The Joy of Books

This is a photo I took this morning of my bookshelf.

A couple of weeks ago I went through 11 boxes of books I’d had in storage. Eleven boxes! Now, I know Marie Kondo has been receiving some criticism for a misunderstanding of her attitude towards books, but she was not the reason why I whittled those down to three (three tiny boxes!) and now have the equivalent of $150 credit at two used book stores in town. I did it because I wanted to.

Claiming ownership of 11 boxes of books in a basement was no longer bringing me joy.

Funny thing is — those three boxes are still in storage. This jam-packed shelf is a collection of the tucked-away, have-to-keep-and-bring-because-what’s-another-book-really, and random stash of journals I unpacked from my luggage and the boxes of stuff I *did* take out of storage so far. Two-thirds of the books Timeless publishes? That makes sense. But both a paperback *and* hard copy of the Kundalini book? It’s a little much, Guenevere. And what’s with the Glossary of Literary Terms?

No, I take it back. There’s no room for self criticism when it comes to a book collection. Grateful to have my books sitting on my shelf in my room overlooking the lake.

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transit

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Shoes on, jacket zipped, step-step-step down the stairs and turn right. Suddenly, I realize I’m in the street. Sunlight reflecting off chlorophyll-depleted leaves. They diffuse the light somehow, those leaves. They are translucent and the light reaches me; nourishes. Gaze back down to my feet. Step-step-step. Through construction, cursing the cold, across the street just in time. Doors open right in front of me. I step-step. Tap. I’m in. It’s warm. There’s a place to sit. I jostle and heave near other bodies as we move forward. Together.

Slowing down again. Don’t get up yet. Abrupt stop. Okay, now. Doors woosh open and we move forward, a bunch of us this time. All moving to the same place like we’re travelling together. Like we know what we had for breakfast this morning. Like we know the unconscious thoughts that randomly pop into each other’s minds: the floor plan of a house I used to live in, the words of a classmate in grade one, how much I like the taste of cardamom. But this landscape cannot be shared. This fabric of thought is immutably solitary, set apart. We’re separating now. I walk fast, I move ahead of the pack with their thoughts, an entire continent between us, an entire world, an entire life.

 Tap. The turnstile unlocks, briefly. I push through, up the escalator. Others standing like statues on the right, gliding upward. I follow those in movement on the left. Push past bags and elbows. Move this body through space and time. Open doors. Hurried steps. That adrenaline rush of making it just before the doors close behind me. Moving, sitting, waiting. Walking in lines, finding my way, settling back into ground level, getting my bearings. This way is North. This way is to the next bus stop. This way. I keep moving.

Eva lent me her Compass card. She drives to UBC, so I’ve got use of this card that gets me on public transit here in Vancouver. I’ve taken buses, the skytrain, and even the sea-bus. All with a tap of a card. One day I mistook the name of the station I was supposed to get off at for the station name at the end of the line. I accidentally rode the entire length. Good thing I wasn’t in a hurry.

I have access to a giant swath of land I otherwise could not reach simply through this plastic card. I can’t walk that far in a day. I can’t swim across the Vancouver Harbour. All this movement turns this space around me into something that is knowable. A path I can experience, a tea cup I can drink, a tarot reading I can do with a friend. The experience is inextricably linked with the place. Being on the move exposes me to things I otherwise wouldn’t be.

Some days I stay home — at Eva’s, this grace of a landing place I’ve been given. Don’t always go out, yet can go endless places in the possibilities of my mind and my future. Mulling, scheming, manifesting, and planning. It’s exhausting, following the track of all these options and being pulled in the directions they lead. I keep moving. I keep moving.

Out the doors now. High in the sky. Take the empty, frozen escalator down. The groves of each motionless step interweave. My vision blurs them together. Move, don’t think. Step-step-step. My rhythm, my focus, my flow. Rain tonight. Zip up the jacket, pull over the hood. My body pulls me under the shelter of canopies, my legs keep moving. Keep moving. Car lights illumine momentary lines of water. Pools on pavement. Six more blocks. Five more blocks. I look back at the bus coming from behind. I stop beneath an overhang. Then through the open doors. Tap. I don’t sit. In the warmth of this space, I know I am getting off soon. Hang on. Adjust weight. Doors open. I step out onto wet leaves. I walk under trees. Keep moving. I keep moving.

this is what it’s like

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when you get denied entry at the border and they take you into one of those little rooms, the ones you’ve heard so much about where terrible things happen to people like how small children are separated from their parents and there’s a cot in one and it makes you feel even more sad and you are left waiting and you have no idea what’s happening and you know when your next flight was supposed to board but you don’t have a clock so you don’t know what’s happening and why isn’t anyone telling you what’s happening and you make your statements under oath, but you wonder what does ‘being under oath’ even mean in this country anymore and there are moments when your mind and imagination get carried away but then you bring it back on track, back to the mantra, which, let’s be honest, has been running through your head all day anyway and especially when you got ‘pulled aside’ and you’re so grateful that you’ve put in years, I’m talking years, of daily practice and effort into training your mind and imagination so that you can watch your thoughts and see where each will take you and decide which you want to follow and what you’d like to create in the endless landscape of your inner being instead of letting them run the show and you wonder why the officer needed to press her nails into your cuticles so hard that it nearly broke the skin when she took your fingerprints, and oh god now they have your fingerprints, and there’s a moment when you’re resting your head on the table – the table that’s in the room that you’re still in, waiting, even though she said you could go to the waiting room because there’s a TV in there but why would you want to be in a room with a TV when you can be in a space with your own self and your stress response is to want to fall asleep and there’s this moment where you suddenly feel entirely and completely alone and it’s such a full and complete notion and you know that this is a little snippet of what people feel who are experiencing true suffering and you feel like you are forsaken and there’s, at first, a rush of panic, because it’s enormous to be so utterly alone like that and you understand that this makes people who don’t know themselves extremely uncomfortable and then suddenly there’s peace. There’s stillness. And you’re in The Big Room, which is that room that you go to when you meditate sometimes. But it’s not really a place you can go, it’s like a placeless experience that happens to you. And then you have this notion you’ve never had that’s not really like inviting God in, but more like God is inviting you in. And you sit there with God in The Big Room in this little room amidst this stress and endless waiting and your heart is just buzzing and the officer comes back to tell you, after she’s finally told you that you can’t come into the country, that your flight back leaves in one hour or two hours and then you overhear that it’s actually in four hours and so you somehow relax a bit because now at least you know what’s happening next and then you ask to make sure the people expecting you know you’re not coming and you’re allowed to use the phone on speaker phone at the front desk and you hear his voice and immediately burst into tears, tears that have been hiding at the edges of your eyes but not yet falling out, and you talk and then you know you need to rest and so you go to the padded bench in the bathroom and your mind whirls and whirls and whirls and then you want to ask more questions and get more information and so you talk to other officers and they’re like actual humans and they listen and they understand and they tell you no, you don’t need to go to an embassy and they give you advice on what to do next, because you know and they know you’ve done nothing wrong and then you feel so much better having had a conversation with someone who understands and your back is so tense it’s causing menstrual-like cramps and you think how that’s certainly an odd thing to happen in a time of duress, apparently that’s a thing now? and eventually the guards come to take you to your flight back and you have to force yourself to not burst out laughing at the hilarity of two armed guards escorting you to the gate and someone asks jocularly if they’re just here watching TV and you say “They’re with me” at the same time one says “We’re with her” and you say “Hashtag I’m with her” and you think that’s pretty clever but no one laughs and you get on your flight and you rest and, as you complete the descent, the flight attendant says that it’s 11:22 and thanks for flying Delta on behalf of their crew based in Phoenix. And then you land. And then you try again the next day. And you bring the documentation that shows you’re doing nothing wrong. And then you get denied again. And then you are bereft.

This Post is About Time

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I’ll never forget the way the tide came in on the Maitai River. Small fanned out rivulets fighting salty wet. Then one rushing wave pushing back strong. Too strong for the river. It whelped in retreat, obliterated by the ocean’s force. I had no idea the tide could do that — moon tugging at water in regular cycles. Hold an entire river hostage.

This post is about time.

I was walking along the shore today at low-tide. First, on the promenade. Monotonous cement. Lanes to keep me separate from the bikes. I ran out of cement and veered right, south toward the water. The endless stones broke and I edged to the sand: rippled. Uneven. Random.

I wanted to get further though, closer to the water. Where the seagulls stewed in gentle waves to their knees. Do birds have knees?

All around me minuscule springs flowed out of the slope toward the ocean. That’s what we do. That part of us inside that is compelled, by a gravity-like force, to lose ourselves and merge into consciousness. A drop becomes again the sea. Rippled sand became patches of water, flowing. It wove around green, algeaed rocks stubbornly jutting above the water line. Suddenly more water than sand.

The best way forward became obvious. Head down, momentum kept: stride along the rocks. No time to think, just do. Action outweighing the logic of scanning ahead, finding out the best route, the best way to keep above the three inches of water.

Metaphor hitting me like a dart. Have faith the next step will appear, don’t worry about three steps ahead, just keep moving forward.

***

At an appointment in Brighton to get a National Insurance number. The bland civil servant filled out a form with my particulars. “Ever gone by any other names?”

Oh. This question. “Yes.” I feel resentment rise that the state be so involved in the details of my life. Certain aspects of the past revived in official ways, never allowed to settle.

I’m reminded of the courthouse one August. Mark already engaged again, his eyes moist as I walk up, packet of papers in my hand to make official what we’ve known for years. We hadn’t even seen each other for over 18 months. Life and circumstance kept us from filing for divorce right away. We wanted to do it jointly instead of involving lawyers more than necessary. No “serving” one another. Only, we needed to be in the same province, which rarely happened then. Such annoyance at the process. The high-heeled clerks painstakingly reviewing the forms. Why couldn’t I will it away? Simply decide to be divorced and then it be so. What is this monolithic entity that can decree the category I fall into, tell me what box to check on forms. I resented it.

I still do.

“My name used to be Fast. F-A-S-T,” I spell out to the British man.

“The name you were born with?”

“No. My married name. I’m divorced.”

He continues to fill out the form, turns the page, smooths the binding to lay the packet flat.

“What was your husband’s name?”

What? Why does that matter? I enunciate the four syllables.

“Date of marriage?”

Crikey! When was that?

“And date of divorce?”

Now that’s a date I remember clearly. The last day of the Mayan calendar.

We were told it would take up to six weeks. October rolls by and nothing. November. Finally, Mark calls the courthouse. They’ve lost the paperwork. It was processed in Ottawa, but on the way back to Alberta it got misfiled. They found it, thank goodness, and push it back on track. We were told that once we each get the official letter the divorce is final exactly one month later — just in case anyone changes their mind. I wait. The letter arrived in late November.

Return address: The Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta.

I rip open the envelope, greedy for closure. To let this part of my life rest.

It’s all there, exactly what I wanted to see. The official certificate of divorce. Signed and dated for November 21, 2012.

I’m startled by the timing of it all. A mislaid form offering me a new beginning at the end of an ancient measure of time. Exactly one month later, December 21, is the last day of the Mayan calendar.

Yet here I am, nearly six years later (and it feels like so many more), still drudging up the past with all these forms. I can’t help but think how my youthful blip wouldn’t have been detected if I hadn’t changed my name. How Mark remains free from this drudging.

We finish the process. The officer hands me back my passport and I leave the grey building, full of its empty greetings from wandering security guards.

***

Walking home from the beach I realize the irony of my married name. Fast. My last name used to be Fast. I’m obsessed with the illusion of time. It follows me everywhere.

I’m crossing the bridge over the train tracks. I see the overgrown lilac bushes. Their wild glory wafting delicious scent my direction. My favourite. 

Why does time so often arise as a theme in my life?

I came to England with this visa now because I was running out of time. I was aging out of eligibility. With a fresh new passport I’d been impatiently waiting for I applied a week shy of my 31st birthday. And then flew to Hawaii. Living in England was a thing I was planning on doing soon. But was it ever something I actually wanted?

Sometimes I feel like the ocean tides, pulled compulsively by the moon. Subject to her whims as I flow around this globe. Marking time. Can’t my life be like incoming tide on the Maitai River? One decisive wave. Obliterating all else. It’s clear-cut and focused. Nothing in the way of its goal.

I’m trying to figure out what I want.

I’ve still got time.

The Plight of the Polite Woman

The Tattooed Buddha was gracious enough to publish this piece of mine after I’d submitted it and neglected to make suggested edits for nearly half a year. It’s another example of finishing unfinished things.

The Plight of the Polite Woman

My work day was over. Dinner time.

I clomp over the boardwalk toward the dining hall and, drop my bag in the coatroom, and slide toward the dining room. Sole, Roasted Potatoes, Local Corn, Green Beans and Plum Cake says the menu board. White fish—yech. That always creeps me out. I’m slightly irritated for no reason at all today—restless. I turn the corner to the buffet lines and see a crowd by the plates. I’ll get a glass of water first.

Click here to read the rest…

On Blinds and Other Familiar Things

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Yes, this is an actual picture of my new cupboard. Yes, those are travel mugs.

I was sitting in my aunt’s living room on my latest Whirlwind Tour of Western Canada. Comfortable couches, soft lighting, great art and fabulous company. It was the day before I would catch my flight for Another Adventure and I was absorbing the experience of familiarity.

Reclined in the chair, I rolled my tea cup lazily between my hands. Judy sprawled to my left on the love seat, feet dangling over the arm, precariously close to my tickling fingers. Peggy on the right, nestled in a blanket over her lap. A coziness existed in the air. The type that is present when women who share the same blood are sitting in a room together speaking about their inner worlds, about things that are important.

Late afternoon sun was shining on the houses across the street and I looked at the edges of the windows. Judy has these elegant vertical blinds. They’re a soft, neutral colour made of sturdy fabric. Delicate chains loop the panels together along each side on the top and bottom, where they gracefully nearly touch the floor.

Judy has lived in this house my entire life. (Needless to say, we live a very different type of existence and often talk about the steadiness of her external life compared to my own. She’ll pick me up from the airport as I launch from or return to YYC, with uncountable Adventures in between.)

Now let me tell you a little about Judy. Judy is my mother Peggy’s younger sister by ten years. Given the age difference, and how famously we get along, as I tottered close to adulthood, Judy came to feel like a sister to me as well as an aunt. We’ve stayed that way for over half my life now. She’s endlessly creative and hilariously fun. She can conduct whole conversations using only words that start with a single letter of the alphabet. In fact, she can do that with each letter of the alphabet. Sequentially. Well, with plenty of breaks for fits of laughter.

Judy’s creativity has revamped her living room design a number of times in my life. But you know what? Those vertical blinds have stayed the entire time. There’s something there about the timelessness of elegance, a characteristic trait that both her and the blinds have in common.

Mulling this over a couple of things came to mind.

One: that I’m terrified of commitment. No surprises here, folks. When I owned a house (which I only agreed to because it was promised that we’d be moving West in five years) I changed things all. The. Time. I moved furniture and painted walls and never had any sense of permanence in design choices. Why would I? I’d be moving within a few years, anyway. It’s what helped me and my aversion to commitment make it through. There was no other way that I could have accepted such stagnancy unless I changed the parts of the house that I could.

Two: that Judy made a pretty great design choice to last through the changing interior design fashions of over three decades.

In conclusion: my utter incomprehension over something like having the same blinds for decades is not shared by the rest of the world. There are humans who create their lives to include this kind of permanence. I simply can’t understand it. I’m blind to the rationale. (Couldn’t help it!)

Sharing these thoughts I was struck, yet again, by how similar and yet how different I can simultaneously feel compared to my family.

That evening, before snacks and a romantic comedy and the three of us cuddling under blankets on the couch downstairs (I’m sensing a theme), I’d finalized the packing of my luggage. If there was anything I didn’t want to take, now was the time to bag it up and send it back to BC with Peggy. She’d take it and store it in her basement along with all my other things a 31 year-old doesn’t need when she spends her time frittering around the globe.

In that bag was my travel mug. Travel mugs are pretty easy to come by. People tend to collect them in their cupboards. (People who live in one spot, anyway.) They get handed out at events, branded with logos for free advertising. They’re a common sight in our consumer world.

Yet as I passed that bag over to Peggy, something in me was hesitating. Judy could see my indecision. “I’ve taken that travel mug all over the world with me,” I explained. “From Las Vegas to New Zealand and Hawaii, it’s been a constant in a life otherwise filled with change. But I bet when I get to England and find a place to live, I’ll open the cupboard and my flatmate will have a shelf full of travel mugs.”

“Take it,” said Judy. “It’ll be your blinds.”

I looked her in the eyes. Eyes of warmth and quiet wisdom. Eyes that know, despite our vastly different ways of being in this world, the human need for comfort. I smiled.

I took the mug out of the bag and returned it to my luggage.

Full disclosure: I’ve written about window treatments before.

The Timeline of an Ashram Visit


Somehow through that which is grace I was lucky enough to encounter, however peripherally, an author, a healer, a teacher, a self-described soul self-care coach, a lovely being named Kate Bartolotta. She passed away in April. I imagine if all the hearts she touched joined hands we could reach far enough to hold Mama Earth as lovingly as She held Kate for far too short a time. What I learned from Kate is to always finish something I began writing. Here’s a post I started a while ago. Sending gratitude for her lessons and hopes that Divine Mother hold her children, her family and all that loved her close.
Choose Joy

 

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The Timeline of an Ashram Visit

So you’re in Western Canada for a short time as you continent-hop over this precious Earth and planning to stop at Yasodhara. Here’s what you can expect from a short visit if you’ve lived there for three consecutive years in your 20s. Plus that weird year later when you were incredibly depressed.

Day One: The Arrival

You’ll arrive while daylight still permeates through the trees and buildings. You’ll take your time walking into Mandala House, breathing in that scent of pine and oxygen and Light. Everyone will be thrilled to see you and you them. There’ll be a lot of open arms and smiling faces. You’ll see old friends you weren’t expecting and others you’d been looking forward to catching up with. This is generally an easy-going time.

With a magnetism you’ll never fully understand, you’ll visit the Temple first, then maybe chant in a prayer room and spend some time at the beach. Depending on the length of your stay you’ll unpack your suitcase to various degrees.

As you wander the grounds you’ll get feelings of familiarity and change all at once. You’ll know each tree and shrub. You’ll have waves of memories wash over you of every season that has gone before that matches the season of the current visit. Yet you’ll also be different. Your concerns will have changed. The immediate life situation you’ve left behind will be different. You’ll hold these gently as you re-enter this precious place. You’ll breathe in. You’ll breathe out.

Day Two: The Settling

There will be a few more enthusiastic hellos from people who’d been in town or sick in their rooms the previous day, but generally people won’t be ecstatic to see you. They saw you yesterday. You’ve given them the 50 word spiel, edited and refined more and more with every telling about what you’re up to lately and what you’re doing next. You’re settling into the routine and your familiar face fits in. Haven’t been back in six months? More? It doesn’t matter, in some ways it’s already as if you never left.

You help with dishes and quickly adjust to the slight changes in the kitchen. Plastic containers go there now. Pyrex lids go in the drawer beside the sink.

There will be times, in those snippets of a moment between organized routine, that you’ll wonder just what to do with yourself. You’ll feel a little lost — should you go to the beach? Play guitar in the mat room? You only have half-an-hour. Oh gee, 25 minutes actually. You’ll relax into it. You’ll choose the right thing.

You’ll get these waves of yearning for a feeling that you’re in the midst of feeling. You’ll be in satsang or walking down the gravel path. A sudden peace will seem to enter your very being and you’ll want it closer than that. Closer than right next to every cell. And you’ll realize that it’s impossible to get closer because it’s not next to each cell. It simply is each cell. You’ll keep walking.

Day Three: The Opening

You’ll feel guilty for not waking up for morning practice. It might be chanting in the Temple or morning hatha. You’ll compare the expectations you had about yourself during this visit with the reality of sleeping until breakfast. You’ll forgive yourself. You’ll be gentle, kind and accepting.

Dim light filtering in through the trees will catch you off guard. In a moment of heightened awareness, you’ll feel your entire body relax, your mental acuity focused vividly on the reality around you. You’ll experience moments of blissful presence. Your whole body will vibrate in gratitude. It will be as if the veil is shimmering, showing you a glimpse of something beyond this known reality.

Day Four: The Revealing

You’ll be riding those waves of bliss from the previous days but a nagging feeling will have started. Maybe you’ve had a medium-gauge negative interaction with someone. Or you made it to a hatha class and a mass of tension in your hip released as you concurrently realized another layer of self-judgement you hold. Another place in which you aren’t what you imagine yourself to be.

It’s okay, this is normal. If the whole thing were comfortable then there wouldn’t be much use of an Ashram, would there? No one said personal growth was easy.

Day Five: The Shifting

You’ll feel soft and permeable. You’ll enjoy visiting deeper with friends and yesterday’s realizations will have invigorated you somehow. Isn’t is funny how an experience can do that? You’ll think it’s negative at first and then later, once your mind has exhausted itself running possibilities, you’ll see the gift in it. Part of the gift will be in that very process. How we can move beyond our limitations and shift into new perspectives.

You’ll start to think about packing your suitcase. About getting a ride to the ferry or how you’ll get into town. Concerns in the world will creep in to your awareness. You’ll notice them. You’ll ask them to wait, you’re not ready to think about them yet. You want to go deeper, stay longer. You want to chant in the prayer room with the sunlight reflecting off the lake, blaring in so bright you can’t see Swami Radha in the picture frame on the altar. All you’ll see is your own face, reflecting back in the glass. And you’ll find such reassurance in that, like you always do.

Day Six: The Leaving Even Though Part of You Never Really Leaves

The morning will come gently and swift. It will rise up pink over the Selkirks and replicate itself perfectly against the smooth glass of Kootenay Lake. You’ll wonder then if actually you’ll live two days. There’ll be the one in which you can stay here and keep doing the only thing that’s ever really made any sense to you: getting to know yourself, serving selflessly and offering back what seems like nothing in comparison to all that you’ve been given. And that other day, the one where you leave because you know that’s what you need to do right now. And you know that you’ll be back.

You’ll leave just after breakfast for the ferry. You’ll feel solid, strong.

You’ll feel grateful that you know what home is.

Knots

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Back a number of lifetimes ago, when I lived on a boat and the sea would rock me back and forth every night, I used to keep my eyes open for habour seals.

One morning in particular I spotted a happy seal diving down down down before I’d see it again, its dog-like face smiling fiercely into the rising sun. This was my chance.

Gingerly, I reached for the fishing rod, stepped up onto the slanted cabin and found the perfect spot to sit. You see, anytime a habour seal was about, I knew mackerel would be there, too, and I was eager for a fresh breakfast.

I took a few casts without drawing any fish. Undeterred, I flicked back my wrists as I bent my elbows and threw my hook out into the deep. Well, I tried to, anyway. The line had snagged on itself — got all twisted and knotted and pretty much useless. I hauled it back in to investigate.

The entire line had twirled into itself to become a giant mass of blueish white. And so I sat there straightening it out. I sat there as I heard the town church-bell toll the top of the hour. And I was still sitting there when it tolled again. And again. And again. Eventually, in clear bright tones, it sang out the next hour.

I had been sitting there without a break for over 60 minutes, untangling that fishing line. By the time I finished, the habour seal — and the fish that had drawn it — was gone.

 

I woke up in BC today, arriving yesterday after a week in Alberta. Sleep was fitful and full of dreams.

The night before I’d been in my parent’s basement, rifling through boxes of my old lives. There’s a logical chronology in my stored items that doesn’t exists anywhere else in my life. This section is from Montreal; here’s what I had in New Zealand; those are the items I haven’t touched since getting divorced; that and that are from each time at the Ashram.

Urgency drove me forward, opening boxes and taking items I think I’ll need in the UK. There must be something here to salvage, something I can take from all these lives I’ve lived. I was feeling a little desperate. The last 10 years of my life laid bare on concrete and wooden slats, boxed and bagged to keep out the damp.

That desperation wanted everything to fit together perfectly, for there to be some sort of order to my continent-hopping. I want a thread that ties it all together so I can make sense of it all. I know this feeling. I know this sense of disparate identity. It catches me when I expect it to and it comes from nowhere.

The reality is that material possessions won’t weave together the stages of a life. The thing that ties it all together is me.

Morning lifted after watery dreams, and today my heart felt like a knot. My mind began cataloguing all the reasons why I could feel stressed and anxious — and then I stopped. I’ve dealt with knots before.

With a gentle persistence, I let my heart relax and eased into the knot. I don’t have to apply for every job today. I don’t have to get into town at a certain hour and it’s okay I’ve overslept to catch the bus. There’s plenty of time to sort through the items I gathered yesterday and do my morning practice.

I worked at the knots using what I know, sitting with myself and holding my mind to some accountability instead of letting it run wild with anxious thought. 

Rather than dexterous fingers and keen eyesight, I can use Light, breath and mantra on these twisted lines.

It didn’t take an hour. Eventually I untied the knot.

Meeting Myself

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It’s a cool, still day. Sun made some attempts at appearing this morning, but was overtaken by various types of clouds. There’s the dull grey haze, smearing over most parts of the sky, but also the depth provided by layers of clouds covering layers of mountains as they stand behind one another. That mountain is visible. This one behind has a patch of cloud obscuring it. That other one down the valley is only making itself known in faint outline. There’s mystery here that sun would be oblivious to.

The person who said you can never go home has never considered home to be an ashram.

That’s where I am now. I’m home.

I always loved the Ashram when it’s cloudy. Another reminder to bring my focus inward, to let go of external concerns.

Rocks press into rocks under my feet and I’m at the lakeshore, staring at my favourite mountain. It’s the one that’s visible, jutting out where the lake takes a quick turn to make the West Arm. The first day of spring. And Swami Radha’s birthday. There are many reasons to celebrate.

Sections of the sky release their interlacing of cloud to create a patchwork of light and dark above the water. I’ve seen this before. No, not this exactly, but something like it. I’ve seen this person, standing on this beach looking at this lake. Only sometimes she’s roaring with fire, throwing in rocks to get it out. Sometimes she’s singing, deep in reverence. She’s got a guitar in her lap or a harmonium at her knees and she’s singing, oh Lord is she singing. She’s hoping that the breath her voice is carried on will carry her, too. I’ve seen her too in calm stillness. With a notebook and pen, or with nothing at all. Just there, beside the lake.

Today all these selves were there with me. Eight years of her, all rolling into one, into this precious moment. Such a funny thing, place. Is there a way I can be all these people all at once and still be who I am now?

Believe me, I’ve tried to go home. I’ve been to Alberta, where the wind rushes over shoots of wheat as desperate in its rush East as I am for something to cling onto. The roads are too wide there. The cars leave too much space between them like an invisible force. I try to enter into the spaces I find. In brother’s homes or long-forgotten favourite coffee shops. Everything’s different; I am seeing with new eyes and those wide streets look strange to me now. Something just doesn’t quite fit in the space.

An ashram for a home has none of those concerns. It has its own similitudes and constant flux of change just like me. No pigeonholing me into past versions of myself or expecting I’ll be anywhere but where I am. I’m grateful for the freedom in that.

I stood on that pebbled shore as wave after wave of previous selves I’ve been washed over me. I was surprised. I may not be those selves anymore, not held to their limiting beliefs and crippling concepts, but they’re still a part of me.

Smooth and dark like thick chocolate the lake offers itself as an example. I’ll rest into its stillness that resides in me. I’ll gather all my selves in sacred ceremony and hear them out. I’ll step forward as the person I am now, choosing the best qualities of each to carry me on.

Returning

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Awake early. The rest of the house still quiet in their rooms and my eyes are drawn out the window.

I observe the moss-covered trees without leaves and the occasional bird before realizing I’m taking in clear sky.

Hints of cloud make weak attempts to conceal the blue. It pours in the large picture window, only slightly obscured in spots where plants sit on the sill. And by Nataraj, dancing in central glory between two plants, graciously — ruthlessly? — destroying my obstacles yet again.

I’m in Vancouver. My trip to Hawaii is over and I’m processing with friends, cups of hot tea, sitting on cozy carpets near the fire, and playing Bhajans. It’s a heart-focused time.

I woke today as if I’d been submerged. It was the blue sky that did it — that shocked me into reality. No, not the intensity of dreams or the languished sleep of jet-lag (I recovered nicely from that with a seven hour nap yesterday). It was the pale blue that lifted me. Made me notice I’ve been underwater. And only by lifting out of it am I able to see where I’ve been.

I’ve been snorkelling. Oh, the fish I’ve seen! They’ve swirled after each other in intricate patterns and moved as if one, listening to that extra sense telling them all exactly when to curve a fin.

I’ve seen dolphins — close enough to touch — and sea turtles that I’ve almost stepped on.

I’ve seen whales propel their massive beings out of their ocean home for a moment of airborne freedom and a thunderous return.

Now the temperature-controlled fireplace turns on again. I drink cooled, re-steeped tea. My mind flits over all I’ve left in that watery paradise and, briefly weighed down by thoughts of “what-if,” I breathe in deep like I haven’t had air in months.

Nataraj, Siva in the form of a dancer, still stamps in a ring of fire on the windowsill. He danced the whole world into existence so I trust He’ll be able to help me sort out my next steps. His symbol is the crescent moon — he wears it on his forehead and from it flows the holy river Ganges.

I now wear mine on my heart. This moon, this constant reminder that every time something ends the only things taken away are my illusions.

Besides, low tide is the best time to hunt for treasure. And it’s such a sunny day.