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.... =)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Horsing Around & Getting My Goat

I came home yesterday and was talking to Karma when he stopped me to say, "You look like a horse....or maybe a goat, but only a goat that hasn't been neutered." (What?!)

He was referring to the length of my bangs, which are a bit out of control, I must admit. (I keep curling them in an attempt to prolong the time until I get them trimmed.)

I chuckled, walked into our bedroom closet to change for the gym and he grabbed our laundry basket and pretended to coax me out like it was a food bucket for a horse. I almost died laughing.

These moments are the saving grace of our relationship that I soak up.

It reminds me that despite our cultural and personality differences, we have a lot of fundamental things in common. AND, the fact is, some jokes can transcend culture...or I can laugh at my husband's interesting references and they instantly become jokes. Either way I end up collapsing from laughter exhaustion.
This is in my top 3 favorite things in life.

Since returning from camping things have continued to get better. I had an incredibly busy work week last week (we're redoing our website), tension and anxiety were in high-gear in the office (aka my boss and I, alone and coo-coo pants), BUT I maintained this incredible sense of groundedness through it all. I didn't have a meltdown, cryfest, panic attack (it's a miracle!), nor did I make any stupid or impulsive moves (like snapping at my boss or husband). I'd like to say it's my incredible meditation practice that carried me through it (I have been sitting shortly most mornings these days), but it's most likely my hormonal/chemical imbalance (set off by oral contraceptives) is beginning to relevel itself...however level it normally is. Whatever the case, I feel like I'm in a mental/emotional space that I've been longing (and praying) for. *Whew*

I've been prioritizing have more social connection with my friends and Karma has followed suit, hanging out with friends both during the day (since he's out of school) and in the evenings. We're starting to live together, but more independently (not in an awkward, distanced kind of way). It's most definitely contributing to my PMA (positive mental attitude) these days.

Karma went to see a friend on Sunday in San Francisco, which happened to be during the Gay Pride parade. What should've taken him about an hour, took about 3 1/2 and he was in LOVE with the whole festival. He declared that he is going to march next year IN the parade and will be "gay Karma." If any other partner of mine ever said that I might actually be worried.... I also shared on Facebook that he was buying a ticket for the MUNI, a public transit system within the city, and received a Sacajawea coin as change (the gold $1 coin). He'd never seen one before and asked me if this was "the gay money" in honor of the Pride festival. I laughed about that one for awhile...

He showed me photos and video he took on his new iPod touch (one of his friends gave him). He seemed pretty intrigued with lesbians kissing (not too surprising considering most of my straight guy friends are). He also had a few pictures of a girl dancing around in her bikini in the subway station. Remember, he's only seen a handful of women in bikinis EVER. He thought the fact that people were going topless and painting on their nipples was great. His overarching statement was "This is a VERY good celebration." I have a feeling we'll be in the city for Pride next year (which I would enjoy and will do my best to get him to go in a costume with me)....

I finally went back to my Tibetan class, which was tonight. I finally feel motivated to start studying again and it felt really good to be back in class with all my classmates and with Rinpoche. Some really cool things are starting to unfold, we may begin translating a major text together (we have to be approved by a committee overseeing a larger project first). Regardless, I feel I'm back in the saddle again (in keeping with the horse theme) and I have a few things brewing about my studies/career (more on that as they unfold).

We're leaving for Virginia in one week and we're both really excited. Karma will have Tibetan friends in town from all over the US for HH Dalai Lama's big teaching and my dad's side of the family is coming for a long weekend, family reunion (which was my idea to put together). I haven't seen some of those cousins in 4 years--I'm very, very happy about this reunion!!

Life is good and for the first time in a long time I'm not waiting for them to go sour again, I'm just enjoying it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Feeling Fired Up after Salt Springs

Who is this glowing woman, you ask?? It's Caroline when she's in connection with the Earth, her body, Dharma sisters, s'mores, and given the mental and emotional space to see things a little more clearly.

This was taken Day 3 of an amazing weekend camping trip to Salt Springs Reservoir in Pioneer, CA. 9 of us total from my young adult, women's Dharma group went last Friday-Sunday and it was like hitting the "reset"button on my emotional state and space of mind.

Being in nature is not something that I grew up learning to love (mom, I do not blame you for this). I did play outside a lot and get dirty, but overnight camping outside wasn't something I did, minus a weekend church getaway in the 7th grade when it rained the whole time. Needless to say, I LOVE it. My mind and body love it. I don't mind being dirty and without modern conveniences--I relish in it. I also found myself feeling more empowered, less whiney and getting into a rhythm...pushing myself outside of my habitual patterns I carry more in the comfort of my everyday environment.

I also enjoyed the time and space away from Karma, although I was really excited to go home and see him (a good sign!). I'm feeling more motivated to be present with whatever is coming up and also feel reconnected to wanting to study Tibetan! Yay!

While I was out in nature, I reconnected with the Truth. I felt this way when I was in India, too. Without the superficiality and material things that come up for me more and more as I'm wrapped up in my life here, I can see what's in my heart. I know what I want to do as a path and how my marriage with Karma is all connected to this. This is also how I felt in India. I know that the Dharma and Tibetan language will be more of the foreground of my everyday life now, even if it's only my intention and I'm not studying or practicing every day right away. The intention feels more like fire in my heart like it did before and it's making me feel alive and reawakened. What an immense blessing.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in.

I'm really humbled by the number of people who have contacted me after my last post. Your Facebook comments, texts and calls really mean a lot! Thanks!

My last post was really a review of the last couple of months as I'm coming out of this dark mental state. These last few weeks, and this week in particular, have been really great. Karma doesn't read my blog, although he knows about it, he does sometimes read my mind (I swear!). 

I posted last Friday and then later that night when we were laying in bed he started talking about how he feels like he doesn't really know how to be a regular guy. He's been observing the guys at his school and sees how rough they are with each other, hanging out smoking and hitting the bars on the weekends. He's seeing this as the "normal" behavior of young guys (I'm taking a guess that they're probably in their early 20s) and that after all his years as a monk he just doesn't know how to be rough mannered. 

He also has observed (and thinks) that me (and my friends) are in the "bardo" (like the name of my blog)--it means "the in-between state." He's referring to the fact that I'm not like a lot of Americans,  being on the buddhadharma path, being sober, not seeking a lot of material things, etc... These are all things that I struggle with--I swear, having a husband is like facing a mirror of neurosis (one of those magnifying mirrors that show all your pores)--and having them pointed out can be a very vulnerable experience. Anyways, this is a story of opening, not anything negative. 

So Karma's been thinking about what it would be like to not be an "in-between" person. To just go for the American way and to be a club-going, beer drinking guy. Amidst his explanation he kept referring to the fact that I would never let him do that. This got me to do I give him the space to be and grow as he wants and needs to all the while keeping boundaries (i.e. not being married to someone who drinks every night when I'm trying to stay sober). It's a toughy. I'm not bogged down by this question, more just holding it gently (and talking to my therapist about it). 

I brought up that we were going to a party the next night and that he might make some friends there, but he brushed if off and said that people would probably be friendly and then he'd never seen them again. It didn't turn out that way, though, he made two new friends, both guys who are studying meditation and buddhism and who were very excited to meet him. It just goes to show that you never know. He was joking that it was because he had a glass of champagne. LOL

So here I am, lingering in the in-between state, but right now I"m seeing it as a spacious place, rather than feeling like I'm floundering....after all, it's all about perspective. 

Tomorrow I'm heading out to Salt Lake Reservoir with 9 of my Dharma sisters to camp for the weekend. Karma is staying home and has some plans already. It's our first weekend away from each other since he got here and I must say I'm really looking forward to it...and also really hoping that I miss him, that would be a good sign. :)

Friday, June 10, 2011

Progress, Not Perfection from the Jewel of the House

This month has been hard. Not as hard as last month, but either way, I finally feel like I'm seeing some light in what has felt like a heavy, dark, existential cloud looming around my heart-center.

It's hard to know what's been due to hormonal imbalance and what's rooted in grounded concern. This fact has made it unbelievably hard for me to trust my own feelings. In Buddhism we're taught not to really "trust our feelings" anyways because they are ever changing, but there's a level in which your emotions are telling you something...something so grounded in your body that at a most basic level it gives you the will to live, to strive, to survive. There were times this past month that the wind was so lost from my sails that it looked like getting out of bed, simply surviving, wasn't much of an option.

I started taking a birth control pill two months ago, along with my knee surgery, which kept me out of the gym for almost a month, so there were a lot of factors. Karma was also having health issues, including having all 4 of his wisdom teeth pulled, then getting severe food poisoning 4 days later (with blood, fainting & an emergency room visit). On top of that, Karma had his immigration interview last Friday, so there was an underlying anxiety leading up to it. The wonderful news is that he was approved, although the interviewer didn't tell us that in person and left us wondering if he would be. I'll get to that in a minute. (I've put a subhead down below if you'd like to skip the depressing stuff.)

Karma and I celebrated our 6-month wedding anniversary last week and the honest truth is that I felt more like questioning the decision, rather than celebrating. What a shitty feeling.

I've been told that the first marriage is hard, but add to the language barrier, cultural differences, financial dependency, surgeries, sickness and, well, it's a recipe for a Caroline meltdown of epic proportions. On the simplest level, the good news is, I didn't drink (can't say I didn't think about it). The bad news is, it's not over.

Karma, of course, has his own waves of mind and sometimes chooses to share them with me. I know my behavior towards him has been unwelcoming and, at times, harsh, but he continues to love me through it, which is sometimes surprising, but definitely admirable. There are things we will have to really dig into once he's been here longer and his English is better, like deep cultural beliefs that feel stifling to me. He truly believes that a wife is the "jewel of the house" and when she spends a lot of time outside of it it feels empty. I can see where he's coming from, especially for families with children, but it's such a patriarchal point of view that my body has such a strong reaction to it. My vitality comes through human connection and social contact and I have been trying to curtail that in an attempt to make him happy, but have dampened my own liveliness and love of life in the process (which, in turn, does NOT make him happy). *Doh* Anyways, I've started to connect to my social life a bit and already feel better.

I have had the space of mind (and am currently feeling groovy) to start seeing light, opportunity and hope within all this. I do realize that my perspective has EVERYTHING to do with how this will turn out. When I'm feeling triggered, do I choose to go down the rabbit hole of anguish, or do I hit my knees and pray? Do I settle myself down comfortably on my little pity pot, or do I reach out and ask for help? Do I continue to list all the things I think are "bad" or are "wrong" in my life, or do find the good? You get the point.

This week seems a little better, perhaps due to my actually sitting down to meditate after a few months hiatus (yes, I realize my insanity could be a direct correlation). I've had some guilt around not sitting, but so much aversion that I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I think my resentments towards my relationship and how connected that is to the Dharma had a lot to do with it. Whatever the reason, my aversion has lifted around that. I'm hoping it will lift around my Tibetan language study so I can start that again, but I'm being patient.

I'm blessed to have an amazing village of support and grateful that even in the lowest of low times, I picked up that 100lb phone and called some of them. Instead of trying to control & "fix" things, I'm slowly learning how to surrender to what's happening and staying present with them. S.L.O.W.L.Y. "Progress, not perfection."

7:45 a.m. in San Francisco last Friday (my grandma & grandpa Netschert's wedding anniversary date 6/3). We left the East Bay at 6:45, hit no traffic and were there, through security and waiting by 7:25. I hadn't been blatantly nervous much leading up to it, but started getting nervous the night before and was in full force that morning. Karma, of course, was as cool as a cucumber. It helped balance me, for sure. We took along a Tibetan friend to translate, which was a must, or Karma wouldn't have been able to complete the interview.

The interviewer was a small, fierce woman who immediately made me uncomfortable. Her energy was so intense, so severe and so antagonistic. I immediately became subservient in my body language and demeanor. I haven't been around many government-type officials and I realize that there is a level of straight-forwardness, professionalism and power that they must command, but it was very overwhelming (especially given my recent mind state).

She asked him a series of questions, including our address, which Karma messed up (twice!) and then focused her attention on me. She was like a machine gun of questions and my heart rate was up to pace with them. They were mostly questions about his family, but she questioned my birth certificate (my parent's names aren't on it...Why? I have no idea.), my health insurance card (they told me that Karma wouldn't get a card with his name on it and when I explained this she said she had the same provider and they do issue separate cards). She said she needed more time to "follow up" on some information and that they would send us a letter in 2-4 weeks with an answer. When I left there I was shaken, worried that he would get denied and ruminating that it might be my fault. Thankfully we received a letter of approval yesterday, less than a week after our interview, so we're majorly relieved!

I want so badly for everything to be wonderful for Karma and for us as a couple. I want to ride these waves with patience and open-heartedness, no matter what happens. There is light in this journey and some lightness in my chest. A very, very good feeling.

*Side note story
I planned on ending this post with the last section, but just can't leave out this story. We watched the movie "Grown-Ups" with Adam Sandler (not so great) and there was a character whose 5-year-old (ish) son was still breastfeeding and all his friends were giving him grief for it. The next day, Karma says he doesn't understand why everyone thought that that was such a bad and strange thing. I told him that most people only breast feed their kids in the US until they're about a year old. I know that this is vastly different from many other countries, mainly because I know my aunt raised her son in India and breastfed much longer and it wasn't considered strange. When I asked him how old he was when he stopped his said around 7 or 8...but sometimes did when he was 10, 11 and even 12 (on a relaxing afternoon when everyone was just laying around in the grass).
Wait, what?
I asked him if there was actually breast milk and his reply was, "No."
I was immediately judging this (aren't you?). I asked him if it was in any way sexual and explained that most boys at 12 (in America) are thinking about touching boobs, but not their mom's.
He was totally grossed out that I would even suggest that and said it's not uncommon.
I don't really know how to end this story, except by saying that this is a prime example of HOW different our cultures really are and where we're coming from in perspective.
I would like to say that I will NOT be breastfeeding our children until they are 12. =)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Homage to Ani-la

I survived a week since my knee surgery, Karma's cooking and all. It was a little rough in places (more emotionally, than physically, but they're so tightly connected), but I'm hobbling my way back to "normality" and am free from the land of noodle soup. Actually, Karma's simple meals were pretty tasty, there was only one "incident" including a mix-up of balsamic vinegar in place of soy sauce (in noodle soup)...he also convinced me one night that he was "hard-boiling" avocados & heating up some cucumbers...

I swear he lives to see me get frustrated, only to make me laugh at his wacky jokes. One day he came bounding into our room and said,
"I have two ideas, listen to me. The first, we can go to the new movie theatre by our house."
Me, "Where is it?"
Karma, "Over there." (Pointing in the direction of theatre.)
Me, "Really? I didn't see it!?"
Karma, "No, not really."
Me, "What? You lied?"
Karma, "Yes." (Very deadpan.)
I never did hear his second idea, I was laughing too hard at the first. I just love things that make little sense.

Karma has proven himself to be a great nurse (which I could have predicted). He changed the ice water in the machine I had the first 3 nights (for the swelling) without being prompted--even in the middle of the night. He's even thinking about being a nurse's aid, or something similar, at a nursing home...Which brings me to my next point: He's got a work permit! AND we got our interview for his green card. It's on June 3rd, which is my grandparent's (father's side) wedding anniversary. That's the grandma that sponsored to come here, so it wasn't a surprising "coincidence." I didn't know until I told Granny about the interview day and when she told me I was instantly teary-eyed. So, things are going smoothly on that front.

Last night Karma told me a really amazing story about his mother's family that I want to share.
His grandfather was head of a village, including Panchen Monastery (very famous), in eastern Tibet (Kham region). He was apparently a very good looking guy. When the Chinese invaded in 1959, he was taken to prison, as all political leaders (or heads of anything) were (to be "punished" for benefitting from  their fuedal society).

He had two wives. One was Karma's grandmother, the other was a sister of Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche's (very famous lama who came to teach in America and died in the 90s). Karma's grandmother starved to death during the Great Chinese Famine, as so many Tibetans and Chinese did. The other wife fled to India with her family. His grandfather died in Chinese prison and the authorities notified his sister. A nun (ani) who was living in a work camp where she was severely beaten on a daily basis.

His grandfather's sister was a strong woman. When she heard of her brother's death, she walked to the prison to claim his body. It took her somewhere between 2-3 weeks to get there. When she arrived, she had to identify him, which was difficult because he was very skinny, but his face was bloated...not to mention he was in a room full of other corpses, all in similar condition. One of the other prisoners told her which one was him.

Ani-la carried his body on her back for that entire 2-3 week journey to their homeland. She then cremated him and did all the prayers in secret (very risky, especially during the Mao years). I just can't get over the image of this woman carrying a corpse, although probably light because he had starved, through the mountains of Tibet. She was a woman of strong will and strong faith. Apparently the tip of her thumb wore down into a half-moon shape from doing so many mantras on her rosary and she would come home every night from the work camp after doing manual labor and enduring beatings and sit in meditation.

Karma's mother was really young, maybe around age 7, when all of this was happening. She chose to go with her aunt (ani-la) to the work camp. Her other aunt didn't have as difficult a situation, but she was very close to ani-la, so she wanted to go with her. I'm not sure whether or not her aunts knew about their situations prior to his mother choosing her path, but I certainly hope not. His mother spent her youth working doing such things as plowing fields with a yoke on her back, just like an animal would. At some point things became more lenient and she no longer had to work there. I'm going to dig for more details, although because Karma's barely lived with his mother and phone calls to Tibet are dicey these days, it may take some time. I was just really moved by his family history and wanted to share.

Karma loves telling me his family history and stories from his youth. A lot of them include a lot of adversity, which I know he's trying to point out to me to create perspective. I try to stay as open as I can because I know how easy my life has been. Sometimes it's easier to remember than others, but I know, just the same.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hitch a Ride on the Noodle Express

It hasn't quite been a week since my last post and I just couldn't take not writing about myself (since I tried to stay focused on Karma in my last one). 

I'm having knee surgery on Wednesday. Nothing major. It's arthroscopic (little camera) in an outpatient clinic and they're just cutting a loose piece of cartilage away from under my knee cap. My roommates are out of town and my mom has a lot of  work in VA, so Karma is going to be my nurse. I've been joking that I'll be eating Tibetan-style noodle soup until I can stand long enough to cook for myself, but he's assured me that this will not be the case. I'm interested to see how he handles being "in charge", per se. I'm sure I'm exaggerating (what's new), but it could be quite entertaining. Bonus that we have the new bed and it's unbelievably comfortable!

While I was cooking tonight I asked Karma to clean. He swept upstairs and then, apparently, felt like he was finished, so I asked, "Are you going to mop?" He said it's a Tibetan custom not to clean at night...I thought that was fairly convenient and we got a good laugh. Then, as he walked away, I shouted, "What about the toilet?" He came back to the kitchen and asked if I was serious about him cleaning it....I half grunted, half chuckled and said, "No." Then, he came out with this little gem......
"This is a Tibetan saying: If one mouth speaks two different meanings, then two farts will come from one butt."
He can't be making this up, but it's sometimes hard to believe. Tibetan parables are sometimes really raunchy, I have a book of them. I appreciate that a simple, nomadic culture has such great senses of humor. For my more prudish readers, this may be a good time to stop reading this post...I think things are going to head south (figuratively) from here (due to recent conversations that occurred regarding sex).

Karma told me this story over the weekend about his friend who is a Tibetan monk that was out shopping with a Tibetan guy (not a monk) and they wandered into a sex toy shop. The monk was wearing his monkly attire and felt deeply ashamed to be in there, mostly because the owner was Indian and kept calling him "Guru-ji," which is a very respectful way to address a spiritual teacher. As Karma was telling me this, I realized from his tone and disbelief of the situation that he had NO idea that sex toy shops were common. Nor did he realize that many people from a wide array of backgrounds patron said shops. (I, in fact, used to fill in work at one in Austin from time to time that my friend owned.)

Anyways, I figured that that was as good a time as any to show him my "stash."

[Now my mom reads this blog, along with various other family & community members, so I feel I'm walking a fine line between being boldly honest (I'm holding back here a bit) and being somewhat modest (I'd say that Karma would be mortified if he knew I was "publicly" sharing about this particular story, but he just walked in and read this so I'm in the clear, in fact, he says we might become famous if we write a books together, lol.)

Back to the "stash." (Which isn't much, I might add.)  I thought my husband was going to have a heart attack. He began laughing so hard, which, in turn, caused me to as well. He asked if these were common to have and I said that most of my female friends do. He just laughed and laughed. I told him I used to work at a store that sold similar items and he asked if it was all women coming in alone. I explained that many couples came in shopping together, but sometimes people shopped alone.

I think I blew his mind.

I'm baffled by how much there is for him to learn after being here for 6 months, although, he's been here about as long as I was in India when I met him, which gives me perspective. Catching the bus there was a nightmare since I don't read (or speak) Hindi, not to mention the countless other things I needed my hand held through in order to function. Karma's doing great. He was laughing the other day and saying that there needs to be a class for ex-monks to learn how to be "regular" (married) guys (I'm thinking "Hitch" but more about marriage than dating.)  He's learning more than just our culture & language, that's for sure. Although I agreed with him that it would be beneficial for Tibetan, ex-monks, I'm sure some American-born dudes might benefit, too.

I'll check in post-knee surgery and let you know how the noodles are.....

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Time Stole the Blanket on this Blog (or Why My Feet are Smiling)'s been just over 2 months since I last wrote. I think writing is like going to the gym, it's really hard to begin again once you've stopped! I've been keeping my laptop off more at night, which has been part of the reason, but mainly, I lost motivation.

Instead of recapping the play-by-play of the last two months, let's just pick up from the most recent of news. It's much less daunting.

We went to Austin, Texas, a few weekends ago, where I lived from (roughly) '05-'07. I wanted to see my wonderful friends and introduce them to Karma. I saw it as an integration of sorts...a balancing of past and present. It was invigorating and I wished we'd had more time there. Karma also really like the city itself and my friends, so I have a feeling it wasn't our last trip there together.

I really want to bring the focus of this post to Karma and less on me and my ever-changing thoughts. Really, I'd intended for this blog (as an entity) to be more about him than me, but let's face it, I'm WAY to vain for that. It's also easier to report what's going on for me (duh) and, of course, what I observe about my husband is still second-hand information, even if he's telling me things directly, so it should be taken with a grain of salt.

Karma is still studying English, but he's been throwing around the idea of "what's next?" more and more. He's now been here 6 months and with his school being closed for the summer beginning in June, well, he's wondering what that will mean for him. We're still waiting for his work permit to come, but we all know (but perhaps don't agree with this) that you don't always need one of those in the U.S. to be employed. It's been a point of contention with us (sometimes) because he's starting from ground zero and I don't always feel like holding his hand through things. Patience is not always my strong suit and after 6 months, well, I think I have set my expectations unrealistically high for him. Anyways, he really wants me to (basically) tell him what his options are for work and I (basically) want him to tell me what he's looking for. Judging by the way things have gone thus far, I will come to my senses and just help him. I can be so freakin' stubborn (and lazy!).

He's decided that no matter how his other work (if at all) transpires, he plans on teaching the Dharma. I definitely support him on this, although I have NO idea how/where to even help him get started with it. Surprisingly, he began with something that I would begin with (and wouldn't necessarily expect him to): his outfit. He found a Tibetan tailer in the area and we bought some fabric, so he'll be looking dapper and fit the part of a Tibetan Lama. I guess I shouldn't say he "began" with his clothes...he has been training & studying for 15 years. That counts for something, doesn't it? I'm curious to how this will all unfold.

In other news, we bought a new bed! Hallelujah!! Can I just tell ya'll how happy my little feet will be not to hang off the end of our full-size?? Actually, can I just tell you how happy Karma will be when I'm not invading his side of the bed all night? He's such a ham--he yells, "Free Tibet! China out!" whenever I get too carried away with taking over the bed or the blankets (or both). He'll make me feel how little room he has, in an attempt to prove a point, but I always pretend like he's got tons of room and shouldn't be complaining...that I'm the one suffering of lack of space. Seriously, we role play this every night. It's always funny, but there's definitely an edge of seriousness because we're two big people in one small bed. Thursday, and that queen-size bed, can't come soon enough!

Bed shopping was a trip. He'd never experienced trying out beds in a huge room full of them. His suggestion was that we each buy two yoga mats (for the floor)...I was ready for the California King, organic, pillow-top, extravagance. We compromised and bought a firm (but not rock hard) bed. He's worried his body will get so used to sleeping on a soft bed that he'll be "ruined" for trips back to Asia (or camping). He's got a good point, but that would never sway me to sleep on the wood floor of our bedroom full-time. Absolutely not.

While in Texas I acquired a new hair-do with bangs. Karma's taken to calling me his "16-year-old" wife and will call me and ask, "Is this the sixteen-year-old girl?" He tickles himself over it and starts laughing, which always gets me laughing. Another thing we laugh about are his impressions. He's taken to doing little skits of his classmates--I swear, it's actually really funny. He'd die before he'd ever let me videotape him doing one, but don't think that idea hasn't crossed my mind.

I'm learning daily from this marriage and from Karma and surprise myself with how open I can be (and also how closed). Really, I'm seeing firsthand how awakening to the Truth through an intimate relationship is a rich, challenging and expansive journey.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"Gonna Rise Up, Find my direction magnetically"

I've heard it takes about 90 days to make (or break) a habit. Well, we've passed the 4 month marker since Karma landed and we've definitely found some routine.

For starters, Karma is now a card-carrying Berkeley YMCA member, along with a public library card holder--his two first pieces of identification in the U.S. He hasn't been back to the library since we obtained our cards (I hadn't gotten mine since moving here), but we're total Y gym rats and go every day. My cookie consumption has increased, though, so I'm holding fairly steady. =) I've also been making a point to meditate every day, but not judging myself if I miss a day here or there.

Our first venture to the Y was quite comical. Karma had never been on an elliptical and was like a deer on ice. Seriously, it was a scene. I was grabbing his leg and he had NO idea what I was doing or where I was trying to make his leg go. He's a champ now, both there and in other ways. Since obtaining a bicycle from Sean he rides it around town on his own. He's in love with the Thai Buddhist temple (a different tradition than Tibetans practice) services on Sunday...I should mention they're known for an amazing buffet, which he certainly indulges in as well. Karma is finding his way here and is continuing to study English, make friends at school, connect with friends and family on the phone and share in housekeeping duties with me (very much appreciated!).

I feel like I've been through a real transformation in the last (almost) month since writing. I've had some really deep insights into my own insecurities, habits, feelings, actions....I feel like my feet are finally touching ground and my head is clear. I've been mostly happy, not in a manic, blissed-out way, but in a really sound way and I've really started to fall in love with my husband in a new way. I loved him the day we got married, but now I'm actually seeing him for the amazing man he is. There was a situation last weekend where I was manipulating him to pay attention to me, a temper tantrum of sorts, and in the midst of my tears and complaints, his comment was, "You don't trust me." It struck me in such a profound way. The truth is I trust Karma more than anyone I've ever known. He's the most genuine, open-hearted, grounded man. I knew that in my heart more clearly than ever when he made that remark. So what became even more clear to me in that instant is that I don't trust myself. I'm talking on the deepest level. There is a raw, needy, desperate part of me that I just despise and I don't trust myself not to act out of that place. I know there's nothing "wrong" with that part of me, but I'm seriously ashamed of it. I've been sending that part of me love and know that if I didn't have such an aversion to it, if I didn't try to compact it into such a small corner of myself, then it wouldn't retaliate in such large ways when it just can't take that kind of treatment anymore. The balance of recognition is enough.

So, onward life goes. We're heading to LA on Friday for a long weekend with my Aunt and cousins. Karma's excited for his first US road trip and first time to LA. I'm looking forward to seeing my family and just being really present with them.

I feel really grateful and like the love in me is really sinking in and is ready to bust out. 

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Sun Sets on a Cloudy Mind.

Today my head feels clear & my heart light.

This weekend has been wonderful. Just wonderful.

We spend the day on Saturday being tourists in our own city. I never fail to have an amazing time when I do that. San Francisco is just a vibrant, energizing place to be and with a clear, sunny, warm day...well, we couldn't go wrong.

Our buddy Sean (or "Shawm," as Karma says) was our tour guide and chauffeur and he and I are notorious for indulging in too many sweets together (or any vegan food for that matter), so it was an understood, unspoken agreement that we would eat our way through the day. And ate we did.

We started out with a smoothie at Potrero Center then went straight to the San Francisco Vegan Bake Sale in the Mission (benefiting an aviary, non-profit group). We loaded up our boxes to tote along and sampled some muffins & cookies (oh, my!). We did our best to refrain from filling up on said sugary delicacies before lunch and headed to Lower Haight to grab sandwiches for a picnic in Golden Gate park. "Love n' Haight" had amazing vegan choices and meat for my carnivore husband, so we were all happy.

We drove down through the Sunset district, which runs along the length of the park (south side), and found a sunny bench by a pond to picnic by, so we pulled over and parked. The sun on my face felt so rejuvenating after a long week of cloudy skies and a cloudy mind. I was just starting to get over my cold, so it really put some life back in me.

From the park we continued west and came to an opening in the lush, green forest and there it was. The spacious sea meeting the cloudless, spacious sky. Amazing.

We parked by Ocean Beach and walked straight to the water, then walked along the coast until we came to the huge bluff that you cannot pass (what The Cliff House sits on top of). We walked through a small cave that comes out on top of come boulders, where we sat and meditated for about a half hour facing the ocean, the sun reflecting on us as we reflected within.

Next, Karma finally took his first trip over the Golden Gate Bridge, which he's seen for 3 months from across the Bay. We got off the road and drove up to the crowded overlook....simply amazing to see from the edge of those high, rocky cliffs.

As the sun was making its way back toward the ocean, we decided to drive to a beach in Marin about 15 minutes from the GG bridge to watch it set. It was a smaller beach that I'd never been to and that Sean has fallen in love with. I now understand why. We walked the entire length of the beach and back as the sun was slowly sinking into the great Pacific. The colors on this beach were simply stunning. The sand has the texture of tiny pebbles, smooth, so it barely sticks to your skin, and it's a mix of various dark colors. Then there is a lagoon that is a slate grey/blue and there are burnt orange cliffs, accentuated by the setting sun, wearing green, grassy hats. And, of course, the sea. The great blue grandeur.

The rest of this weekend was filled with visiting friends. Karma and I each did our own thing both yesterday (all day) and today (for the afternoon).  He found the Thai Buddhist temple yesterday and saw classmates and ate lunch and explored Berkeley. Today he rode the bus for the first time (and alone!) and visited a friend up the way in El Cerrito. He's becoming more mobile and, therefore, more adventurous and confident. This brings such joy to my heart.

Today I tried to take him as my guest to the Y (my gym), but he forgot his I.D. That turned into him walking home, then getting lost for an hour trying to find his way back. Meanwhile, I was working out and waiting for him. Needless to say, my feet are sore and so are his, but he never made it to the gym. He's still learning. And so am I.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Unmistaken Experiences

It's amazing how you can't recreate the same experience twice. They say this about ecstatic drug-induced experiences, but I'd say it goes for clear-minded ones, too. In fact, what's prompted me to write this is my experience was simply from watching a movie for a second time.

The name of the movie is "Unmistaken Child", a documentary about a monk who is assigned the job of finding his teacher in his new reincarnated form. Here's the trailer:

I saw this movie the first time while Karma was still in India and I was living here on my own. I went and saw it in the theaters in downtown Berkeley. I was so moved by the devotion of this amazing monk.

This time I watched it while laying in bed with my husband, an ex-monk who lived for many years in retreat in very similar areas to the ones this was filmed in. In fact, he's been to many of those places (I've only been to Dharmasala, which is in there for a bit). It was really amazing to see it from his perspective (as much as one can without actually being the other person).

This movie has rekindled how much I appreciate Karma for his simple upbringing, his lack of desire for all things material (his post-Xmas shopping desire is null).

Sometimes it's difficult to keep this in mind when my mind is SO infiltrated with desire. (Of course I'd rather it not be, but that's the truth of the matter.)

Sometimes I feel inferior because of this. (That's totally in MY mind, not anything that he's doing.)

Sometimes I feel like completely giving up my entire spiritual aspiration because of this. (Although that doesn't seem to far off since my "practice" is pretty much doing nothing these days...and I mean that in the most ordinary sense of it.)

Sometimes I feel like getting really drunk or just running away from this whole life I've built here at even the thought of giving up on that path. (Really, if I did "give up" I feel like I might as well just plug back into the "matrix" and why not crash and burn??)

I hope this is making some sort of sense. I guess that doesn't really matter since it's more of an outpouring of my thoughts.

Anyways, this seems somewhat dismal, but what I was trying to get at is that seeing this movie LIFTED me in some way to see that he's from a totally different world (duh) and that our habits are totally different (duh) and that I have to STOP COMPARING myself and my meditation to him and his (big time duh).

I just kept thinking about Karma being up there in those mountains that border between Nepal and Tibet where there is such VAST amount of space with very few people....and now him walking from "Berkeley Bonar" (as he calls our house on Bonar Street) up University Ave to San Pablo every day, passing an extremely diverse group of people, walking, shopping, gathered at the bus stop....

I can't imagine what this transition is like for him.

Actually, I said to him during the movie, "Maybe we should just go live somewhere like that." His response was, "In the mountains? I would like it there, but I think it would be really difficult for you."

This prompted me to really think about whether I could do what he's doing, but in the opposite way. Not living in India, but living in the mountains of Nepal or Tibet. Giving up all my electronic vices, weekly dharma groups, circles, dance parties, obsessing over food being "right" or not, impulse shopping online, jumping on a plane and being with my family....or even more simply, turning on the faucet and having hot water, flipping the space heater on when it's only 50 degrees (I know, that's insane, even after living in VA and upstate NY).... Could I actually DO that??? Some parts of me wants to say, "YES!!!" I could do that! I could do that to "prove" that I could...or something totally ego-fed.

But seriously, I'm a creature of comfort. I've never been camping more than a weekend and hated every moment of it because it was chilly and raining.

Maybe I could....maybe I'm underestimating how powerful the mind is and that it can override any habit that has been accumulated.

Maybe someday I'll actually find out.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Back to Berkeley, BART, Boogie-time--break it down.

I wish I could find a time to write that didn't sacrifice a bedtime snuggle with my husband because every time I sit down to do this, he's out like a light!

We've been back in Berkeley for 4 days and it feels like we never left. All of our remaining wedding presents have been opened, Xmas gifts put away, thank you notes written (not all have been mailed), rooms cleaned, fridge stocked, laundry done...settling in for life "as usual." Whatever that means! Our trip to Virginia seems like a dream...time is such an interesting concept.

We went to our friends 30th birthday party last night and Karma danced for the first time in front of people other than myself. Granted it wasn't as high-intensity as I get to see, but it was a huge thing for me to witness. Thank you, Nilacala, for teaching him to do robotic moves and making him comfortable enough to just get silly!

I also recall that at one point I looked over my shoulder to see where Karma was and he was engaged in a very dynamic conversation with a stranger. He snacked, he chatted, he laughed, he danced...he told me he was drunk off of two beers---totally joking, but thinking he was the funniest person in the world--I'd say it was a great night! (for the record he was drinking sparkling lemonade--one of his faves.)

Today he tackled the BART (subway) alone to visit a friend he'd met in India (who lives in SF). He had the destination station name in tow and relied (apparently) on a homeless woman to help him buy a ticket and strangers to guide him to the correct train, make a transfer and get off at the right stop. He also made it back, but got off one stop early (downtown Berkeley), then misread the map in the station and walked in the wrong direction....came back to the station to re-look at the map and finally made his way home. Maybe that's why he's passed out now!

Karma also reconnected with a Tibetan friend (via telephone) who lives in Chicago whom he hadn't spoken with in 5 years. He's SO excited about this and hopes to see him in person sometime this year. Don't know how that will work out, but we'll see!

This is just a short post...I want to start writing less, more often, so I can remember all the good stuff! For example, if I tell Karma I have bad breath he says it's actually my onion breath hitting his mouth and circling back to my nose. Then he laughs and laughs.... =)

Also, in case you didn't catch this on Facebook, here's a shot from our wedding in VA:

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Unapologetic Capital Affairs


Everyone's talking about resolutions, new beginning, reviewing the last year, goals for 2011, etc...and honestly, I've been seriously resisting it all.

I don't know why my head's got a thundercloud around it a lot more often than not these days, but that's just the way it's been. I have a plethora of things to be grateful for, I feel really close to Karma and I've avoided getting sick this winter, so far.... But, I've also been eating a lot of sugar these past few weeks (let's face it, the past month+) and have even jumped back on the caffeine train this last week or so. Needless to say, waking up is hard to do now (not in the ultimate sense this time). Both of these things make my mood more unstable.

It's been especially difficult for me to find routine and balance and discipline while staying with my folks in Virginia these past (almost) 2 weeks. Karma and I waited for 6 hours at the airport last Tuesday night trying to leave, but apparently it wasn't meant to be. We're scheduled to fly out this Wednesday and I CAN'T WAIT!!!

Don't get me wrong, I love being with my family and I've enjoyed seeing friends I haven't seen in ages, but I feel like I've got a rock in my existential shoe...ya know? When I think of Berkeley and see the sun set behind the Golden Gate bridge over the Bay, well, I'm getting teary-eyed just thinking of it. My heart sings, flutters and jumps for joy at just that picture in my mind. I'm so blessed to live in a city I'm in love with! I mean, I LOVE that friggin' place! I might just kiss the ground when I get off that plane (eww, probably not).

Karma has been a super trooper through this whole trip. I'm not surprised at all, but I thought I'd just toot his horn a bit. We had another wedding reception when we first got back here--all my parent's friends and neighbors were invited. It was a great night! These were all the "grown-ups" I grew up around, so it was really great to see them after so many years. He handled it like a pro and I promised him no more big parties for us for a long time!

     (Me & my grannies, taken on Thanksgiving) <3

Christmas eve we went to my grandparent's church, his first Christian church service. He wanted to meet the minister afterwards and it turns out he used to teach eastern religion (including buddhism) at VCU in Richmond, VA. Very cool. Christmas day itself was super mellow and Karma made out like a bandit. He was really surprised (and grateful) at how generous my family was to him. We went to a family (extended cousins) party the day after Christmas and he was quiet, but enjoyed meeting everyone. We played the game where you steal each other's gifts and he loved it.

After our flight was cancelled on Tuesday, we spent time with my family and then my parents went away for the weekend. It was great having the house to ourselves, although we spent every day out, we still appreciated it. I love our house in Berkeley, but having your own space...well, there's nothing like it.

I have laughed till I cry on a few occasions because Karma's silliness has increased at least 10-fold. He's great at doing impressions and his view of things is always not what I'm expecting. Today we rocked out in the car to ZZ Top--he cranked it up and said, "good." The subtlety of his humor sometimes is just brilliant. His blatant humor is equally awesome. He loves to let everyone know that we live on Bonar Street by saying, "I live on Berkeley's Bonar." ;)

From the Museum of Natural History (Smithsonian):

I suppose I've never really made resolutions because I have a tendency not to follow through with things and then feel guilty about it. My roommate, in fact, (not so) graciously pointed this out to me. He suggested I not make promises I can't keep. It felt harsh at the time, but I knew he was right. I hate it that he's right.

I do have a few things I'd like to do in 2011, so I'm going to write them down. Maybe they'll actually happen...

1. Meditate every day.
2. Study Tibetan 4 times or more per week. (As in actually studying outside of my class.)
3. Listen to people with my undivided attention (A. because they deserve it and, B. Then I might actually process it)
4. Put every effort possible into work. (If I properly follow #1 & #3 this one should come more easily.)
5.Get back into more regular exercise without re-injuring my ankle.
6. Be less social. (This one is motivated by #2 on my list AND the fact that I want to lay low a bit after the last few years of really focusing on being social.)
7. Practice the harmonica at least 15 minutes a week.
8. Take Karma to see something new in the Bay Area (or outside of it sometimes) at least once a month.
9. Continue making conscious food-buying choices and increase the amount of macrobiotic meals per week.
10. Decrease purchasing plastic items and increase purchasing (when necessary) those made with upcycled or recycled materials.

This list could actually go makes me think of Cheri Huber's writings. She talks about the way in which we judge ourselves is actually a form of violence. I know mine certainly can be. I intend to hold these intentions lightly and not take a hacksaw to my ego if I don't do them. I also don't want to use this "lightness" as an excuse to not do them. Welcome to my daily internal dilemmna...which brings me to my single "resolution," which some of you may have seen on Facebook: "To let go of being uptight, as well as welcome more discipline into my habits." This is a fine line I have a difficult time walking. But, alas, I feel I have let you into my mind of doubt and uncertainty and I have the urge to simply delete this blog entry and pretend it never happened. Instead I think I'll post it, pause, and simply breathe.

May this new year bring each of you to a place where you access that deep well of love and peace within you.