Monday, June 4, 2012

A graduation, of sorts...

It's hard to believe it's been six months since I moved into San Francisco, since Karma left for New York...and that I returned from my original trip to India four years ago. In many ways, I feel like I've graduated—finished an education of some sort. 

These last six months have been nothing short of amazing, and I've been happier and more grounded than I ever remember being. They've also been a huge opportunity for me to really settle into being "myself," that ever-changing, evolving, expanding composite of patterns...with the essence of Universal Love. (I did NOT start doing drugs, I swear. haha Even as I type this, I'm rolling my eyes at how "California" I have become. At the same time, I feel completely sincere about everything I'm writing.)

I do believe I'm coming back "home" to myself, integrating so many compartmentalized parts of myself that I had rejected in so many ways when I was with Karma, and before....that I felt so conflicted about reintegrating into my life after embarking on a "spiritual path." I so clearly see how imperative these aspects of myself are to truly being genuine and authentic to who I am. It's a fine line—I do notice some old habitual patterns coming back, but in a new way, and I'm aware of them. It's nothing harmful, just something I notice. This is especially apparent now that I've been going out more and, even more noticeably, now that I'm dating. How I perceive myself, how others perceive's a delicate dance of ego. I hope I navigate this dance in a way that is beneficial in some way, or at least, not harmful. 

I feel so open to life and to whatever happens. I have been dwelling in this space for awhile now, although the "taste" of this feeling has changed as it's become more familiar. It's not as exciting, invigorating or buzzing as it was at first. Now, I feel more stable in it...floating, but not floundering. The essence of newness is gone, but the open-hearted possibility is not. When I close my eyes and think of the future I see nothing...but not in a morbid way, or anything. I honestly have NO idea where my path is going, and no desire to try to direct or control it on a grander scale. My daily decisions are leading me to a more creative space. I've been cooking, juicing (anyone who follows me on Instagram has seen the plethora of photos), singing (alone), and planning to take classes on various things like screen printing. I have been sporadically practicing the guitar, and want to continue with that. I'm still studying Tibetan, and want to make more time to study outside of class. (Sometimes I have conversations with myself in Tibetan while I'm driving, to continue practicing.) Whenever Karma and I talk on the phone, which is about monthly, he insists on speaking in Tibetan. Good for me, not so good for his English. He's been getting plenty of practice with that, however, since he's living with English speakers. 

I've been expanding into new social circles, still including the people I cherish, as well. Actually, looking back on my time in high school, I've always had friends in various "groups." It seems to be how I relate to people. I have such a diversity of interests, and enjoy meeting new people, it makes sense that I reach out in this way. Unlike high school, however, I am "me" among all those groups. I no longer feel the need to morph myself into whomever I think each group would want me to be. It's such an amazing feeling. I am an island, amongst so many islands...all beautifully unique, yet no different.

So, in the essence of the title of this blog, "bardo," (which means the "in-between" or "transitional" state). I continue to morph, evolve, grow, contract some, expand more, shift, hopefully learn, and give, and act from kindness, compassion, and above all Great Love. Thank you to each of you who have, and perhaps continue to, support me in this journey. I am very grateful. 


The video below is Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Man on Fire. I love everything about this band, this song, and this video. The spirit of their music is rooted from a place that I so genuinely try to live from these days. A place of Universal Love, creativity, inclusion...

Below is a live performance of their song, Dear Believer. 

(These lyrics have a different meaning to me than the Judeo-Christian belief of heaven. I don't feel like elaborating now, but am happy to...) 

"May we sing the Earth, Heaven's breath...

...Dear Believer, of fire and rebirth
May we shine the Earth, Heaven's light...

...I say reaching for Heaven is what I'm on Earth to do."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Digging into new digs.

I'm happier than I can remember being in a long time. Like, years. 

I feel like there's been some sort of energetic shift and that all the compartments in my little world have collided & integrated into one ball of sparkling, energetic bliss. I swear I'm not high. 

Since my last post I've moved in SF and Karma's finished a one-month retreat in Arizona and landed in Upstate NY. He's doing really well and seems excited to be there. This time living apart has done wonders for me and given me the space to really, deeply appreciate our friendship and my love for him as my brother. I don't feel strange at all in saying that. I see on a very core level how and why we came together and have now moved into different directions. He will always be part of my family.

My life in San Francisco is so rich and I've really carved out a little home for myself in my new apartment. I felt immediately comfortable living here and I never thought that it was strange to wake up in this new space. I just knew it was right. 

All those times I had to practice patience last fall, when I was daydreaming of having my own place, and didn't rush out and get one, they have paid off. I have come out on the other end of this divorce feeling connected to myself in a way that I have NEVER experienced. I've been jokingly saying to my friends that I'm now married to myself because for the first time in my life I truly love me. I love being alone and am not desperate to run out and get into a new relationship, or even casually date, really. I'm home on a Saturday night, alone, and wouldn't have it any other way. It's not that I feel like I'm trying to isolate myself, or avoid people, either. I've been spending a lot of time with friends and various groups I'm part of, I just savor my time alone. 

Mountain goats like being alone, too. I'm not sure if that is an actual a fact, but I really like this photo...
Ever since I was a kid I can remember feeling like I didn't want to be alone. My parents would always arrange play dates for me and let me bring friends on vacations with us because as an only child I hated being alone. I always felt bored or lonely. I haven't felt either of those feelings lately. I feel grounded. Content. Spacious. Compassionate. Loving. Glowing. Giving. 

I feel like I'm finally tasting what the essence of life is really about...and it's sweet...and I want to share it with everyone in the world. 

Monday, December 26, 2011

"But in order to get to the heart, I think sometimes you have to cut through"

Karma's first day in the US. (Oct. 2010)

I've definitely been more nostalgic since I last wrote and since Karma's departure date has drawn closer and closer. He's leaving tomorrow and we're both sad. He's open to whatever is coming his way and I'm optimistic. It's going to be an adjustment, but I'm going to bed feeling good about everything. 

I don't feel like I have much more to add about how things have been unfolding with us than what I said in my last post. It feels a little surreal that he's taking off and that I'm moving into SF, but it all feels "right" and I'm feeling really grounded. 

I took this video of Karma when we were stuck in traffic last week coming home from SF (3 hours to make a 20 minute drive). Needless to say, this is why I love Karma and always will have him as my friend. He's silly and honest and a wonderful man.

I spent today driving home to Berkeley from Santa Barbara. The scenery was breathtaking and I was moved to tears several times. The mountains meeting the ocean are just amazing and I feel so blessed to live here. I'm really looking forward moving into my next place next week.

Wondering what 2012 will bring my way. I'm keeping my arms wide open to the universe....

Monday, December 19, 2011

Yuletide Divergence

Ice Skating in Union Square, Dec. 2011
I haven't been feeling too sentimental about things lately, which is something kind of new to me. I usually tend to be more emotional, but I'm feeling amazingly grounded and am really relishing in it.

Tomorrow I'm filing for divorce. I feel like stating it blankly like that sounds so abrasive. It doesn't feel abrasive. It feels like the natural thing to do...making room for the next step, door opening, chapter, (insert cliche here). I feel excited and happy, not particularly because I'm focused on "the end" of a relationship, but because I'm looking forward. Looking forward to my life in San Francisco (I move Jan. 6th). Looking forward to Karma's new beginning in New York (he moves 12/29).  I'm appreciating what is now in this in-between state ("bardo" in Tibetan).

Kingston Hospital (which I don't remember)
Karma is moving to the city where I was born (Kingston). I haven't been there since I was born, but I've carried a birth certificate with me from place to place that was created at The Kingston Hospital. This I find rather fascinating, although I'm not surprised by these "coincidences" anymore. Karma and I definitely have a connection in this life.

I will be sad not having him nearby. Not walking downstairs for breakfast in the morning and see him at the kitchen table, drinking his coffee and looking at the paper. I'll miss his smile and quirky jokes and infectious laughter. I feel so deeply that he and I will continue to be friends and that reframing our relationship to one of friendship will allow me to be a better friend to him.

It will be strange to come home from Christmas in LA and see him off the next day. I'll be here in Berkeley for another week before I move into SF. It seems like I'm coming around full circle in this little room on Bonar Street. When I moved here in May 2009 Karma was around the world and I was digging into my life here in the Bay area, alone (well, with housemates). Now I will spend my last week in this house as a single tenant while he goes to start a new life where I started mine (this time around).

The joys and sorrows of life will continue to ebb and flow (does that sound hokey?) but I have this genuine knowing in my heart that everything is perfect as it is, even if it doesn't always feel that way as it's happening.

Looks like I'm feeling sentimental after all.

Happy Holidays. I love you all!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Waiting out winter

Usually I like to wait until I feel like I have some sort of resolve on a situation before blogging about it, hence why I've been reluctant to write any blog posts in the last 2 months. But I figure I should just start writing so I don't forget what happens and so anyone who is interested can be up to date. 

Obviously a lot has happened since Karma and I broke up 3 1/2 months ago. We've been living together and will finally be parting ways. The end of this year will bring big changes for us both.  I'll be moving into San Francisco to (hopefully) live alone for the first time (waiting to hear if I was approved for the apt). Karma will be moving east to Upstate New York to teach and help start a Dharma center. Ironically, he may be living near the city where I was born, which I haven't been to since then. 

I went home for Thanksgiving and Karma came for part of the time. It was challenging and intense at times, as I'd expected it might be. I'm glad that he was able to spend time with my family so that they could all have some closure around our relationship ending. Honestly, I was a bit shocked by how affected everyone has been. It makes sense, of course, but I guess I feel like they haven't known him long, or very well. It's really put things into perspective for me. I really respect and appreciate my family for having accepted Karma into their lives in such an open way that in such a short time they are feeling a sense of loss. 

It's been really hard for me to stay present with this process, to not check out/numb out, run away, ignore it, etc... I've really given it as much energy as I possibly can. It has been exhausting and overwhelming at some points, but I'm accepting that as the best that I can do (in those moments). Sometimes I have space for more and sometimes I don't. Sometimes I have patience and openness to talk about it, sometimes I don't. A lot of the time I'm content. 

I do, however, always have the intention to be open hearted through this and to grow and give and take all that I can from the experience. Although I have increasingly wanted space from Karma, it's not because I don't love him and care for him as my friend any less than when I ended our relationship. It's because I feel those ways and want to honor this separation and grieve the end of our marriage before I can be fully present as a good friend. It will just take time. That has been difficult for him because this is his first break up, so he doesn't understand boundaries, separation, and transitioning from a romantic relationship to one that's platonic. We're both finding our way and I have faith it's all for the better. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Breaking Forward

7 weeks since I last's like a whole new life. A life of transition, which is fitting to the name "American Barbo." "Bardo" translates as "the in-between state" and I'm embodying that. Really this blog should be titled, "An American in the Bardo." I'd originally started this blog thinking that it would be about Karma's integration into US life, but it's really about mine.

Two major shifts (bardos) are happening simultaneously.

It's taken me awhile to gather enough courage to write about it on my public blog, but about 5 weeks ago Karma and I ended our marriage. It was a simple conversation. One that I'd been avoiding, although I'd given up trying before that. I wasn't ready to say it out loud.

I want to use a lot of reassuring words and happy adjectives to make this sound like something different, but what's happening is happening and there actually are a lot of positive things I can say about the situation. I've been thinking about it as "breaking forward," rather than "breaking up."

We are communicating openly, even in difficult moments. We are not arguing often. We are hugging. We are laughing. Sometimes we are sad. We love each other, but it's changed. Mostly for me, but him, too. Us humans have a wide range of emotions, ya know, so divorce brings a lot of those out. I'm grateful that he is the amazing man that he is. I can honestly say "it could be worse."

He wants to stay here and I've consulted with an immigration lawyer who assured me that he'll have no trouble doing so legally. I will continue to support him until he's able to support himself completely. I take that commitment seriously. I feel that he will grow in so many ways from finally having to be on his own for the first time in his life. I am teaching him the skills he needs to do that.

He is a dear friend and I feel that he and I will continue to walk a spiritual path together. During our marriage ceremony with Rinpoche I felt deeply committed to that vow and still do today.

In many ways it's like no other break up I've experienced. We still live together, but in separate rooms. We have breakfast together. We live compatibly....I can't cut and run this time. I must face him every morning, whether he's in a great mood or feeling down. Although it hasn't been very tumultuous since we broke up, it still feels like I'm walking through a fire. A lot of past relationship habits are coming up.

I wanted to strap on a backpack and head to Europe. From a very deep place I felt that that was what I needed to do. This marriage has felt like a subconscious denial of my heritage and culture. Now I have the desire to see where my ancestors are walk on the same ground, sit in the same churches. Looking back on my last few break ups, I've gone away to far lands, whether that was intentional or not, it happened. So, instead of running (which is financially impossible, regardless), I got a new job (the second major shift happening).

I continue to walk through this fire, but I am not alone. I feel so incredibly supported. I keep visualizing the redwood trees. They're some of the tallest trees in the world, but their roots reach long ways to intertwine with their neighbors—holding each other up. This process is allowing me to keep my heart open so that Karma and I can truly be friends.

I worry about him, but know that he will be okay. He was sad, but now he feels better. I can't imagine what experiencing your first love and first break up at the age of 31 might feel like, especially within the span of one year. I've had years of experience in both. I know that the pain dulls with time and that you eventually forget and think back on the relationship from a more removed and grounded place.

Both of our lives have been changed by this experience. I realize now that when I met him I'd lost touch with who I am in an attempt to be more "spiritual." This happened despite all the books I was reading and teachers I was listening to that warned me of the "spiritual ego" that can develop. It was my journey and I don't regret that. I regret the pain that I've caused him. As this break up was first unfolding I regretted marrying him for that very reason, but I don't feel that way anymore. Things will slowly get easier for us. He will heal and someday we'll look back and say "that was hard." It really depends on our mind states. I'm grateful to know that. To not feel without space around the feelings. I'm grateful Karma sees this as something that is happening rather than "happening to him." He is experiencing the suffering of life that he only read and heard about from the monastery. I hope he's able to integrate that into his life and practice in a way that benefits him and others. I hope I can do the same. This process of waking up really is an integration, not a shutting out.

Thank you for letting me share honestly with you...whoever is reading this (myself included).

"Who you are right now is exactly who you were meant to be." —Julia Butterfly Hill (who lived in a redwood for 2 years)

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Do you want meat balls?

I've lost my motivation to write (but I'm going to anyways)...but on the flip side, Karma spends the majority of his time at home writing in his journal. Someday I hope he'll write it in English, but it's in Tibetan for now. I'd be lying if I said I didn't want to know what he's writing!! :)

Last week Karma started training at a Subway in Oakland where his friend, Tashi, works. He hates his hour-long commute (each way) and has tons of food vocab to memorize (I hear things like: "tuna, black forest ham, honey mustard..." while he's practicing). He had a moment when he came home and said, "My father's lineage goes back 800 years of Dharma teachers and I'm spending my day saying, "Do you want jalapenos?" I think he felt humbled. I felt sick to my stomach. I also said, "Hey, I warned you." Which I did...but it still doesn't make up for the fact that immigrants who come here start over in so many ways (think about doctors who aren't recognized as such when they get here).

I'm happy that he has somewhere to go everyday and is training with a friend who speaks Tibetan, so he can really help him understand, but he and I both know that this is just a jumping off point. Hopefully he can jump in and out quickly. The idea of getting money from a fastfood corporation goes against pretty much every moral I try to live by these days. Again, I get ill at the thought of it. "Factory farmed, gmo corn-fed, shipped across our nation, environment-killing, filled with preservatives, heart attack-inducing....."

*Karma just walked in as I was typing this and asked me to quiz him on his vocab. He's memorized how many pieces of meat go in each sub. It's still gross to me, but if I don't analyze, his pronunciations are hilarious. He also does this thing when he acts tough, shakes his fist and asks, "Do you want meat balls?" This comes from the fact that he came home on Friday totally exhausted and was saying how a woman came in who couldn't make up her mind and that he wanted to reach across the counter, grab her shirt and ask, "Do you want meat balls?"(I died laughing.) This is first time I've really heard him use sarcasm and be openly frustrated.
Welcome to America, babe.

I'm actually quite grateful Karma has found something that will give him the opportunity to practice his English and work with people. He's going to register for fall classes this week, too, so he'll be going back to English classes soon.

Our trip home to VA in July was amazing. It was the first time I've thought about moving back to Virginia in years (since I did so from Austin in '07). I'm just craving being near my family...I'm also savoring the fact that I love them that much and that we have such close relationships now. Karma also really loves being around them. He and Daggy (my grandpa) really connected. Daggy is teaching him how to golf (and has since shipped a box of balls, indoor putting holes, tees...), which is great because no one else in the family is interested in golfing. That alone makes me want to move back.

(I'm being interrupted now to help Karma pronounce "pastrami" and he's walking around saying, "Do you want pastrami? Yes, tonight!" And now he's dancing around in his boxers singing "pepperoni, pepperoni, want pepperoni, tell me!" He even put his Subway visor & apron on to really get into character...still in his boxers, mind you. LOL. I momentarily thank Subway for making this possible.)

How can I possibly go one when there's this wonderful show unfolding in my home?

"Teriyaki chicken, roast beef, Subway melt...." I think my grumpiness is melting.... =)