of our lives, and to make eating decisions based on these connections.

The reiki book and The Psoas Book are both for the purposes of self healing and self care and, based on my love of sharing information that I find beneficial and interesting, ostensibly for healing others as well.  I will admit that my life path is intimidating to me some days.  I simply remind myself that, with creative joy and abundant support, I will find the way to wear the many hats of healer, teacher, artist, actor, writer, educator, father, and husband (eventually) with grace and aplomb.  That concern aside, I am again drawn to the interconnections of multiple systems of understanding life and experience.  Liz Koch is clearly open to holistic healing and energy work, and yet her book also communicates beautifully with detailed explanations of anatomy and physiology.  

While I am still left to make some connections for myself between, say, her explanation of muscular rigidity and a voluntary control of autonomic physiological responses to fear and the unbelievable knot in the muscles behind my heart (or heart chakra), she does offer a certain amount of direct explanations of physical, spiritual, and emotional interconnectivity.  I must also add that it gives me great that this is a multi directional system; that a massage can benefit me spiritually is very joyful because it involves no effort on my part other than showing up and sometimes it's just so nice for things to be easy.  And this is coming from a masochistic Virgo, to give some perspective to the personal significane to that statement.

Today, I am enjoying the breeze and my dog lying in bed with me while I blog, my books, and the beautiful ways that all of these separate texts communicate on the same idea, which is to be still and take care of myself and others.  May your Sunday be so beautiful.

xoxo Pistol