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I’m so insanely busy right now.  I’ve got a full time job for the first time in a few years.  I’ll be updating this blog with new stuff once a week, but until then, here is a vintage post. (And….I used to meditate?!?  Time to clear a little corner for this again!)

 

I started seeing a new therapist for the crazy last week.

Half-way through my “getting to know me” monologue, she split one of my phrases in two with this interruption:

“Let’s stop right there.  You need to start meditating.”

Audible sigh.

Of course, that is the third person in the past two weeks that has said this and I actually spent the weekend before this session reading “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind”.  I don’t believe in signs, but I get it, k?

So, I’ve started sitting.  I think I’m doing three minutes at a time.  Just sitting.  Not to be confused with lounging, laying around, draping myself across an armchair, but focused sitting. Zazen.

Deep into my second minute yesterday, I had a glimpse at the truth of minimalism.  It is radical-straight to the root it goes.  It is just like sitting.  Minimalism requires focus on the important.  It takes courage.  The rest of the world is stuck on a different mantra that is so loud it drowns everything else out.  That mantra is “If I just buy _______, I’ll be complete, happy, fulfilled.”  Minimalism’s is “I am enough.”

I’ve done yoga and it’s wonderful.  But there is nothing simpler or more minimal than sitting still, breathing.  Everything else is stripped away.  The clutter of movement.  The clutter of clinging thought.  The music of guided visualization.  There is nothing.  Just me…and not really even me.  Just my breath.  Just the essential.

I’m closer and closer everyday to having only the material things that are necessary for the life I want.  But, a funny thing happened on the way to the thrift store donation warehouse….I became aware of the clutter in my mind.

And boy is it full of, well, junk.  It’s packed to the membranes with stuff that I don’t need for the life I want.  There are doubts, judgements, worries, fears, obsessions, and just more noise than the Vegas strip.

Decluttering a house can be done over a dedicated weekend.  Decluttering what’s left, the true me, is going to take considerably longer.  But, I’m throwing stuff out three minutes at a time.

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overheard:

“let’s go to the golden corral instead of the food court.  that’s where the good food is.”

something started happening a couple months ago in africa and it happened again yesterday. i walk into a situation and feel completely overcome. it’s a sensation that begins in my chest, right beneath my sternum, then spreads to my throat and before i know it, all i want to do is weep.

the first time was at the elephant orphanage in nairobi. yesterday was the most recent. we went to the general women’s union. it’s basically a governmental organization for women. from my understanding, any need that women have (i.e. filling out official paperwork, needing work,etc.) this is the place for them to go.

on the grounds they also have rooms for the women to make traditional handicrafts. the handicrafts range from weaving on old looms to braiding gold threads with other colors to make the heavy ribbons that raise the traditional dress from bright robes to ornate artwork to hand formed clay “dates” that are polished to a gem-like shine. the very first room we entered after leaving our shoes at the door was the ribbon makers. the method hasn’t changed in thousands of years.

all the women were seated on floor cushions in their abaya, faces exposed in differing degrees from slivers of forehead to whispers of form beneath fabric to full half-moon brilliance. in front of their feet on a little pedestal is an oblong cushion, a little larger than an american football. pinned to the cushion is the ribbon being made. the dangling from the partially made ribbon are the gold, silver and other colored threads on spools. (to be clear, the ribbons are not gold and silver colored, they are gold and silver.) with humming, chattering, or sedate silence the spools are slung from one side of the cushion to the other as the threads are knotted and braided into patterns. the ribbons ranged in width from 1/4 inch to five inches wide. when we reached almost the end of the line women, one of them looked up at us, looked at the camera around my neck and told me to take a picture, a picture of her working. she had to be in her seventies judging from the glimpse of her hennaed hand and the reedy timbre of her voice. i couldn’t believe it. i took a couple and felt a reverence overtake me.

in the next room were the basket weavers. the same method for thousands of years has been used in an unbroken chain of women. women sitting on cushions, drying palm fronds, keeping the scraps in little wooden boxes, braiding with flying fingers, hammering the braid flat into a coil with a well-chosen rock: this is how culture is made. i watched one woman in the corner. she kept the plate sized coil of bread anchored to her kneed with her opposite foot, hennaed in the traditional pattern, as she braided, hammered with a triangular black stone, and i felt weak in the knees. room after room, it went.

i’ve always considered myself a rather staunch feminist. but, here i was, face to face with “women’s work” and i felt humbled and a little envious to not have been a part of it. i don’t know how to braid a basket. i don’t know how to weave a camel blanket. i don’t know how to make a ribbon. i don’t have the serenity to sit all day and create something useful with my hands. i wanted to weep for the pettiness of the things i often chase. and, i was reminded of why i have always disliked things made by machines. i felt cradled in a peace that modern culture just can’t offer.

also on the grounds a large room with individual stalls squats. the stalls are run by women selling everything from the same crafts made a building over to spongebob squarepants stickers. we made our way quite directly to the “food lady”. a woman of about sixty has a table that was almost groaning under the weight of jars full of true delicacies. being polite and long suffering, i of course had to taste as many as possible. fig jam, currant jelly, cheeses, olives cured two different ways, spice mixes, picked vegetables, date and coconut covered almonds…..luckily, there was a woman who spoke english and could explain that i was allergic to the pita bread and wasn’t just a rude foreigner. this woman makes her own soap (bought it), her own incense blends (bought one), stuffs and pickles eggplants that she grows (bought some), and makes her OWN OLIVE OIL! (didn’t buy any…screw you FAA regulations!).

after that whet our appetites, we got a taxi/limo to the other side of town and went to an outdoor cafe. we didn’t sit there….we lounged. the sofas were long and the courtyard was populated with palms standing as protection from the rays of the sun. i put up the hood of my dress to cover my head and wrapped myself in my african kikoy. the next couch over found several sheiks cross-legged straight spined, relaxed into conversation. as we watched, another man came in and they stood to greet each other. they stood, shook hands and touched noses and i felt overcome again as i witnessed the casual intimacy. after a cup of murky cardamom-infused turkish coffee, we ordered a hookah. the hookah stood elegantly about three feet tall. the man with the metal bowl of coals prepared it for us. the sweet tobacco smoke enveloped us in smoothness. the mellow buzz took over and our conversation floated on the smoke, weaving in and out of logic. the sun began to set. the colors shifted softly. the perfection was simple and effortless. life is beautiful.

i am off to my next adventure right now. i’m actually feeling dirty looks from the rest of my party because we’re all rarin’ to go. i will write more later.

today, elevate an ordinary moment to something amazing.

Yes, I realize how long it’s been. I’ve been lost in depression than found in falling in love.

Both of those things make a girl disappear, you know. Thankfully, my depression lifted by my rigorous attention to what I ate and daily yoga for a couple of weeks before I left the states. Leaving the states for a while also was an enormous contributor to my depression going bye bye.

And then, there’s the falling in love thing.

Before you get worried about what inappropriate partner I’ve now set my eyes on, know this: I’ve fallen in love twice. Once, with a place and secondly, with myself.

Please swallow that little bit of throw up in your mouth (or spit it out, whatever, I don’t know how you roll.) and give me a chance to explain.

I’ve been in Kenya for the past couple of months. I leave tomorrow night. Way to be an awesome blogger while the good stuff is happening, right? Forgive me, I’ve been doing something that I haven’t done in a long time. I’ve been living. Wide out with open pores and full lungs, arms flung. You can check out my list to see some of the highlights. I will be expounding on them one by one and slapping up a picture or five as soon as I have my computer again.

Let’s talk place first and then I’ll get to the awkward, hippy, new-age sounding stuff next.

From the first morning that I woke up with jet-lag caked eyes, this place has been weaving a very subtle spell on me. It’s not like Haiti which just assaults me with seduction, but of course, Kenya was colonized by the British and they aren’t really known for their seductive overtures.

It is now two months into the spell and I do not want to leave. I’m trying to figure out how to get back before I’ve even left. I have to wait for the boy to finish high school, I’ve decided. There are good pilot jobs here, though, so maybe he can just support me then. Turn about is fair play and all. The pennies will be pinches, the jobs will be searched, but I will find a way to live here one day.

As the days roll on, I’ll try to bring you one or two things on the list so that you can fall in love alongside me.

Now, the stuff that makes my sophisticated skin crawl: the other thing I fell in love with. Me. I know, like with a rubber spoon!

However, this thing called love that I’m experiencing is something so new to me. I’ve done the whole “love myself” thing where it’s a studied uphill battle and I’ve done the whole narcissistic navel-gazing thing that was more about self-obsession. But, here, something new grew when I wasn’t looking. I think that I will call it maturity. I appreciate myself. I know myself. I’ve looked at myself, scary bits and all, and have come away with this rare sensation that is so sure that is ceases to be sensation and just becomes fact: I’m really glad to be me. I enjoy that I’m the one that I am spending all my time with.

It’s becoming more and more difficult as I write to really express what I’m even talking about. My vocabulary is inadequate. I’ve read so many self-improvement books that I’ve barely escaped the brainwashing that comes along with that.

There are a couple things that I need to make clear. I peeled back all the layers this past year and came face to face with my core belief. I am unloveable. Just there, plain and scary, and so very tragic was what was reclining there. I dissected it intellectually and realized that that was complete and utter bullshit.

I also knew the reasons why I believed those things. I have had some harsh moments where it seemed that the whole world was telling me that.

Again, I looked at it for what it was and knew that it wasn’t the whole world (and so what if it was?) but some core people in my life who were so damaged they infected me with their own screwed up beliefs.

So, I let it go. I chose to believe something else. It was both that simple and also a rather complicated ordeal.

There were three key things that made this possible for me:

1. I left the United States for a while. Yep, really. It isn’t until I get out of there for a while to a place where the U.S. loses its grip that I can really see how destructive the pervasive culture is. It is a culture based on consumerism. In order to get people to buy things, they have to be brainwashed to believe that they are not enough. That I was not enough in every aspect of my life! The constant bombardment of advertisements, Keeping up with….whoever, and buy, buy, buy if you want to be considered a good person. I had forgotten how corrosive it is. When I’m there, I do my best to shut it out, but it is everywhere. It isn’t until I leave that I realize how constant is the noise and how destructive is the message. And, forget about the youth obsession! Wow, is it nice to be considered sexy with my grey hairs and curvy belly.

2. I spent time with people who have known me forever and others who just met me five minutes ago. The people that have known me forever have seen me change over the past (nearly twenty!) years but also known the me that will always be the same. And they love me. Like, really, love me. They want nothing from me. They just enjoy my presence. And then, the people that have just met me. They like me. I ususally meet people through mutual friends or family. It isn’t often that I meet people on my own merit. It has been so good for me. One of my problems was that there was an enormous gap between the way I saw myself and the way others did. It has been healing beyond belief to see myself through others’ eyes.

3. I worked really hard to get here. I have spent years (YEARS!) trying to figure it all out. I’ve looked at things in all sorts of therapy. It took forever, it seems, yet it also took just an instant.

I am scared, to be honest, to go back to the states. I feel a little fragile still. But, screw all that for now. Just keep reading and I’ll get you all caught up on my adventures!

I am listing my activities in Africa on a new page. Just look for Africa in the pages. I will be elaborating as soon as I can in post form.

my cousin and i are a lot alike.  we look alike-well, mostly.  she’s the long, tall, thin version of me and i’m her with curves to spare and 8 inches taken off the top.  personality wise, we are both pretty wild.  each in our own way, but untamed we are.

she’s always fun to hang out with because where i love to talk about all these really cool ideas, she’s the one with the follow through.

i introduced her to this book a few months ago.  i’ve yet to make a recipe from it, but she’s done at least three or four by herself.  this weekend i spent with her, she decided it was time to follow yet another one.  dandelion wine!!!!!

when i was a little girl, i went outside because it was there. (thank yougeorge mallory!)  as i got older and became more of an indoor pet, i needed a siren call.  herbs were it.  they were what got me back outside to forage, play, seek out the green mysteries.  i’ve made plenty of tinctures and oils, but wine?  not yet.

here’s what you’ll need to make five gallons of wine: (five gallons????? what do you take me for wild woman, a lush?  nope.  but this shite is tasty and it takes a year to make and you won’t be drinking alone.  this is for sure a community celebration kind of thing-both in the making and the tasting.)

a SHIT TON of dandelions-2 cups of blossoms per gallon.  (we-and by we i don’t mean me-picked 10 tightly packed cups worth of blossoms to make….FIVE.  GALLONS.)

golden raisins (1 lb per gallon)

oranges/lemons (2 each per gallon)

sugar (2 lbs per gallon)

a packet of wine yeast (we used champagne yeast)

a five gallon crock or clean plastic bucket

car boy and air valve (or go old school, use empty apple cider gallons gleaned from your healthy food store and use either a balloon or one of those condoms that you’ve been meaning to use cuz you bought it in such an optimistic moment…i digress)

a bunch of willing kids (i think this may be the most important ingredient.  my cousin and i did a lot of talking and giggling about who knows what in her kitchen while our collective four kids were off in a field picking dandelions.)

and several liters worth of patience.

you can get the book or do a google search to find instructions for the specific steps or this will be the longest. blog. entry. ever.

i will touch on the highlights.

when both of our families, totaling 8, were sitting out of the porch making up songs and BAD raps while the sun set around us as we freed the yellow blossoms from the green sepals.  her daughter, my comedic soul mate (the one person in this world who may ACTUALLY be funnier than me!) figured out a fantastic twist and pull method that decreased the frustration level of this task by a factor of 15.

discovering that those darn kids had actually picked EXACTLY enough for our recipe.  like to the blossom.  PRECISELY ten cups of bright yellow flowers.

washing the antique five gallon earthen-ware crock that my cousin scored from her mother-in-law.  (all i ever scored from mine was a bad taste in my mouth for mother-in-laws.)

breathing in the aroma of 10 cups of dandelion blossoms, orange juice, lemon juice and raisins.  it’s like nothing else i’d ever smelled but close to so many things.  it is almost like mown grass.  it is almost like a new flower.  it is almost like candy.  yet, it is like none of these things.

adding sugar.  and then more sugar.  and then more sugar.

everyone in the house having to stir the slush mess with the huge wooden paddle, obsessively.  even my cousin-in-law, all 6’2 mountain man of hisself.

two days into the fermentation, i nickname the crock the “pot o’rot”.

watching the past three episodes of glee with my little cousin and turning the sound down during the commercials to gush about puck’s hotness.  in the pauses, we would hear the pot o’rot gurgle as the yeast feed and bubble.

here’s the basic procedure in pictures:

blossoms, peels, and raisins. yep, we ran out of the goldens.

introducing the white death-meant for the consumption of yeast and yeast only, kids.

the yinnish yanginess of it all.

squeals the sugar, "i'm melting, i'm melting." (sorry...too easy.)

first stir of millions.

these little buggers will eat the sugar and we get wine. what a tradeoff, suckers!

full crock

two days later-notice the way that the pot o' rot seems much fuller (it's all the yeast farts!) i had a better pic but couldn't resist the lurking kid.

this project is the best of the wild world.  lots of outside time, using an ingredient that most people pour pesticides onto (suckers!), laughter on top of giggles layered with guffaws, community, and, at the end of it all, shifted consciousness, in this case, wine.

sorry i wasn’t here yesterday, all three of my readers, i was living my other life as the queen of THROW IT AWAY!

so, we have covered the measurements of fitness and one skill based view of fitness, the last one i wanted to cover is being fit enough to save your own life.  these were first defined by earle liederman in his book endurance that he wrote in 1926.  they are as follows:

1. be able to swim at least a half mile (in open water, i would specify)

2. be able to run full-out fast for at least 200 meters.

3. be able to jump over things higher than your waist

4. be able to do 15-20 pull-ups (i would modify this to being able to pull yourself and someone who is one your back up to a safe place over your head)

5. dip between two chairs at least 25 times (which i guess would mean you’d be able to pull yourself and someone else up through a crevasse)

this view is a little more goal oriented in that it has specific benchmarks.

i would add the ability to disable an assailant (a quick knee to the groin or a body backed punch to the jaw: if you can get that jaw bone a little bit unhinged, the person will pass out, or a quick upward strike to the nose.  CAUTION: that last one can be lethal, so only use it when you’re really really serious)

i would also add that it would be nice if you could save someone else’s life while you’re at it.  as women, we are often responsible for the littlest people around.  a lot of us are moms and have the need to save those smaller than us.  it would be great if we didn’t have to wait to hand them off to someone stronger in an emergency but could handle be our own and our children’s heroes.

tomorrow will be a little wrap up but i’d LOVE to hear about what your favorite fitness philosophies are.

i hope you all had a lovely weekend far away from the computer, close to the outside and the ones you love.

saturday was my 38th birthday.  two year until 40 and i expect to be in better shape, health and fitness then.

yesterday, the day was windy and rainy but my 5 year old friend and i rushed to the park during a lull in the drizzle to kick a football around (soccer ball for you americans).

i’m at my best friend’s house in montreal and i’m here to declutter, organize, and clean her home.  since she’s my friend, i’m also rearranging her furniture while we talk about all sorts of things.  full disclosure: this friend really has helped me immensely in overcoming a lot of my self-destructive behaviors, not the least of these is a wildly dysmorphic body image and eating habits that bordered on full disorder.

she’s also a fitness freak like me.

what is fitness, really, anyway?  we can talk about it in the darwininan sense, often misunderstood, that states that the one fittest to one’s environment will survive.  or we can talk about it in the “why we workout” sense.

while we will be dipping, nay plunging, into evolutionary fitness at some point, today i want to talk about why we workout.

this is what we have mostly agreed are the measurements of fitness:

muscular strength:ability to move something through a certain distance

muscular endurance: how long you can exert said force

power: (my FAVORITE!) how much force can you exert in a specific time, work divided by time equals power

cardiovascular endurance: your body’s ability to supply muscles with oxygen over an extended activity

speed: how fast you can do a movement again and again

coordination: combining movements to make it look like one, NOT this

balance: being able to control your center of gravity, men please control that at all times unless i’m in the mood

flexibility: range of motion

tomorrow, i will be writing about my necro-crush‘s views on fitness and then we’ll tackle one more view point before we have a little talk.