Tuesday, November 30, 2010

What is Yoga? Part 2

I am really not a lot closer to my answer to the question What is Yoga, but I do know what it isn't, and I guess that is some sort of progress.  It is definitely not just cool poses, although it sure has those and some of my favorites include Tree Pose, Eagle Pose, Triangle Pose, Bound Side-Angle Pose, and of course, Downward Facing Dog--and I must apologize for not having the proper Sanskrit names learned as I think that is really important also, but languages are definitely not my forte.  Furthermore, yoga is not just poses with the correct breathing.  In fact, there are actually 8 limbs to Yoga, namely, yama, nyama, asana, pranayama, prathara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi.  I'm just starting to explore some of these, and the metaphor of the eight limbs as part of a tree really does speak to me.

Yama represents the root of the tree, without which the tree will not stand.  Here on Vashon we live on glacial bedrock so that our trees have roots which can only go a few feet deep.  While the giant 50+' firs and others do spread their roots wider as a result, nonetheless, a good windstorm (of which we have had two so far this winter) will cause the trees to become unstable and fall, because the roots are shallow.  The same, I suspect, may be true with Yoga, where the root or yama is pretty fundamental.  This area of yoga deals with our relationship to the outside world and consists of five abstentions, namely Ahimsa (non-violence), Satya (truthfulness), Asteya (freedom from avarice), Brahmacharaya (control of sexual desire), and Aparigraha (freedom from greed).  It is vital to stay centered in our selves by adhering to these principles and I think that if that were all the yoga a person did, it would still be incredibly powerful.

Niyama is the trunk of the tree and deals with the self.  Again there are five practices, namely Saucha (cleanliness or purity), Santosa (contentment), Tapas (ardor or passion), Svadhyaha (self-study), and Isvara-pranidhana (awareness of the divine).  Again, a strong and well-nurtured trunk is vital to the life of the tree.  I actually had to have 5 trees removed from my property recently (thankfully before the storms hit) because they were dying and the only really visible outward sign was their trunks which had become blackened and damaged.

Asana is the part of yoga which is most familiar to Western students, and that is the postures or poses.  These are the limbs of the tree and by some estimations there are more than 800,000 unique yoga poses!  I guess I won't run out of new poses!  But the important thing for me to remember is that I have to be comfortable with my physical body and in harmony with it.  Over-stretching or over-doing only leads to injury, and I now have a hamstring pull in my right thigh and something else going on my left thigh, so I need to focus on taking care of myself more.

Pranayama is said to be the leaves of the tree and it is breathing.  There are over 100 breathing exercises (which I've only been exposed to briefly), and being able to coordinate the body and the mind while practicing the breathing is really important as this allows the life force to move freely.

This is about as far as my yoga development has taken me.    I will discuss the other 4 limbs at a later date, but they have to do with non-attachment, contemplation of our true identity, meditation with focused awareness, and equanimity.  What I have learned in all this is that yoga is a very powerful and a very spiritual practice which is definitely not about how many poses I can do or how well I can do them.  Since I am definitely feeling my age at the moment and since I've never had a great deal of physical flexibility (and maybe truth be known not a lot of intellectual or emotional flexibility and maybe they all go hand in hand), I think what is going to be most important to me is concentration on my roots and my trunk even if I have fewer branches and fewer leaves (I've always preferred conifers--wonder if I can have needles instead of leaves!).

One major lesson I've learned from my yoga practice is better balance, and I continue to try to carry that concept into my everyday life, balance in all things.  That is also a primary belief in Daoism so again, I do wonder how all these things fit together, at least for my spirituality.  I would love to have reader comments on any and all of this.  Namaste.

Monday, November 29, 2010

What is Yoga? Taoism? Buddhism? Meditation? Mindfulness?

My yoga teacher gave me an "assignment" last week when we had to cancel our session because of the weather (power outages, snow, ice, cold).  She asked me how I would define yoga.  I have thought and thought and surprisingly I've come across blog posts discussing that as well.  One blog post that I thought was really weird said that some Christians think that doing yoga will turn them into Hindus.  Go figure.  Anyway, the point is that I haven't a clue.  I'm exploring Daoism and I read Buddhist blogs as well, finding insight from both.  I actually know nothing about Hinduism, but I follow yoga blogs and really learn a lot from them also.  And all of these Eastern philosophies and religions seem to have a commonality but is that just because I come from a Western culture and tradition and so have a hard time differentiating between various Eastern philosophies and religions?  And how does the practice of Mindfulness fit into all this.  Is that unique to just one system of beliefs or thinking or is it a tool used by many?  I know that Daoism has different flavors, as it were, such as religious Daoism and philosophical Daoism, although I'm rather unclear about the difference between the two.  And the blogs I read on Buddhism (which also comes in more flavors than I can follow) seem to indicate a daily life practice which is very similar or at least in tune with what I know about Daoism.  I am especially drawn to Tibetan Buddhism and/or Zen Buddhism.

And what about Yoga--again, there are so many varieties of that practice.  Is Yoga a religion?  I know it is a lot more than a physical workout, although it can be that as well.  I know it is more than just stretching or figuring out how to manage a particular pose or asana.  Again, it seems, from the very little bit that I know, to be a mindfulness practice.  When I am doing my yoga I need to be concentrating totally on what I'm doing.  I need to be fully present, or I won't manage the pose or I'll lose my balance or I'll injure myself.  Is this a form of meditation?  That is another topic I'm wrestling with--what is meditation?  

I keep finding recommended books on all these topics--Daoism, Yoga, Buddhism, Mindfulness, Meditation, etc.  At the moment I've done a lot more collecting of books than reading of them, but I'll get there.  I am trying to deepen my spiritual life as that is the aspect of me (intellectual, emotional, spiritual) which is the most underdeveloped, and I suspect that what will work for me will be a mixture of the above beliefs, but I do need to become more grounded, more aware of what the actual beliefs are before I can pick and chose, so to speak, to find what works for me.

My yoga teacher's question was well timed as it matches my own state of mind and my own confusion.  And I meet with her tomorrow for my next lesson.  At the moment, I have no clue what my answer will be, so if anyone has any insights they wish to share, I'd sure love to hear them.  

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Facebook or How Many Ways Does One Person Need to Connect?

Ok I took the plunge and I am now also on Facebook (with a "badge" on the top of my blog).  I certainly don't think that anyone needs to keep up with me on all of my sites:  my website (where I write a daily journal which is pretty much a diary of the day's happenings), my blog (with its mostly more philosophical entries but there is occasional overlap), and now my Facebook page (which I have absolutely no idea what I will do with, but already it has put me in touch again with an old and dear friend).  I am nowhere near that fascinating, so pick what (if any) works for you.

As I've been excavating me to find the "real" me, if there is such a thing, I'm finding the courage to try lots of new things on a variety level--everything from body butter and shower gels (definitely keepers) through skirts and jewelry (ok, but not all the time, especially now that the weather has turned cold), to soy yogurt (which I really like after years of thinking it was icky thanks to my upbringing) to lots of other things as well.  I'm trying things out to see what really works for me and what doesn't, and now my Facebook page is another such experiment.

I also realize that each of us has our preferred method for keeping in touch and one size doesn't necessarily fit all, so as I try to reach out and find my tribe (see the post from this morning), I figure I should try different avenues.  If any of you reading this are on Facebook and would like to join me there, feel free!  Right now I have one follower on my blog and one friend on Facebook, and I'm very happy with both.  My Facebook address is www.facebook.com/daphne.purpus.  It has been an adventurous afternoon and I'm now going to try to finish winding more yarn for another weaving project before calling it a day.

Finding My Tribe or Internet Connections

I know I need to figure out a way to find my own "tribe," but I haven't exactly figured out how to do that either.  My therapist says that one thing I could do is envision what something would look like and try that out to see if it is really what I want.  For instance, if I had a partner, what would she look like, and what would my life be like.  When I did that exercise, I soon figured out that maybe it wouldn't be so good--I've lived alone for a very long time and I am an individualist and I am very used to doing things my way and I'm currently having my home redone to suit me, a vision that I suspect few others would find suitable.  So that helped, but all humans apparently need social interaction, and I don't have a "proper" family so I have to find my own network, my own tribe. 

How do I do that?  I've started blogging which has gotten me one follower (a lovely lady in Wyoming) and 2 others who have made comments, but I'm not sure if blogging is the way to go as far as finding a tribe.  I've avoided joining Facebook since I find it offensive that one can't read Facebook entries without becoming a member, but maybe I could find kindred spirits there.  I've also discovered I've been thinking about what to post on my blog based on my perceptions of what my readers might like.  So far I've only written what I felt inspired to write, what was written from the heart, and that's what I need to continue to do, realizing that those who have commented so far are moved to comment because they connect in some way with what I've written.  But as someone who follows a ton of blogs in Google Reader, and someone who is frequently moved by a number of posts, but who rarely leaves any comments at all, I realize that blogging may not be the most effective way to make connections.  I suspect I'm far from being alone in reading blogs but not making comments.  So how do I find my tribe?  

I am an introvert and in all honesty a bit of a recluse.  My energy is maintained by being on my own, in my own space.  I am very much a homebody.  But if I never go out, I won't ever meet anyone to discover if they are part of my tribe.  On the other hand, I remember that my father had many very rich friendships which were conducted entirely or nearly entirely by correspondence.  That idea really appeals to me, and so I'm thinking that what I need is kindred spirits who like making blog comments, who like e-mail correspondence.  Also, since I don't like leaving my home and certainly don't want to leave my island, the Internet allows me to spread a wider net--I have the chance to meet more people and hence I will be more likely to find kindred spirits.  I think this is a good plan for now, and what I need to remember is that it takes time to find kindred spirits, and that if my purpose in writing a blog is to find my tribe, I need to continue to write about what is important to me and stay true to myself.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Doing Versus Being--Defining Myself

Am I "me" because of what I do?  Or is there a "me" that just is?  Most of the time, when meeting someone new, the first question asked is "What do you do?"  And now that I'm quickly (1 month from today, in fact) approaching my 65th birthday, I've reached a "respectable" age for retirement, so the question changes to the past tense.  For most of my life I've defined myself by what I did/do.  I was a mother (well still am but that's another story for another day), or I am a tutor, or I am a quilter, etc.  Having defined myself in such a fashion, it follows that I need to keep doing whatever it is that has defined me so that I still have a meaning or purpose in life.

For most of my life I've been very self-sufficient and I have kept incredibly busy (well, I thought it was incredibly busy until I read about a few others, such as my son and his family) doing whatever I felt I had to be doing.  This busy-ness also enabled me to ignore my inner life.  Doing, in and of itself, is not a bad thing.  As with everything (as my therapist keeps telling me), the key is the motivation.  Why am I doing?  Is it because I'm truly enjoying what I'm doing or is it because I'm afraid not to be doing?  In my case, most of my life has been governed by fear and in our fear-driven culture I know I'm not alone.

A prime example is my method for coping with the holidays this year.  It has been many years since I've looked forward to the holidays at all, and in fact, I know I'm healing and making progress because this year, for the first time in about 10 years, I didn't go into a real funk when I saw the neighbor's holiday lights go up.  I know I am far from alone in finding the holidays a most difficult and painful time, a reminder of major losses at the core of my being.  But my "solution" this year has been to begin an enormous remodel project!  I am doing (well, actually, other emptying out cupboards, closets, and rooms, I am not doing much of the actual doing, but still) and changing my home to fit me, which is a very good thing as I excavate (my therapist's term) my inner mind and try to figure out just who I might be.  But the timing of this project was very deliberate--it gives me something to focus on other than the traditional holiday activities which I no longer have.  Personally I think those of us who have a hard time with the season would agree that finding a coping strategy is a good and healthy thing.  And I am trying not to use it simply as a "cover-up," and a distraction as I've done too many times in the past.

But all this "doing-ness" has a price.  For most of my life I have kept myself outrageously busy in order to avoid thinking beyond a very superficial level.  And if I didn't keep really busy I tended to sink into depression.  However, I've now reached a point, whether it is just "old age," or the result of living on adrenaline for way too many years, where I can't be doing all the time.  And so, I'm having to learn how just "to be," and to be comfortable with that.  I'm trying to go with the flow, slowing my pace to match what my body is telling me, and doing not out of fear but from genuine pleasure.  I love to quilt and to weave, and heaven knows my output has been prodigious!  During the summer when I had fewer activities and it was also the season for productivity I quilted like a busy bee.  But now is the season for slowing down, for introspection, since humans are also carbon-based life forms whose bodies naturally follow the seasonal cycle.  And so I shall work on learning to sit quietly, to enjoy reading with Sasha in my lap, to do more writing, to listen to my music, and to do the things I enjoy at a slower pace, moving with the rhythm of the Winter season and preparing for the increased activities and energies of Spring.

Friday, November 26, 2010

An Amazing Story

I received the following e-mail from my yoga teacher and she was forwarding it on so I'm sorry that I cannot cite a proper source for it, but I thought it was so very beautiful that I did want to share it and after all the writer does say to pass it on, so hopefully I am doing that appropriately.  Experiences such as this one should help us all to realize that we are not the only intelligent species on this planet (or undoubtedly in the universe, but let's start with our own planet), and we are also not the only species to be able to express gratitude.  All of life is sacred and we need to remember that always.
...The Whale... If you read a recent front page story of the San Francisco Chronicle, you would have read about a female humpback whale that had become entangled in a spider web of crab traps and lines. She was weighted down by hundreds of pounds of traps that caused her to struggle to stay afloat. She also had hundreds of yards of line rope wrapped around her body, her tail, her torso, a line tugging in her mouth. A fisherman spotted her just east of the Farallon Islands (outside the Golden Gate ) and radioed an environmental group for help. Within a few hours, the rescue team arrived and determined that she was so bad off, the only way to save her was to dive in and untangle her. They worked for hours with curved knives and eventually freed her. When she was free, the divers say she swam in what seemed like joyous circles. She then came back to each and every diver, one at a time, and nudged them, pushed them gently around as she was thanking them. Some said it was the most incredibly beautiful experience of their lives. The diver who cut the rope out of her mouth said her eyes were following him the whole time, and he will never be the same.

May you, and all those you love, be so blessed and fortunate to be surrounded by people who
Will help you get untangled from the things that are binding you.
And, may you always know the joy of giving and receiving gratitude.
I pass this on to you, my friends, in the same spirit.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Power Makes All the Difference

Thackeray (back) and Laoise (front) snuggling to stay warm.
After a storm power outage that lasted 32 hours for me (other islanders are still without power and probably will be so until Friday, so I feel very lucky indeed!), I now have real power.  It is amazing how much better life looks with the addition of some heat.  After 2 1/2 hours with power the temperature in my living room has risen from 55 degrees to 66 degrees.  Leigh thawed my shower head for me and I was able to take my first shower since Monday morning, and it was wonderful to listen to the baby crows complaining while I was enjoying an abundance of hot water in my outside shower.  I honestly don't know if I would have survived in "olden days," before modern conveniences.  I am going to take immediate steps to find an alternative source of heat for times like this where the power goes out.  I thought I actually had done a reasonable job, but between a generator which wouldn't start and a garage door which wouldn't open, I was not able to get my alternate power source going in the first place, and the alternate source just wasn't powerful enough to provide me with real heat, although it did keep the interior between 50-59 degrees, and that really is not safe for either me or my pets.
Thackeray has found a warm spot, relatively speaking.

It just is another example that power is everything!  There were issues not only of the actual electricity, but my ability to function, my personal power, and I discovered that I have neither the knowledge nor the physical ability to handle my current system.  Thank heavens for Kathy and especially Loyd who showed up many times to refill the gas in my generator, including once at 4AM!  Even if I'd not been too cold to go outside to do that, I couldn't have done it safely with my tremor.  I was powerless and totally dependent on the generosity of very good friends, and I am most grateful to them for their assistance.

Sasha exploring near a space heater,
During the entire power outage I discovered that not only was I freezing cold, but I also felt very isolated and vulnerable.  I was most grateful that my generator allowed me to turn on my computer to stay in touch with what was going on here and the rest of the world, to read the blogs I follow, to receive comments on my blog entries which let me know that folks were sympathetic.  I was glad that I could also have my entertainment system going so I could watch Netflix streaming the series Ballykissangel (highly recommended, by the way).  I was glad that I could have my refrigerator and my microwave so that there was hot tasty food.  There were a lot of things to be most grateful for, even during the worst of it, and as tomorrow is Thanksgiving, it is fitting to remember that.  And right now, I am absolutely most grateful that my power has returned on a number of levels and life is getting back to what I call normal (as Leigh is ripping out walls behind me as I type--couldn't ask for a nicer Thanksgiving present, and when she is done for the day I'll post more photos).  

And so, I want to wish each and every one of you, my readers, a very, very Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter Storms and a Reality Check

Yesterday I wrote about how wonderful it was to have a snow day, and I still think that overall, but a winter storm last night has given me a new and frightening perspective.  My power went out last night, and I had to get out to the garage to find my emergency flashlight and phone since my stuff has been stashed away because of the remodel.  It was bitter cold last night and I was very glad that the power outage was only for 15 minutes.  I headed off to bed, but around 3:30AM my power (and all the island's) went out for good, or at least the foreseeable future.  I had no desire to head out to the garage in the cold and dark so I snuggled down in my bed and waited until morning.  In theory, all I was supposed to have to do was open the overhead garage door, turn on the generator, and adjust my circuit breaker box to have the circuits I needed on.  So along about 8AM I headed out to my garage only to find out that I couldn't get the door to move--I pulled the little red handle but it didn't release the catch.  This meant, of course, that I couldn't turn on the generator.  My dear friend Kathy called to check on me, and when she heard my plight, she said that Loyd would be right over.  And Loyd and two of his workers did manage to get the door up, but then the generator wouldn't start up!  Meanwhile, my home was getting colder and colder!  Loyd, bless his heart, got me a new spark plug and got the generator up and running.  By this time my home was down to 50 degrees in my bedroom and 54 in the living room and my teeth were chattering and I was shaking all over. I quickly got a couple space heaters going, made myself a hot cup of tea, and sorted things as well as I could.  I'm certainly hoping, since I live in an all electric house, that the power outage won't be as severe as it was my first winter when I was without power for 4 days.  At that point I had a wood-burning stove, even if it was faulty, but now I don't.  And I can't leave as I have 5 pets to care for in the first place, and in the second place there really isn't anywhere else to go since the entire island is without power.  It has made me realize another way in which I (and obviously I'm not alone in this) am very vulnerable, and that without power, especially on the coldest days so far of this year (a low of 16 last night and it is to be colder tonight), life is very precarious.  However, at the moment, my living room has gotten "up" to 59 degrees and my bedroom has gotten to 52 degrees, and I've had hot tea and a hot amaranth/cinnamon/raisins breakfast, and I'm watching Ballykissangel on my computer on Netflix streaming, so things are looking better.  And I'm hoping that when the new utility pole finally arrives later on today by ferry (the wonders of living on an island) that its installation will result in power, although I'm told there is another spot with major wires down, so I'm not holding my breath.  It looks as if I shall have another "snow day" tomorrow as well, since the roads are extremely icy, the temperatures are staying below freezing, and we are to get more snow before Thanksgiving.  Life is wondrous and special and at the moment, rather cold!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Wonderful Snow Day!

View from my living room window into the backyard

Hummingbird feeding--notice the ice is starting to form.
Living in the Pacific Northwest means that we don't have (usually) really severe winter weather, at least not by the standards of much of the country, but currently we are experiencing below freezing temperatures (not the below zero that my Wyoming friend reports, thankfully!) and snow.  This type of weather causes more chaos here than in other places because we really aren't well-equipped to handle it, so I've just canceled my activities for the next couple days until it gets above freezing.  Instead, I am staying inside, warm and snug, watching the beautiful scenery and also enjoying a lovely (and very fat) hummingbird feeding outside my living room window.  I hope you enjoy the photos I've posted here and if you want to see more, just check out my photo of the day page (see the link at the top of this page).

This was one hungry hummingbird as she stayed here
for about 10 minutes, allowing me great photo opportunities.
Meanwhile, I am really enjoying the respite from my usual routine.  Growing up in Southern California meant no snow days (although I did get one rain day when my grade school flooded!), so I'm happy to take some of my share of them now.  The dogs did not go to the groomers as planned (they'll go next Wed. instead), and I'm not attending a 6yr. old's birthday party (on a very steep and treacherous part of the island--that's another thing that makes this weather hazardous is the number of steep inclines), and tomorrow I shall skip my Yoga lesson and my tutoring at Study Zone, since I have no intention of taking my car out of the garage until the weather gets above freezing, a luxury I never had during the 20 years I lived in the Midwest, but I'm enjoying it now.  I am also practicing giving myself permission to say no when it is in my best interest.  I shall spend my two snow days quilting and weaving.
Beautiful Hummingbird

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Cat Training 101

Thackeray and Laoise "patiently" waiting for Sasha to finish.
My oldest cat, dear Sasha, was diagnosed two weeks ago with aggressive oral cancer and she has a large (walnut sized) growth on the left side of her mouth.  It is not possible to remove it as that would take the greater part of her mouth and jaw, so the plan is just to give her the best possible quality of life.  To be honest, she isn't really acting any differently than she did before the diagnosis when I didn't know there was anything wrong until I saw some spots of blood.  And the cleaning up of the tumor as well as an antibiotic shot and an anti-inflammatory shot have helped her a lot!  The vet who saw her on Friday was amazed and was particularly surprised that she'd even managed to gain a little weight!

The placement of the tumor means that Sasha has much more tolerance for canned cat food.  I should say from the outset that I am vegan and all my pets (3 cats and 2 dogs) eat dry food.  But I love Sasha so much and want her to have what she needs, so I am feeding her (many times throughout each day) canned prescription diet A/D critical care food.  I have to admit that it doesn't smell as "bad" to me as many canned pet foods, but it is a challenge.  

When I get the food out for Sasha, of course, the other two come running and as you can probably tell from the photo, neither of them needs to put on weight.  So now comes the training part (can anyone really train a cat?)!  With my careful monitoring, of course, we have devised a system where the dogs know they are not partaking of anything at this moment in time so they can just be content with the dry food in their bowl.  Meanwhile, both Thackeray and Laoise are learning that Sasha is to be left alone to eat as much as she wishes to eat.  When she is done, then whatever is left is fair game for them (and usually Laoise gets most of that).

It seems to be working and I don't have to remind Laoise and Thackeray about the rules as often, and as long as I stay close by they are respectful.  This means that of necessity, I am spending much more time each day in my kitchen area, but this still does not mean I'm cooking!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Remodel as a Metaphor

Living room chaos abounds but it will be lovely eventually.
New laundry area and a 1/2 bath and closet will go to the left.
I am once again (actually still) in remodel mode, but currently I'm in a major phase of that process.  In point of fact I've been remodeling for 2 years.  It started innocently enough with wanting a larger bathroom in my bedroom since the original one was the size of a postage stamp with a shower no bigger than a phone box and no windows, etc.  The first attempt at that remodel went horribly sour thanks to the total incompetence of the original construction guy.  I was, of course, upset to find that out, but as is true with much of life, that horrible remodel turned out well as it led me to my current fabulous contractor and my fantastic plumber!  So my remodel started in earnest and as I've written I believe in other blog posts, I found the joys of showering outside, beginning in February, 2009.  Since then, my bathroom has been completed, I have new decks and ramps, my kitchen counters were redone, etc., etc.  Some of that work is actually going to be done again as I really attack the inside of my home in earnest, but that's ok with me as this is a learning process and a growing process.  In fact, I consider the remodel as a lovely metaphor with what I've been doing on a personal level to reclaim myself.

These walls, pink, brown, and green will be vanishing!
As some of you already know, I changed my name legally this past February to reflect who I really am, as I'm in the process of discovering, rather than who I was told I was or who I thought I had to be simply to survive.  I'm learning that who I really am is just fine, thank you, and I'm working at peeling off the layers and layers of outdated, incorrect information to reach the core of who I am.  As I do this, I am also recreating my home to reflect both my personality and how I use my home, so there is the bare minimum of a kitchen, for instance, since I don't cook.  There are large countertops so I can lay out quilts.  The home will shortly become a 2 room home since that is how I live.  And so it goes.  There are lots of windows and soon hopefully more skylights since I am not an outdoors person but I love to look outside at my wonderful garden and I want to be able to see that from every possible location.
The purple and pink interior walls will go, and
the refrigerator will be left of the outside doors.

Chauncey and Poosa resting.  Notice the cones of yarn stored
underneath during the remodel chaos.

Even my bedroom has gotten stuff jammed in, but I've
tried to keep it as the sanest room in the house.
So currently, in this rather major point in the remodel, the middle of the house, which I didn't actually use, is being emptied out and interior walls removed so that I can have more space for my rather space demanding pursuits of quilting (I have two machines each on 4'x4' tables) and weaving (I have a Baby Wolf loom which takes up about 3'x4' of space).

I shall keep my readers current on my progress, and I'll be putting a link at the top of the page to link to even more photos of this fantastic remodel, if you are curious to see what this crazy Vashonite is up to!  I hope you enjoy following this escapade as much as I'm enjoying having it going on.  I think it must be related to my personality type (if you are interested and didn't already read it, see my post on the Enneagram), but I am actually enjoying all this.  There is something new just about every day, whether it is a wall coming down or a newly functional laundry room (where I'm now happily doing my weekly laundry) or a wonderful door to my bedroom (which is pink and green since it is the old 1/2 bath's door, and it is now between a blue room and a purple and orange room, so how much more fantastic could that be!) and so on it goes.  Of course it will be marvelous when it is all done, but I am also enjoying the process.  There will be more posts as things progress.  Have a great day!
The already congested living room is even more congested!
The pink wall to the left is going.  Sasha is watching.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Remodel and Women Who Run With the Wolves

I was reading Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes last night and I've reached Chapter 5: Hunting: When the Heart is a Lonely Hunter.  This chapter has the story of Skeleton Woman and in it Estes discusses the Life/Death/Life Nature of Love.  What does this have to do with my remodel, the intelligent reader would now be asking.  Well, Estes states that "it is good to make a meditative and daily practice of untangling the Life/Death/Life nature over and over again."  She continues by suggesting that we should ask questions such as, "What must I give more death to today, in order to generate more life?  What do I know should die, but am hesitant to allow to do so? . . . What should die today?  What should live?  What life am I afraid to give birth to?  If not now, when?"

I have been pondering these questions and I think they relate a lot to the fact that life is always changing and that death is just a part of life, without which there would be no more life.  And so I thought about what I'd done yesterday, emptying out the middle of my house where the remodel is happening, and that process is involving lots of decisions about what really needs to "die" or go away to make room for my new life and the way I wish to move forward.  Right now things are very jumbled and my congested living room is even more congested, but the process of giving birth to the new home, so to speak, with the vision I have for it requires first, the courage to take the step to have the center of my home demolished (a step which I don't think I would have been able to take if I didn't have a contractor of the highest capabilities and in whom I have utter confidence!).  Then once that decision has been made, there are myriad more decisions about what to keep and what to let go of as I empty that part of the house.  

Some decisions were relatively easy--I have way too much cat furniture left from an era when I had many more cats (at one point 15!).  And some of the pieces are old and worn.  Other choices are less obvious, but I'm using the criteria that if the item hasn't been used in the last year (one full seasonal cycle), then I don't really need it.  But as Estes says, some things must die or go away at least out of my life in order to make room for the birth of a new idea, a new plan, a new path.  And so today I will continue with my untangling of the Skeleton Woman as I do my part in this remodel.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Mindfulness and Toy Story 2

Last night I watched both Toy Story and Toy Story 2.  I'd seen Toy Story years and years ago, but had never seen Toy Story 2.  I was struck, as I watched especially the second movie, what a lesson there is to learn in it.  Because of an injury, poor Woody can't go to cowboy camp with his owner, Andy, and then as he tries to rescue another toy, he gets kidnapped by a collector who wants to ship him and his fellow toys from an old TV show (which Woody hadn't even realized existed) off to a museum in Japan where they would be on permanent display in pristine condition.  Woody loses his balance for a bit thinking that this kind of immortality would be wonderful, since he knows that eventually Andy will grow up and no longer need him (sounds a bit like parenthood to me--just an aside).  But Buzz Lightfoot brings Woody back to his senses when he reminds Woody that in the first movie Woody had said that there was no higher calling than to be a toy and be loved by a child.  And so Woody rescues the other characters from his TV show, and they go back to be with Andy.  At the end Woody tells Buzz Lightfoot that he knows Andy will grow up and move on, but right now, this is the best, this is where he needs to be and that he is ok with whatever changes the future hold. 

Mindfulness--living fully in the present.  Knowing that each of us is exactly where we are meant to be at this moment in time and that that is all the reality there is.  Woody understands just what he is and how wonderful that is.  And he appreciates the here and now.  He knows that the only constant in life is change and that his life will also change, but how that change will happen or what it will entail cannot be determined in advance.  Like the rest of us, Woody will just have to wait for Toy Story 3 (according to Netflix that will be a very long wait) to discover just how Andy's going off to college will change Woody's life, but for now, Woody will stay fully present and not try to chase the seeming comfort of the museum with its promise of immortality and changelessness.  Can any of us do any better?  

Monday, November 15, 2010

Did the Spider Come Out to Play?

Some questions are obviously more profound than others, and I do seem to ask a lot of questions of varying degrees of both importance and answerability.  But as I was standing in my outdoor shower this morning I was struck by the fact that when I first get into the shower I am alone, sharing the space with no other life forms, but as my shower progresses, inevitably someone comes to keep me company.  Lately that someone has been of the spider variety, and there have been at least three different spiders involved.  Do they show up to play?  Do they like the companionship of chatting?  I'd think that the water might intimidate them or at least discourage them, but that does not seem to be the case at all.  Anyway, I do enjoy the company and I think it is marvelous that I can have such an experience each and every morning.  The last few mornings I've also had very talkative crows joining in the fun.  I can't remember last winter well enough to know how much company I will get as the weather becomes colder, but time will tell!  In any case, I chose to think that the spiders and other critters like to share my shower time with me.  Have a great day!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Enneagram or What Being a 4 Means

Ok, at long last I'm going to do my promised Enneagram (pronounced ANY-a-gram) post as personally, learning about this system which studies nine basic types of people, and specifically, figuring out which of those types I am, has helped me immensely.  First, I'm no expert and I'm very new to this, but if you want more information and actually are interested in taking a free test to help you discover your own type, then you may go to the Enneagram Institute.  And if you are interested, there is also an excellent starting book called The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele.

It actually took awhile for me (and my therapist) to fine out what personality type I am, because very early in my childhood I suffered the major trauma of seeing the house my mother was sleeping in burn to the ground with her inside.  I don't think my father ever recovered from that tragedy, and becoming motherless at the age of 4 (with a 2 1/2 yr old sister) has colored the remainder of my life.  It is true that I was born with a large helping of maternal instinct, but the fact that I never received such maternal care (my mother was a full-time professor of English, and actually completed her doctorate from UCLA 8 months after I was born and by all indications she herself was not very maternal) added to that.  I felt that I was supposed to look after not only my younger sister, but also my father, and I grew up as "the good girl" who tried to do whatever I thought I was supposed to do and to be whatever it was that I was supposed to be, especially to compensate for the fact that I was continually told I was the dumb one, the clumsy one, the ugly one, the one with not a single artistic bone in her body!

Given that background, which by the way I do not recount in any sort of critical way as I know my father was doing the very best he could with the resources he had and it is my path now to find myself, it is no wonder that at first glance I appeared to be a 2 on the Enneagram chart--usually called The Helper.  And in fact, as a 4 I am closely connected to both 1--The Perfectionist and 2.  I certainly never would have even thought that I was a 4 as the title for that in many books is The Artiste, and I'd been told all my life I didn't have an artistic bone in my body.  However, once I proved that old tape was totally false, and I realized that creativity is a major part of who I am, it became quickly apparent that I am a 4, also called The Individualist or The Romantic.

Knowing my personality type has helped me develop more of an understanding of who I am.  I understand that at my best (and all quotations are from The Enneagram Made Easy by Renee Baron and Elizabeth Wagele) I am "warm, compassionate, introspective, expressive, creative, intuitive, supportive, and refined" but at my worst I am "depressed, self-conscious, guilt-ridden, moralistic, withdrawn, stubborn, moody, and self-absorbed."  Fours are the drama queens of the system and are frequently told they are too sensitive or overreacting.   

What I like about being a four is "my ability to find meaning in life and to experience feelings at a deep level; my ability to establish warm connections with people; admiring what is noble, truthful,  and beautiful in life; my creativity, intuition, and sense of humor; being unique and being seen as unique by others; having aesthetic sensibilities; and being able to easily pick up the feelings of people around me."

What is hard about being a four is "experiencing dark moods of emptiness and despair; feelings of self-hatred and shame; believing I don't deserve to be loved; feeling guilty when I disappoint people; feeling hurt or attacked when someone misunderstands me; expecting too much from myself and life; fearing being abandoned; obsessing over resentments; and longing for what I don't have."

Understanding this about myself (and there is a great deal more to the system if you are interested) helps me see when my emotions and feelings are governing my reactions.  It helps me realize that my innate melancholy is both a blessing and a trap (as is true, my therapist keeps telling me, with everything in life!), in that it fuels my creativity, but if left unchecked or allowed to fester leads to depression.  

Each of us is made up of three basic components, as I understand it, anyway, namely intellectual, emotional, and spiritual aspects.  My intellectual component is highly developed--I may have been the supposedly dumb one in my family, but given the number of advanced degrees and intellectual level of my family, even if I were the dumb one in that family that still left me brighter than the average bear, to quote an old favorite cartoon.  But I have proven myself over the years to be of better than average intelligence and I've used the left side of my brain as my survival mechanism from the earliest of years.  However, both my emotional intelligence and my spiritual intelligence are very underdeveloped, and my path now is to work on them.  I'm working with my therapist on my emotional intelligence,  and I've also just gotten (but not yet read) Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  I'll post more on that when I actually read it.

I am exploring Eastern religions and spirituality now as I feel a real link with them.  I found the following quote while reading yesterday's blog posts on one of the blogs I follow (specifically--Space and Motion) and it definitely matches my spiritual views as they are evolving:
The most important characteristic of the Eastern world view - one could almost say the essence of it - is the awareness of the unity and mutual interrelation of all things and events, the experience of all phenomena in the world as manifestations of a basic oneness. All things are seen as interdependent and inseparable parts of this cosmic whole; as different manifestations of the same ultimate reality. (Fritjof Capra, The Tao of Physics)
I've now got The Tao of Physics by Fritjof Capra on order, so I'll be talking about that down the road.  

Meanwhile, back to this post which has rather wandered away from its original topic.  The Enneagram is a fantastically powerful tool, in my opinion, and it has helped me to understand myself much better.  I hope this brief glimpse into my part of the nine personality types has piqued your interest and I'd love to hear if any of my readers have used the system, and if so found it useful.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


A comment was posted on my Rescued Snail post and it included a quotation which really resonated with me so I thought I'd share it on a post of its own.  The quotation is as follows:
Kind heart, gentle heart: Rescue the drowning insect; carry the snail on the pavement to safety; return the helpless worm, writhing on concrete, to the sanctuary of Mother Earth.

Render help and kindness, wherever it is needed, to all life, great or small. Suffering has no boundaries, neither should compassion

My reader had found the quote on Holy Lance where there was sadly no attribution, so if anyone knows the source, I would sure love to find that out.  And the site, Holy Lance, is an excellent site, which unfortunately has not been updated since August 2009.  In any case, as Fall arrives and with it lots of rain, I will be rescuing more insects and worms as well as the occasional snail.  Does anyone know why worms decide that concrete is a good place to be in the rain?  I have always wondered about that, especially as I now carefully move them from my concrete garage floor to my flower bed.  In any case, rendering help and kindness whenever and wherever I can in small ways enriches my life beyond measure, and just the simple act of saving that snail yesterday (and today it was a spider) warms my heart as well as being good, I hope, for the snail.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Good Deed for the Day--Snail Rescue!

I've done my good deed for the day--I found this adorable tiny snail right outside my bedroom door as I returned from my shower.  First I took its photo and then I moved it to a safer location so it wouldn't end up under dog paws!  I've mentioned this to a few folks and I understand that snails are rather rare in this area.  I was questioned as to whether I really meant slug, but as you can see from the photos, it is definitely a snail.  Anyway, as our weather gets progressively colder (it was 39 yesterday when I went outside to shower and about the same this morning), it is nice to see there is still life out there!  I hope you enjoy my photos.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Kindle Additions and My Readings

I admit to being a fan of my Kindle since it allows me to have an entire library all in one small, lightweight device, and it is especially great when I am out and about and have time to read.  I can pick anything I'm in the mood for.  But now Amazon has added games to the materials which can be downloaded and I've found that I am now addicted to the game Every Word!  It meets all my criteria for goodness in a video game--no time limit, requires thinking, deciphering skills, has a finite number of levels (10) and allows progression to the next level as long as the longest word is found even if all the words are not discovered.  I'm having great fun playing it and so have done less reading.  However, not all books are available for Kindle and what I am reading now, slowly before I go to bed each night, is Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, which one of my followers recommended.  I am finding it to be excellent and very thought provoking.  I'll comment more on it when I get further into it.  But for now, I do find it an interesting commentary on my interests that I've found video word games on a device meant for reading.  It remains to be seen if I'll temper my game-playing with reading the many wonderful books which Athena (my Kindle's name) has on her.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Mushrooms and More

Today is a day of newness as I am getting lots of new trees, mostly blue-green evergreens, which are my very favorite, planted.  My dear friend Kathy came down to my home to oversee it all and it is wonderful to get to visit with her.  As we were walking in my yard, I discovered the most glorious mushrooms and so I thought I'd share some photos of them.  This has been a great year for mushrooms out our way (Pacific Northwest), and certainly I have many varieties in various sizes and shapes in my yard.  I know nothing about mushrooms and certainly do not plan on trying to eat any of mine, but they are lovely to behold.
In addition to finding the mushrooms, I'm enjoying watching all my new plants and trees being added to my yard, and it is another reminder that yes, some things have to be removed when they die, but as sad as that was, to have to take down 5 trees, it also made room and light for new plants to come into my yard, which is exciting for me, gorgeous in the yard, and serendipitously provides much needed work and economic boosts to one of my favorite island businesses.  So the wheel of life turns and not all losses are without benefits.

Saturday, November 6, 2010


As I browsed through my daily blog entries on Google reader I came across a link to a fabulous article about introverts which I can really recommend.  As an introvert, which the author of the article also is, I really identified with his analysis.  I've had so many well-meaning friends (extroverts for sure) who are convinced that I'd be better off if I just "got out more."  They don't seem to understand that no matter how nice the people are, just being with people drains energy right out of me.  I believe the author said that a couple hours was his maximum level of comfort and certainly for me, 1-2 hours at a time is all I can handle also.  When the fact that I'm an introvert gets factored into the situation where I also have low energy levels because of my Hashimoto's Auto-Immune Thyroid Disorder, it is easy to see why I have difficulty managing my schedule which seems very full to me, but in reality would seem empty to my extrovert friends.  Again, it all becomes a balancing act.  As much as I enjoy tutoring, I have to keep a strict watch on my commitments so that I don't overdo.  According to the article, introverts are more apt to understand extroverts than the other way around, but what I've found personally as an introvert is that until recently when I began to understand what it means to be an introvert, I always assumed that somehow there was something wrong with me.  But as the author says so clearly, "First, recognize that it's not a choice. It's not a lifestyle. It's an orientation."  Just as being gay in not a choice, so is being an introvert, and both, along with other individual traits, etc. are just fine, thank you kindly.

Wheel of Life or Go With the Flow Part II

Well, in the continuing saga of life in my world, the trees are gone, and I'm feeling exposed and vulnerable with that at a time when I'd really like just to crawl into a snug hole and ignore the rest of the world, but that doesn't seem possible.  However, Lance delivered lots of new trees in various sizes this morning, so I suspect the yard will evolve as it should into something which is even more me.  Chauncey survived his trip to the vet for teeth cleaning and lump removals (turned out to have two lumps removed), and other than looking sad with long incisions, he is doing fine.  But right after I wrote my last post I noticed that my oldest cat, Sasha, had a massive lump on the left edge of her mouth.  I rushed her right into the vet (same time Chauncey was there), and two vets looked at her, both having very grim expressions.  They did a biopsy and this morning Dr. Alan called to say that it was in fact a very aggressive form of oral cancer and that she's got anywhere from 2 weeks to at best 6 months of reasonable quality of life.  I'm to take her in every two weeks for an antibiotic shot, and she'll also get anti-inflammatory steroid shots every 4 weeks I think, and meanwhile she is now on a soft food, A/D, which she likes (as do the other two cats!), and I'm just giving her all the love I can.  She is 15, but I'd hoped to have her for a good many more years.  Anyway, that news has just really upset me.  I know life is about change and that none of us has any guarantees about tomorrow, and at least I can give Sasha lots of love and affection and keep her as comfortable as possible, but it is rotten, in my opinion.  Other than the cancer, her blood work is excellent, more in line with a 7 year old than a 15 year old, but that's the luck of the draw I guess.  In all this loss I am trying to find the positives--I can see more of my plants now with the big firs gone and I can have the blue-green conifers which are my favorites.  Chauncey is doing great for an old dog.  Sasha seems comfortable and she likes the new food.  Poosa, Thackeray, and Laoise are all fine and healthy.  And so it goes here on Vashon.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Go With the Flow

It seems that life is determined that I learn to go with the flow and take one day at a time.  If the hassles of turning 65 in December and the switches required (I object to the required part!) to Medicare which does not recognize my doctor because she is a Naturopath, and trying to fight my way through that mess since I refuse to change doctors, if all that weren't enough, and if it weren't enough to deal with healing from cataract surgeries, coping with thyroid issues, etc., and other minor health issues along with usual stuff, like having my 12 year old cocker Chauncey in the vet today getting his teeth cleaned and a bump removed from his head, if all that weren't enough, my friend Kathy just showed up with a crew to do something about my dead and dying fir and madrone trees, and now, all of a sudden, without warning, there will be major chaos here as two madrones and three fir trees are removed.  It will be chaos here today, and I just hate losing the trees even though I know they have to come down, and having everything happen so quickly with no advanced warning is also hard as I don't go with the flow well and I don't like change, but the weather is propitious and the crews are available, and waiting isn't going to make it any better, so here we go!  At least it will be quieter with poor Chauncey off at the vet as he isn't here to bark his head off.  Poosa doesn't bark at people, so it all will be quieter, and I'm in and out today so I won't be around for much of the destruction, and it will all sort if I just take one day at a time, take lots of deep breathes and just go with the flow!

Monday, November 1, 2010

World Vegan Month

My friend and fellow blogger Laloofah reminded me in a post on her site today that today is World Vegan Day and that in fact the month of November is World Vegan Month.  I have been vegan since 1994 and I feel very strongly that it is the right thing for me, the planet, and indeed all life.  My friend has a long and most helpful list of great vegan sites, so please take a look at her blog if you are interested.  We can all, vegans and non-vegans alike, benefit from living more compassionately.  

Lessons Taught by Weaving

I've spent part of my afternoon weaving, as is evident from the above photo, and I learned again the lessons of patience and not overdoing.  I finished up the yarn in my bobbin and so needed to wind another.  The cone with the yarn was nearly empty, and I decided that finishing it all off in one winding would be a good plan.  The fuller the bobbin, the longer it would last, or so said my logical brain.  But in fact, the bobbin was overfilled, and then it became tangled, and so whatever time I would have saved by not having to wind as many bobbins was definitely lost when I had to untangle gobs of yarn.  More is not necessarily better.  In any case, I'm happy to be weaving and my new "Charlotte" works wonderfully well and she is definitely a better fit for my overcrowded living room.  I've posted a few more photos on my Photo of the Day page (see the link at the top of this blog) if you want to see the larger view of the room.

Change, or What a Difference a Day Makes!

What a contrast between yesterday's weather and today's!  Yesterday I showered in brilliant sunshine and in fact I could even have used dark glasses and I had to squint as I did my tree pose and my eagle pose.  Today I showered in a really heavy downpour, and my tree and eagle poses were accomplished in the rain without my "limbs" sagging.  Both showers were wonderful, each in its own way.  It was a nice reminder of how life is always changing, from moment to moment, day to day, and that it is quite senseless to become attached to any particular state as it will change.  The only constancy is change.