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.