Monday, June 28, 2010
I've come down off my high horse. I've railed against the world enough. I am supposed to have learned through my yoga practice that I cannot change the way people in the world operate. I can only pay attention to way I live a conscious life.
However, I truly strayed from my very focused way of living last week, and as I result, I failed again to recognize the birthday of one of the most loyal, beautiful, and endearing friends that I have ever had. Hubris got in the way.
I forgot Cheryl's birthday. I am mortified that I lapsed into unconsciousness and l let my very dear friend's special day pass without acknowledging her divine person.
As we get older, our true friends become more special to us. If they have endured the test of staying loyal and loving for may past decades, they sure need to be accorded our support, love, and recognition. Cheryl called me on Sunday to have our monthly talk and it was only at the last of our conversation that she brought me up short and let it be known that her birthday had passed on June 25. When I fell into a deep funk with her, she assured me that she was not fazed by my oversight. She knew I still loved her. Still.....
I hadn't been very unconscious during the month of June. Most of the time, I was working on my website for my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, and I was entertaining myself with the exercise of bio-feedback on the computer. I also thought I could single handedly fight the government. Both are no excuse for my not thinking about those I truly love.
Cheryl has always been my biggest supporter. When I met her in the late 1970's, she had arrived straight from New York and an activist career. I remember being so impressed that she was a Nader's raider. She was introduced to me by a mutual friend and immediately volunteered to write grants for my theater that was in its infancy. She always made herself available to help at any moment. She befriended my friends, my associates at the theater, my children, my husband. We became a band of warriors whose goal was to bring live legitimate theater to Las Vegas, Nevada. It was an impossible task but we did it as we were joyous in our mission. No one was a more important counselor to us all.
Cheryl and I stayed very close friends since our theater days, and she and her family never missed an event in my family from marriages to births to holidays to birthdays. My sons and daughters-in-law consider Cheryl and her husband extended family. She is a constant in all our lives.
We can count on one hand those people in our lives who are meaningful friends. And I have learned something very important from my omission with my dear friend, from my lack of consciousness when it comes to those who love me and who I purport to love. Life is truly an action, not a thought.
May I not falter too many more time with my friends.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Yes, we're boomers and we are living in the digital/computer age. Aren't we lucky.
Just this morning I was listening to my fav, Howard Stern, (don't condemn me to life imprisonment without possibility of parole) rant about living in this age of technology and, oh, yes, war. Let's not forget the a little over nine years of war initially in Iraq and now in full bloom in Afghanistan. News flash: the war in the Middle East has now surpassed the Vietnam War in length. Remember that war? Every night on the 6 o'clock news Eric Sevaried or Huntely an Brinkley brought us up close and personal a brutal war that played out in our kitchens while we ate dinner, or in our living rooms while we drank our nightly martini, or in our bedrooms as we dozed through the 11 o'clock news hour with our plastic local TV newscaster.
Stern remarked about what a bummer it is to live in this time. It's full of catastrophes and deaths (June has been the most brutal month for US casualties and 2010 has been a year in which will are expected to lose more American lives than in any other year of this protracted conflict - WAR!!!!!!). He bemoaned the BP spill, the corporate corruption of our government - a government bought and paid for by oil companies, and the US Chamber of Commerce, and Wall Street institutions and on and on and on until we have only limp-dicked puppets in Congress. To reflect how impotent our government has become is completely oxymoronic: it can't pass bills on any scale; party politics is moribund; the scale of childhood poverty is now registering about one fifth of our population; and we rank dead last in medical care out of all the western European countries. So much for our health care bill and what was wrong with universal heath care, I might ask? People are losing their homes or walking away from their homes because they owe more than the property is worth. It's more difficult to get a mortgage than it has ever been because the banks like to keep their cash in their safety deposit accounts or under their matresses until they see their way clear to process a loan or two. What's wrong with now, buddy? Wall Street is back in full stride making money with no apparent product to sell with no apparent ethics in place. I still don't know what a hedge fun it, by the way. Still no regulation. Still no coherent foreign policy. Russia is mad at us. China is tolerating us. Iran gives us the finger everything they think about us. The Afghan government thinks they are better off without the presence of the US. Hello, Taliban, good-bye freedom. Welcome Al Qaeda, let's kill whatever population is left of Afghanistan.
And does anybody in government ever read history? No country - no country - has every conquered Afghanistan. Not in the past, not in the present will it happen and not in the future will it occur. Why the British joined us in this fiasco is beyond me. They had already been their in the 19th century and lost! What about Russia? They were their for ten years (matching our time there next July when we are supposed to pull out) and they limped home with their tail between their legs after losing so many men that had no army left.
But, hey, wait!! We live in the internet age. That makes it all better. We've got Goggle controlling all communication, all print, all entertainment. They own You Tube. They own all content - well, mostly all content. We can know what is happening before it is happening in this electronic age. We don't need print news anymore because the internet sends it out before we can read it in the morning's newspaper. Poor Rolling Stone this week. They preceded themselves on the internet with their McCrystal story. Oh, sorry, you don't get the newspaper anymore. What's the point? Every paper or magazine can be read online.
On Tuesday someone hacked into subscriber's the email lists and sent out a link to a Canadian Pharmacy advertising, what else? Viagra. I was one of those people hacked even thought I don't use AOL anymore because it sucks, and my list included fellow yogis, old friends, and my ex-husband. He was the first to respond on Wednesday morning in an email. "What's this you sent me? I think this is meant for someone else." Unfortunately, he failed to see the humor in the situation. One of my friends took me off his email list. How dare I send him this spam. He emailed me back telling he me gets this stuff sent to him all the time. So much for digital drag. P.S. AOL never owned up to the incident. Not their problem, I guess.
While not bemoaning the internet age, while not trying not to look hip and with it, Howard Stern longed for the past - when things were simpler, when life was more carefree, when around every corner we didn't see the homeless, the dispossessed, the hungry faces of children on every blighted block in our urban sprawl. We used to have a middle class, buddy!
What Stern said was: we used to know things that were true in our society and expect things to be a certain way, and now they are not. Do we know the truth anymore? The truth is manifests itself according to the gospel of the media: Fox, MSMBC, CNN.
Is that good or bad? Is that right or wrong? Institutions used to function and move an agenda that benefited both rich and poor. A blue chip stock actually had real value. We bought a home and lived in it for life. We settled in our communities and had responsibilities that we fulfilled. We went to school, graduated from high school, maybe went on to higher education, but if not, we got a job in industry and became a productive member of society. And then we retired at sixty-five and then we lived about twenty more years and then we died after having lived a good life. Everything had a place and everyone knew how to live in that place.
But that was the pre civil rights era when economic disparity, black segregation, and society's outcasts hid behind closed curtains. People of color were out there somewhere in America and that they didn't have have equal rights or equal school didn't really matter. No one saw them up close and personal. That wasn't good. Women couldn't climb a house ladder let alone a corporate ladder an get reduced pay for just about everything. The glass ceiling wasn't good, either. And we still had lobbyists in Washington. Remember: "What's good for GM is good for the country." We'll always have lobbyists. Our government was set up that way. It's called "peddling influence" and it's our way of life.
Then we boomers came into the picture and we changed all that. Voting rights and equal rights was our mantra and we went to war, too, and we fought honorably but for a cause that was called "the Domino theory" instead of "weapons of mass destruction." We were told the Reds were out to get us and we believed it without bothering to examine the evidence or analyze the enemy, and we didn't win and we brought our boomers home and everyone else turned their heads in another direction and said, "Not my war; not my commitment; not my emotional or psychological problems; not my lost limbs." We were too busy making money and getting fat on the easy life and buying things that amounted to nothing. Can you really take a Jaguar to bed? Can you cuddle a sailboat? We were getting addicted to oil and cars and not paying attention to making our country a better place to live and helping others less fortunate.
And did the boomers give back to their country? Did they make America a better place to live, to work, to die? You can answer that question if you like.
So what was special about the old days? Maybe after WWII, when we fought the good fight against National Socialism, when we brought our troops home and honored them, and sent them to college or had jobs waiting for them in industry. That was a pretty picture. That was before the digital drag, before greed is good, before September 2001, before our leaders in the first decade of the 21th century failed to do an honorable job for America. That was before America drowned in the oil sludge of the Gulf along with the fishing industry and its hard working fisherman, along with the dead wildlife and an sluggish economy and the arrogance of BP.
Living life is never simple, never clear, never certain, never on a level playing field.
Our founding Fathers slugged it out in 1775 and 1776 and 1777 (remember those Articles of Confederation added later to our cherished Constitution?) and we will continue to slug it out in America, in the digital drag, which makes us look smarter and more hip and with it and lots more human. After all, we can social discourse whenever we want on Facebook. And we can Twitter until hell freezes over.
I'm coming up for air now.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
Frustration mounts. I'm trying to build a website for my book, Sixty, Sex & Tango-Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer - on IWeb on my Mac and I literally want to throw my beloved Mac against my wall. On what planet does IWeb help think I live on? It takes me twenty minutes of staring at the instructions about setting up a hyperlink and I still don't get it. Just by accident, however, I solved that problem and now I hate the homepage. I'm hopeless. Some lovely creature at the UCLA bookstore helped me yesterday, and no, I didn't bat my eyes and get all girly with him, but he was simply interested in the technical aspect of building a website from IWeb, and he played with it for half an hour and got me started. Then I got home and the information vanished as quickly as it came into my pee brain. Hopeless. Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is my website. Unfortunately, it's only 4:00 o'clock and I am eagerly awaiting 5 o'clock because that's cocktail hour. However, one can argue, and I have many a time that it is 5 o'clock somewhere in the world. But I will refrain because I'm on a tear about age at the moment. My parting words to my tech genius before making an appointment with him on Monday at 3 o'clock was, "I wish I had been born in the computer age so I would have the vocabulary to go forth and do the damn website myself." He laughed at the old lady stomping off.
While I am on the subject of age, I was recently invited to be a member of the Jewish Women's Theater in LA. Through a friend of a friend kind of thing, I ended up meeting eight other women this morning for brunch this morning at a home in the hills over looking the Pacific Ocean. It's one of the most spectacular days in southern California in a long time. I had a splendid several hours plotting and planning the next year's work with the theater. The age skewed to fifty-five and older - me being the oldest, of course, and I'm tired of that status, by the way. After a little champagne and some organic orange juice (what else in SoCal), I was listening attentively to all the women make contributions to organizing and planning a fund raiser, programs, salon readings, developing a literary arm for new material and all the while I kept thinking how lucky I was to be in the company of some of the most intelligent women I have ever met - all over 55 years of age.
The group revitalized my dormant theatrical bent. It's been dormant for a very long time, since the day I left the Old Globe theater in 1984 and trekked to Los Angeles to become a producer and writer. I was off "the boards" for good - until this moment at 66 and I became interested in a group with a mission to tell stories of Jewish women in the modern world. The Jewish Women's Theater is a virtual theater - changing venues from salons to temples to art galleries, and the organizers are laying the groundwork for a very interesting mission. These women are writers, rabbis, producers, filmmakers, lawyers, accountants, commercial producers, with so much talent and energy they could possibly defy gravity. They've been doing this work for two years and that's not a long time in the theater world. I ran a full time legitimate equity theater for 5 years and I can confirm that the road to finding an audience is rocky and long. But these women have tenacity and commitment and the group reminded me of decades ago when I forged my theater with my partner and my associate and we did it and we succeeded and we completed our mission before moving on in our lives. I can feel the excitement building and I can feel the youthful vigor I once had begin to percolate as I tap into things I want to do with the group.
It's amazing the emotions and feelings that are reawakened in my 60's. I feel this excitement offers an array of possibilities that I hadn't even thought about. It feels like Berkeley in the 60's again when everything was possible and the future was bright.
So age is only a number, they say. The Buddhists say that you are only as old as the health of your spine. And I say that passion and commitment and involvement is the key to staying vital and young.
Is it 5 o'clock yet?
Tuesday, June 15, 2010
Okay, I'm on the yoga kick this evening. And, hey, right now I have too much time on my hands. I just sent my publisher the final, final corrections to my book, Sixty, Sex & Tango and I feel like I have just given birth. I am excited and elated and let down because my baby has slid into the planet to fly on its own. I am no longer able to stare at the most tiny font ever invented and put my corrections into the smallest boxes ever created. It took weeks to get this done, but finally after I verified a quote from Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, I was able to click the send button. My tango friend/organizer leapt for joy and wanted to do a book signing. All I could think about was that I need a very long vacation in Bali. No can do. I'm still a working girl. However, I'm taking a long week's vacation in Bali in August and that has to be sufficient.
So it was Sunday afternoon and I knew there was going to be a yin yoga class at my home studio in Brentwood. I needed down time. By home studio I mean the space that inspired my yoga practice for years in the 1990's and early 2000 - the place where my sons and their then girlfriends also practiced yoga every Sunday morning - and we all packed into the Brentwood studio to have Steve Ross lead us in the most unconventional yoga practice you could imagine, complete with the coolest non-yoga music. It was a sweat box and we really got a workout.
But Steve has a passion for yin yoga - stretching and meditating for two hours accompanied by traditional yoga music. He doesn't really believe in all that yang energy (very energetic, flowing movements); he thinks its actually unnecessary except for the people who want several weekly doses for their workouts. I actually agree with Steve's concept that yin is the yoga to practice. Today, I teach six to seven classes a day and my style is flow, energetic movement with pauses for breath in between.
But when I take a class of late, I want to stretch and meditate. Stretching opens up the resistant areas in the body and releases negative feelings and emotions we carry with us for our so-called protection. Yin yoga is a meditative cleansing ritual by which the body fills with prana - breath, life force - and removes the toxicity in and around our mind and body. Yin is not for the faint of heart: we hold the these stretching positions for quite awhile - probably five minutes or more. Anything less cannot affect our mind/ body resistance.
It's amazing how resistant we are in mind and body. Years of teaching have given me the eyes to see resistance in yoga students. I can even be talking to someone and spot resistance in others. People manifest resistance in rigid bodies and judging minds. It's more comfortable to keep the old tapes lodged in our minds; it cleverly prevents us from engaging in a new situation or an idea. "I like what I like because I like it."
Yoga helps us into a more enlightening circumstance. It's the old Plato's cave again. Seeing half light; never really engaging in the full light; side-stepping the conscious mind. Happy in the unconscious state. It's not a happy place to live - in the cave, in the shadows.
At the end of class, after a beautiful resting pose where we let our minds drift and our bodies surrender with acceptance, Steve, who had just spent a week with Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) began to speak briefly about desire and want and how the concept of wanting keeps us attached to things or people. The more we want, the more we desire, the more we grow attached to that which we think we must have. This causes unhappiness and unhappiness causes struggle and creates conflict - then it's back to the unhappiness quotient.
Attachment is the great fabricator of illusions; reality can be attained only by someone who is detached.
Simon Weil, French philosopher.
The Buddhists say that our life is simply a transition on the way to dying. Everything we think we possess in our life is really only borrowed. I say that I'm just renting everything I have because I really possess nothing. I'm given great gifts but only temporarily: my parents, my sons, my grandchildren, my friends, my yoga practice, my abilities. Although they are transitory, I can love them with great passion and exuberance and for that I am grateful.
Steve was an influence in my life and he continues to be so on a spiritual level. We approached each other after class. I told him that you can come home, that Maha Yoga is my home and that it will always be my spiritual center for I learned and was trained as a yoga teacher in that space, a sacred space of light and love.
As Steve would say: "It's all good, Joan."
Sunday, June 13, 2010
What I adore about blogging is that I can have an idea about what to blog about and I can do it any time of the day or night. I'm up way too early this morning after two late nights of dancing tango, but I can't sleep in this morning because I got an idea in my head about a blog theme. The mind, indeed, is a wonder!
I got an email yesterday from a very, very good friend. If you read my post, "Down and Dirty," he is the one who was summarily dismissed from a woman who thought his penis wan'ts what she was quite looking for to satisfy her desires. I beg to differ with her. My friend is/was more than a friend with benefits; my friend is/was a beautiful human being: conscious, sentient, loyal, passionate, supportive. But, lately, he's just looking for love in all the wrong places.
My friend is finding it difficult to adjust to the woman's rejection. He just can't get his "sea legs" back after this setback. I wrote one of my extra long emails back to him about being careful of believing other people's projections. Those projections are negative and self-serving on the part of the the person lashing out. I told him that if he believed that person's projection, he will never hold on to his true sense of being. Instead, he will fill up with toxicity - the toxicity of the person who rejects him, or leaves him, or uses him, or lies to him, or deceives him. This is the second time in a year that my friend has attracted the wrong kind of woman - a woman who doesn't represent the best in him.
Why do we keep repeating the same old negative behavior - in this case, attracting others who are not going to enhance our lives. Because we just want to be loved and we are not conscious about the kind of love we truly want or deserve. In my email back to my friend, I wanted him to see what kind of laudable human being he is, to respect himself more than he does when a woman offers herself to him, to be able to discern when a woman wants to use him and abuse him for a brief moment in his life, and to take stock of what he is truly looking for in a companion. I'm not saying don't explore the possibilities of finding a companion, but it is necessary to keep in perspective the difference between sex/romantic love and spiritual love that is more lasting. We are boomers now; we are rounding out the edges of youth; we are looking at the big picture of who we really want to spend time with. Fleeting sexual encounters whether they last a week or months should be looked at with a jaundiced eye in our 60's.
My friend was a co-enabler for many years in his marriage. Co-dependents just want to be loved. They want to be seen as a lover and supporter of those they love so they can, in turn, be loved back. Their need to be loved is as great as the addict. It doesn't matter to co-enablers that the love that is returned to them is a dependent kind of love, a love that has ties and strings to it, and that fosters the addiction (any kind of addiction or compulsion). My friend has gone through years and years of therapy and men's groups to understand his deeper needs. But right now, he is pretty angry with himself that he fell, yet again, into a situation that has been a variation on a negative theme: I just want to be loved.
When things go wrong in a relationship that involves one falling in love and the other not falling in love, anger sets in. I know my friend is very angry at himself and very angry at the woman. Anger is a symptom of something deeper inside of him. He knows this intuitively and is back to working very hard again to try to understand his compulsion to love.
One way I think to being this healing process is to understand forgiveness: forgiveness of self and forgiveness of the other. Forgiveness is the beginng of opening the heart again to acceptance and surrender of self. In yoga, our practice is heart opening. We focus on the heart chakra, which takes us to a deeper place in our soul, our psyche. Not forgiving self or others creates negativity, toxicity, and more anger until we are rendered unconscious. When we reside in darkness of the mind, we only see shadows of ourselves. They are illusions. We are in Plato's cave. In the allegory of the cave, or the unconscious, we are stuck in a place where light only rarely gets in and where the darkness comes over us and oftentimes consumers us.
My friend is loved, deeply loved but he is just not seeing it at the moment. He is loved by his mother, brother, adult children, his women and men friends, and he is loved by me in the universal sense of love - that he is a sentient being whose place in the universe is important to many of us who know him. There are many kinds of love and an open heart brings a variety to that love. Love isn't just one emotion. Love is a complication of many emotions and feelings, and if we just look around we'll find it in front of us, around us while we are dancing tango, paying music, making fine furniture, shooting brilliant photos, practicing yoga, meditating, playing with the grandchildren, cooking, writing and a host of other experiences. Love is everywhere in our lives. But if we live in the shadow world, we will never know its existence.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
I had to make a rather big decision last week. It involved matters of the heart.
As a yoga instructor, the overriding emphasis in a practice is the opening of the heart. Yoga is a heart-centered practice. The symbolic nature of the heart is its generosity of spirit, it's aspect of forgiveness, its ability to understand and create compassion and empathy for the human spirit and its aspect of gratitude and universal love. That is not to say that our heart centered practice concerns romantic love, although one can't have romantic love without an open heart. An open heart implies a more spiritual aspect of love.
If my heart is open and I am conscious of leading my life with heart centered intention and I am mindful (present) about listening to my heart charka, (i.e., the energy in my heart), then I hope that all my decisions that involve the heart are truthful.
I think about the heart every day when I teach yoga. I think about it so much that when some experience in my life actually takes me to my heart, I am often so surprised that I am rendered unconscious.
I was going to visit a new friend, a tango friend, and over the last couple of months a man who has become someone I got to know in a more intimate sense through emails and phone conversations. I had met this man in Los Angeles several days before he was returning to his home city. In the course of our conversations, we both thought it would be fun to meet up in his city, dance tango and explore the beautiful city where he resides. He would be coming to Los Angeles to spend four months during the winter with his family as he does every year and so we would get a head start on knowing each other by spending time together on a couple of occasions before he arrives in southern California.
It all sounded perfectly logical until several weeks ago. I realized that email and phone conversations were the most imperfect way to understand and acknowledge another human being, especially someone of the opposite sex. It began to feel like an artificial situation whereby we both have to always be on our best behavior. I was so busy being accommodating that I was losing track of feelings and emotions. What exactly were my feelings and my emotions in regard to him? I didn't have time to breathe and reflect upon our male/female situation for any length of time. The emails kept coming; the information kept arriving; the time frames of voice conversation was shrinking. Mix messages multiplied. Confusions set in.
In the past, the younger Joan would have said, "screw it, " I'm going anyway. What the hell! It's only a week. But a week in my life at sixty-six is a precious week. Besides, walking into a "maybe" situation is fraught with the possibility of conflict and struggle. We didn't actually know each other for long enough to make a decision about spending a week with each other. But because we were excited about a new friendship, we wanted to spend more time exploring our relationship. So we jumped the gun and pulled the trigger and made reservations.
Were those decisions made from the heart or from the adrenalin of meeting someone new and with potential possibilities? Hormones make us do the darndest things. And most of the time the things we do when we are excited are manifestations of our unconscious nature. We are going into the lizard mind, the limbic system where pain and pleasure receptors reside. Gimme! Gimme! Gimme! I want, I need, I desire.
I don't think my situation with the potential male partner was a conscious response to my open heart. But I think my canceling the trip to spend a week with him revealed a conscious intention of listening to my heart. My heart said stop, wait, patience, listen to your breath.
One of my yoga students asked me why I wasn't taking the week off as I had indicated I would to my students - preparing them for a substitute and letting them know I would be away as a point of courtesy. I told her that I was not sure it was the right thing to do because my heart didn't lead me to this man at this time. The yogini smiled at me as we both took in the silence.
"I want to be just like you when I get to your age," she said.
"Why?," I asked her.
"Because you are not afraid of life. You are not afraid to say it was a mistake. And you are now moving on from that decision."
I told her I was able to do that because my heart was open and clear and full of energy in this moment. It's all about taking my yoga practice off the mat and applying what I have learned from my practice to my life. I released the struggle; I released the negativity. And I brought myself back to balance.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I decided on the way home from the Denver tango festival that I was leading a secret life. This was not a double life, mind you, but a really secret life that almost no one in my family was privy to on an intimate, personal level. And those who know about my secret life as a tango dancer only know me as a tango dancer. I mean, for the most part, when tango dancers get together at the festivals, there isn't a lot of time to discuss our personal lives, albeit briefly. We know little bits and pieces about others but it takes years and persistence to discover that what makes us tango dancers tick outside of a milonga.
For almost sixteen years, I have slipped out in the dark of night to dance tango at various venues in Los Angeles. In the early years, I danced four or five times a week. I practiced at least twice a week. I went to Buenos Aires for thirteen years every March and hung out at the milongas (place where tango was danced) nightly. Most of the time I danced in the afternoons, also. Sometimes, I attended the annual tango festival put on by the most famous local maestros in the world. And sometimes I just took classes or a week seminar. Sometimes I just walked the boulevards looking for the perfect tango shoes. It felt like no one in my family would know me in this life; and indeed, they still don't know me in this life. They never will. And it's not important.
On one trip, my youngest son, Aaron, was living and working in Santiago, Chile. He came to Buenos Aires to visit me and hung out with a best friend, but he still didn't go to the milongas with me. Then I visited him in Santiago and he finally took me to a milonga on the outskirts of town. It was dark and seedy and the club was kind of mysterious. Aaron was slightly awed when the teacher asked me to dance and I felt special. I was still new to the art of following the man in tango, but I think I held my own.
I have had hundreds of little experiences that have shaped the woman I am today. A large part of the joy in my 60th decade has been informed by tango, the tango community, its music, and its beautiful aesthetic. When certain tango or vals or milongas are played in a milonga, my body and mind energize and it feels like I am in the fifth dimension. How lucky I am to have found such passion.
And it's all mine. Of course, I share the dance with men, some I know very well and some I don't know at all, but when it comes to describing how I feel about dancing tango to my family, I am silent, secretive. It's my life. It's my secret life.