Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Lomi Lomi kind of day

Lomi Lomi means loving hands, and is a massage technique whereby the muscles are "flaked" or smoothed away from the bones, and the joints are gently pulled to allow space inside of them, and generally the body is treated so as to allow it to enter a meditative state from which, said Sue Ann the therapist, it can heal itself. "It's not that I am doing something magical to you," she said, "I am simply making room for your body to align itself, and when all is aligned that is when you can make good decisions. My hands touch you without judgment, and your body senses this and therefore can relax its defenses." So true! It did feel as though she was doing something magical, though, perhaps that is what making space for healing feels like. Apparently new chieftans in old Hawaii were Lomi'd for days after taking the job so that they could approach their duties with the proper perspective. Don't you think that is a custom worth adopting? I do.

Some kind of universal Lomi was in action yesterday, making space for us to align. This graceful boat, the Trilogy,
came right up on the beach and took us out to snorkel in the clear blue-green sea, and the crew served us breakfast, lunch, and dessert (with seconds and thirds if desired, and Theo desired)

and the day was calm enough for all to enjoy the sail in a completely relaxed manner as you can see, on the boat

and in the water, and under the water (Theo and I did SNUBA--so fun, and easy enough for kids).

This, believe it or not, is at least 30 feet of water. Doesn't it look more like 5? so CLEAR! Nice!
This is a heart-stopping experience, I imagine like meeting a serene being such as the Dalai Lama. The goodwill exuded by the bottlenose dolphins that played off our bow for a short way transformed the day from your average excellent day in Hawaii to the Lomi Lomi version--open to wild, almost supernatural beings coming close enough to see the story of their lives on their gray hides. I would like to know the feeling of being so sensitive and attuned that I could read and interpret all our human equivalents of the scratches, scrapes, bites, and other marks that I could see on the skin of these dolphins.
And then if I could do that, of course, the trick still would be to respond appropriately, which is to say, do something other than run for your camera and hope from the depths of your favorite organ that you will be able to watch for just a little bit longer. Maybe in another millenium or two, gazing at enlightenment, I could learn how it's done?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Inversions everywhere

It's no surprise that we bring our baggage with us to paradise. It does seem dissonant to wake up with a terrible feeling to a beautiful day on Maui, though. Luckily we can bring our tools too, and the work goes on. In the evening we had a swim and the pool showed me a trick. The experience of swimming in the daylight is always to go down into blue shadows and to come up into the light. In the night, with the pool lit up from below, you go down into brightness and come up into black. It is a flip that plays with expectations and point of view. My impulse is to go to the light, but I can't stay down under the water--I have to come up and when I breathe I have to welcome the wide, velvety darkness.

In the morning during meditation I had a flip moment in my mind. I was sitting there with the chatter in the foreground as usual, wanting to get past it into calm. Like being in a tub of bubbles with all of them forming and bursting in cacophony. In an instant it became more of an effort to follow the chatter and its crazy, circuslike noise than it was to just be in peace. Of course! I didn't have to manage the bubble melee, I had passed through into a personal bubble, sealed in by a thin curving sheet of soap skin. Once on the other side, stillness, quiet, breathing, so easy, so smooth. Then it left me again. Pop. Flip.

Friday, November 20, 2009

My First

Theo. I haven't talked much about him here yet. What an amazing bundle of being he is. Waldorf schoolers have a saying that you are your child's first teacher. I wonder if they say you can reverse that--quite sincerely I say that this child was my first teacher. Regarding the kind of lessons that require extreme self-inspection and bare-naked honesty, he was the one, he was first and he made me a mother, which as some of you know, is a completely different kind of creature from any other.
In pouring myself so completely into him, I caught a glimpse of what I might be capable of, and simultaneously what the cost of failure might be. In seeing and hoping what he could become, I started to understand the potential I would not have so easily extended to myself. Perhaps others mature into these realizations at an earlier age (or stage) of life, but it took becoming a mother to Theo and then to Dora and then some for me to start thinking this way.

This is the boy who was so alarmed by the sensory input of being in water that we struggled to find a way to wash his hair until, at the age of 6, we found a truly superlative swimming teacher. For the first three months of swimming lessons she broke the experience down into manageable pieces: look, you are doing so well to put your shoulder in the water, and then see what happens if you bend your knees and let the water come around your neck, then don't you want to see this funny wiggly fish toy?--put your goggles on and put just your face in, and then well, this magical bell can only be heard if your ear is under the water. Thank you, thank you Marilyn. Now look!
This morning was a microcosm of his life when, after refusing to compromise on the one tortilla left (half of it? with half a piece of toast?) he said "Nope. It's all or nothing with me." Well. At least he said it with a smile on his face! He can be reasonable (he is a libra) , and heartbreakingly empathetic (because he knows what it is to feel things deeply) but his first reaction to things is often "Nope. That's not what I had in mind." For a new mother who wants to give everything to her son, this is a very demanding, exhausting, stance for a child to present. On top of my own standards, it nearly flattened me.

At the same time, I understood it! I am quite particular too, and at various times run the spectrum between being overly flexible (read: trying to please) and completely self-centered (read: trying to sort out what I need to do from what the world out there is saying). Finding ways to learn to mediate between a vulnerable yet visionary child and the supersized, sense-exploding bustle of life was (is) a hauntingly steep learning curve.

And then, the JOY! when we navigate it . . . when I see him ride the boogie board with pure happiness on his face . . . when I take my newly learned meditation and awareness skills and take him through a bodyscan, as I did twice in the past two weeks when he came to me for help, and see him take deeper breaths, relax into the night, and release himself from the grip of his nightmarish thoughts to the peace of the moment.

Doing the bodyscan with myself has been to lift a massive weight off, but to do it with him was to see the unnecessary, arbitrary nature of the negative thought loop, to appreciate more fully how breaking it down into manageable pieces of inhalation, exhalation is the equivalent of turning the light on and opening the dreaded closet of monsters in a child's bedroom. Look in front of this thought, look behind it--there is nothing there! There are no shadows, no monsters, no THING except the moment, here, breathing, and look how peaceful it is.

Compared to what I used to do, which was to make all sorts of assurances about how safe he is, how comfortable, platitudes, in essence telling him what his experience ought to be, telling him to try to overlay forcefully happy thoughts over the scary ones, this opening of the closet door is like jumping on a quiet, clean, high speed train after dragging ourselves on foot through the mud. More than that, it feels true, and important, and real, because it is inside of him, it will always be there, and he can access it now. It is hard to express how powerful this is. How good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Papaya for lunch

I'm chucking the current "ought to". I thought I ought to make an effort to make images I posted on this blog ones that I made. The black ink drawings that I'm making on this trip are fun to do, but they just don't convey the lusciousness and the color that is this experience. Thank goodness for cameras and modern technology, because there is but a moment between the decision and the sharing of these lovelies . . . Yes, I would eat papaya with lime for every meal. See those little lines of holes? Those are fork marks so that when you squeeze the lime over, it sinks into all the little holes. I remember my mother loving papaya when I was little and, having tried it, considered the possibility that she was crazy when there were such alternatives as tangerines and mangosteins. Now I get it. I get it, mom! Love it!

5 hours after rising and zipping straight to the beach we are back. Fresh food and a bit of shade. And a lettuce fan for her highness.

And here are my happy feet, slightly off balance in a one-armed downward dog while trying to take a picture with the other hand--you try it sometime!
One "ought to" down, how many more to go? Hard to say. My increasing sense is that often they are so internalized we don't have a smidge of an idea that we misguidedly live by them. Recently a friend told me that she had just discovered, in her forties and after struggling with pain and numbness in her fingers for years, that you shouldn't try to keep your shoulders way back. "I always thought that's the way you were supposed to stand!"

She's right--it's a natural mistake, and it seems a small thing, but look at the ripple effect. Forcing your shoulders back could be taken as a symbol of good posture, but not disconnected from the rest of you, right? Where is your weight carried over your feet? Where are your hips, your torso, and the gorgeous, essential, miraculous curve of your spine, not to mention all the muscles that hold your heavy head up . . . consider, and then it doesn't make sense to simply hold your shoulders back.

Everything's connected. So many things I do are "ought to's" I haven't seen clearly. Certainly there are oodles of duties that don't fall in this category, respnsibilities that must be attended to. It feels tremendously good, liberating, if that's not too obvious a word, to SEE them as choices, and then reevaluate. What a gift, hey? It's an overlooked category, this, small freedoms you can give yourself, occasional permission to do something other than you think you ought.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Papaya for breakfast

A bit of sun in winter is a magical thing. See the circle sort of tucked under the shoulder of the palm frond on the right? That was the sun yesterday afternoon, delivering a distillation of love and peace directly to me on my yoga mat on my lanai (that's Hawaiian for porch!). The afternoon clouds had been persuaded to allow the sunset to spill underneath of them and it rolled across the sea and snugged up to the land--magical.

Hawaii makes me feel round, filled out with fresh air and shorn of rough edges. I love the feel of the air, it makes me think of places I spent time growing up in Southeast Asia and I feel at home. I love the bougainvillea and the hibiscus, so prolific, the essence of the humble end of the tropical plant spectrum. I love that the first time I came to Hawaii as an adult (I came once to Maui as a child and my memories consist of muddled images of thatched roofs and standing at the edge of the volcano crater) I remembered the word frangipani, which is the flower that in Hawaii they call plumeria. But frangipani--what a lovely word. It is all that it sounds. I'm sure I hadn't opened that memory drawer or even been near it in 30 years.

At one point in my yoga practice I rested in child's pose. My focus was blurred, my eyes centimeters away from the mat and all I could see were perfect little bubbles of light, each miniature hill of foam in the pattern of the mat glowing--I was breathing, there was no distinction between my body and the air, I was a cocktail of sea salt and red sand, I was settling the cliche of blue sky and palm trees into a true apprehension of paradise...

except for the sore, itchy place on the sole of my foot where I had stepped on a bee earlier. It was an inch-long, fat, black, glorious bee that instead of burying itself in one of the vivid blossoms was lying in the thick grass, and while it hurt like calamity I'm sure the bee had the worst of it. Paradise with a bit of sting--just to keep me on my mindful toes.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Another unexpected arrival at self-knowledge

"I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me." --Estella, in Great Expectations.

This is Elizabeth and Shannon, two of the kindest, calmest, wisest women you could ever hope to meet. Yesterday they led a group of us through a day-long meditation retreat in the spirit of Dana, which is a buddhist tradition whereby the teacher makes the teachings available and the community reciprocates and supports the teacher as it can. Don't they look like they're glowing?

With the students maintaining a "noble silence" we sat, and walked, and ate, and sat and walked again. All day long. All we had to do was concentrate on our own process and internal focus while Elizabeth and Shannon and a guest yoga teacher led us through the meditations and fed us. And the food was amazing. Sounds glorious, doesn't it?

Was I glowing after a day of silence, was I refreshed from a day without household chores, did I find some choice snippets of my true inner self after seven hours of meditation and meditative yoga and eating? Ah. No, no, and no. I couldn't wait to talk, I was glad to get home and finish some jobs, and I didn't map any new internal geography.

How could this be? This morning when I got up my first thought was that clearly I left my beginner's mind behind. Rookie mistake! I had, in fact, GREAT EXPECTATIONS. tsk tsk.

Yesterday my thoughts were running more like this: Okay, I was late, couldn't be helped, don't judge it, now you are here sitting so the good stuff is on its way. Curiosity . . . Elizabeth, kindly trying to reassure me that my lateness wasn't important, said the day had already gotten off to a strange start. What could that mean . . . there are many people here I don't know but I can't talk to them and this house, very interesting, look at that art, and those statues, just breathe, in, out, 1, in, out, 2, in out and back to 1 . . . wow this is not going well

now for some yoga, this will be good, and stop. I. have. never. done. yoga. so. slowly. Not even when I first started 17 years ago with Iyengar yoga, which is quite slow and methodical and particular about placement of everything from your mat on the floor to each finger and toe. What a lesson! There are tremendous amounts of information between the individual movements that are sandwiched together to make a single yoga pose. However I was clearly not in the frame of mind to appreciate this lesson.

What did I like? I liked eating in silence. It allows for so much more attention to be paid the quality of the food and the physical motions of eating, among other things. Pressure to be communicating with others was removed, so we were there simply being in each other's presence, which was strange and took some adjustment, and started to become beautiful.

I liked going for a fast walk after lunch. I liked wearing the blanket my mother-in-law gave us ages ago after her trip to Ireland--soft, warm, dark blue and green plaid. I liked finally being allowed to hear some thoughts and share some thoughts at the end of the day. For all the emphasis I've put on accepting my introversion lately, I sure was eager to connect with these folks through words. In a weird way I liked that it was a safe place to feel frustrated and impatient, and that I just sat with that feeling all day, unable to do anything about it but finding that it didn't have to make me unhappy or unpleasant to others.

What didn't I like? Being in someone else's house. So distracting! Their cookbooks on the shelf, stack of papers in the in-box, a single light bulb out in one of the fascinating mosaic fixtures festooning the extremely high, wood paneled ceiling. My instincts were to sniff out every corner and I didn't make sure I was early enough to do that even if it would have been acceptable.

PMS? Sub-consciously feeling I had a lot to do before leaving for our trip on Monday? Perhaps. Also possible that it is just like that sometimes. You can't settle in, the inner world stays tightly closed, and the time passes without progress. The judge holds court.

What are you doing?
What are you thinking?
What are you feeling?
What are you perceiving?

Now, on three, make them all line up! 1-2-3-GO!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Planetary dust bunny graduate speaks

I was too quick to say the tiny movement exploration I did this morning was so different from what I do in yoga. In class today Jen started us standing, "feel your feet more like sponges" she said (love that), and we shifted our weight quietly from foot to foot and then made subtle circles. Connections pop up when you look for them, of course, but this extension from my solitary impulse to the beginning of class was unlooked for, and welcome.

I think it is a kind of meditation, a slowing down and focusing in of awareness, mindfulness. I have no idea what my breath was doing though! But I did gain some insight, so I'll call it passing for vipassana . . .

I noticed too that Jen's studio ceiling looks different to me than it used to. It is a knotty wood paneled ceiling, and when I was having such a dark time for the past two winters it appeared to be covered with smiles. This sounds a bit unhinged, I admit it! The knots, the swirls and connecting grain marks in the wood formed themselves into smiling, sometimes winking faces wherever I looked, whichever part of the room I happened to be in. Lying in savasana I would feel the breath roll back in forth in me like a lava lamp and wonder how I could possibly find a way out of the deep hole I felt stuck in. I would feel the warmth of the heat lamps and take in the crooked yet graceful smiles of the inanimate yoga room and wonder what it said about me that I needed to see smiles in the ceiling.

Now the ceiling is calm. I don't see the smiling faces anymore, even when I look for them. It still strangely feels like a presence to me, but it is neutral, waiting, obliging, listening even. hmmm . . .

I heard Dr. Curtis Ebbesmeyer on the radio this morning, he's the Flotsametrics guy, saying that the gyres in the ocean occur beneath high air pressure areas, which are pretty constant. So there is the place, the doldrums, where there is very little wind and the gyres buoy up there, and the garbage collects there, like a "planetary dust bunny." Oh my. How many of us feel that, for whatever reason, for stretches of time in our lives, we have been riding around in a slow-moving gyre, part of an accumulation of lost and seemingly worthless junk? But this Dr. Ebbesmeyer, is he cool! He knows all that junk has a story to tell.

Can I have a side of sunrise with that?

Jumpy jumpy. This morning sitting still seemed impossible, and somehow, not right. I was sitting at my bedroom window, facing east into darkness but there was a thin crescent moon and I couldn't take my eyes off of it. When I tried to close them, it was that clenched closed, when the lids quiver with effort. Not very restful. So I left them open.

The movement that came was from some part of me that knew exactly what to do. I felt my spine, the sticky places in my neck, the morning stiffness in my back. In the first meditation class back in September my teacher spent time describing the physical process of preparing to sit and included the feeling of moving back and forth, just slightly, till you felt that place where your head was perfectly balanced on top of your stacked vertebrae. I was circling that this morning.

I loved this sensation of so many small motions--so different from the yoga I've been doing, but similarly joyful. To sway side to side, front to back, to follow the gathering weight and kindly bend over, dripping the springy tension from sleep-tightened muscles. My head made gentle figure eights, reminding me of the book "Smart Moves," that my mother gave me when we were working with Theo's sensory issues. The figure eight aids your mind to process stimuli from both sides of the body as you cross the midline, both hemispheres of the brain working together. Integrating, transitioning.

As it got light the tree that fills the eastern view from my window grew distinct, the pearly light picking out each needle. Shifted into slow motion, it felt like the time when I was in third grade and, sitting in the car beside my mother's bag, picked out and put on her glasses for fun, and then, shocked, said "I can see every leaf on that tree!" (Glasses for me followed.) As the tree, backlit, became clearer and distinguished from the sky I felt the world moving forward and away at the same time, sliding into 3 dimensions.

Was that meditation? I don't know but it's time to get going. After many long days of rain, yesterday was stunning blue and this early light bodes well for today.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Engine swamp

I think I was holding my breath most of today. Not so as to turn blue, but definitely enough to feel that tight, irritated, impatience return and, as the day wore on, that feeling of losing certainty of bearing--whether I was tired, hungry, dangerous, whether in the next moment I would be able to imagine something I would actually want to do--I couldn't tell. In the relative peace after dinner I sat and breathed. I needed to be upstairs with the door shut so the cats wouldn't find me, no stereo up there, so I sat with myself for the first time since meditation class started. No cd, no teacher present.

After 15 minutes I realized I had been starved for oxygen and breathing felt so good. Every inhalation an exponential increase in possibility, I am ready for anything, every exhalation a smoothing, a preparation, I am not in control. So funny to think the first few times I sat I had the feeling of not being able to breathe. I started to lose my despair in the kid's bickering and the reasons that Steve had been in the wrong and the feeling that perhaps I didn't so detest having to find new ways to eat the most expensively procured many vacuum sealed packs of fish Steve and Theo brought back from their little jaunt to Alaska last summer . . .

Yesterday at the end of yoga while we were still in savasana Jen opened the door to the studio and we heard the rain. It was so beautiful. I would be oversimplifying my emotional reaction to write briefly about it here. But I collected that appreciation together (as Steve says, I instinctively group like objects) with the visual memory from a few days before of light streaky marks of rain falling in a wash of low-angled sunlight as I drove home, also completely, well, convincing, if you know what I mean. I haven't felt this positive about rain since I was in elementary school and living in the tropics, ready to strip to my underwear and run or ride my bike through deep inches of standing, flowing, and pooling water.

Last spring I went to a monoprinting workshop that gave me so much hope. The workshop instructor, a printmaker named Kevin Fletcher, talked about staying in the abstract, working with the grid, leaving ideas of images you wanted to appear to be hypothetical conceits, locked in a safe. In a way, he was saying that coming to creativity the back way can hold you, can find you while you are humming a few rhymes and dibbling your toes in the water . . . every line, every mark you make is still true, isn't it, it's just that you are letting it tell it's own story, instead of making something up for it to be. Make yourself available.

Anyway what I'm trying to convey is my great relief and astonishment when I heard someone (successful and interesting) saying "don't have a goal. Just make the motions." Now to be sure, it was clear he had an immense catalog of images in his head, just stacks and stacks of memories and references to architectural, natural, and every other kind of shape or structure. That must be very helpful. When he saw the print above, which I had in spite of his directives to resist naming or identifying any part of our work before it was done started thinking of as a reedy swamp, he said "fabulous! (that's a good teacher, eh? first thing he says is encouraging) that makes me think of the engine block of a Chevy Impala." My college literature professor said memory was a useful critical tool . . . what an understatement. Its a creative tool as well.

I hope that I can start returning to art in this way, around the back, not with an irrational goal or self-conscious expectations but with a few hummable riffs and some water on the way.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What if I can learn what the lion has to teach us?

At a yoga class I missed recently my teacher read this poem, and two different people told me about it, saying they thought of me.

Sweet Darkness

When your eyes are tired
the world is tired also.
When your vision has gone
no part of the world can find you.
Time to go into the dark
where the night has eyes
to recognize its own.
There you can be sure
you are not beyond love.
The dark will be your womb tonight.
The night will give you a horizon
further than you can see.
You must learn one thing:
the world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
--David Whyte

They know me well, the two who thought of me. These are the kind of words that are hard to read if your heart feels empty and your mind is dark. I was getting pretty sure I was beyond love, and if you haven't been there, living and breathing and everything in between is painful.

I haven't written much about yoga here yet but be sure it is a big part of my life. I try to do it three to five times a week, and on the days I get to go I just can't wait to get there. This morning I realized that my experience of it has changed recently. Up to now the experience has been physical, and often (in the last three years) emotional. These are my natural first reactions to anything, I think, physical and emotional--that's what you get from 5 water signs and a moon in cancer, apparently. I'm attached to how my body feels while I practice, if I can get to a place of mastery of any part of it, and how I feel after I am done. If emotions came, grief or bewilderment, contentment or joy would sweep through me without leaving a clue as to why. I could sense no end, or even release in these emotions, but at lease the yoga mat was a contained, safe place in which to have them. If I didn't have to pack up at the end of class and be back in the day's routine who knows what would happen.

The yoga teacher I found two years ago is gifted in her ability to bring your mind into the practice. Last summer she finished up a day long yoga retreat with a sitting meditation on the Open Sky of Mind from Jack Kornfield, and it was the first time I glimpsed with all my senses that a world in which I belonged was inside and outside of me (Thank you, thank you, and thank you Jen.) I'm sure I will be talking about her and what I'm learning from her more in this space.

With starting a meditation practice in addition to a mental aspect to the yoga it is like phosphorescence on top of moonlight--slowly I've begun to feel my mind expanding to hold my whole self and the darkness and the aloneness. It's not perfect all the time, certainly. But it means my days are more full of those moments when I see that in a given situation there is a way to become all outcomes, to move within it to a positive choice. So different from feeling pushed, driven, corralled into acting or reacting in defense.

It means turning towards things that I would have dreaded: the darkness. It means welcoming things I would have avoided: responsibility. It means loving things I would have felt alienated from: singing or dancing or communicating with others. So many levels are affected by these changes!

As if I needed another example, my daughter gave me another reason why she is easy to love. She naturally, effortlessly moves through her days setting herself up for positive outcomes. She lost a tooth yesterday at school. This morning she came downstairs smiling and she said "mommy, do you want to come and watch me look under my pillow?" The answer, of course, is yes, complicated by the fact that I forgot to be the fairy last night and I am pretty near 99% certain Steve did too. So I say: "Yes! Go ask pop if he wants to come too." Exit Dora. Run upstairs with two quarters, grope under pillow, where is that tooth ag! she's got three pillows and a pile of covers . . . ah, get tooth, leave money, come downstairs . . . Dora coming out of back room saying Pop's not quite ready because he's shaving, "Theo's not awake yet," I say as a reason for having been upstairs. The three of us go up, and . . . smiling gap toothed sweet girl has two new quarters for her flower bank.

That whole experience is literally money in the flower bank of life. Same thing that Jill Taylor is doing with her fascination and openness to the experience of recovering from her stroke. Same thing Edward Abbey is describing when he writes about meeting a mountain lion, standing still and staring at him, on an Arizona wilderness trail, and realizes even if the mountain lion is ready to meet him, he is not yet ready to meet the lion. Same thing everywhere you look. You can fear or you can love. Incredibly complicated, and incredibly simple.

Yesterday in yoga my teacher said "every exhalation is an opportunity to let something go." With three deep breaths at the end of yoga practice I lift my arms and lower them, and a beautiful, blue bowl opens above my head, without moving I am floating in the center of light without an ominous vibration in sight. Here the emotion is connected to an identifiable center, now I cry and know why.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The benefits of a stroke

"The limbic system functions by placing an affect, or emotion, on information streaming through our senses. Because we share these structures with other creatures, the limbic system cells are often referred to as the "reptilian brain" or the "emotional brain." When we are newborns, theses cells become wired together in response to sensory stimulation. It is interesting to note that although our limbic system functions throughout our lifetime, it does not mature. As a result, when our emotional "buttons" are pushed, we retain the ability to react to incoming stimulation as though we were a two year old, even when we are adults." --Jill Bolte Taylor, My Stroke of Insight

Two things I love about this: the science that allows us to separate the making and existing of "cells" and "brains" and "senses" from the experience of having them, and the positivity with which she speaks of having the ability to react like a child. And a third: that a friend coincidentally passed this book on to me just a few weeks ago.

This book My Stroke of Insight is fitting neatly into conversations started in meditation class . . . people craving the equanimity and calm they get from meditating but not able to let themselves sit. When Jill Taylor had her left brain capacity removed by brain hemorrhage she was forcibly placed in just the position my classmates desire: floating, without a sense of time, in a world defined by perceiving rather than judging. When we want to suspend or slow down physical activity we are all fighting our own personal and our culture's left brain directives to be DOING no matter what.

In school each day my children are asked to move cognitively through hoop after hoop in training to be DOING for the rest of their lives. Ag! It's enough to make me move them to a freeschool! A friend's son told him about having an experience of being there (in the classroom, trying to attend) and then not there (for an unknown amount of time) and then there again (when asked to attend by the teacher). "Well we call that daydreaming," Says dad. "I think that's what I'm doing" says son, in quiet awe.

Just like Dora with her moments of wondering about non-existence. Given the choice, many kids would rather jump on a trampoline for 5 hours than sit in a classroom. They are all about living in the moment and experiencing the right brain. 30 years later, we struggle to allow ourselves 5 minutes of that kind of experience. My personal experience with that: it bites! I know the sparks of my creativity come from that place and it is SO dang hard to guard the space for it. Like speaking to a domineering partner, I have to say
That's the only way I'm going to be able to appreciate that you can do amazing things as well.

And a last cautionary tale for parents from Jill Taylor: "As a society we do not teach our children that they need to tend carefully the garden of their minds. Without structure, censorship, or discipline, our thoughts run rampant on automatic. Because we have not learned how to more carefully manage what goes on inside our brains, we remain vulnerable to not only what other people think about us, but also to advertising and/or political manipulation." Now that sinister spin makes it seem essential, doesn't it?