Monday, July 15, 2013

Seeing Through The Ashes

Cruising into the port of Naples, I was greeted by this early morning sight (above). I have to say it was an incredible vista to absorb while I practiced a few sun salutations and deep hip, hamstring and SI joint poses in preparation for our day trip and hike in Pompeii. Yoga on your balcony is quite a balance challenge!

Here is a brief history reminder of the city of Pompeii: From around 700 B.C. until the morning of August 24, 79 A.D., a little town consisting of about 20,000 residents lay at the foot of Mount Vesuvius in Italy. It was on that day that Mount Vesuvius erupted, destroyed Herculaneum and Pompeii. Preserved under ash, the cities lay buried for just over 1,600 years, their rediscovery provides a breathtaking glimpse into the daily life of the Roman Empire. I remember studying the Mount Vesuvius event in grade school and I was totally wrapped up in this period of history. There wasn’t any way I was going to miss walking through Pompeii, even if I had to pass up the Isle of Capri so I could experience the ruins. 
From port, we hopped on the bus with our tour guide ‘Nando, and began the journey into rediscovered city. ‘Nando (his nick name for Fernando) was a small statured, fit man with a booming Italian voice. It is very possible that he was in his mid 70’s, but looked and moved like someone in the early 50’s, now that’s Mediterranean lifestyle at work.

We arrived at the base of the city and ascended up the Umbrella Pine covered hills toward the walls of Pompeii. We walked down alleys, through courtyards and bath houses...we were walking the same streets and plazas that existed before the birth of Christ, that took a few moments to sink in. I was also taken by surprise by the level of city engineering and planning in Pompeii; storm drains, waste removal and rugged roads to handle the abrasiveness of chariots were all preserved for us to view in amazement.
‘Nando communicated far too many facts of Pompeii for me to ever recount, but there is one statement he made that has crossed my mind every day since that tour. “Looka et where ur feeta stend. Looka et where ur feeta walka.”  How have these words influenced me?
  • When I step on my mat, I hear ‘Nando and the underlying message of connecting with the earth and humanity.
  • When I am off my mat, am I walking with compassion and understanding of others’ ethnic, socioeconomic and religious differences?
  • Will I remember that if I am not present and conscious, any negative patterns or thoughts in the future will take me down the same path of unfortunate outcomes of the past-history repeating itself?
My friend Fernando gave much more than a tour and history lesson of an ancient city. His passion and reverence for his timeless countryside was evident as he meticulously shared it with the tour group. It was his body language and knowing glances that drew me in to the deeper essence of existence that he desired to express.  

Life Shared

Friday, July 5, 2013

Rr Rrrrrr Rrrrr Rome!

We flew in to Rome a day early to get a peek of it-believe me, you need about four days to see all the wonderful sights. After checking into our hotel, Brian and I were able to see the Coliseum. I want to say that the structure is what you imagine it to be and you are awestruck by the age and the size of this outdoor venue. National monuments need upkeep and repair too, and there were fortifications in progress while we were there (hence the fencing and scaffolding in the photos).

I do remember thinking that I really did not connect with the grounds or space, and I didn't have a 'feel good' sensation about the area. As we all know, there were some heinous acts committed during the rule of the Roman Empire, some took place here in the Coliseum.

We stopped for a drink and some time to take in the city life at a restaurant called CaffĂ© Martini. Our waiter (Giovanni) introduced us to some specialties of the house such as their tiramasu and Francesca wine from the hills surrounding Rome, in the towns of Frascati, Grottaferrata and Monteporzio Catone. We indulged in all of this while relaxing at a table on the sidewalk under the glorious sunshine.  

The locals in the caffĂ© as well as the staff were easy going and friendly, and I soon found out that most Romans were of this similar disposition. To me, the lovely persona of the Romans is an absolute contrast to what they are like behind the wheel or on a scooter/motorcycle. Life on the street is a hectic shrill of horns and skids, they drive like madmen. About every nine minutes you can hear and ambulance or police siren sounding in the distance and we witnessed several scooter accidents in our own district. There is a frantic, panicky energy to get somewhere "at all costs," I convey this observation as a PSA to not rent a scooter or motorcycle in Rome unless you are an accomplished rider. Even if you do cruise, I really would recommend taking a cab, the shuttle or walk to most of your sites. Why? Turnabouts and tiny alleys are dicey, while street plaques are set on the corner of buildings 15+ feet back from the street.

When a local recommends you go see a particular sight, give it a shot...even if it means having to skip a very popular sight. Giovanni told us to stop in at a very old church named the Basilica De San Pietro In Vincoli-just a few blocks away from the Coliseum. It was a very unassuming structure from the exterior (no marble, gargoyles or stained glass at the front of the church) and surrounded by large buildings. Feeling very "Angels and Demons," you had to know there was a church in this area or you would have walked right past it and never know it existed. There was an incredible treat inside: Michael Angelo's sculpture of Moses!  

The second recommendation came from the front desk manager of our hotel. He suggested that we stroll through Villa Borghese while we were waiting for our room to become available. To give you an idea of the scope of the park-it is the second largest public park in Europe.
Villa Borghese is a gorgeous, ancient feeling space with white gravel paths and towering trees that is connected to the Zoo, Borghese Gallery and numerous gardens and waterfalls. You felt like a native enjoying the outdoors with many other Romans, it is a beautiful union of nature and art in the middle of the city.  

We closed our tour of Rome by visiting amazing Vatican City and St. Peter's Basilica.Experiencing stillness and peace, I felt "collected" and prepared to board the Holland Noordam and begin my very first cruise.  

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Living the dream

It's a long trip, but after befriending Australians and
New Zelanders, our trip was cake. 
It is an event that I have always imagined, but never assumed that it would actually happen. I dreamed about what the water and the ancient cities would look like and quite frankly, some of my visions were not even close to what greeted me.

Many of you have figured out via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook that I have been exploring the Mediterranean...some people call it vacationing. The trek was so remarkable, so fascinating that the only time I lounged around was when our ship was at sea for two non-consectutive days. Even then, I attended cooking classes, a foreign beer tasting, made new friends, hit the gym and practiced yoga many early mornings on the observation deck.

Guess what? I am going to share some of those images and thoughts throughout this amazing adventure. Hang on! Grab some very comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen and your best mapping skills.


Life Shared

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Light Is Different Here

Here? Where! 

Because my family has relocated to Nashville, Tennessee, I see and observe that the light  in this new environment is different.

I think this Edison Bulb from a light fixture that hangs in my new/old cottage really captures my observation in a visual sense. I actually have four of these fantastic light fixtures throughout my home, so I bump into them many times during the day and the light bulbs capture me in a moment of wonder and reflection.

To me, this vintage bulb represents the beginning- a pure essence of contemporary existence in an uncomplicated form. In my mind, it also represents the expanded consciousness of Thomas Edison himself. Imagine if we uncluttered our minds, what we might be able to discover, comprehend or invent in our own present day circle. 

The dawn or morning light is also different her in Nashville. We are three hours closer to the Eastern Time Zone, so my circadian rhythm immediately picked up on this deviation. Believe it or not,  I actually appreciate morning knocking at an earlier time- it's a gentle and encouraging arousal. I don't feel groggy when I get out of bed and I tend to feel more productive or together throughout the day.

Lastly, the light that shines from others in my new community has a significantly different glow.  I tried to explain it to my cousin the other day.... authentic community is what is shining here in Nashville. I am not disparaging my old home by any means, it just feels that there are a large number of people back home suffering, and that state of mind limits one to connect with others in a positive way. There are many valid reasons for the pain and suffering, therefore we lend a hand to support and steady those souls. Teaching yoga and meditation for years, I witnessed substantial improvement of the quality of life in so many people (there are many extraordinary facilitators back home doing the same thing at this moment) - it changed me and I miss so many of those arcs of light. My hope is that these arcs ignite larger flashes of energy that spreads like a lightning bolt across the Delta night sky. 

Life illuminated in mind, body and spirit---Trinitas.

Life electrified.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

"Finding love or joy in unlikely places"

In essence, this thought or mantra is one of the messages I took home with me after my six week insight meditation course. For the past year, I felt myself finding wonder in the simple things and in the great outdoors, so I have been traveling a more mindful path than I could have imagined- before ever taking this course. I’ve found myself stopping to investigate  things like a four year old, and I have shared many of my deer encounters (while hiking)  with friends who sometimes think I am nuts to talk to these gorgeous and graceful animals. “Run up a tree and get away from them, you’ll get gored or kicked in the head!”, they say to me.
A fellow yogi passed along this poem today, I experienced the energy of insight and metta meditation when I read this poem... it’s kinda odd in some respects but it does drive home the point that all that is adoring or lovely is not necessarily clean and beautiful...or alive.
Life Shared.

Aimless Love
This morning as I walked along the lakeshore,
I fell in love with a wren
and later in the day with a mouse
the cat had dropped under the dining room table.
In the shadows of an autumn evening,
I fell for a seamstress
still at her machine in the tailor’s window,
and later for a bowl of broth,
steam rising like smoke from a naval battle.
This is the best kind of love, I thought,
without recompense, without gifts,
or unkind words, without suspicion,
or silence on the telephone.
The love of the chestnut,
the jazz cap and one hand on the wheel.
No lust, no slam of the door –
the love of the miniature orange tree,
the clean white shirt, the hot evening shower,
the highway that cuts across Florida.
No waiting, no huffiness, or rancor –
just a twinge every now and then
for the wren who had built her nest
on a low branch overhanging the water
and for the dead mouse,
still dressed in its light brown suit.
But my heart is always propped up
in a field on its tripod,
ready for the next arrow.
After I carried the mouse by the tail
to a pile of leaves in the woods,
I found myself standing at the bathroom sink
gazing down affectionately at the soap,
so patient and soluble,
so at home in its pale green soap dish.
I could feel myself falling again
as I felt its turning in my wet hands
and caught the scent of lavender and stone.
~ Billy Collins ~
(Nine Horses)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Taste the beauty of being alive"

This is just one nugget of the thoughts, quotes and conversations that are being shared in my insight meditation series that began one month ago.

I admit that I am so thankful to take the leap and seek out a teacher to guide me through a more mindful way of life. There is a supportive peace in the room which arouses the curiosity and encourages further study of the practice. Yes, some days to sit for 15 minutes has been unproductive (I think, but maybe not) and focus on the breath entering and leaving my nose.  Its amazing how quick your mind can jump ship after three breaths, but the kind manner that you draw yourself back in is therapeutic in its own right; no frustration, no condemning, no 'give up' attitude. 

I believe that one of the most important aspects of a meditation practice is your 'comfortable seat' . If you can't sit comfortably on the floor then sit in a chair with whatever you need such as lumbar pillows, ‘o’ ring cushions, sturdy chair with feet flat on the floor.  If you can sit on the floor with a meditation cushion or bolster but start to fatigue after several minutes, then consider propping yourself against the wall for support and use blankets or a lumbar pillow. Don't allow your seated position to sabotage your meditation. 

Here is an abbreviated list of the books on meditation and mindfulness provided by my teacher for you to explore and fuel the spark of your mediation practice. 

Mindfulness in Plain English. Venerable Henepola Gunaratana, Wisdom Publications, Boston
Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness, Gunaratana, Wisdom Publications, Boston
The Meditator’s Atlas: A Roadmap to the Inner World.  Matthew Flickstein, Wisdom Publications, Boston. 
The Experience of Insight, Joseph Goldstein, Shambhala, Boston
Insight Meditation: The Practice of Freedom by Joseph Goldstein. Shambhala, Boston
Seeking the Heart of Wisdom: The Path of Insight Meditation. Joseph Goldstein & Jack 
Kornfield, Shambhala, Boston
A Path with Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and Promises of Spiritual Life. Jack Kornfield. 
Full Catastrophe Living Jon Kabat-Zinn, Dell Publishing, New York
Wherever You Go, There You Are. Jon Kabat-Zinn 
Start Where You Are: A Guide to Compassionate Living. Pema Chodron
When Things Fall Apart. Pema Chodron
The Places that Scare You, all three by Pema Chodron, Shambhala, Boston
Loving-Kindness: The Revolutionary Art of Happiness by Sharon Salzberg, Shambhala, Boston.

Insight Meditation Society, Barre Center for Buddhist Studies and Sharon Salzberg’s and Joseph
     Goldstein’s Home Pages<>
Insight Meditation Society is one of the major insight meditation centers in the US. Barre Center is loosely associated with IMS. Sharon Salzberg and Joseph Goldstein are two of the founders of IMS and a wonderful teachers.
Spirit Rock Meditation Center<>
Spirit Rock is one of the two major insight meditation centers in the US. 

Life Shared

Thursday, January 17, 2013

That’s when the light goes on...

I took this photo Tuesday night just outside my front door because it just struck me in some odd way. I used a soft focus to emphasize the obscurity and struggle that the light appeared to have. Of course, the light still prevailed and illuminated my pitch dark, icy front yard. 

We are in the midst of getting our home ready to list on the real estate market and while we are busy attending to our own punch list, there are these other home issues that are raining down one us. First it’s the leak in the upstairs bath tub, a screaming seven year old washing machine and wall patches in the laundry room that need to be repainted (along with part of the kitchen), and finally-two new roof leaks. These roof leaks sprung up in the same rooms where I had the ceilings painted last spring. So while I am trying to bid out and hire sub contractors for the master bath update and cabinet painting in the kitchen, there are other holes in the dike that need to be plugged quickly... due to the nature of water damage

I have to admit that Angie’s List has brought me a great deal of happiness and homeowner repair success, but you can still acquire a dud in the batch. That dud happened to be the sub contractor who updated the kid’s bathroom, so much to my dissatisfaction that I would not give him the job on the master bathroom. With that experience under my tool belt, I decided to ask one of my A+ rated subs for recommendations on this particular project. I called my drywall/ceiling contractor and he gave me the number of his cousin who specializes in this field. Keith had referred me to a painter on one of his jobs when one of his employee had shoulder surgery; the crew was extraordinary and I felt safe with trusting Keith’s word again. 

I put a call into ‘Sledge’ and he arrived this morning to bid out the job. In comparison to my original design plan, Sledge had some great alternate ideas on the update that made functional and aesthetic sense. He also gave me his countertop suppliers name in order visit their shop and scout out remnant stone tops to save money while increasing home value. Somehow we got on the subject of my father (I had gutted and sold my dad’s house two years ago), and told Sledge that my father had Parkinson’s and dementia and my mother is in the severe stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Unbelievably, Sledge tells me his father had passed away in October from dementia. As I listened to his caregivers story, I began to to realize that God is good at details and directing us to answers and solutions. The light in His wisdom may be the luminosity of fizzling embers in the family room fireplace, or the brightness of the skylight in your kitchen ceiling, but if we trust in the light of God we will see the way. We will also see others He has sent to help and mentor us in the journey and we will likely know who they are from the light that radiates in their hearts. God knows that I don't need an irresponsible jackhole (pardon the french) in charge of these renovations, one that will create worry, delays and added expense, there are more important things that need my attention. This contractor completely understands what is going on in my life and I have confidence that he will do his absolute best on this job. 

I have another contractor coming out this evening to bid the job as well, and for some reason I have a feeling he is going to ‘no show’. I’m not really concerned because I already have entered an appointment into my calendar tomorrow to go down and  find those counter tops and get this project moving, I know who to hire. 

Life Shared