Saturday, December 25, 2010
It's Christmas day. It's quiet and everyone is napping except my son. He and I are watching the Lakers game. I'd love to be in the stands at Staples Center and watch the game with Miami up close and in personal. My sons have season tickets but they live in Las Vegas at the moment. They've been going to Laker games since they were in grammar school in Beverly Hills when their physical education coach took them to their first games. Even though they can't see the Lakers play at Staples regularly (they sell the tickets when they don't use them), they have vowed to keep the season tickets into eternity. Every once in awhile I got to see a game with one of my sons. I love basketball and I love the Lakers.
It's a peaceful day. I still feel the joy of being in Park City with my oldest son and his family - my three grandsons from and my wonderful daughter in law. This morning I took them to the airport to catch a flight to Florida to be with their other grandparents. Last night we had a family dinner with #2 son and his family - and another grandson and baby granddaughter - and it rocked with energy. Son #2 made a fabulous meal - he's an unbelievable chef - and I sat back in my chair with a glass of red wine and thought how blessed I have been in my life. For months now I have been astounded at the joy I have felt. For so long, my journey has felt like a bumpy road; but lately, it's been quite smooth. Is it my age - an arrival of some kind of wisdom? Is it the decades of putting one foot in front of another to keep my life moving in a positive direction? Is it finally that I have slowly realized that I have been so blessed with a sense of gratitude that life truly is peaceful?
The practice of my tao, my journey of truth consists in daily losing. I accept this idea of loss because it is in my surrender to it the loss that I stay conscious, offer gratitude, release attachments, and find balance in yin and yang of all that makes up my life.
The end of a year gives all of us the opportunity to pause and reflect about the state of our being, our souls, and to connect with ourselves in a more profound sense. In meditation, we learn to empty our minds and resist the impulse to fill ourselves up with needless thoughts and judgments, which only cause anxiety and stress. In the final days up to the end of the year, I find that clearing the mind of the unnecessary thoughts leads me to clear intentions in the days ahead.
As I bring in each new year, it has been my habit to celebrate the wonderful experiences of the past year and to note the losses as a positive learning experience. Then, I look forward to bringing in this new year with a sense of excitement and anticipation and positive energy. And I renew with conviction to my family and dear friends and to my devotion to yoga and meditation.
A happy new year to all.
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
Alas, I have some free time. My year old grandson is asleep with his morning nap and everyone in my family is out. The two older grandsons are in ski school and their parents, my son and daughter in law are picking up my ex-husband a lady friend up from the airport. I'm in Park City on a family week's vacation and it is so beautiful that I can't take my eyes off the snow coming steadily down every minute of the day and night. We are packed in and it is completely serene.
The other day I received a note on my Facebook page from a boy who gave me my first kiss in the back row of the Rafael theater in San Rafael. I was astounded and, well, so downright astounded that I coudn't move for several minutes. He was my first love in fifth grade, and he, a much older boy in the sixth grade, was my sexual experience. The First Kiss. I will never forget. And I remember vividly this first crush because I really liked him for a very long time. I'm that kind of girl: hard to let go of really like or love because people get close to my heart, inside my heart and I'm way too sensitive to that condition. This note from my first crush - a good kisser as I recall because I remember good kissers - gave me pause in so many ways.
It has taken me awhile to get use to this social networking gig. For so long, I resisted. In time, I just discovered that if I surrendered and accepted what is instead of fighting what I want it to be that I would be okay, it would be all right in my brain and I could cope. As a result of my released anxiety and rigidity, I've reconnected with a good portion of my high school graduating class and renewed friendships and even engaged in making really good friends with those people I didn't even know very well in high school. When I had my reading and signing of my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer, at Barnes and Noble in November in Corte Madera, CA, I was astounded at the warmth and comfort of seeing some my old classmates who live in the area, and some even came from the east coast. I was elated and excited and I still carry that joy with me. And it was all a result of social networking. Who knew?
My first kiss reminded me that we are all separated by only six degrees. We know people who know people who know people and then we all know the same people in a few strokes. My fifth grade boyfriend was talking to some friends at his high school reunion in October of this year, and they were talking about "what ever happened to...." and my name came up. The two guys he was talking to knew me well in school - one from grammar school at St. Raphael's and the other from our high school, Marin Catholic High School in Kentfield. One was on the cheerleading squad with me and I adored him. He married his high school sweetheart whom I adored, too. Kind of reminded me of three guys in a locker room talking about the girls in school and how they discover who "puts out" and who doesn't. But thankfully they weren't talking about my first kiss but where I was and how I could be contacted on Facebook. So my first boyfriend contacted me. Turned out to be a smart guy and a blogger, too.
I also found an old favorite friend on Linkedin yesterday. I thought she still lived in Idaho and found out she is back in LA and I'm thrilled - we are joyous to have each other back in our lives. These connections have happened so often since this social networking paradigm has exploded that I am still in a state of wonderment.
In the beginning, I hated text messaging. I write in my book about my loathing of the construct of texting instead of actually hearing another voice on the phone (which I still prefer). It upset me to think that social interaction had taken such a wrong turn. But my private yoga clients kept texting me and it drove me crazy and in defense I had to text them back because I know they were too busy to talk to me on the phone to discuss changes in their schedules. I was finally convinced that I had to be involved in the texting connection. All my young and beautiful yoga clients were thrilled.
In our modern society it is difficult to have straight, honest social interaction. In my life, the only way left to me is by dancing Argentine tango. Through tango, one socializes and rediscovers a meeting point with people that can rarely be found in modern society: the embrace of two people, the shared wordless conversation with pauses and physical embellishments, the thrill of the music recognized by a man and a woman. Texting pales besides this kind of human connection. Tango has staying power because its conventions and traditions remain constant and comforting. I will never succumb to dancing apart to house music. It's the sterile cuckoo.
Today, there is an outright race to see who can reinvent the reinvention of the social networking media. I'm not going to be an old fogey about this state of affairs. Hey, I'm even one to download movies on my computer for entertainment because I'm too lazy or cheap or more than likely don't have a date to go the movies and experience the film in its glorious color and technology and immediacy of performance. I can take the easy way out, too, but it's not such an amazing experience without the full monty.
So we need to make accommodations to our social interaction. It's so much fun to hear from my first kiss, my first boyfriend, and so much joy to hear from my travel friend who is taking an amazing trip to Patagonia, and so happy to receive word from my oldest best friend since childhood that she is gathering her spirits after the death of her beloved husband and creating new traditions for the holidays. What could be better at this stage of my life to take up the slack of social interaction when everyone lives so far apart? I am blessed by the the instrument of the computer, the electronic age, and the genius brains of all those pioneers who take us to another level of communication.
The best thing about all this is that no one, absolutely no one, can take away from us the face to face, body to body embrace.
Monday, December 20, 2010
I read an article today that quoted statistics that over eighty percent of baby boomers are pessimistic about the current direction of the United States, according to the Pew Research Center's Social & Demographic Trends study released Monday. Who can blame them with retirement and pension funds shrinking and with the unemployment rate near 10%. The study says that boomers have reported less overall life satisfaction during their adulthood than have previous generations. One-fifth of baby boomers believe their standard of living is lower than their parents'. And about a third expect their children to experience an even lower standard of living.
We are a a rather depressed generation at this moment. We are mostly feeling blue because we lost about 20% to 30% of our investments and 401(K)s. Most boomers figure they have to defer retirement even though Wall Street seems to be staging a comeback. You might think there is another bubble in the works the way the market shot up last year?
But folks between the ages of 50 and 55 are fearful of losing their jobs. What ever happened to middle and upper management positions? Whatever happened to manufacturing in the good old US of A. And the boomers over 55 and advancing to 60, well, good luck because if anyone is going to be hired, it's going to be younger, more part-time people who work cheaper. Well, I'm not telling you anything you don't already know except that did you know you were somehow depressed about this situation and probably suffering from anxiety and stress? Oh, you knew that already, too?
So as Stan says to Ollie: "We're in a fine kettle of fish, Ollie? What are we going to do, now?" Ollie, who knows less than Stan, hits Stan over the head with his hat and that's his answer to the question of what they are going to do. It's always the answer to what they are going to do. There's no way out for them.
But even with our backs against the wall sometimes, we've got to keep on truckin'. Because "We are creatures of faith, victims of destiny, which we create."
So, finally, in the end, it's all about the human experience, don't you know. Thanks, Ziggy Marley.
Do you know what I'm talking about? If not, let's think about taking it to a higher vibration. That's the way we liberate our life, get out of the rut, move through the resistance, for we are creatures of love and we've got to keep on living because we've got lots to be thankful for. And that's the higher vibration.
I was taking a long walk in the snow yesterday; in fact, there was a steady drizzle of snow and I was trudging up a hill listening to Ziggy Marley. I heard the line: "Perfection of divinity is everyone's duty. Don't waste your times living for the vanities." And then Ziggy says, "I know you know what I'm talking about. It's our human existence we're talking about." I was riveted to the lyrics of the song, "Higher Vibration." I loved the message because it was all about gratitude and love. Let the others of the world get those big Wall Street bonuses and buy another house in the Hamptons and and spend their money on bigger cars and art and all those other vanities. Our higher vibration is about perfecting our divinity, saving our own souls, living an honorable life with a generosity of spirit and a sense of forgiveness.
When the snowflakes came down, when the wetness hit my face, when the sound of the music and the message came into my consciousness, I knew we'd be all right and my children and my grandchildren would live a good life, maybe without so much money, maybe with more happiness and maybe on a higher vibration.
Friday, December 17, 2010
I've been a work horse all my life. It almost seems like I'm not living if I'm not working. It could be actually working like in an office or writing as in a screenplay or marketing my book as in Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer (I'm throwing that in for my friend who needles me about my endless plugs for my book) or taking care of children or grandchildren. But I'm always working at something.
The question has been: is it ever possible for me to actually relax and enjoy doing practically nothing or actually nothing. There are those who have no problem with that; I'm not one of them. At least, I haven't been up until recently.
Last week, on my vacation to Curacao, an island in the Caribbean that is close to Venezuela and part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao), I became a believer that relaxation was possibility in my life. Maybe it was the company I was keeping on the island or maybe it was the island itself - the small isolated beaches that were practically empty, the sound of the water lulling me into a mindless stupor, the birds endless singing in the palm trees, the warmth of the Caribbean waters - maybe all of that was the reason why I was actually chilling. Or maybe it was the cherubic smile that was always on the face of my companion. But I gave up my control of my universe. I surrendered all thought, all anxiety, all sense of thinking that I was missing something elsewhere in the world. I relaxed fully and joyfully. Of course, it's always nice to have some help.
I love to travel. I feel like I can have full range of motion on with my life. The journey away from the comfort of my home and the routine of my life is therapeutic. I may fight my way into my time away from Los Angeles; I may not want to really go a week before, but when when I settle in on that plane to somewhere, I know I am in the right place.
Perhaps it's the seduction of wanderlust. It engulfs me from time to time and when I am away from home, I am truly away without much thought to what is going on back at the ranch. And I think I have become partial to islands because I felt the same way in Bali in August. These island cultures sweep me away with their indigenous populations and particular habits and behaviors. Their cultures fascinate me and I dive head first into the history of its land and people. There is so much to see and so much to learn. Judgments are limited and perspective enlarge.
We stayed at a place called The Scuba Lodge. It doesn't look much different on the outside from the other buildings in the block except for those buildings that are being renovated, and they, too, will eventually become little boutique residences for tourists. The buildings are all in the neo-colonial architecture style, each with a different brightly painted color. And if you know anything about Curacao, the locals love color. It's the most colorful island of all of the Caribbean islands. However, behind the gate of our choice of residence, we found the most charming atmosphere. A married couple from Holland (they moved to Curacao thirteen years ago) own and operate the Scuba Lodge and they also run a diving school. There is no sandy beach behind the building, but there are steps to the warm ocean waters where the divers enter. The scene is so serene, especially when we sit at the bar and look out over the ocean at sunset. The Dutch youth who work at the lodge are personable, bright, funny and way good looking. They make espresso and serve breakfast in the morning and if you want a late snack at night, they can whip up a tuna sandwich that will knock your socks off. The lodge is clean and well kept.
My friend and I practically had the run of the place. We arrived a week before the season officially began and we parked ourselves at the bar or danced tango in the big room surrounded by scuba equipment and wet suits and blasted our tango music. During the late hours of the morning, many people dropped by to socialize and catch up on some local gossip. We met people from Finland and Holland and Germany. The place reminded me of what Key West might have been like when Hemingway visited. People of like minds, travelers, writers, ex-Pats, gather in a place to commune with one another in an honest exchange of ideas and opinions. We can all discover the history of a place, it's origins and culture and present mood, but it's the people one meets on the road to that discovery which makes the experience come alive. During the days, we snorkeled at the various small beaches and saw live coral and so many types of fish that I lost track of them all. I can still smell the salt water and taste it on my mouth. Glorious days of floating and swimming will live on in my memory. The stillness in the water was incredible.
I am now sitting in my son's kitchen in Vegas babysitting three of my grandsons and looking forward to spending more of my vacation time with my family. This will be yet another way of letting go and surrendering to the present and not returning my thoughts to my home. Bodies and minds in motion - it's a wonderful place to be.
Happy holidays to everyone. A joyous and peaceful new year to all.
Thursday, December 9, 2010
I was walking through the UCLA campus late this afternoon, taking the path up Bruin Way. One of the many tables lining the pathway caught my eye. The sign said: "Religion is for the Weak."
I was surprised by the sign. Now, I 'm not a religious person anymore. I left the auspices of organized religion many years ago. At one time, I was very religious and attended daily Mass and received Holy Communion frequently. But the years of following man-made doctrine blindly lost its appeal the older I got because the more I discovered the divineness within myself (namaste), the idea of organized religion became less appealing. Going to Mass was habit and rote behavior. When I learned to meditate, I was a journey of mind and spirit connection that became a stronger force in my life.
But that doesn't mean to say that codes of ethics and behaviors in organized religion aren't important. I believe they add direction in life if they are based on a generosity of spirit and forgiveness. Most religions portend to extrapolate on those themes. But the idea that I should go to church for an hour every Sunday and listen to a preacher tell me how to live a peaceful and joyful life doesn't sit well with me because I can leave Church and steal a lipstick from CVS while I buy Kleenex at the check out counter.
Does religion truly make us weak? I find that to be a pretty radical concept. Perhaps it doesn't truly make a person weak, but religion can alter the perspective of the individual and urge him or her to accept only what the institution has to say. What then happens to personal responsibility? Who is creating one's spiritual journey? The institution or the self? It's easier to let the priest tell me what I should think or how I should act. Hence, our divineness doesn't emanate from within our own soul to act with charity and responsibility to each other or to nurture our individual spirit. It comes from someone telling us to act in a specific way.
As I walked away from the table on Bruin Way, I felt a sense of relief that in the positive energy that I generated within myself, I had the ability to give back love and respect to those I care about, my family and dear friends. I truly believed that a life of fulfillment and peace begins by taking steps to find the divine within ourselves.
I remember wanting to go to church at one point in my life because I wanted to be with like people, people who believe with faith and love that the church we were attending was the institution that helped us live a better life. That's not a weakness to believe this; it is an idea based on faith. And faith does not make us weak. But there is more to faith than believing that the institution representing a divine being is always on the right path. The right path is a path of our own choosing attained through mindfulness and staying conscious and present in life. Through the study of yoga and by practicing meditation, I discovered that it would be through my efforts at self-discovery and growth that I would achieve some kind of transformation and finally acceptance of my Tao, my life's journey.
So namaste, boomers. The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.
Sunday, December 5, 2010
Question: Is going along with the zeitgeist always the right thing to do?
I'm conflicted. Today I got a twitter account and I feel sick inside. Ready to vomit up every bit of social networking I have done in the last year. First, I swore I would never text message (see my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer and my new website which will be up in a few days). I've been text messaging like an addict for a month. And then I vowed you would never catch me twittering. And I'm twittering. I can't believe my wonderful, delightful friend and website designer opened an account for me today faster than I could say, "No, never, not me, don't do it! I don't want to go along with the crowd! Leave me alone!"
I wrote my first twitter to Chesley and I learned some of those signs. Hash. What's that word all about? Now I have to go to T-Mobile and open something called a twitter account so I can twitter on my phone. "Twitter once a day," Chesley said to me as he was putting the finishing touches on my website. "Remember, this is the way you are going to market your book." Twitter one a day. Right. Meanwhilem I'm trying to find time to blog twice a week. Who has all this time? I have a day job.
"If you want to sell a book, you've got to twitter. That's the social networking zeitgeist," I said to my friend John at our Saturday sushi dinner before our milonga.
He looked at me blankly. "Zeitgeist?" he sheepishly asked. "You know darling, I didn't go to Berkeley in the 60s so I never learned that word."
"Didn't you ever watch Woody Allen's old movies, back in the 70s and part of the 80s when he was really a relevant film maker? "
"No, darling, do tell," he prodded me with a smirk. "You must know all this stuff because you went to...."
I cut him off. "Don't be smarmy, darling. It's really simple. When Woody made "Manhattan" or "Hannah and her Sisters" or "Annie Hall," he was humorously reflecting back to his audience a moment in our culture when our emotional and psychological relationship were paralyzed by anxiety. We were a country full of angst ridden people who were never truly honest about relationships. His characters tried to hide from each while they were trying to have relationships and everything got irrational, and, of course, it was funny. But we were really laughing at ourselves. And we all ran to therapy to solve our problems. Woody's characters and their situations held up a mirror to that particuar time in which we lived."
"Isn't that what we do all the time?" he smartly asked.
"Yeah. But today we lie more than we used to. At least Allen's characters were trying to be honest."
"But you know Woody Allen is really not a very good film maker today. He's not what he used to be. That "Vickie, Christina, Barcelona" story was really, really insipid and self-indulgment."
"Well, I guess if you keep pounding the zeitgeist to death, you get smello-drama," I said. "Like social networking is getting to today. Too much of anything flattens out the living experience."
And then I saw "60 minutes" tonight. Zuckerman, the founder of Facebook was talking about combining email and messaging and some other relating concept into a giant pimple that was to be inserted into people's brains and we would all become social networking godzillas. Believe me, this 26 year old dude will find a way to consume Google and Yahoo and every other information portal until finally our world will truly be flat.
This whole social networking concept turns human brain matter to mush. Everyone begins to mutter the same banalities. Thinking is reduced to one liners and log lines and trivial pursuits. Chesley told me that when I twittered, I was to be brief. No more than three lines. Even Arianna Huffington from the Huffington Post twitters. I saw her one line today. OMG! She is someone I thought had some form of higher intelligence. Even Arianna has succumbed to a social marketing pressure.
And sadly, so have I. I hope I won't go to hell for this.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
I was in the post office this morning mailing my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer to a wonderful woman who used to be my partner in the theater we owned in Las Vegas, Nevada, from 1977 to 1892. Maryan was the co-founder and daily managed the finances for our professional theater - The Meadows Playhouse. She was my right arm and guide through this very challenging project. Those were some of the best years of my life. On my left was a brilliant, creative genius of a man who went on to direct on Broadway. Philip was a show boy at the old Dunes Hotel and a former junior high music teacher. He was a musical maven who sang Sondheim like he was born inside the lyricist's head. Creatively, we were a team and each other's support. We fostered excitement, generated creative projects and lived our three lives on the edge for six years.
We were not just along for the ride. We were in it to the finish, to the end, to the moment when the curtain came down. And when the curtain finally dropped to our mix of sadness and joy, we three went off to hitch ourselves to yet another chapter in our lives that took us to new and interesting places and to other edges. And we were not just along for the ride on the next leg of our journeys either.
What makes people just go along for the ride in life? These are people who just exist and contribute very little to the enrichment of themselves and to their environment. These are people who tread water.
In the post office this morning, I was quickly signing my book to Maryan as I was putting it in the package and the woman behind the counter - and I know all those women because we are up close and personal on a weekly basis - took the book out of my hands.
"Let me see that," she said. She studied the cover.
"Is that you? she asked with a smile.
"Yep," I responded.
"Living at 60 and dancing tango..." she mused. "That's the way to go."
"I couldn't agree more," I said as I gave her my 4x6 marketing card I am so proud of.
"I guess you're not just along for the ride," she said smiling as she gave one of my marketing cards to the woman next to her. She smiled in communion with our sisterhood as she looked up at me.
"Nope. I'm never along just for the ride. Life is just too damn good."
So why do people stagnant and stand back and observe and issue judgments of others and never try for the brass ring? Is it natural in the DNA?
Sometimes I think that the blend of nature and nurture goes awry. We're born with a certain level of intelligence and we can always exceed that level. And you don't always have to be a college graduate, thank you Steve Jobs. Mr. Jobs dropped out of school to follow his passions and look what he created. So it's not always about book learning. But at the present moment in our culture there is, in my humble opinion, too much sponging going on. We sponge off TV personalities; we sponge off movies and sub-par reality shows and sitcoms and other people's dramas in the newer version of movie magazines, all of which disconnect us from being conscious. These environmental stimuli do nothing but numb the brain and petrify the body. We've gone beyond couch potatoes. We've become those inanimate couches covered in old fashioned plastic wraps that our grandmothers protected their sofas with so that no one would ever have to actually feel what they were sitting on. We weren't allowed to feel the fabric and enjoy the rest. Besides, the plastic stuck to my legs all the time and made a mark on the back. I looked like I had cellulite at twelve. Couch potatoes are just along for the ride because they have become inured to real emotion, unable to feel the real joy in their hearts and minds because they are into plastic wrap.
Get conscious plastic people! You are really annoying to those who participate in life and love. My girls at the post office get it. They are always happy and vibrant and courteous and alive with questions and they are attending the party. I know you don't believe me because I'm talking about the post office, folks, but it's damn true. You can be in any walk of life and feel the joy and live life to the fullest. Or you can be a hanger-on and sponge off the TV and live someone else's life.
It's up to you.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
It's that time of year again - the beginning of the holiday season. Off to Vegas tomorrow at 5 am for the weekend; only this time there will be only one son in attendance and none of my daughter- in-law's side of the family. I like a bigger crowd on this holiday. It's easier to embrace the joy when there is more to spread around. So it's #1 son, my daughter-in-law and the three grandsons - oh, and did I mention my ex-husband. He'll be along, too. "Back together again." Not really. He has no place to go since his wife has Alzheimer's and I always head east when there is a holiday. I'm not brave enough to face Thanksgiving or Hanukkah or Christmas alone. Single is great but not around the holidays.
I was reading in my Yoga Journal today about gratitude. We yogis know that gratitude is a natural companion to a yoga practice. In every class I teach, I we take a moment of gratitude for all of our gifts, especially the gift of yoga. It's is as natural as breathing to take that spiritual moment to be mindful of cultivating gratitude. Gratitude is also important for health implications, including better sleep, fewer ailments, and a greater ability to cope with stress and anxiety. Gratitude elevates, energizes and inspires. It can also transform a human being into a kinder, gentler spirit because it fosters a greater level of awareness. Gratitude helps us stay present.
Gratitude is an attitude of realizing what is in our present - what is real and what we surround ourselves with in life. The contrary of gratitude would be to grasp for something that is not there instead of embracing what is. One of the things that helps us connect to what is real is to embrace the interconnectedness of all beings as a path to gratitude. In a sense, gratitude is interactive every minute of the day if one is consciousness and mindful of everything that goes on in our waking hours.
It is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and my burg was full of endless lines of cars. I pulled out of the drugstore parking lot and thought it would take me a half hour to drive two blocks. I had to cut into an inlet to make a U turn, and while I waited for the car in front of me to go, I saw that the man driving the SUV had not jammed into the intersection to block us from making a left hand turn. Could it be, I thought, that this man might let us pass in front of him? I absolutely couldn't believe it when he let the car ahead of me and even myself go before him. I had such gratitude for his kindness and I felt such a connectedness to this man I will never know, that I waved to him, mouthed a thank you and drove off feeling uplifted. It was a moment in time, so brief that I could have quickly jumped to the next thing. But I couldn't. It was too important to cherish the moment.
Gratitude is the path of yoga and gratitude is the way in which we ground ourselves in life. Cultivating daily gratitude gives us the ability to transform and appreciate joy.
Gratitude comes in big and small packages. It's everywhere. It's in an email from a friend I don't always hear from on a regular basis but embraces my life with joy. It comes in a phone call from a friend I really wanted to hear from. It comes with knowing I helped my client this morning find inner peace in her practice even though she is almost in her ninth month of pregnancy and is looking past her discomfort. It's expressing joy that my law school yoginis have been searching for an alternative room so that we can practice in the winter quarter and keep our class going. It's embracing a friend who has been working so hard the last couple of days to feed the homeless at St. Matthew's parish in the Palisades and finding joy in her efforts. It is organizing a dinner to say farewell to a dedicated yogini who is moving in a week. Gratitude is everywhere. All it takes to cultivate it is practice.
I am grateful this year for my growing family - two more grandchildren added to the bunch - for the tenacity and dedication of my sons in their professions and in their roles as fathers and to their supportive and loving wives; for my incredibly loving brother; my devoted yoga students; for the opportunity to continue to teach yoga; for my tenacity to once again publish a book that I had no idea would find an audience; for the new friends I've made and the old friends I cherish; for the ability to forgive; and for the ability to embrace my universe unconditionally with surrender and acceptance.
Happy Thanksgiving, Boomers.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
It's always the best laid plans that go astray in my life. I was away for two consecutive weekends; one weekend was the tango festival in Albuquerque where I danced and sold my book, SIXTY, SEX, & TANGO, CONFESSIONS OF A BEATNIK BOOMER; and just last weekend I was in San Francisco for a book signing at Barnes&Noble in Corte Madera in Marin County. Just happened there was a tango marathon festival in San Francisco. Then I had a house guest staying with me for a week and I have been itching to blog and have had no free time. The week was a whirlwind of activity between teaching and my friend's needs.
But the essence of the San Francisco trip was my book signing - an event that was a kickoff for my 50th high school reunion next year. I landed in Berkeley on Friday night with my friend, Marc, who picked me up at the Oakland airport and I was immediately hit with memories of Berkeley in the 60's. I seemed to be carrying nostalgia for hours on end as memories engulfed me. There was San Francisco looming as we crossed the Bay Bridge; the hilly city streets I was so familiar with; Broadway and Columbus; North Beach, the Broadway studio, which was once a bordello where we danced tango on Friday night. I was tripping.
Before I knew it I was headed to Marin on Sunday morning to have a delightful brunch with an old school chum and his wife. Then to the bookstore to set up and then the arrival of friends from high school, especially my oldest best friend since I was two years old. It was so good to hug her and be in her presence. And those from my high school class were absolutely terrific people who evidently live with a lot of happiness.
Then, out of nowhere, I feel a tap in my shoulder. I turned around and there was my sister in law. It took me a moment to re-adjust to my surroundings. I thought I was in Vegas and I suddenly forgot what I was supposed to be doing.
"Where's my brother?" I asked without thinking. "He's coming," she responded casually.
There he was. My brother was walking towards me smiling like he had just swallowed the canary. That cool cat, my brother. I was speechless and feeling so loved that I wanted to collapse in tears.
"Did you drive from Vegas?" I gulped. "Of course. We left this morning?"
'You're crazy," I joked.
"Wouldn't miss it, Joan," he said with joy.
Who does that? Who loves his sister so much that he wouldn't miss her reading in our home town? What did I ever deserve to have a brother who is so selfless and tenacious, a man whose values have always been in the right place.
"Did you visit mom's apartments in Greenbrae?" I asked.
"Yep, all five are there and in great condition."
My mom and dad built apartment building in the Greenbrae hills and they are a great source of pride in my family.
The reading, the event with old friends who were smiling and laughing and supporting was icing on the cake. I loved this moment more than ever because my brother was there! I decided to read from the tango section of my book and then my friends and I did a tango demonstration. And there were questions after and there was so much interest that we could have gone on for another half hour. My brother had never seen me dance tango. It was special.
I think that there could be no higher joy that seeing my brother walking up to me in the Barnes&Noble children's section that afternoon. I know I will cherish this memory and experience for the rest of my life and it will be one of the highlights of living on this earth.
Monday, November 8, 2010
My favorite doctor friend, one of the most important opthamologists and plastic surgeons (neck up only, please) in Los Angeles, said to me today, "I wish I could live just one day of your life."
She has no idea what a crazy day inside my body and mind can produce. And sometimes, I'm even surprised at how my day turns out. Be careful what you wish for, my adorable and brilliant friend because your world is incredibly fulfilling. Besides, my friend studied music at Julliard, which makes her the envy of my eye, and she and her doctor husband go to Africa to to take care of those who have so little in their lives. Now, that's a life worth living!
I went to a tango festival in Albuquerque, New Mexico, over the weekend with a stay-over in Santa Fe for two nights with one of my very best friends, a designer of tango clothes and other fabulous outfits. I went to the festival with my load of books to sell (Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer) and with my best intentions not to dance like a maniac for two and a half days. I was mindful that I did have a serious condition called pneumonia. That condition doesn't go well with high altitude and Albuquerque is about 5,000 feet (Santa Fe about 7,000 feet). I barely made it to a couch in the Hilton Hotel where the tango festival was going to be held. Except for Thursday night when I arrived, I found out we had to drive to another destination for the milonga (the venue where we dance tango).
I walked in to a warehouse that had been transformed into an urban chic, totally cool atmosphere. We could have been in Soho for all we knew. Old doors from around the world lined the walls and tables were decorated with clever bright paper flowers. The dance floor was full and tango music filled the room. My expression changed from dog tired to excitement.
My addiction began to take hold. I'm like Pavlov's dog. I hear tango music and I have to dance. This has been a sixteen year addiction, but not the kind of addiction that I trekked off to Buenos Aires and lived there for years and forsook my family and all personal responsibility. Although I have been to BsAs thirteen times, I only once heard the call to move there and then it passed as quickly as it came upon me (Hey, Joan, why don't you teach English as a second language to Argentine executives every day and dance all night and that would last about a week and I'd die of exhaustion).
But I stil have a deep love affair with tango music and dance. I'm often thrilled and elated by its rhythms accompanied by the characteristics sound emanating from the bandoneon, the instrument created by a German just for tango music.
Three years ago, I decided to try to lead a normal life unlike the nomadic life of a tango dancer. I stopped cold turkey from going to Buenos Aires every year. I realized that I'd never see more of the world if I just kept repeating myself as a tango dancer going to Mecca once a year. What more could the Argentine world offer me in terms of personal growth and experience?
I pulled away reluctantly that first year and went to Costa Rica in March, the usual time of my trip to Buenos Aires. I felt liberated. It was like I had abandoned my pack a day habit and my trip to someplace else became a triumph of personal strength. And then I went to Spain and Morocco the next year, and then I went to Bali and I was seeing the world through different eyes and difficult cultures. And I felt I had choices once again.
And suddenly, I began to notice that I was becoming a better dancer, a more mindful interpreter of the tango music. a dancer whose detachment found a deeper attraction to the tango world.
I was dancing one night at the festival with a really adorable young man who has danced about three years. And he was a very good dancer, rhythmic, sensitive to the dance conversation, attentive to his partner. He has a smile you could drown in . There was a break after the tanda (three or four tangos played in a row after which there is a break) and Rick was telling me how much he loved to dance tango and how he wished he were me - someone who had danced for sixteen years and traveled to Buenos Aires frequently.
"Be careful, Rick," I said. "You can drown in tango and never grow. It's kind of a trap like all addictions. One sees the world in fantasy when someone is an addict, no matter the drug and it's dark down there in addiction-land. It's hard to climb out but I haven't been to Argentina in a long time and I don't miss the scene."
Rick looked at me totally riveted and was silent for a short time.
"You're right, Joan. I've felt that, the darkness sometimes when you feel too much or go too deep in tango. Too much tango can stunt your growth and it's hard to come up for air."
"Too much of anything can stunt your growth. Tango doesn't produce growth. Tango produces more of tango and that's when there's too much attachment, too much fervor, and too much of anything is never good."
I danced the weekend in spurts because my breath wasn't fully back. I did see my old tango maestro on Friday night and we danced like we had been dancing for the last decade together. We danced seamlessly and he glided me across the floor as if I had never left his arms. Tango is still my drug of choice but I was sure that I would continue to take steps toward personal growth and exploration in the future. Let's hope it lasts.
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
This pneumonia thing has really made me crazy. I'm itching for a fix - a yoga fix.
I was confined to bed for a very long weekend and in between drinking gatorade and hobbling to the kitchen to forage for food, I checked off every little bit of business I had on my to-do list, and I was about to find myself out of things to do. Organizing my photos was the end of the line for me.
By Monday, I took an assessment about how I was feeling. It was okay. Not the most energetic but better than days before. I had an early morning class at UCLA that was not covered by a substitute. I was up way before my 6 o'clock alarm went off, so I could make it to class, albeit on a much slower pace. And I did. And then I went home to rest for an hour. So for two days, I was not a perfect patient and I showed up to teach in buddha fashion, wan and slightly out of breath. I was lucky. Nothing bad happened to me. Some of my privates divinely cancelled. Less running around for me. I walked slowly to classes and rested in between with diligence.
By Tuesday, however, I was itching for my yoga mat. I had not unrolled my mat at first because I didn't want to bother with folding it up into its cozy yoga bag. Too much energy to do that task. But it became apparent to me that by not rolling out my mat, I was not triggered to move about and demonstrate to the class and, thereby, get out of breath.
Then I began to look at other yoga mats with longing and desire. There were yellow ones and blue ones and fancy designed ones and my students were practicing yoga on their mats and I was sitting immobile on my rolled up mat in its bag because I was under house arrest.
By Wednesday, fifth day of my antibiotic course, I was being triggered all over the yoga rooms. It got to the point where several times I asked a yoga student to let me onto the mat to demonstrate. I was being sneaky and had began to get my fix in bits and pieces. By the end of my last class on Wednesday, I was actually standing on my head. "Please move off your mat," I asked a yogi, practically pushing him off. "I'll show you how to set up a headstand." And then I did one.
Bless me father, for I have sinned.
I am in love with yoga. I am in love with teaching it, talking about it, and doing it. It thrills me and make me very joyous and positive. I believe it is helping me to move through my illness with grace; it has kept me present with my healing. It has kept me calm and flexible. Yoga is a way of life because it is a practice - a practice that connects the mind and body together with the breath, prana or life force.. Integral to the practice is a beautiful philosophy with ethics and a code of behavior that centers on an open heart. The heart represents a generosity of spirit and a true sense of forgiveness. It's principle of non-violence in thought, word and deed, truthfulness, non-grasping, dedication to being thoughtful about the body are all values that lead to a more fulfilling an satisfying life.
It's really nice being on the back nine and dedicating a great part of my life to yoga in these last decades of my life. It creates a sense of peace and tranquility for me that I find increasingly satisfying. So, okay, I'm triggered by a yoga mat. I get the itch to practice after days of being off my mat and wandering around the yoga room adjusting bodies. It's okay. It will all come back in time. My breath is getting stronger by the day. And I have the advantage of always being aware of my yoga breathing, the deeper inhales and exhales that fill up my cells, create more space in my body for a more energetic life.
What could be better than itching for a fix?
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Nothing like getting sick, I mean really sick like in the worst pneumonia sick, like I mean the kind they call "whopping pneumonia, and "that's the worst right lung I've ever seen," to get one thinking: how the hell did I get this sucker?
Denial is one way I got sick. Over working is another way I got sick. Not resting between my yoga gigs is another way. Like not paying attention to my life and how it's going.
Okay, okay, I'm awake. I've sort of got it. I teach 27 classes of yoga Monday through Friday. On Friday, I consider myself resting with one or two classes at most and they are fun and one is tango. I always have my after the tango lessom margarita with my friend, John, and we discuss politics, the pros and cons of voting, and real estate. I'm his new real estate guru and I love having that friendship thing going on whereby I protect him (adore him) like there is nothing more important on the planet for me. The weekend is gravy: I dance and rest somewhat on the weekends.
Lately, however, incorporated into my regular work schedule is the planning and marketing and book signing for SIXTY, SEX, & TANGO, and trying to get some articles out of the PR person I hired, and flying to Vegas to see my grandchildren - now five - I got myself into a pickle, Olie, and I've got pneumonia to prove it. What'd ya think of that kettle of fish?
Not good. Last weekend in Vegas I ran around with both my son's growing families - to lunch with Jordan at his school, to Luc and Greyson for Shabbat lunch at their school, to family gatherings, taking care of two babies, and then a change of plans. Greyson got a kid's modeling agent and there was a photo shoot in LA. on Sunday I drove back to LA with son #2, wife and two kids crushed between two baby seats with the air condition blowing on me. What a life! The LA shoot went extremely well but I was "on call" for that hour and a half. A late stop off for a fabulous milkshake at "Million Dollar Milkshake" and I was home. Yep. There is a fplace called "Million Dollar Milkshake" in West Hollywood on Santa Monica Blvd. (plug for you guys)
There was no rest and the week began again. My muscles started to ache on Tuesday night and I thought I had the flu. All week, I delayed and delayed and put off and put off until I was huddled outside the doctors office on Saturday afternoon waiting for them to open emergency care. I couldn't stand up.
I was almost delirious and in severe pain as I walked into the doctor's waiting room. Of course, I had just driven back from an hour and a half session with my website designer in Long Beach of all places. I was sitting in Starbucks, where else, and freezing and sucking on some good tea and drinking water by the galleons and not quenching my thirst. I had been dehydrated for days. When I got into the doctor's office and was given a blood panel, it took twenty minutes to get the blood and I passed out sometime during the time arm #2 was being drained. The chest XRAY proved conclusive that I had whopping pneumonia. As in, "I'm going to whop your ass if you don't get a new attitude!"
"I need to put you in the hospital," Dr. Boui said. "A case this severe calls for complete bed rest, preferably in a hospital."
I immediately pictured myself in a hospital bed in a shared room with someone wheezing and grunting and millions of bacteria gathering around me to infect me with staff.
"I'm sorry," I said to the doctor. "That's not possible. I don't do hospitals." Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, please never put me into a hospital.
"Then you must do nothing for four days," she replied with the upmost seriousness.
I almost laughed out loud but I knew this was serious. I had been a very bad girl and I must be punished, I thought, so I'll take my punishment like a soldier.
"Yes, I promise," I replied with my most serious actress face.
I was so relieved just to crawl out of the office and cross the street to CVS to get the antibiotics that I didn't even care of a car ran over me on San Vicente. I waited for the drug that would give me my old life back.
The pharmacy only had three pills left. I wanted to scream but instead I cried. I cried in CVS, not for the lousy service and the creepy store and the snot-nosed kids trying on their Halloween costumes, but because I wanted my fix.
"Come back on Monday afternoon and we'll get you the rest," the eternally sweet pharmacist said to me.
They gave me the three pills free because I was so pathetic and I walked feebly out of the store, thinking I was home free. But I wasn't free of anything, including my continued need to work and be productive and stay close to my family. In spite of having to rest, to go to bed at 7 pm and soak my sheets with sweat all night, I was so wishing that I was at my gala milonga Saturday night dancing with my adorable new Greek friend who had dressed up especially for me. God, I hate it when it works out that way.
I remind myself of a petulant adolescent who wants what she wants what she wants. It's not a good state to be in, but I am reflecting today as I blog that all hope for me may not be lost. This is a moment for reflection and for care. Om namah shivaya - translated to "I honor the divine within myself." I say this mantra every day but I evidently haven't understood it lately. So, I'm deciding to really take care of myself. I'm going to Curaco in December for a real rest.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I was recently talking to a young mother about being a grandmother. I have five grandchildren at the moment, and I was telling her how sometimes unreal it all felt to have so many grandchildren, to love unconditionally so many children from my children. At that moment, I got all choked up and emotional.
I felt there had been no preparation for being a grandmother. Once my progeny left home, a declared all out freedom of movement, freedom of speech, freedom to do dumb things without children bearing down on me and co-opting my energy. It felt unbelievably liberating. It didn't feel unbearable - the empty nest and all of that. It didn't feel emotional disconnecting. No more meals to make, rules to make, beds to make, suitcases to pack and unpack, daily laundry to do, papers to write, prom dates to take pictures of, ski trips to pay for, cars to by, and the list goes on.
I am a parent who didn't feel depressed at sending my boys to college. I even encouraged the to choose a college back east. They went far away to meet new people and get new experiences and travel when then could do so. I saw them on the holidays or parent's day and finally graduation. Off to work, now, boys and get a good job, find a nice girl to marry.
And it stopped there. Stopped at find a nice girl and get married. Raising children was a memory, a dear memory sometimes and a nightmare memory other times. We've all been through it and we all know the drill.
Then one day, the oldest son, wants to get engaged. His intended is adorable, getting her PhD in psychology, stable, rather wonderful family, and all looks rosey for everyone. The wedding is large and beautiful, the parents are beyond happy, the guests are having a blast, and the honeymoon is a success.
And then one day two years later, my daughter-in-law is pregnant. And one day without warning, a baby boy appears and I am a grandmother. I don't know what to do, how to feel. Anxiety pervades my being and I am lost in another title. I thought I was done with titles. I was a wife and a mother and a significant other and those were enough titles. Sufficient! Basta! I wandered around being a grandmother for the first year. Just as I was getting the hang of it - diapering, feeding shifts, strolling, napping, crawling, talking the first steps, first words, building lego towers, dancing to music, picking up from pre-school - another grandchild is born. There were two grandsons now. I was going through it again. Different dynamic. Different little boy's personality. Same dance all over again. Lots of visits to Las Vegas to the family. Lots of flying. Lots more love and happiness and disconnect from grandmother title once I return home.
Son #2 gets finds his love, gets engaged, gets married in the meantime. Two years later, he has a boy. Now there are three. Are my arms big enough, strong enough? I still feel like I might not have the hang of being a grandmother. I'm single. My ex isn't the grandfatherly type and shows up every once in awhile. One day my oldest grandson asks me why Papa and I aren't living together. His idea of grandparents are that they live together in the same house. Papa and I do not live together, haven't so for decades.
Then another boy. And then several months ago, a girl. A girl! A real girl! Joy, joy! And I am in love with all of them and I finally find myself believing I am a grandmother.
I told the young girl that it sometimes felt surreal being a grandmother, but now mostly it feels real. Being a grandmother is another state of being. That's what I didn't get at the beginning of my grandmother journey. I'm operating on other cylinders as a grandmother. I'm not a mother. But I am responsible as a mother would be for the care and nurturing of my grandchildren when I am present with them. But then I am not there everyday so I have to be extra, extra conscious when I am with them. My job is to stay present with them in their real time and not worry about anything else.
My son said to me at breakfast this morning as we were about to drive to Los Angeles from Las Vegas for a photo shoot for his son because my grandson was signed by an agent to be a kid's model that if anything would happen to his wife and to him, I wouldn't be able to raise his kids.
"You wouldn't be able to do with other grandparents do," he said casually.
"You'd better believe I could take care of the kids!" I shot back. "I still have it in me to raise a few of my grandkids!"
"No, you wouldn't," he said.
"Yes, I would and don't you think otherwise," I proudly responded. "I still have the skills and fortitude to do it."
"Well, you are organized," he remembered.
And I'm still a mother lioness, I wanted to say, but stopped my protestations because I had made my point. My son wanted the reassurance that I would always be there to be a grandmother, and I believe I gave him every reassurance.
The photo shoot of his son went splendidly. It was amazing to watch a two and a half year old understand the camera. The photographer said he's get a lot of work with his look. He's the picture of all American apple pie with dreadlocks. Edgy, huh?
I've got bragging rights today.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Watch out. I'm on a rant - of sorts.
But let's first start with the zen of yoga. Yoga is a spiritual practice that connects the mind and body through the breath. In Hatha Yoga - aka Vinyasa Yoga or Flow Yoga - every movement that a practioner takes on a yoga mat is accompanied by a breath, either an inhale or an exhale. In this manner, mind and body function as an organic whole. This is the zen of yoga.
Have you ever noticed that some people are not very adept at body movement or physical activity? The body is doing one thing - moving, shaking, eyes going every which way. The mind is essentially disconnected from the body. In other words, the mind cannot stop the body from its disassociated movements. It's plain and simple helter skelter. We always say in yoga: quiet eyes; quiet mind. When the the body is functioning on its own and the mind is going in another direction, we might notice that the person is clearly not present. Then what? There will be very little real communication and that's when the going gets very, very difficult.
My Jungian therapist once told me that when two people have a conversation there are really four people speaking. The Man: he is speaking from his anima (his female aspect) and from his animus (the male aspect). The Woman: she is speaking from her anima (her female aspect) and her animus (her male aspect). How complicated is that? No wonder conversation between the male and female is fraught with difficulty! Connect that concept to our national dialogue and it's no wonder than we have a nation at sixes and sevens.
So we've got people who have issues with mind/body connection and we have people who are speaking either more from their masculine or feminine side and there is miscommunication all over the place.
I'm not in favor of dismissing this situation with a clever bon mot, as in "it is what it is." Yes, it is what it is but unconscious communication this default system produces can be emotionally and psychologically damaging to a heathy mindset - to the body politic. Besides, it produces mounds of dysfunction in the form of lies and innuendos, self-deceit and egomaniacal behavior. I don't think politicians have ever heard the yogic phrase: Park your ego at the door.
The lack of a mind/body connection reminds me of America's Realpolitik at the present moment. The recession has brought out the very worst in people. As Maureen Dowd wrote in her op-ed piece in the New York Times, October 17, 2010, American's got a few too many mean girls extracting more than a pound of flesh from those "socialists" democrats as they campaign to become members of the legislative branch of government. "Man up, Harry Reid." It gives the term "mean girls" a new context.
As a result, our political landscape is subjecting itself to heaps of dysfunctional (unconscious) conversation among various individuals who represent particular groupings of like ideologies. They are much like talking heads. Their rants are is very disturbing. We are subjected to a wealth of opinions fabricated out of thin air and definitely not based on an intelligent understanding of economic facts and how these facts might play out in the future. Friday night I saw the head of the Tea Party from one of our states going "head to head" with a prize winning economic journalist from The Wall Street Journal. She couldn't be wrong on facts because she had committed them to memory and he obviously had no research behind his remarks because he, well, Neil Walker was just a journalist for The Wall Street Journal.
The spread of dis-information becomes emotionally pervasive and produces reactive and negative responses that, in turn, produces more of the same. No way to get off this treadmill. Closing the eyes won't help because you'll just fall off and get a huge black eye and a broken ankle.
Heaps of anger produces rage. And the rage is accompanied by irrational words that take the form of emotions; subsequently, the mind and the body become less and less connected. If one is full of rage, it's difficult to remember that the cataclysm began with the economy's collapse and Obama's election. And when things go bad, people demand a fall guy because none of the bad guys went to jail or paid any meaningful price for their crimes of greed. Greed upon greed... The name calling began in earnest on election day because for many hope was a word without meaning and a platitude without substance. And the real body politic fell away.
We boomers had our Cuban Missile crisis, our Vietnam, our Pentagon Papers, our Watergate, our Iranian hostage situation, our Iran Contra, and our skirmish in Grenada. We had plenty to be angry about in those decades, but our mind/body connection stayed relatively in tact.
Anger solves nothing, produces nothing but chaos. Then the mind descends into irrationality and paranoia. The empathic nature of man is nowhere to be found. And fools appear everywhere. There is gay bashing and witch hunting, as in "don't ask, don't tell," and bogeymen Madoffs, and Islamophobia, and identity disorder. All the while we are given the privilege of wearing guns at Starbucks and at political rallies and we bail out executives who lost our money and our homes while we suffer the results of deregulated financial institutions. And we are told in anger that we came out on the losing end. And it's always someone else's fault because we weren't paying attention to our government.
This economic recovery is agonizingly slow and no one has precise answers to make our future better. Those who are in positions to make decisions are sometimes as lost in their morass of facts and graphs and charts and sleepless nights and frustrating days as are ordinary citizens. Our nemesis is our need for instant gratification and the inability to see the macro - the larger picture of how to obtain a positive outcome to our economic malaise. The larger spiritual problem is that our minds and bodies do not act in consort. Until they unite in a compatible construct, we will stay in a state of suspended in unconsciousness instead in a state of grace.
I suggest the body politic take a pill and meditate.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Quote of the day:
'Whatever you give a woman, she will make greater. If you give her sperm, she'll give you a baby. If you give her a house, she'll give you a home. If you give her groceries, she'll give you a meal. If you give her a smile, she'll give you her heart.
She multiplies and enlarges what is given to her. So, if you give her any crap, be ready to receive a ton of shit.'
I spent the weekend dancing tango in Portland. I love the city of Portland. And I love dancing in that city. The combination is unusually pleasing. Portland is an old and new city. Even as it gentrifies it has an older charm. And it was raining over the weekend. It was a sweet and even rain, bordering on romantic. I felt warm and cherished by its consistency. In my tango world, the city favors the young. And Portland is crazy about tango. It is one of the best cities to dance in within the United States.
When I go away for the weekend to dance tango in other cities, I always meet up with my old friends and often meet new people. It has been interesting to me that most people who dance tango are very bright individuals. Conversation isn't always about tango, although it dominates the interest scale. I'm fascinated by what people do in the professional world. There are ER doctors, lawyers, ex-state troopers, engineers, dentists, environmental consultants, CFO's, accountants, astro physicists, musicians, computer scientists, web designers, massage therapists, nurses, and every other profession you can imagine.
There are not many yoga teachers, but dancing tango is a moving meditation and so it fits well with my profession. Tango is about breathing through the music and the movements and staying absolutely present - in the moment full of consciousness. And it's somewhat addictive emitting adrenalin and serotonin and dopamine into the body's system often causing exhaustion at the end of the evening.
Dancing tango often overtakes a person's brain functions as it promotes the repetition of its musical rhythms and familiar dance movements. It is often good to sit back and take breaks because a milonga can last all night - at the minimum four hours.
What did I get myself in to sixteen years ago? I've been all over the western world dancing tango, to Buenos Aires about thirteen times, to Denver, and New York, and Santa Fe, and San Diego, San Francisco, Albuquerque, and there are plans for more places to visit and dance. I understand that the dancing and music are my passions and I understand that tango is also part of my social life. And I also realize that I am one fortunate lady who just happened to wander in to a tango show in 1987 and found myself enchanted.
It's good to have a passion. And, yes, the passion has to be in balance with life. Not easy sometimes, but it's mentally and emotionally healthy to let all the light into our souls and live as richly as possible.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
It's been a surreal week. I haven't been able to blog because my mind of all over the place. I started my full yoga schedule this week at UCLA, adding my classes at the Wooden Center - 2 classes back to back totaling close to three hours more yoga teaching twice a week. Since these classes are held at the end of an already long day, I limp home, try to eat, review emails and go to bed to read and fall asleep instantly.
Monday I had my book signing at the Village Bookstore in the Palisades. I rehearsed my reading all weekend and then on Monday morning, I decided I wanted to read something else from my book. I was sitting in my car rehearsing between classes and never did figure out how I was going to pull it off. And who was going to attend and what the response would be. I sat in my car before going into the bookstore reviewing my reading and finally closed the book and gave it up to the universe.
Over thirty people showed up and those wonderful men and women were full of love and support. It was a completely fun evening. Some bought books, some had books already and everyone was chattering away. I saw old friends - really old friends from my past. There are important people to me and I felt completely blessed. And my new friends and supporters were also milling around and meeting and greeting everyone. Two of my new friends were so very helpful to me: David videoed me for You Tube and Marina, my adorable, brilliant new friend put the clips up on my Facebook page. And my oldest friend from college showed up and I hadn't seen him in decades. We were the essence of Berkeley in the 60's. That was the biggest treat of all. We went for drinks afterward and talked non stop. It was a profound moment when we remembered our being together with the law school gang and my ex husband the day Kennedy was shot.
I know I've said it before but I never had any expectations about writing SIXTY, SEX, & TANGO. I was just expressing an honest tale about getting older, living well in my sixties, forging new relationships, having new experiences, and seeing what comes up.
I have never been much of a career planner. Things kind of just happened to me. I am never afraid to go where I have not been. I'm not resistant to many things in life, including falling in love, even if those I have fallen in love with aren't great mates for me. I don't have a lot of fears or anxieties, except maybe about not having money to live. But that has kind of worked out for me, too, although I never made much - just enough.
I'm also feeling better about being single lately. I used to fret and worry about finding that man who would embrace me. Yet, I'm just find I'm just embracing myself and dancing as fast as I can.
I'm off to Portland to dance tango tomorrow. It's one of my very favorite places to go to dance tango. I meet up with old friends and meet new ones. I hear tango music for 2 days straight and never tire of the joy I find in being part of a very unique community of men and women who are passionate about what is also my true passion.
Life's been crazy but it's been a good week. I have gratitude for all my blessings.
Friday, October 1, 2010
Yesterday, one of my yoga students causally said:, "Hey, Joan, I was riding the bus the other day and I saw someone reading your book." '
I hardly knew what to say, so I blurted out a medium scream of delight. I immediately understood the unexpected, the surprise and almost shock of that moment. I will cherish that moment for a very long time.
Today, there was another extraordinary moment. I was sitting with my best friend, John after our Friday tango lesson as we drank our margaritas and listening to him tell me that I just had to continue to write. He thought my book was full of important life issues that I could expound about in other books and he hoped that I would continue my writing journey. I was watching him talk to me, looking at his lips, and trying to understand why he felt so committed to my writing. "Darling, you just don't know what you have here."
It is very true that I haven't yet understood what SIXTY, SEX, & TANGO, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer means in the long run of my life. I'm too busy worrying about my reading and signing event on Monday. I keep thinking how I'll trip up on the words, whether I can keep the rhythm going throughout the reading, how the audience will react. I don't really know what I have wrought with this book. I haven't had time to make an assessment or to distance myself from events unfolding.
This moment of launching my book feels surreal. What continues to feel real, however, is the ordinary, the daily activities - my yoga teaching, preparing for my book signing and reading in Corte Madera (northern California) on Nov. 14, which will be a kick off for my 50th high school reunion and all the beautiful moments I am sharing with old classmates who have become so very dear to me. I saw several yoga students outside the Wooden Center this afternoon who told me how happy they were because my level 2/3 class at 4:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays was going to begin next week. They were smiling and happy and so was I. The ordinary. 'And every class I teach is a joy.
There was pure joy sitting with John at our favorite Mexican cantina recapping our tango lesson and reveling in our friendship - a very old and respectful and loving coupling that will endure for a lifetime. And I await with excitement the moment when I will talk to my grandsons tomorrow morning while they eat breakfast before their soccer games and then I will find find out after the games what transpired. I love Saturdays.
The ordinary brings us joy; the extraordinary brings surprises. And its the balance we strive for.
Friday, September 24, 2010
"The divine in me recognizes the divine in you." Namaste
I was passing a picture on my bookcase of my parents the other day and it a strange feeling came over me. I wanted to talk to my mother. I wanted to hear my father's laugh. And they were not around. My mother died in December of 2009. I missed her very much. My father died nine years ago.
I felt my inner child coming into my consciousness.
I wanted to tell my mother what was going on in my life; I wanted to talk about the publication of my book and I wanted to tell her that I was single and happy and not to worry about me. At that moment my grown up/adult woman met my inner child. It was a lovely moment, a moment without conflict or drama. It was just a moment of inner contentment.
I talked to a friend of my family today and he told me how proud my mother would be that I had arrived at this state in my life where joy met contentment.
I don't have to be at war with my inner child. My inner child is no threat to me even though I am an adult. It's okay to want to be near and close to my mother and father and to have them by my side again even though I am all grown up and taking good care of myself. I am well aware that any serious attempt to grow psychologically and spiritually involves some pain and sadness. As one of my tango friends wrote to me, "that's when stuff surfaces."
It's probably therapeutic to have some discourse with our inner child. The inner child can come out to play in the most unexpected moments, like dancing tango or practicing yoga or even in meditation when the mind is clear and allows emotions to rise to the surface. Of course, sometimes it can be frightening to experience my inner child take over my adult mind for several minutes. It can be disconcerting to our adult state. 'What are you doing to me, inner brat. I want to say, "Leave me alone. I'm find. I don't need you mucking up my present moment."
But my deep breath brings me peace and I let that inner child be and I find that I am no longer afraid of the emotional connection. I know it's okay to feel like I want to go back into the womb or to retreat to age of five when my mother was always there to help and comfort me. I let spontaneity reign free! I allow the inner child take over go with the emotional flow. I laugh and play and love freely.
I think my inner child helps me better understand my adult spontaneity and my creative impulses and allows me to rediscover the past clearly in terms of love rather than fear.
I was dancing tango the other night at a Wednesday milonga and my partner of the moment was telling me that my nose was cold, like a cat. I thought the remark was so playful and childlike and I made a meow sound during the tango. He laughed and I laughed. After the dance was over, he told me how nice it was to hear the meow sound and I put my hands over my face like a child would do in embarrassment and I thought how childlike I felt. The moment felt new and old at the same time. It reunited the child with the adult and my emotion, my joy, felt pure.
I often feel this kind of childlike freedom when I dance tango. It's reminds me of how I felt in therapy when my therapist told me that he wanted me to keep my inner child alive - he called it my inner pony - because that childlike energy was a part of my adult energy.
When I'm practicing yoga, I often feel like I'm flying high on a trapeze above the ground with pure joy without one iota of fear in my body and, without any mental resistance.
Tango and yoga are fearless experiences and effortless constructs for me. They somehow get near my inner child and touch the deepest part of my soul.
That's where my mother and father reside, too, in those deepest parts of my unconscious. When I bring that love and need into my conscious being it is a divine moment.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
I was reading an article in both the NY Times and LA Times about the Koch brothers. These are the infamous Koch brothers as written up, exposed, and pillaged in the recent article in The New Yorker Magazine. At the outset, let me make this perfectly clear: these men are not my favorite people, in fact, they may be my least favorite people in the world right now. They are trying to influence the political landscape with their very ultra conservative ideas and realign some of major issues of the day to suit their own self-agrandizment; i.e., to line their pockets with more money. Oh, did I mention they are in the oil business. And they are pouring millions of dollars into conservative think tanks, state legislatures, oil lobbyists, and groups who fund the tea party - those very angry white people who want to take back the government. Who took it away in the first place? It's still there and trying to function despite the juggernaut the Republican party has concocted to stay the course of nothingness.
Two things strucK me today that are so very wrong.
There is a proposition on the the California state ballet that abolishes our fairly long-standing emission control and clean air policy. The Koch brothers have given a million dollars to insure that this proposition will pass. And if this proposition passes it will set California back decades on its green path - a path that will provide new green industries and then, jobs. But since the Koch brothers don't believe in global warming, and since they only care for their own self-interest of amassing more oil money (gee whiz, they haven't made enough money in their oil business yet?) they have to try to destroy California's clean air agenda by throwing money at it. I would like to ask the Koch brothers how much is enough money for them. Oh, yeah, I know they give lots of money away to philanthropic endeavors, but all that charity doesn't mean much when their real agenda is much more sinister and destructive - that is, their agenda will impact the quality of our lives for generations to come and contribute to the destruction of our environment.
And, once again, here it comes - don't ask, don't tell - our military's hypocritical oath. Once upon a time in America, John McCain told its citizens that he was in favor of rescinding that very code, but today he is going to filibuster against rescinding despite the fact that the military is done, done, done with it. McCain wants more study on the subject. McCain wants to hear the sound of his own befuddled voice rattling in the senate for all eternity.
I am trying to stay in my yoga brain in spite of apparent and rampant and unfocused political fantasies. I'm trying not to despise people - call them misguided and not stupid; recognize that everyone has a point of view instead of rank self-interest. I'm trying. But people are motivated by fear and greed - as in Wall Street - and that has been the disposition of mankind since Adam and Eve. "I want that apple." "No, I want that apple." "I'm taking the first bite." "No, I'm taking a bite first, you selfish piece of shit." "But it's my right." "But I found it first."
The tea party people are living off fear and greed. No taxes because I don't want or need to think about anyone but myself. But let's leave my social security and medicare on the table, please. The Koch brothers are living off greed. McCain is living off hubris and fear and a missed opportunity to be honorable. Obviously for McCain, gay people aren't real people. The "gay" word is a label with nothing real behind it. I wonder if he bothered to study all the gays who spoke Arabic and helped our country in time of war, who fought side by side with "the others" in the military and were then dismissed from the service because they tired of hiding behind a misguided policy.
I was musing about what the last words would be out of the mouths of people who subsist on fear and greed. Let's say they are about to die and they have a chance to utter two words. What would they be?
What would your last two words be?
Mine would be