Category: Personal Updates

July 16, 2014

 

palacio            On one of the PBS globe trotting shows, the hostess is in Barcelona. I am seeing locations known by Salvador Dali and Picasso. I am intrigued. I am also reminded of a comment recently made by one of my blog readers. My writing style reminds her more of Latin American and European writers than those of North America. It is not the first time I have heard this, and I was tempted to say, but I’ve never been published in Europe or Latin America. Instead, I listen and consider. Yes, I do love Pablo Neruda, Kafka, Elizabeth Borchers. I have also immersed myself in Kabir and Rumi.

 

I am equally fond of Thomas Merton, Emily Dickinson, Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, Leonard Cohen and others. Though labels sometimes get in the way, what cannot be denied is that we love what we love.

 

On today’s walk, picking up deadwood in the forest area of the land under our care, I felt a sweet peace. I was wearing the toe shoes my daughter bought me after I broke my foot and felt well balanced in my stride. I could detect varying textures of earth underneath my feet, which somehow gave me a strong sense of belonging, after so many years of displacement and disruption in my life. This way of walking, that sensation of connection to earth, has a name given by the indigenous people of Borneo, I was told by someone born there—one is said to have “jungle feet.”

junglefeet

July, 17, 2014

 

We had a guest today, a long-time friend, who moved away, leaving a hole in our lives. There wasn’t much time, just enough for a cup of tea and conversation that felt unfinished at the end.

 

How difficult goodbyes can be, bringing to the foreground the direct experience of life’s constant movement. Yesterday, the day seemed solid and steadfast; today, I am faced with a stark sense of impermanence. And yet, there is something more.
The Presence of Absence

Between your departure and absence
my longing to have said what I didn’t
expands through space like a sound
that can’t be heard.
When you drove far away
consciousness extended until the currents
are as subtle
and powerful
as silence.

And between two points of separation
lies a vibrant electromagnetic field..

Can you see the light from my body
surge faster than your car?
Will you know me when I wait to greet you
at your destination?

 

© Gudrun Mouw

A Poem Personal Updates

LotusCloseupMomI finished the final hatha yoga class of the spring series this morning. We don’t usually go this long into the summer, but there had been unique difficulties with space.

After teaching the class, I sat down to continue my contemplation of a verse from the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA by Swami Muktibodhananda, sent to me by a fellow yoga teacher as a birthday present. Yesterday, I was puzzled when reading the verse about not “bathing in the morning…,” and I also wish to examine further, in the same verse, the instruction about avoiding “tasks which produce pain in the body…” I have violated both “rules” in the last two days. Today, I study Swamiji’s commentary and am relieved to read how she clarifies the first part of the verse by adding that one should not bathe in the morning with cold water when the weather is wintery. I nod, of course.

The second caution, which I try to practice and often relate to my students, about avoiding tasks which produce pain, is sometimes hard for me to follow when I am doing yard work. Years ago, I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. The health practitioner who told me this also said: “You are the most healed patient with this disorder I have ever seen.” When I heard this, I thought I was home free; but every once in a while I see a recurring symptom, especially, when I push myself without realizing I have gone beyond my capacity to finish some outdoor project such as weeding, fire clearance, planting and watering.

Taking a warm bath before teaching the class this morning, however, is something I instinctively did to counteract the back pain resulting from too much yard work the other day, even before reading the clarification. Today’s study of the HATHA YOGA PRADIPIKA verse also reminds me of my guru, a raja yoga master. I heard him say more than once, “Yes, there are various ideas a yoga practitioner may find useful to follow, but you might also have to make an adjustment for the sake of your health.” I am grateful that I have not felt the push to blindly adapt arbitrary belief systems.

What I have always loved about being a student and teacher of raja yoga is the encouragement I get to investigate and decide about the many practices and suggestions for myself. No yoga dogma is the happy result. At the same time, I’m aware there is more for me to learn—I need to work shorter hours; I need to work smarter.

Still, if my goal is to experience peace, love and freedom, how can dogma be helpful? My experience of Raja yoga is that it begins with an ethical foundation, moves me through mindful, physical, mental, emotional and energetic explorations with an eye towards an ultimate goal, whether it be samhadi, satori, freedom from suffering, clarity of mind, ease of body, or other visions about what my ideal human experience might be.

 

Gudrun

Personal Updates

momflowerSince adolescence, I have been an avid journal writer. I learned, over time, to go back frequently and read through my journals in order to get a feel for certain themes and patterns. I haven’t been doing that much lately and right after breakfast this morning, I decided it was the right moment. I open my current journal to the first page and am shocked that I had begun it over 4 years ago. I remember many journals that ended after just a year. Becoming a grandmother has been a rich and beautiful distraction.

The current journal begins with a quote from the Gospel of Tomas: “If you bring forth what is within you, it will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, it will destroy you.” I do not remember how I came by this quote, but it still seems incredibly relevant. The next journal entry spoke of tumult I had been experiencing in one of the yoga classes, because of a particular student, who I considered to be difficult at the time. Looking back, I see that the problem got resolved, because I was, finally, able to “bring forth” my anger and speak truthfully about the situation….

I escape outside to do yard work before it gets too hot. This morning’s fog didn’t last very long. Living on over an acre next to a forest, there is always much to do. I consider fire clearance work to be a year-round effort, and this year I feel an even more urgent need to be diligent in the face of California’s drought. I recycle water from the kitchen sink to care for plants that have survived an unusually dry and cold winter. We have long given up on a lawn.

I like outdoor work, raking, weeding and hauling away dry grasses to our compost pile, not minding the lack of help. A long-ago yoga student, who in exchange for my role in his life as a “spiritual/yoga advisor,” used to come once or twice a week to assist me in the yard. I lived in Santa Barbara at the time. The garden was overgrown in spite of the professional crew who came once a month. My student and I talked yoga stuff and life stuff while we pruned and watered. It was great fun.

Near noon, more tired than usual from nursing a burn on my right hand, my glove was beginning to irritate the healing process, and I come inside ready to “bring forth what is within.” I treat my wound, have a well deserved lunch, smiling as I write this, because what is within is a sense of peace and contentment that comes from having worked hard, without agenda, without resentment, with enthusiasm and perfect timing.

 Gudrun

Personal Updates

 

addictionbanner copy

When it was suggested I address the alcoholism issue that is so much a part of the foundational background of Wife of the House, I was reluctant.

In the poem, “Dream,” I created an imaginary camel ride in order to release anger about the disease of alcoholism in my family:

…grinning he humps towards a steep bank
for a drink at the bar

I pull in reins urging
don’t leave the caravan…

It was a long time before I achieved the detachment it took for me to write the poem near the end of the book, “Song to End Estrangement.”

How private pain is
may it heal and and soften
the rough grain
of our lives…

…may I be freed from that aching need…
healed from that heartbreaking pause
before I depart.

When my ex-husband was on his death bed due to alcohol induced neurological failure and before he could no longer speak, I came to the hospital to visit him. He grabbed my hand and said, “I have always loved you.” Years of pain eased in this one encounter; still, it doesn’t mean I have forgotten the terrible damage the disease of alcoholism has caused the entire family.

My personal journey consists of releasing guilt, shame and regret to a power higher than myself. From the intention to surrender and to accept the things I cannot change, comes relief and the space to practice gratitude. Gratitude was not always easily available to me, but now that it is, I much appreciate its tremendous healing power.

During the time I was writing the poems in Wife of the House, I remember a water heater accident when my hair caught on fire. By the time I arrived at a twelve-step meeting later that week, I had accumulated a long list of complaints about how much misery I was experiencing. It was gently suggested that I might try to practice gratitude. My mind did not respond well. Gratitude? Gratitude? How can I be grateful for the terrible things going on?

It took years of persistent effort to realize how my judgments and opinions about my problems were the problem. For me, to be mindful, to be a yogini meant changing what I needed to change with wisdom and also finding a way to be with what I am not able to change, rather than losing myself to reactivity.

Gudrun

Personal Updates The Process of Writing

lavender

It’s chilly today and very windy. The native sage bushes fling up. The English garden building comes alive with moving shadows on the siding. Lavender blooms burst forth purple from every stem.

Spring swings with constant movement, yet I am content to sit. I am happy to sit inside the house, and the house sits inside me. I am the house. The house is me. Walls feel porous. Ceiling are higher than they appear, and the floor tingles under my feet.

I am happy to swim this conscious stream. My father’s paintings do not make me cynical. The drumming angel from my daughter’s Mexican travels stands quietly overhead surrounded by the oldest living indoor plant I have ever had. This is the place to be. Here. Now. Strongly. Tenderly…so that a painful subject may arise and be healed.

I am reminded of the professor who said to me, “You are an immigrant. English is not your first language.” He looked at me skeptically. “You are an English Literature major? You want to be a writer?” He shook his head. He said worse, but my mind had already shut down. I considered changing my major to philosophy. In the end, I did not.

I finished my BA and MA; afterwards, I spent many evenings in the university library reading the tragic lives of numerous writers who rarely published during their lifetimes, or were sadly handicapped, or undervalued in some way. I worked as a substitute teacher during the day; eventually, I found a college teaching job.

I am partly retired now and can afford the time to contemplate the odd twists of life. Where does stubborn persistence end and creative inspiration begin? How is it that in a state between two languages I often find something strange and new and interesting?

I look outside, and the hills, the pine, the oak, the grasses and the sandstone do not name themselves in any recognizable language. They present themselves just as they are, unadorned, free, unencumbered by anyone’s judgment.
Gudrun

 

Personal Updates