Ode to India

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Oh India, mirror of mirrors!
I walk more easily now in your crooked streets and craggy sidewalks.

You are my teacher.

You beg me to let go, to watch my step, to soften my judgment.

I walk as if in wonderland, enthralled by your jeweled colors, billowing saris, bobbing turbins. I am a child in a candy shop and you gently show me my greedy nature.

I want….
…to take a photo.
…to take the jewels home.
…to capture the flavors, smells, scents and sounds.
…to take, to have, to hold and to keep.

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But there is no taking, keeping, holding or “mine.”

There is only flow.
Letting go.
Relaxing into what is.

Oh India, your dust lines my lungs, your dirt a second skin on my body.

My heart aches seeing your brilliance….
…the Taj Mahal
…the snow dusted Himalayas
…your fantastic festival Holi painting people purple and pink
…your plethora of temples honoring the gods….Ganesh, Shiva, Krishna, Kali….

My heart aches seeing your pain…
…the bride burnings
…the man with a deformed arm reaching for rupees into my rickshaw
…the shanty towns butted up against millionaire apartments
…the heaped garbage…

How do you manage?
How do you keep it together?
How does it work?

My heart starts to get the joke. It all works out in the end.

The electricity works.
             For a while.
The hotel room is mostly clean.
The horns ARE the traffic system.
             You must be the flow. No room for doubt.
Squatting and having no toilet paper IS an option.

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I’ve come here to practice.
To open my heart.
To be present.

I practice breathing.
I tell myself, “Let go, let go.”

I remind myself the driver wants to live.
I remind myself they’ve done puja for good luck.
I remind myself I am not in control.

Is this why your people pray so much?
Light incense, roll sandalwood beads between brown fingers?

There are so many paths to God in your vast land, from the Himalayas to the beachy shores. Why are some lives so filled with so much struggle while others flash and sprint around in Lamborghinis?

“Only one rupee, only one rupee,” she says, hand moves towards mouth. The baby needs feeding.

Black hair is matted, her feet dry and crusty.

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Another woman’s craggy face reflects the 100 years it has turned up towards the sun. Brown, with rivulets running through the valleys of her cheeks, she radiates warmth from inside her stooped and bent body that has traversed the Himalayas to find safety in India, away from her homeland, Tibet. She has no teeth. She gently suggests we give her some rupees.

We take her photo.

We take.
We give.
India gives.
India takes.

Give. And
Take.

What we take with us…..

years of journals….

years of journals….

Have you ever thought about how much energy all of your things require? 

I hadn’t. Until recently.

In the past couple of months, I’ve had the opportunity to touch almost every THING in our house that has lived with us for the last 10 years.

What has struck me most, is that each THING acquired, required me to make the money to buy it, then research the perfect THING in its category, then buy it. Sometimes the THING that comes into the house isperfect and we use it regularly, but sometimes it disappoints and ends up in the closet, the back of the drawer or worse, the basement where it collects dust and lives with the spiders. 

Some of those THINGS grow cobwebs over them, some rust out, and others dry up. The things we DO like, we have to clean, store, and take care of, or pay someone else to do that.

I’ve seen it all of late.

The old bottles of supplements that have been outdated for several years.
The dried-up tube of anti-bacterial cream, being saved for a camping trip.
The rusted hand garden tools bought at an art fair, made by a lovely craftsman. 
Then there’s the camping equipment, used oh-so-rarely, because in truth, I’m not a camper. 
There are the presents people have given us that I haven’t had the heart to give away.
The raggedy pet toys, truly past their day.
The clothes that I love but are worn out.

You get it. The list is looooooong.

And while sorting, making hundreds, if not thousands of decisions, I am at once accosted by the slough of feelings that rankle the heart. There’s the shame that warmed me when I saw the rusted, dusty garden tools. I hung my head like a bad dog for a bit. But what is done is done, and time can’t be reversed.

The strongest feeling has been the one of clinging – the wanting to let something go, but then rethinking that perhaps I COULD use that THING in the new place, but in reality I don’t have THAT much space. So, the voice in my head says, “No, Diane, you cannot take that vase (insert whatever noun here) with you. I see myself putting it in the GIFT pile, then pulling it back to the KEEP pile. Then realizing, no, you have to give that one away.

The voice in the head reminds me again: ”Remember, you are NOT getting a storage unit. You MUST make decisions and let go.”

Erez and I originally thought we’d geta storage unit. That was a relief. We could KEEP the STUFF. As the process has continued, we’ve been asking ourselves, WHY? Why are we going to PAY hundreds of dollars a month to store things we won’t even remember we have?

NO.

The artist in me wants to keep the things I’ve saved for the “some-day” pile. I can still hear myself say, “Oh, but some day I’m going to make earrings. I should keep the wire clippers and beads, the earring backs and jewelry glue. Or what about the box of broken bits of cups and plates for the mosaic I’ve been planning on for years? (Well, THATone made the cut and came with me)

These last few months have been all about sorting, tossing, giving, letting go, and taking the essentials. We’ve just had a massive garage sale, and have sold 85% of our furniture and 70% of our stuff.

In the end, I notice it’s the sentimental things we all keep. The pictures, the jewelry from Mom, the letters saved over decades. These are the things that warm our hearts. 

In my cleaning out, I found two files of letters my Mom had written me back in college and my early twenties. So, Mom and I are sitting and reading the letters out loud to one another when I visit her in Oakland. We’re creating new memories in the last chapter of her life.

Those moments are priceless. They take us back to long gone days and help us remember life as we knew it then.

This move, this sorting and letting go, is a huge gift. I’m feeling the lightness of being. Less to take care of, less to manage, less to get rid of next time. However, I WILL be keeping ALL of my journals. And I have a lot of those!

Now, in my much smaller house, I will practice discernment from the get go and only allow into my home that which I LOVE, that which I will USE, and that which brings me JOY. No dust and cobweb collecting here!

 

 

 

 

Becoming My Own Best Friend

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The year I decided to become my own best friend, was the year people in my world seemed to scatter to the far corners of the earth, my husband became consumed in his work, new friends in town were busy, old friends were occupied with their lives, so that left me with myself.

Just me.

Now, I had always thought I was comfortable being alone – after all, I grew up an only child, I knew how to entertain myself. I would draw, or dance, or ride my bike. As an adult, I noticed I filled my time with similar activities – going for a hike, writing in my journal, doing yoga, cleaning. And yet, I didn’t just “hang out” with myself. I didn’t know how to hang out and let the moments unfold. I usually had a plan, and for much of my adult life, I crammed my weekends full of activities – meeting friends for dinner, going to shows, having coffee at new places in town.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but something in my relationship with myself was missing.

I’d spent a good portion of life morphing into what I thought other people wanted me to be. I  was a consummate chameleon, making sure not to offend anyone, saying the right thing, stuffing my true opinions back inside if they were controversial. I had a hard time standing in my own center, because, in truth, I don’t think I knew myself THAT well. I’d been a people pleaser, and had gotten so many accolades from pleasing others, that my ego latched onto that strategy for a long time.

Until I declared that I wanted to become my own best friend.
That was 2014.

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When I set that intention on New Year’s Day I thought it was a lovely, supportive heart-warming and kind intention. Who wouldn’t want to become their own best friend? Little did I know I’d have to travel through some dark alley-ways of myself to integrate the bits I had dispossessed. I would have to retrieve aspects of myself that were hard to acknowledge, feel and bear witness to.

I’m talking about those bits that came in the form of anger, jealousy, resentment, judgmental-ness, shame, blame, anger and grief. There were the happy places I’d also get to know more deeply – the joyful, ecstatic, fun, playful, risk-taking, active parts of me that were pleasurable to feel and acknowledge. 

Prior to my stating my intention of becoming my own best friend, I thought I was “living the dream.” I had a husband who loved me, I lived in a gorgeous house on a park in Spokane, WA with two dogs and a cat, our furry family. I had great friends, loving parents, good health, skills to do many different things. I had resources to travel the world. The world WAS my oyster.

And yet….

Something was missing….some deep inner contentment. I could feel how I was dissatisfied with my life, even though it presented so well. All the boxes checked off. I noticed how I wanted more of my husband’s attention, I took it personally when friends didn’t call me back in what I thought was a reasonable amount of time. I noticed how I didn’t feel like my teaching career had bloomed into what my vision for it had been.

Deep down inside, I felt a bit like a looser. It was so hard to put my finger on. Somewhere inside, I didn’t value myself. I kept myself running around at such a high speed that I never had to feel the feelings of unworthiness, sadness, insecurity. Without knowing it, I chased the words “You’re so amazing, Diane,” which I often heard from people and it was like a line of cocaine (something I never actually tried!) The “hit” of praise kept me running to the next activity to prove how great I was – for one more moment. 

It was exhausting. I was chasing my ego from here to there, running this way and that way to hear those words.

So, in the first 6 months of 2014, I was literally left with myself. No one was available to distract me and that’s when I turned back to my art practice. I’d been an artist all of my life, but had put it on hold for a good decade as I dove into studies of yoga and meditation.

Slowly, through the art process, I began to witness my patterns of thought – I’d notice how the inner critic came out to tell me what a crappy artist I was because I couldn’t draw well. I noticed how I loved the beginning part of making a painting – that free, fun zone where you’re throwing paint on a canvas to get texture and color down. But then, when something emerged on the canvas that I liked, I’d freeze, afraid I’d mess it up. Sometimes, paintings sat in my studio for 6 months, ½ finished because I was paralyzed to take them any further.

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What I began to see as the dominant pattern in my life is that I was not in charge of my own life. It felt more like I was in a little dingy, out at sea, floating along with the waves that moved me this way and that. I was in a completely receptive mode, accepting whatever came my way, instead of making things happen.

Now, this is a longer conversation, because life is a dance, and we need both the ability to “make things happen” while also “allowing things to occur.” Just like we can’t live on the inhale alone, or the exhale, we can’t always “make things happen” in the way we want, nor can we allow our lives to simply float by without giving it direction.

Painting, alongside art journaling, became not only my refuge, but my way of understanding myself, my life and my mission.

I can say now, five years later, I AM my own best friend. I have traveled through every emotion I listed above, and have investigated the root of those emotions. I’ve felt them, written about them, done art around them. I’ve used my journal as a way to deeply explore my inner world as a study of humanity. We ALL have these emotions at some point in life, the question is HOW do we acknowledge them, process them and finally integrate them?

I have found art journaling an amazing way to creatively process our lives, while developing art skills and developing confidence in our own choices.

We are all here to experience this life in human form, and yet our purpose and reasons for being here are unique to each individual. We are not here to live the same lives as our friends or family, and we need a way to discover our uniqueness and VALUE who WE are rather than comparing ourselves to one another.

We need to learn to celebrate ourselves, to learn to write love letters to ourselves. We must learn to BE the solace for ourselves in life, because in the end, everything outside of us will leave – people will move away, they will die, jobs will end, our health will change, our energy level will diminish with age. It is the natural process of life.

So, in the face of finding our own center and our own answers in life, we must find the ways to nurture our inner child, to develop our strong adult, to invite all aspects of ourselves to come to the table to take part in this thing we call life.

For me the art journal has been, and is my way to love myself. I have learned to love my bright shining light, my broken heart, my scared little girl, my powerful warrior. I have learned to love the incredibly creative soul I am, my curious nature, my ability to sit with you in your joy and despair.

I have truly, learned to love myself. As I am.
Without apology.
Without an inflated ego.
Without false humility.

I have learned to simply accept and love who I am, as I am right here and now.