Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Secret of a Happy LIfe: A Straight Spine and an Open Heart

Hi, Boomers,
So much has happened this week. The Egyptian populace erupted in a fight for their rights as Egyptian citizens and we mourned those who lost their lives in the 1986 Challenger explosion. Talk about extremes.
I remember only the good about my travels through Egypt. I have had the privilege of traveling twice in my lifetime to this incredible and fascinating country (once in 1963 and once in 1980). The Egyptian people and their magnificent history hold a special place in my heart. When I visited Egypt on both occasions, I was taken with their spirit and energy. Egypt wanted to rise again to greatness, and when bore witness to country with great potential. After all, it is surrounded by feats of greatness and monuments built to bear witness to that greatness. I was absolutely charmed one evening as a group of Jewish women, my self included, broke bread with a Muslim family in 1980. The conversation was intelligent and caring. My experiences in Egypt were truly inspirational.
As I watched the Egyptians take to the streets and document their rising up against a government that had violated their human rights and kept them in poverty and failed to raise the standard of living for its people, I was angry and saddened. A proud and graceful nation was mired in poverty and inequality. They didn't deserve their leader's ineptitude and corruption. They once built the pyramids and moments to their kings and queens. They developed a civilization that was so far ahead of its time in learning and culture that its waste of intelligence and creativity is bordering on criminal.
And I remember the Challenger exploding on January 28th, 1986. I was attending American Film Institute that year as a Producing Fellow. I was shooting my second film at my rented house. The crew and myself were setting up food in the kitchen for the day and my little TV was on. Everyone was excitedly anticipating the shooting schedule for the day, but we all made time to see the Challenger lift off. We stood around the TV, and when that moment came, we were mesmerized by the trajectory of the missile and its long trails of white smoke. Then in something like less than a minute later, we witnessed an exploding ball of fire. It was intense, made more so by the backdrop of azure sky. None of us were sure what was happening. Most of us thought it was part of what came off as a rocket ship hit a certain altitude. But the explosion meant that the Challenger was literally disintegrating in front of our eyes.
As I watched the film again on Friday, I was still rooting for the Challenger to launch into space and still in denial that in less than seconds the Challenger was going to disintegrate. I held my breath just as I held my breath that January morning in my kitchen. Knowing the outcome of that space mission didn't make it any easier to watch on Friday and didn't less the impact or sadness. It was as real today as it was 25 years ago. I stood straight up and walked out of my living room. I wanted it to go away but it was never going to go away.
By now, you all are well aware that I am a yoga teacher. I practice meditation and yoga many times a day with my class and by myself (well, not flow yoga so much but the meditation). Last Thursday in class, as I was vamping my bon mots to an attentive group of yoga practicioners, I quipped:
"Do you know the secret of a happy life?"
Everyone looked up at me like I had completely lost my mind.
"A straight spine! And let's not forget an open heart."
Everyone laughed because by now my students absolutely knew what I was talking about. A spine that is straight is a happy spine. It is a spine that is unobstructed by resistance, by negativity, by imbalance and a straight spine will bring good health for a lifetime. A straight spine indicates that the core of our bodies, the spiritual position in our bodies, is directly connected to the sacrum - the lowest part of the spine just below the lower lumbar. And in the parlance of yoga, that area is the kundalini - the source of energy in our being. The kundalini is the source of our happiness, of our passion, and of our balance.
An open heart. We'll that's a fine and nobel concept but to keep our hearts open takes an abundance of consciousness and a dearth of ego. Our hearts represents a generosity of spirit, forgiveness, compassion and gratitude. That's what I have now for the Egyptian people. It's their turn to create a better life for themselves. That's what I have for all those who worked so diligently and died so unexpectedly to create our space program
And we need our balance today to be emotionally healthy and happy, to practice forgiveness and gratitude daily. I cannot live without this; I cannot be happy without this feeling that my spine represents my my good health and my heart represented my joy. It is the secret of a happy life.
Our Egyptian friends are making the great fight for some semblance of democracy after so many decades of authoritarian rule that most Egyptians cannot endure any more violations of their rights as human being. Our memory of one of the most difficult periods in our American history fills us with so much sadness that it is almost beyond bearing. And I don't think there is a week that goes by that I don't remember the tragedy of 9/11 and the untold loss of life and suffering.
How do we live with our sadness and disappointment and wishes for everyone to have a joyful life? I remember after 9/11, when I was taking yoga teacher training, that our master teacher reflected that only we as individual beings can take care of ourselves. We can balance the joy and pain, the yin and the yang, the opposing forces of energy in our life being if we are conscious of the balance of our energies and if we daily extend our generosity of spirit to all who are taking care of themselves.


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Hail! to Keith O

Hi, Boomers,
I'm in a Boomer kind of mood right now. It's JFK's 50th anniversary of his inauguration and I remember it like it was yesterday. It was the beginning of the second semester of my senior year in high school, and I was pissed that I wasn't 18 and I couldn't vote for Kennedy. I was in Catholic school so JFK was like a God to us all. First Catholic president ever! Hooray, for the Catholics around the world. Hooray, for the Pope (Pope John XXIII)! Hooray for all of us Catholics who endured those Holy Name nuns and ugly school uniforms.
It was a high flyin' Democratic world in those years. We just got rid of Ike, old Ike and World War II was a memory. We had hope and prosperity ahead and a good looking president and first lady. We didn't know a whole heck a lot about JFK except he came from a family of nine kids and had a father that was the Ambassador to England and before that Joe Kennedy bootlegged scotch into America from Ireland. He couldn't be all that bad. John Kennedy had a mysterious and beautiful wife who spoke like she had half of her throat closed up, but she knew a heck of a lot about art and she had decorating skills. They were both rich and endowed with smarts. And JFK knew all the best and the brightest in the Eastern establishment and that was when intellect counted as an attribute in those days. No one honored citizens who carried guns and spouted Second Amendment rights.
It's all nostalgic now and all "once upon a time in Camelot" fairy tale remembrances, but the real truth came out later and the picture got more complicated and more scary. I was listening to NRP this morning and heard a political science professor speaking about when presidents or heads of state lie to one another (think Wiki Leaks) or worse, when presidents and heads of state lie to their people. He just wrote a book about this subject with a very long title. Is it right or is it wrong? Is it necessary sometimes or is it not necessary at all? Lying. Mendacity as Big Daddy says in "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof." JFK lied to us. He never told us how dangerous it was during the Cuban Missile Crisis. We found out later in books and reports that we were hours from a nuclear disaster. Our president didn't want to worry us, and that was thoughtful and probably for the best because the true story as it materialized in later years was truly frightening. So the professor said that it was okay that JFK lied to us, but that ordinarily it was better to lie to heads of other states and nations than to the people. (see Wiki Leaks) Looking back on those 11 days of terror that we didn't know about, it seems to me the voting public could have come together in support and made it a moment of brilliance together. But what do I know of human nature.
So last night before Bill Maher, I was watching this new Piers Morgan interview show and noting that George Clooney is beautiful and sexy but not so fascinating as others think he is, and this fluff piece was dying on the vine as the real news about Keith Olbermann's leaving MSNBC woke everyone up. Days after Viacom bought the NBC, Keith O decided to bail from his truth perch probably because to stay on with his unique (part Billy the Kid/part Elmer Gantry) signature show would be an uphill battle with Viacom. It didn't matter that he built the NBC offshoot and made it into a success with Rachel Maddow and Larry O'Donnell following close behind. I think Keith O deciding to leave is about the truth, truth-seeking and truth processing in news today. We've got a lot of lying talking heads around town and the truth gets distorted and lost and the guys that do that are bullies. There has to be someone on the other side who dissects the failed logic.
On that point: last night on Maher's show, this conservative political writer for The Wall Street Journal had so many statistics and facts incorrect that Rachel Maddow had to stand up and cut through this guy's babbling nonsense to re-establish the truth. Gee, I hope Rachel and Larry aren't canned any time soon because we will have to search high and low to recruit the truth- tellers. You have to go a long way to find a Keith O- truth-teller.
Should leaders tell their constituents the truth? Damn right! We don't get enough of the truth. The truth should get us prepared for facing our issues head on with logic and planning and executing . The truth should be brave and unequivocal and a lightening rod for sound reasoning. We vote and we are owed the truth because when the lie comes out, it isn't flattering or reputable and we pay a price somewhere down the line.
I think us boomers can relate to that.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To Twitter or not to Twitter

Hi, Boomers,
I just had my third tutoring lesson in twittering. How's that for alliteration? I'm feeling stupid, or so, stupid and ask me if I care. I care not. I don't feel any wiser about social networking either. I'm still stuck in the meaning of "hash." I think of corn beef hash every time I say "tweet" with my tutor. Actually, tutor is my website designer @chessleyn (that's a tweet) and every time I get up the nerve to twitter, he emails me, "that's wrong, Joan." I get a pit in the bottom of my stomach and want a cigarette.
I'm exhausted marketing my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer. Yes, Dave, I always get my plug in. I'm exhausted sending emails for my book signing, which by the way, if any of you are in L.A. on the 17th of February at 7 pm, come to Book Soup, the ever cool bookstore on Sunset Blvd. in West Hollywood and join a fun evening. I've got my shills coming, too. I still can't figure out how I scored that one.
Oh, I don't mean to whine about all this social networking gig, but I did want to take a brief nap this afternoon before I go out tango dancing tonight and then I thought about how I haven't blogged in days. Yes, days, and I need rest because I'm still teaching 7 yoga classes a day and trying to think through my trips to Vegas to be with my family, and how to get to Portland to dance tango with my favorite guy, and when to rehearse my salon theater group with the Jewish Women's Theatre, and when I'm going to find the time to memorize my part. And it seems I've got too much on my plate my mind is splintering. Not very yogic, is it.
Yet, it's totally cool that when I decide I'm going to meditate, I can do it. I can stop the madness. I can stop trying to figure out how to tweet, I can put aside the fight I had with one of my sons and I can even continue to procrastinate starting to write my keynote speech.
I forgot to tell you that last week I was in Vegas for a day and a half to attend a conference sponsored by the National Speakers Association on keynote speaking. Here's how good I felt about this conference: Let's say I wasn't even interested in writing a keynote speech; let's say I thought this conference looked interesting on the surface of things. The information presented to me by the superstars of the speaking world was unbelievably useful and helpful to me just as a human being. There were lots of open hearts on stage willing to teach, to mentor, to be friendly and patient and honest with everyone. I'm not saying it was a Tony Robbins kind of thing. I'm just saying it was a human moment among people of all walks of life who were learning how to refine their messages, to present new material, to communicate with a higher level of expertise, to move audiences emotionally. It was an amazing moment.
I guess I'm in a learning curve and when I'm in a learning curve it's difficult to sort out the obvious. Being overwhelmed is, well, just that - I've got too much information and I need time to sort it all out. I'll get there. What I think is inspirational at the moment, however, is that I'm learning something entirely new in my life and experiencing going back to school in an out of the box way that is thrilling. Whenever those negative thoughts of "how can I do that?" "when can I get this done?" "I have no time to nap because I'm overwhelmed!" I kick it up a notch in the positive zone. I put one mental foot in front of another mental foot and continue the journey. It's a blast, dude. I'll keep on tweeting.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Hi, Boomers,
Sad times for the nation at this moment. We are all consumed with tragedy. We are looking for something or someone to blame. It's only natural. Innocent people were killed by a young man who saw he world differently than a normal, functioning, rational being. It happens too often in our world. The taking of human life has very little meaning in some parts of the world, even our world, our America. Since 1982, when the shooter was born, there have been something like ten other shootings by young men whose only rational thought was, "You're not making the world the way I think it should be."
I remember when 9/11 occurred in 2001. I was taking yoga teacher training at that time when the tragedy hit our nation with full force. We were all numb in class; we were waiting for some kind of direction from our teacher, Max Strom. We sat in silence for a long time in class. Speaking wasn't an option for any one of us. Max then reminded us that we couldn't do anything about this tragedy. He also reminded us that even though the deaths and destruction took place outside of us, we were still connected by divineness to everyone involved, including the high-jackers. What we could do in that moment in our yoga studio was to send our love and light to everyone affected by the tragedy, including the families of those who planned the attack because they had lost their sons in a futile effort to make the world into what they wanted it to be.
It is difficult to forgive when one follows an ideology to the letter, when one fantasizes that acts of terror will change people's minds and hearts. Ideologies promote the "you're wrong and I'm right" mindset that is so very destructive to societies. Everyone has opinions and everyone has the right to that opinion, but it is unlikely that people and societies who espouse their ideas will force others to conform. It's a useless supposition. It is a perception out of whack with human nature.
I had a sweet moment with my dear friend and fellow yogini on Sunday that brought the day and a half of non stop angst to somewhat of a normal level. Annie had read my book, Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer - in fact, she is in the book - but she had to let me know how important my last chapter was to her. The chapter is called, "Calm To The Core." It begins with a tex message from a Chinese royal named Hong-Shi (1704- 1727).

"When zen practice
is completely developed,
there is no center,
no extremes;
There are no edges or corners
it's perfectly round, frictionless"

The last section in the book is subtitled: "Forgiving is a Bitch"
It begins: "It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."

It's challenging and completely exasperating to forgive someone. Annie struggled for years with forgiveness. It wasn't until her parents had finally passed away that she was able to come to grip with her anger and hostility toward them. She still struggles with forgiveness - there are good days and bad days - but the section on forgiveness has given her a deeper insight in the mantra of forgiveness and how it is so important for us all because it enables us to move on in lives. If we don't forgive, we never move forward, achieve change or transformation.

I wrote about 9/11 and wondered if that act is forgivable. Now, I wonder about Tucson and I wonder if that is forgivable, too. I wonder if it is possible to separate the actual horrific acts from the perpetrators who are flawed and psychically sick. I think it is possible and I think it is difficult. But if I do not forgive others, I cannot forgive myself. I will always keep my inner anger inside myself and it will prevent me from living a truthful and honorable life. For me, the essence of forgiveness is a spiritual practice through which I can acquire clarity and stay close to my inner truth. To forgive is to be filled with grace, honor, and dignity.

Hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate.

The divine in me recognizes the divine in you.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Food For Thought

Hi, Boomers,
Happy Birthday! The first of the boomers turned 65 as of January 1, 2011. Hard to believe, isn't it. We always thought that we would be young forever. Social Security? Medicare? Not us! Boomers don't age. The first of of were born in 1946, and for the next 19 years, about 10,000 boomers will cross that threshold every day. Most of us will hold off the thought of turning 65 through exercise or Botox or face lifts or liposuction. And we will never cede our youth to calendar years or statistics.
However, the fact remains that seventy-nine million baby boomers, about 26 percent of the U.S. population and there is no turning back the clock. So what is interesting about this statistic is that boomers will all march into their 60's with varying degrees of acceptance.
Certain buzz words may sting worse than the chronological number of 65. "Old," "older" stings. What about social security or medicare? Ouch! That means I'm included in an aging population. Sixty-five is usually associated with the "R" word - retirement. We're young, for God sake, and retirement means I'm old, therefore, obsolete. No one wants me. I'm invisible in society. I'm the last to be waited on at the cosmetic counter.
Retirement stings - either forced or voluntary. Of course, some of us won't speak of retirement because our savings are are not what we thought they would be at 65 and we have to continue working; some of us will continue to show up for work out of fear that we might be left behind at 65. It's important to remain relevant and hip and with it and part of the fabric of our community. We don't want to turn into unfulfilled, self-absorbed boomers who are racked with self-pity. Some form of work provides identification to our psyches. Most of us won't want to exit the job force at 65 or 66 and sit in contemplation until the end of our life - except my therapist who chooses to do so.
Since the last of the boomers to turn 65 will do so in 1964, it is not clear that we can ascribe a cogent set of characteristics to the entire boomer generation. I was born three years before the first set of boomers were born, but I do lump myself in to the boomer generation because I'm not typically a World War II baby. My frame of reference growing up includes all that is typical and familiar to that those born in 1946. I was raised in a more nurturing, child oriented environment. I could be seen and heard in polite society. Dr. Benjamin Spock was my mother's guru. While I learned something of human relationships via the television, I was treated to the finer subtleties of life through the movies. Yet, I wasn't captivated by marketing or advertising and never begged my mother endlessly to buy me an angora sweater or a poodle skirt. Because my parents were still old-school when it came to raising children, I wasn't convinced that the way to get through adolescence was through rebellion. "Rebel Without A Cause" was not my favorite movie. I was taught that one worked very hard to get what wanted or needed and kept a keen eye on book learning. There were no free lunches in my world.
Of late, there has been a lot of talk about the depressed state of boomers. Perhaps those boomers born later were fed the "entitlement" line - as in I'm entitled to my large pension, to my full 401K, my bailout, my medicare, my social security - were heavily disappointed when it came time to cash in or cash out. "Show me the money!" Well, guess, what? The money isn't all there, along with the expectation, the demand, the freedom of choice. Today, these are not always options in our lives. Maybe boomers thought all that "stuff" would keep us young and carry us forward to our heavenly resting place. And it's a pity that for some of us that it didn't pan out like that, but it's not the end of our boomer world.
The end of the world is thinking that we are still entitled to our fair share even though we might have made some bad money decisions, even though we might have been let go from our jobs before their expiration date, even though our economy tanked two years ago or more if we were just paying attention. Life is not always a level playing field.
I'm still working. I'm even planning to create other sources of income. I'm still excited by life at 67. At 67 my parents were still building homes and condos and apartment buildings. I remember them being so very young at 67 that I couldn't imagine them getting old and they really never did get old because life was still a joyous ride for them until the end. Those two people married during the depression and persevered to make their lives better and richer and more creative. And they set the example. They were the gold standard.
So boomers are young and vital still. It's a mind set and a vocation to be 65. If we are settled financially, we can volunteer and give back and make the lives of others more fulfilling. There is joy in enriching our lives at any age at any time. If we lack access to full funding for our later years, we can create many positives in our life. I just read an article about a Los Angeles poet who got laid off from her job at a museum and is now blogging about stories of people who have lost their jobs but who are making positive contributions to their lives by working differently and making a difference. We all possess tenacity and creativity if we just look deeper within ourselves.
Boomers don't have to make a wholesale redefinition of growing older. We are any age at any time as long as we don't buy in to labels, to statistics, to depression, to the mantra of the bad news on television. Turn off the sound and listen to your heart. That is where eternal youth resides.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Post Dramatic New Year's Disorder

Hi, Boomers,
I think I have a computer hangover.
I made it through the new year's weekend of excessive, very excessive tango dancing in San Diego at the annual new year's festival with more than my fair share of sore feet and ankles. I never know what to expect from tango festivals; that is to say, I never know who is going to show up except my immediate posse of friends (both male and female) because we share our tango plans ahead of the event.
I attend these festivals for three reasons: to dance excessive tango for days on end; to sell my book (Sixty, Sex, & Tango, Confessions of a Beatnik Boomer), and to commune with good tango friends from around the U.S. and, hopefully, to meet new people and I can guarantee that I always do meet the most interesting people along the way. I bring ten books and I usually sell out. My dearest friend, Anne Leva-Midon ( sets up her booth of fabulous tango clothes and she lets me display my books. We hang out during the day and talk and meet all kinds of tango addicts.
This year the dancing was tremendous fun and energetic and the music was outstanding. All the D.J.'s were terrific. The weather was absolutely beautiful around Point Loma. The skies were crystal clear blue and the temperature had a nice snap to it during the day. And, as always, the company was sublime. I even took a side trip to La Jolla to revisit my old stomping grounds. I lived in that village for two years sometime in my past and used to vacation there during the married years. The view from the Cove always sends a chill up my spine. At one time in the not too distant past, I used to swim in the Master's Race from the Cove out to a buoy a half a mile out. The mile swim in a race with other women my age was always the greatest physical challenge for me - not just for the mile but I could get seasick if the waves were too rigorous. I'm a wimp for sure.
And now I'm sitting in the Apple Store in Santa Monica waiting for my turn at the Genius Bar. My CD player doesn't work. And, yes, it's the beginning of a new year but it's the same old relationship with Apple. This is the third time in a week that I have frequented this store and I'm wondering if I'm actually visiting the people who work in the Apple Store because I like them or do I really have problems with my computer. Sometimes I do have a problem and sometimes I don't - as in I've asked a dumb questions in the past and wasted genius people's time behind the counter.
But of late, the real intrigue, the real relationship has to do with that 11 inch, newly designed MacBook Air. I adore it. I thought I adored the IPad and I thought a lot about the IPad - probably more than I thought about any man in my life. But now I am only thinking about the Air. Sexy comes to mind. I pet it on the display table; I fondle it and lift it up to experience the lightness. I place my fingers on the keyboard and breathe slowly.
Do I want the Air because I'm looking for something exciting to celebrate 2011? Is it because I'm going to travel a lot in the new year and want something lighter? What is it with me and the compact, light sensuous MacBook Air? Is it a replacement for a boyfriend because I've given up on finding boyfriends? I feel I have a real disorder surrounding my desire. If the truth be told, my MacBook, my solid, beautiful 13 inch black MacBook still has life and love left in it. It has six months more to go before I we celebrate our third year relationship. It has been my constant and sustaining companion through thick and thin, through writing and editing my book, through travels to Curacao, to Denver, to Portland to Santa Fe, to Park City, to the monthly trips to Las Vegas. I even sleep with it sometimes. No, I don't cuddle with it in bed, however, because that would take it over the top.
I feel guilty. I feel fickle. I feel I'm cheating. I've just got to live with it without my Air. My gleaming silver Air. But it's faster in speed than my black MacBook. But they don't make black Macbooks anymore. I'm surly going to have to make my peace with my present computer state. After all, I brought in the new year with it and we were happy together. I'll think about it tomorrow at Tara. Good night, Scarlett.
I'm a day late, but a happy new year to all. Peace, joy and good health and let's add some needed prosperity.