Saturday, January 28, 2017

SONGS OF SAMSARA AND SONGS OF BHAKTI

Hello Friends:  Here is a A Hippie Girl's heartfelt song. "Where have all the flowers gone? Does anybody really care?" If you like it let me know, share it with friends.Thank you for supporting unknown talent.  



Getting bullied by the Homeland Security Cops is no fun. Here is a song I wrote to help turn a sour situation into some lemonade. Please take five minutes for a little distraction, a giggle and little hello from me. Let me know if you like this video and if you would share it with friends. .

MOVING LIKE A CAT EATING LIKE A SQUIRREL


Have you ever found yourself straddling the edge of your bathtub and trying to position your ass right under the tap? Because recent surgery won't allow you to use the shower. It is awkward to say the least, but an interesting way to wash my body. I found that I could go on my hands and knees easily enough as the surgery was only to the left hip area. Leaning into the tub twisting and always with three points of contact I manage to position my armpits under the tap and get my neck and shoulders and upper body clean.  Dripping wet and certainly dripping on to the floor I manage to now come down to my knees on a towel laid out on the floor and lean my upper body into the tub and shampoo my hair.  

As it happens I found that I was moving like a cat. And that is really not such a bad way to be. Cats are, after all, graceful and deliberate in their movement.  Sometimes crawling around like a cat is exactly the safest way to be in your bathroom or anywhere else as anyone with balance issues might tell you. 

As a former yoga teacher I thought it would be interesting to apply this to my physiotherapy. Frankly I loved the challenge of re-thinking my whole body and how it moves. 


Because I had also had surgery in the mouth  both right and left mandible I was also limited in what I could eat. Very little it appears as I was effectively without molars. Apple sauce and jello, soup until you get soupped out, you take a chance on solids and find you can indeed chew with your front teeth much like a squirrel. Have you ever watched a squirrel eating a nut?  It takes a long long time to chew down that nut. And so it goes.

I was tired of my liquid diet.  I wanted something substantial. Not that I expecting you know, like a week after dental surgery to be eating Tortilla chips or anything like that. But a little solid food I craved. 

So I had my first pasta the other day.  Chewing each bit like a squirrel with its nut, was sure an interesting exercise in conscious eating.  Every little morsel was all the more tasty precisely because I had keep it in my mouth longer. It took so much longer to chew down al dente pasta (and I wouldn't eat any other way!) And one digests so much better because the first instrument of the digestion system is in fact the mouth. We are supposed to pre-digest our food before we swallow.  

It was so Zen like and thought maybe this is the proper way to eat by the way but most often we modern homo sapiens rush through our food barely taking time to chew at all.  

Now  the cold douche of reality has awakened me with some shocking news. Now more than ever, I know how important teeth are. My goodness, now necessary.  Friends take care of your god-given  teeth whatever it takes.  Replacing and repair are often invasive , usually costly and rarely perfect.

I feel great that I can apply my new sense of monk hood/concentration. With limited mobility of one kind I find I have absolute mobility of another.  
I find I like to move consciously and deliberately. To plan your move before you execute it. It feels really great, very zen.
Then the obvious question comes to mind: "Why the heck aren't we always moving like this? Why are we always rushing. Where are we rushing to?"


I know that for me I spend a good part of my income on stress relief of one kind or another that help me maintain some degree of functionality. Of course, I also take care of myself exercising regularly swimming a kilometer four or five times a week. I still use a bicycle and do regular yoga practice and I even climb trees. In fact, praise G-D I am truly grateful for the very nimble state of this sixty three year old body I inhabit.  Amen




















I once had the privilege of watching a sloth in its natural environment in the jungle of Cost Rica and I was not more than three feet away.  I watched the creature descend in the most graceful slow and deliberate way. It was coming down to get a drink of water.  The zen like nature of the elegant creature as it moved had me nearly breathless as I watched. I was told they are apparently "filthy" animals in fact because they are host to many kinds of vermin and parasites. But this adorable three toed sloth looked as sweet and cuddly as a teddy bear and I had some people who had found injured sloths and were restoring them to health and they do cling like a baby monkey to a human and looked very cuddly indeed.  We were so lucky that day in that my companion and had paddled into a remote part of the jungle and just when we stopped our guide pointed out the sloth descending. It was the kind of event that left a permanent impression in my mind.
A most interesting thing that I learned through a very unfortunate event had also to do with a sloth.
While in Costa Rica I had contracted a flesh eating disease called Leishmaniasis Panamanensis.  I was stunned and asked the doctor "How did I get it?" to which he replied  "without a doubt it was a mosquito." This particular disease you see is neither a bacterium or virus but rather a microscopic parasite that the mosquito carries.  But which originates in the nose of the sloth."
The nose of a sloth? I thought he was joking but he wasn't. "This is where this type of mosquito lives. Remember it likes warm moist places."  He told me that the mosquito merely carries the parasite and it doesn't affect them but when the bug finds a human host in mutates and become a flesh eater.
Dr. Francisco it seems was an expert on mosquitos.  He told me there are so many different kinds and they each have their unique characteristic. For example mosquitos in Canada are very different from the mosquitos in the tropics which is one reason why aren't repelled by our repellants
So I learned all about mosquitos and all about the disease and discovered that there was no treatment available in Costa Rica. Thus began an interesting relationship with Dr. Francisco.
I asked him : "If the local people are just as likely to get this disease then how do they treat it?"  He looked a little apologetic and shrugged saying "well, we usually give them Antimony until their liver is polluted.  Then give it a break for a few days and start the process again."  Antimony?  Isn't that like a heavy metal, kinda like Mercury?

"Yes", he said "but it's the only thing that will kill it. This little bug when it takes hold is tenacious.  If it travels to any of your vital organs it will kill you.  You need to poison it I'm afraid.   The Indians usually just burn it with battery acid or a cigarette."   I gasped.

I wasn't about to poison my body with Antimony. Neither would I consider burning my flesh and leaving a big ugly scar.  I couldn't even bear the thought of it. There had to be another way.
Dr. Francisco said there was a medicine developed in India that would treat it but it was illegal in Costa Rica and nearly impossible to obtain.   I was in despair and nearly ready to fly back to Canada to get this treatment.   But as it happened I found through the Yoga community there that a certain Yoga teacher had "smuggled" some of the rare medicine from Germany. Her husband had got Leishmaniasis and she saw what he went through and how ridiculous it was that the medicine was banned in Costa Rica she brought along an extra lot. And she offered it to me at cost which meant I could save flying home, spending thousands of dollars. Si I presented the medicine to Dr. Francisco and he was amazed "where did you get this?" he asked.  I told him I had my ways and he was impressed in spite of himself.. He then asked if he could document the treatment as he had been lobbying the government to get this drug into Costa Rica.
So over the next few weeks as I took the healing journey of fighting a parasitic invasion of my body. Luckily it was isolated to one locality and that was the inside wrist of my right arm.   And that is how my arm came to be featured in the San Jose Medical Journal. Because Dr. Francisco kept taking pictures of my flesh wound as it transformed and changed over the period of the following two weeks while I subjected my body to chemo therapy. Is made me sick and it was hard on my body. I didn't eat much and lost some weight. But in the end the medicine won and the beast was gone. Today I have only a little scar left where this little bug from the nose of the sloth could have killed me.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2017

CRAZY YOGA WISDOM FROM A MAD WOMAN

It appears that we all like to see ourselves as more beautiful than we actually are. Perhaps, narcissism is a part of the human condition. I see that in a culture so obsessed with youth and beauty that people spend a great part of their lives trying to avoid the unavoidable. In our culture there is the sad absence of genuine regard for old people. We are simply dismissed.,

I have felt it many times standing in a Starbucks and the young guy with the shock of red hair and ring in his nose, is busy talking to his buddies the other servers, and serving customers with a bounce in his step and he asks the girl behind me in line what she'd like.  Excuse me, I was here before her.
No.
I wasn't.

I was invisible. That's the problem.  So then if you  do something like speak up (which I do!) and "make a scene" suddenly everyone is looking at you and maybe giggling a little and you look like an "outrageous" "batty" or a "annoyed" 'Old" woman.

If that's what I am then I am what I am.

I've shut up peoples crying babies in public places by sheer authoritative will and shouted at the top of my lungs (and I am LOUD) to be sure Everyone can hear: "Hey, Kid there is NO CRYING ALLOWED in here! (If that doesn't get him I then I thrust my arm out like a military salute in reverse directing him to an invisible sign and say "The Sign says NO CRYING!".   And if he carries on I'll say even louder and lean in to him in a menacing way and in my scariest possible voice "Now give your mom and everyone else here a break and stop CRYING".  Usually it shocks the hell out of the kid. They can't believe someone  is yelling louder than they are.

It sometimes shocks the parents too. But I don't care. I do get grateful smiles and confused thanks from the parents.

The point is the kid was out of control and this is a public place.  The person supposed to be in control couldn't handle the kid so I did.  In that moment it was precisely the right thing to do.

But of course, people are shocked. Especially Ca-nay-dians. We are so polite. (I've seen similar "stranger interference with other peoples kids in other cultures and it is perfectly acceptable.)
But we "politically correct", apologetic, self sacrificing Ca-nay-dians  we like to tell ourselves it is "none of our business".

I daresay it is.

In you know certain special occasions of course, . I am not one who regularly goes around screaming at other peoples kids.   Heaven's no.

But I confess I have been know to do such a thing and more than once I can tell  you.  Sometimes people just have no control over their kids and everyone around them has to suffer.  Sometimes you just mentally block it out and carry on. Sometimes you have a massive headache and you're stressed to the max and the kid is being extremely loud and the whole store  can hear it and its been going on for over ten minutes and you see peoples faces cringing from the sheer agony of the kids screaming You can see everyone in the store is affect as they dart hopeless glances of despair at one another, cashiers those in line everyone shopping. And the poor mother/father  is usually the one especially having a hard time well then it's time to step in and step up to the plate: Shut Up Crying Baby Warrior to the rescue.

This is how I give myself rewards.  I just do a little public service (believe it or not it is a thankless job) and carry on about my business. It's my yoga of SEVA. Seva is the Sanskrit term for Selfless Service. We don't have a union or anything. So, in Seva, you act but you suffer the consequences. So you have to know when to act and when not to. And when to act appropriately, which is by the way, the Sufi way, the Zen way, the Judao/Christian way, the way of all decent people in fact.

Now here's the stickler: Who's to say what is appropriate.  Ah we could start a whole other discussion right there.

I have had parents stunned into silence, some looking at me suspiciously mumbling "none of your business" and others who shouted back  "how dare you scream at my baby".   Yeah,  believe it or not!  Like excuse me but shouldn't they be thanking me?

So here is a question for all you mommy's out there. How would you feel if an old woman suddenly shocks your kid into silence when you've been struggling with it for 15 minutes. and are stressed to the max and just wanting to get out of there in peace. .

Personally, I'd be grateful. I might also feel a little offended too.  You know, a total stranger, just shut up my kid and I'm not sure how I feel about that. Why? Because it makes us look like bad parents. Well for that tiny moment in life you were. I mean not a bad parent but a helpless parent. A parent who couldn't get the situation under control and was causing a very disturbing public annoyance.

Well sometime it takes a stranger.  The dervish  in the bush is always a possibility.

So the question remains. I this a symptom of old age? Or is it just me.

I didn't need to join a "Red Hat" society I been wearing a red hat (and a purple dress) all of my life. .
I never needed permission to be outrageous.

And then, getting  diagnosed with a personality disorder of some kind or another I finally got permission to be crazy. Crazy in a fun way. (Don't worry folks I'm not a psychopath  --I'm just a little hard on myself that's all.).

But I have always been the outrageous one. The tree climbing, adventure seeking, dancing, drumming, do-wopping, damsel. I never needed anyone's permission to be  eccentric.
I was just born that way.

So no apologies folks. Look beyond these wrinkles and understand that in my case every fucking line tells a story (I know it's a cliche) But I'm proud to day I've got lots of them.




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Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A SURPRISE PITY PARTY

So when I put out a request for a little moral support to friends I was frankly overwhelmed by the response.  

I didn't realize that I had started a Pity Party and I felt a little ashamed even. I mean I am not one to complain. Generally, the opposite is true; I tend to isolate myself and suffer alone. 

However, recently I had a surgery that left me temporarily incapacitated and it kind of surprised me that I would feel so utterly helpless.  I did in fact "reach out" to friends through e-mail and on this blog site and the response has been nothing short of amazing.

I had friends who offered condolences, comfort, empathy, encouragement and prayers.  I had friends who offered to come over and visit. Friends offering help with chores and others offering ice cream. I politely said "no, I don't want to trouble you"  then realized afterwards what am I? an idiot?  

I've often complained that people never come to visit me. It's true but of course, I understand that we don't all live in the same neighbourhood. 

Still, I've felt lonely at times and wished for visitors to come once in a while.  Like back in the "old" days when people didn't text or snap chat but actually went to someone's house for a personal visit.  Now here are all these lovely people who do live close enough are offering to visit me and help and bring ice cream and I say; no? 

What has touched me most about this experience is that it made me realize how lucky I am.  I have so many wonderful, compassionate, thoughtful and considerate friends. So many could commiserate with me being "surgery survivors" themselves.  Did I just coin a phrase or does that already exist?

Admittedly this was my first ever surgery and I had no idea what I was in for. Little did I realize that when they cut your body in three different places and there are three large wounds left to heal, that that is in fact very INVASIVE and a bit of a shock to the body. 

But after all, this was an elective surgery, I wanted this procedure. And believe me I am glad I got it done and that I was able to get it covered (that is a whole other story that took five years to figure out). 

Praise to Canada's Health Care System.  We are indeed lucky to live here. I believe a similar procedure in the U.S. would have cost close to $10,000

So to all of you who reached back when I reached out Thank You So Much for caring and for sharing your caring with me. 
I am so happy that you are my friend.    
Ann

 

Sunday, January 22, 2017

MOMENTARILY IMMOBILE

I now know what it feels like to be old.  I’m walking with a cane, it hurts when I move, I’m eating mushy food. Yuk. 

But at least for me and for now, the condition is temporary. It doesn’t hide the fact that I’m heading to that very eventuality of limited and diminishing abilities that comes as sure as death and taxes.

So I had a hip surgery the other day. In my estimation it was not serious. The procedure was to graft a piece of my hip bone onto my jaw bone so I could have some teeth bone and chew my food again. Teeth are really important.  More so, if you are a fresh and raw  foods enthusiast like myself.

For some reason it never dawned on me that they were actually going to cut into my hip muscle and have to go through several layers of soft tissue to get at the bone.  I just tossed it off like “oh well, they’re gonna make a little incision and just siphon off a bit of hip bone and transplant to my mandible. No problem.  Hooray, for the magic and wonders of modern medicine.” 

I woke up from the general anaesthesia that had me knocked out cold for the three hours operation. Groggy and foggy, ⥀ dazed and confused when I did come to I realized I’d been cut open in three different locations on my body and I  felt like the victim of a stabbing. How could anything be this painful?  Give me some morphine quick.

I was well cared for at the hospital no doubt. But I hadn’t adequately prepared myself for this procedure and it really took me by my short and curlies. What can I say? So now only four days later I am still sorely bruised and swollen, I somehow acquired these swollen jowls that look like someone punched me in the face. And it feels like that too. 

Now, after surgery, follow up is to be strictly observed: first two to three days clear fluids only. No chewing, no spitting, no brushing or excessive mouth activity (what does that mean?) for the next week at least.  I have to baby that mouth. But the upshot is that I’ll probably lose some weight on this liquid diet so I’ll suffer gladly.

So here I sit eating mushy jello which I made with strained fresh raspberries and natural gelatin because it is easy to swallow and easy to digest and has a little nourishment. I am also drinking fresh vegetable juice which I make here at home with my own juicer: Carrot, Beet, Parsley, Apple, Lemon and Ginger-- so again pretty nourishing.  I’m not starving I just feel ‘deprived’, I mean what I wouldn’t give for a grilled cheese sandwich right now; or a gorgeous fresh salad with feta and olives?  Aaaaggh

Food aside: I couldn’t go to my neighbour’s 96 birthday party with all my dear friends at a lovely Ethiopian restaurant last night because I couldn’t get out of bed. Yeah. It sucks. Never mind trying to carry something when you are walking on crutches. Or trying to bathe when you can’t get half your body wet?

Okay I get it.  One’s ability to look after oneself is indeed diminished by a procedure like this and the brutal result is that it resembles old age.  The good thing is:  this is only temporary. My hip will heal, my mouth will heal; I will eventually get my long-awaited teeth. I’ll run again, and swim and eat and be in control and whole again.  Thank god for modern medicine.
     


   
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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Be Still My Heart these Trees are Prayers.



Be still my heart……these trees are prayers. I stopped and looked at him in amazement. Who is this man? I wondered –who has the sensitivity and the attunement to the forest that he’d asked me to stop talking? Admittedly I was a bit of a chatterbox. Call it nervous energy but I hadn’t yet really learned to be still. Now we were walking in silence through the sun drenched forest across the way from our home and I saw nothing but forest for miles around.  And the silence was exquisite.
Our humble home was in the Eastern Townships of Quebec,  or “Les Cantons d’ Est” en francais. South East of Montreal this region bordered with Vermont. It is a landscape of beautiful rolling hills, actually the worn down mountains of a very, very old (pre-ice age?) mountain range that extends to and joins the Appalachian mountain range still today.  We had a little old shack on a county road just outside of Knowlton.  It was a clapboard house painted blue I remember and it couldn’t have been more than about 800 square feet in total. A one bedroom house with a proper bathroom and an adequate kitchen the house had   linoleum floors and drafty windows so it sure was a fixer-upper but it was all we could afford then.
Nine months pregnant and with winter approaching--it was already October --we desperately needed shelter.    We had come upon some real good possibilities and then things fell through at the last minute.  Why so many disappointments. What was the Universe trying to tell us?  That we should be trying to live here now or what?
Once we found the little house on Mount Echo road we settled in with all the enthusiasm of a young couple setting up housekeeping.  We were preparing for a home birth but needed a home first.
  Little did we realize the long abandoned house already had its own little family of mice (or rats or both) but we settled in and prepare to nest here and welcome into the world our new baby.   
Akbar  was a musician, a poet and a Sufi and didn’t have much employment so we had limited funds. Still he wanted to live in the country and we at least had a car; a wedding present from his family.
As we walked silently through the woods I soon enough discovered how vocal the forest was.   Hearing the sounds of our own footsteps crunching the patches of snow and dead branches and debris below us that made up the forest floor, I was suddenly hearing only this. Listening to the sound of my own breathing and the sounds of the birds calling back and forth, the various animals scurrying through the same forest and the wind in the trees and the rustle of the leaves  I imagined what it must have been like for the native people who lived here before we did.  How did they walk in the forest? And in their bare feet or in moccasins?  I imagine…silently, like we are now.
Akbar was a mystery to me.  He was very serious for a young man and didn’t tolerate frivolous chatter and talking gossip.  He measured his words very carefully himself as was evident in the way he spoke.  He would often break off in mid-sentence to analyze if he was saying what he really meant. It was charming, and well sometimes frankly a bit  annoying as his self expression sometimes meandered a bit too much but overall you listened because he was so sincere.
We had met in a Tipi on a friend’s farm in Sutton. The farm was actually a spiritual community of devotees to Neem Karoli Baba. I had met Baba in India just two years before. That was in 1972.  Now this community of mostly one family and a bunch of their friends who were mostly Neem Devotees had arranged a gathering at the Markus’ Family Farm known as Abercorn Satsanga.
So here’s this interesting man: A Jew, named Akbar living in aTipi in Quebec. A poet, musician and artist he was an all around refined and sensitive man.  And if not really handsome in the classical sense one who captured my heart none the less; for his beauty lay in his heart qualities and those -unlike good looks- do not wither with age.  I knew   a jewel when I saw one. 
Or maybe not.  I’m not sure exactly how we chose one another.  Like I said we met in a Tipi. It was the summer of 1974 in August I believe. There was a gathering of Neem Devotees, the first such gathering since he’d had his Maha Samadhi (Great Sleep) and devotees were coming from all over north America and even some from India.   I was invited by Dasaratha a friend  who had  been a great support to me while I was in prison.  It was the anniversary of the Master’s  death. In India they do not celebrate the birth of a great saint but rather his death as it is considered a true liberation for the soul; something to celebrate indeed.  
I was still in shock from my previous experience in jail and still recovering. I had been out of prison just four months now and living in an excruciatingly boring situation.  I just craved some kinship with fellow seekers.  When I got the letter with the invitation from Dasaratha I was delighted. Now I would finally meet him in person. We weren’t sure if we’d actually met face to face in India although we were there at the same time and same place. Either way, it didn’t matter he. He had become a dear friend, a kind of wise counselor for me throughout the last year and some and now I was going to hang out with him for a few days and a whole bunch of devotees from California were coming up including possibly Ram Dass himself. Reading the letter my hands shook a little; the excitement was immediate. It would be a fantastic gathering of like-minded souls and there would be lots of chanting and ceremonies, copious rounds  of chillums, art installations and impromptu theatre and great vegetarian feasts and fun.  I absolutely had to go.  Clearly in violation of my Parole conditions I left my small town Ontario community and hitch-hiked my way to the Eastern Townships of Quebec  my sister in tow.

The gathering that weekend consisted of about 60 people and it was understood  that many would have to camp out so there were tents everywhere you looked. And a couple of small Tipis too and then one large communal Tipi of about 20 feet diameter  which no one slept in because it was reserved for Kirtan,  Yoga and community readings and other events. 
Akbar  was living in a Tipi with his best friend David  -two middle class Jewish guys from the Suburbs of mostly English Montreal at that time. Their Tipi was situated near a river on the farm  in the lowest quarter. We’d walked from the main house at least a half hour and I was thirsty and tired. Then in a clearing in the forest swith a little stream rushing nearby I saw a tipi, a carpet and a little out door cooking set up and a few char blackened pots and pans and implements hanging from the trees. It was the penultimate experience of out -door living. Well that’s what I thought, anyway. 
David and Akbar had lovely little outdoor living situation right there smack in the middle of the woods. And just across the stream Howard and Donna also had a tipi and a little installation. 

These guys were really doing the back to nature thing, pretty seriously. That evening David made some lambsquarters with dandelion greens and wild rice and some kind of zucchini chutney.  I wasn’t too keen on eating this stuff but have to admit it tasted pretty good.  Who would have thought you could eat weeds?  My new friends certainly were both  healthy muscled lean men in their twenties with the good looks of a sun tanned skin and outdoor freshness in their aura.  I remember David , half naked in loin cloths…yes, I am serious he was wearing a loing cloth! squatting by the fire  to shelter it from a bit of wind that was annoying his attempt to make tea.  Akbar  wore a lunghi -an Indian garment for men much like a sarong.  We’d just smoked a great big chillum and he had been reading from Rumi. 
I was so pleased he had introduced me to Rumi. I’d heard of him a bit in India but now I was meeting a full on Sufi initiate who was well steeped in the poetry of the Persian mystical poets .  His own master Hazrat  Inayat Khan, was a great poet and musician and one I’d never heard of before.    Akbar  introduced me to the beauty of the word well written.  He, having had a very fortunate upbringing in that his mother saw a deeply sensitive child with tremendous artistic potential and put him into art schools from the beginning, had won a Province wide poetry contest in High School. I guess that was  pretty impressive for me as a young woman then.  Yes, he seduced me with poetry and music, with philosophy and intense dialogue and even at times with silence.  Now he  seduced me with silence again.
What did he mean these trees are prayers. And why is he more interested in the trees than in me?
I later discovered that he was quoting from Hazrat Inayat Khan, our Sufi master who’s son Pir Vilayate was our living master.   At the time I thought these were his own words because I’d heard some of his own spontaneous utterings and he’d sound just like that..like  Rumi or Hafiz or Sham’s or Omar Khayyam or Farridudin.   It didn’t take long to realize that the man I had married was in fact a poet, a  devoted spiritual seeker and a committed Yogi except that he was thrust into the householder role right now.
Still both he and I believed that having a baby would not really in any serious way impact our freedom, our way of life or our spiritual pursuits but rather that it would enhance our journey along  the spiritual path because as parents the first lesson is:
Self Sacrifice.

(To read more of this and other stories go to www.becoyblurbs.com)