Poetry Ptuesday: All Those Gold Leaves by Anis Mojgani

[Whoa! I missed TWO Poetry Ptuesday. Guys, my bad! Here’s a fun one though.]

*

All Those Gold Leaves by Anis Mojgani

My piano coat unbuttoned

and all my pianos fell into the leaves.

I was picking up pianos for hours

when you walked past

your skin glowed like a loud dog.

In your smile this dog had a fence

to push his face up against.

What happiness he barked.

With pianos filling my arms

I followed through the neighborhood

and up onto the dark green porch of your home.

I stood in the doorway

and because they wouldn’t fit through the frame

I laid the pianos in piles outside.

You led me up the stairs into your room.

All our robbers were asleep

in a different part of the house.

We lay in your bed like cash bills after a heist

and listened hard

to hear if the pianos

had been playing the whole time.

This happened in the fall.

*

[Mojgani is a spoken word poet based out of Portland Oregon, and born in New Orleans, Louisiana, coincidentally two of my favorite cities in the United States.]

 

Happy Wednesday, kids.

Vipassana Day 2: Know Thyself (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

Well, I woke up multiple times throughout the night and was officially wide awake at 3 AM. I never thought I would look forward to a 4 AM bell. It was barely audible when it finally went off. If you didn’t read yesterday’s entry, this twin bed is anything but luxurious, and I would recommend bringing a mattress pad if you ever attempt your own meditation retreat. The pillow I brought from parent’s home is strangely shaped, and totally wrong for me, thus killing my neck.

Since I was up super early and wasn’t planning on going to the hall to meditate, I decided to use this Korean foot softener concoction that I would have to leave on for two hours while I ‘meditated’ before breakfast. While ‘meditating’, I fantasized about having to clean the communal bathrooms/showers on Day 6. At least I will have something to do? When I was finished meditating, I decided to re-organize everything I brought with me, because why not? As far as clothing is concerned, I definitely didn’t bring enough for the occasion. Typical me. I guess I will HAVE to hand wash my clothing at some point then. More things to do… bummer. As for spa products, I was excited to finally have time for self-care and to use a deep conditioner in my hair, and take advantage of using face masks. I was also excited to find time to do my daily stretches and physical therapy exercises. Every day, I plan to use all of the above, in addition, oil pull (coconut oil? oops), cleanse and exfoliate my face, brush and floss my teeth multiple times a day, etc. Self-care meets boredom FTW.

Walking to breakfast was beautiful, but a little chilly. The sunrise greeted us all with spectacular colors on the horizon. Breakfast was plain as to be expected. I sat facing the wall, as to avoid eye contact and the temptation for talking. I ate corn flakes with soy milk (didn’t know I was sensitive to soy at this time). I walked the quarter-mile walking path and stretched along the way afterward. I know I will become a Limber Lilly (is that a thing?) by the end of this.

The first group meditation was, well, challenging. I felt like I was meditating for the first time ever. I kept thinking, how am I going to survive doing this multiple times a day for the next 10+ days?! One breath at a time, I guess. S.N. Goenka kept repeating ‘diligence’ and ‘patience’… Also, ‘you are bound to succeed.’ Am I though?!!! When I finally got up from this meditation, I felt like a baby giraffe taking its first steps and nearly tumbled onto my neighbor.

Lunch was good, especially the salad. I can’t help but judge my fellow dhamma sisters by what they are choosing to eat, and how they eat… too fast, too slow, the way they chew. I assume we are all doing the same thing to one other, or maybe not. I really need to be up against the wall again. I was first to meet with the teacher at lunch. She said things should get easier, or maybe they will get harder before they get easier. It depends on each person. She said this will be one of the hardest things I ever do, but also the best, and welcomed me to return back tomorrow. I decided to just walk the trail over and over again, during breaks. But wow, could they make this a little longer than a quarter mile? One girl on the race track does not quit. She even stretches while she walks. After walking, I tried to take a nap and then failed. It’s hard to quiet the mind.

The second meditation seemed slightly easier to get through. I decided to focus on a year of my life for each meditation or to at least acknowledge it. Otherwise, we are only supposed to diligently, attentively and patiently focus only on our breath, and the nostril region. The one thing that makes the meditation uncomfortable is the fact that I am still presenting with early symptoms of a UTI. This isn’t good, because I don’t have any medication or the proper essential oils with me, and I have had a UTI turn into a kidney infection in the past. The teacher had us newbies stay after the meditation. The teacher looks JUST like my manager at work, and their voices are the same. It’s uncanny. She also has the prettiest ocean blue eyes. She invited us up in small groups, as the rest of us continued to meditate. She asked how we were doing one at a time, and explained that we had a choice of returning to our rooms for further meditation or staying in the hall after our small discussion. I don’t understand why anyone would stay in the hall. It’s too noisy for me.

At tea break/”dinner”, which consists of just tea and fruit, I gulp down some Kirkland Vitamin C that is available for us to take. I make myself a Mexican fruit salad, with fresh lime juice, salt, and cayenne pepper. So glad they have all of the spices. I go on a walk after tea, and when it’s time for evening meditation, I briefly talk to the manager about my predicament. She is awesome and says she will find me cranberry supplements. The meditation isn’t too bad for me, and after a short break, it’s time for our exciting evening entertainment; our first-day discourse with S.N. Goenka. This is the first time I have seen him, or at least a 90’s televised version of him. I can finally put a thick accent to a face. He is sitting next to a woman on a stage (his wife?) who looks super unimpressed, so the cameraman finally chooses to focus only on him. Good choice. He explains everything we are probably going through, like a psychic. That our discomfort is our body essentially detoxing. It is as though we are performing surgery on ourselves, but without anesthesia and that we are in fact letting the pus (toxins) come to the surface. He actually has a great sense of humor. He says that we will get to the root of our misery by doing this, and that just like a doctor wouldn’t abandon a patient during surgery, that we shouldn’t abandon ourselves (aka quit). This hour and a half long video hurt my eyes. Afterward, we had another 45-minute meditation, which I and everyone else barely stayed awake for. My manager slings me some cranberry pills and special tea, and I am all too excited about it. I take my evening shower, that no one ever signs up for, and head to bed. I survived the first day, and hopefully will survive this UTI!

Vipassana Day 1: Registration Day aka Welcome to Dhammaland (a 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience)

For some strange reason, they don’t count Registration Day as Day 1. My mom was so kind as to drive me all of the way to Joshua Tree for the retreat, and used every minute of the drive to convince me everything was going to be ok… It was a lot of “I can’t do this” and a whole lot of “Well, I’m not turning around” from my mom. En route, I was experiencing symptoms of a UTI. I didn’t know if it was psychosomatic or whether it was the real real, so we stopped by a sketchy gas station to purchase some cranberry juice. I kept thinking it probably wouldn’t do anything with the amount of sugar in it. Do you like cranberry juice in your sugar? We decided to have my Last Supper, or Last Lunch in this case at Sister’s Natural Café in Joshua Tree, before entering into silence.

You can arrive at the center between 2-5 PM on Registration Day, and we got there at around 2:30 PM. We entered in the women’s side (genders are separated to eliminate any… um…distractions), where I filled out a registration form that re-iterated the same questions I had answered in the online application. They asked for us to agree to stay all 10 days. One woman slightly scolded me for my shoulders showing. I explained that it was close to 100 degrees outside and I was really warm. She responded that everyone else had their shoulders covered, and we should adhere to the dress code as soon as we step onto the property. I’m off to a good start, I thought…

I was given a room in the dormitory, with no roommate. I was excited about this privacy, considering how small the room was. As we were standing outside, I realized I had forgotten a sun hat, and that walking would be the silver lining during this whole potentially cloudy ordeal. It was one last excuse to escape, and so my mom drove me to a nearby Walgreens to buy a sun hat, some extra socks, and a miniature flashlight since there isn’t much light (or light pollution) on the property. This little getaway gave me enough time to make any last phone calls and texts. Once my mom finally left, I sat quietly in my room, and thought, holy shit, this is real, this is happening! Although I had Xanax at hand, I had agreed to not use any mind-altering substances while there. I started to put everything away and signed myself up on the board for which day I would clean our communal bathroom and showers, and at which time I would be showering. This helps to avoid any confusion or miscommunication. I briefly spoke to a couple of my dorm mates, one who I let borrow my extra ear plugs. Another gave me six bottles of Essence Alkaline Water, just out of the kindness out of her heart. I definitely got the community feel and felt a lot less alone in this. Plus, I had no idea the alkaline water would eventually help out my UTI (which was real after all), and later serve as a way to hold all of the lemon water I would drink.

Dinner started at 6 PM. We had a bowl of delicious lentil soup and salad. I sat next to a newbie, an ‘old student’ (her third time) and a woman who had completed 10 other silent retreats, leading her to write a book on it. Didn’t catch her name. According to them, the cuisine remains basically the same across all retreats. Insight was given on how the third day might be the hardest, and a strong recommendation to not quit. It is completely worth it, they said. Before leaving the dining area, I spotted a sign-up sheet to meet with the teacher for 5 minutes tomorrow. I’ll take any excuse to chat, so I signed up.

At 7 PM, we all gathered together, men and women separated (of course) to go over the Code of Discipline and its precepts. They asked that if we do not feel we align with the Code of Discipline and its precepts, that we should leave. Otherwise, we are expected to stay for all 10 days. He mentioned that endangered Desert Tortoises sometimes sneak in and that we aren’t to scare them, otherwise, they could excrete themselves and die (spirit animal?). He then asked that no one use anything coconut based, as it attracts ants, and to ask our manager for any replacement non-coconut based products that we might need instead. All of us hippie/alternative gals gave a darting look of ‘um.  No?’ One of us even asked our manager about that, and she admitted that she herself was using coconut products so we just left it at that.

At 8 PM, we met at the meditation hall for our first group meditation. We were told that Noble Silence would begin when we entered the hall, so we got all of our chatter out before then. How does this not count as Day 1 again? They assigned us seats and I was in the third row on the edge. Next to me was a row of chairs for the older adult women who may not be able to sit on the floor. We were introduced to S.N. Goenka (foremost lay teacher of the technique of our time) over the loudspeaker, who chanted us into the 45-minute meditation, and asked us to focus on breathing, while repeatedly using the word ‘scrupulously.’ He also went over the rules again and had us repeat them back to him #callandresponse. We all chuckled when he said that old students cannot sleep on luxurious beds as a rule. Is there such a thing as a luxury at a Vipassana retreat?!  I know I am not supposed to write during the retreat, but I technically didn’t see it as a written rule. Also, what else am I supposed to do? After the meditation, I took a shower at my allotted time, and I just hope for the best tomorrow.

DIYs: My Patio Bench that I Love/Hate Pt 1

I have been away from desk for a minute, even falling off with my weekly Poetry Ptuesday series for the first time since its inception back in January, my apologies. Life just took over a bit.

I also missed a very important debut! During my absence, a lovely lady arrived to pick up some slack around here. I first mentioned in this post about my plants that I’d finally successfully recruited a guest blogger, Christina. [Side note, she is also one of the people who received cuttings from my spider plant, which I documented in yet another post about my plants].

Anyway, at last us two busy modern women rocked out creating a role here for her. She navigated the confusing terrains of the backend like a champ, and brought us the saga of her silent meditation retreat. Follow along to find out what happens!

As for me, the last week or so I’ve been away at a pretty absurd DIY project, which is something that has happened before. I’m still struggling along to finish and hopefully end up with something functional, if hideously unattractive. So, to bring you all up to date, hear my tale of woe:

Once upon a time I found a bench I really liked. I didn’t buy it because I thought it was too expensive. During another trip to the same store, I discovered the floor sample was on sale. I couldn’t resist.

Here is my dad sitting in my then-new bench 2 years ago. Isn’t she a beaut?

When the bench came into my home, my younger dog was just 9 months old. She immediately took a liking to jumping on and off the bench. The bench seats developed rips shortly thereafter.

I don’t have a close up of the bench during this time but here’s a view including it from my roof deck

I took that picture last month to shame myself into taking action.

…and, away we go! (If you look on the shelf, I bought a wire cutter for this. I had no idea what I was doing)
While tearing off the ripped up seats, I discovered crisscrossed support underneath so here I tried to replicate that lazily
the end of that step
we move on to doing things this way
and on and on (all the while making a mess on the floor)
I thought I was done this way, hilarious
do stuff this way now!
Am I doing a good job? No. Am I doing a lot of it? Yes.

Lighting conditions have changed so you know that I plugged away for a time.

Also, here began The (True & Terrible) Troubles.

I wanted to fill in the gaps, and had the bright idea that I’d just run one line of rope across the front (pictured above), one line across the back, and start weaving one long section of rope back and forth. That didn’t work as the weaving simply pulled down the rope along the back too much. Re-do.

I tried giving it more slack as I went along. Nope. this still didn’t look right. Re-do.
My guy gave me the suggestion of running rope back and forth between 5-10 times and using that to create a woven band but even that pulls “down” the section at the back too much, and the “band” is taking shape but bunching unattractively

Due to being out of town this past weekend, the last picture above brought us up to the state of the bench when last I left it. While away I came up with a 4th solution for my predicament. I came home this morning and got started, which required my 4th time undoing the same section. My 4th solution turned out to be more time consuming and produced a less aesthetically pleasing result than I imagined it would, so I took a break to write up this post. And now, I leave you all to return to The Struggles.

 

Stay tuned for (hopefully) updates. Happy Monday, and work hard, not smart y’all.

 

Intro to Dhammaland – The Happiest Place on Earth: A 12-day Journal of my Vipassana Silent Meditation Retreat Experience

For many years, I bucket-list-ed completing a 10-day silent Vipassana retreat. Why? Because I wanted to get to know myself in the truest sense. I hold a proclivity for self-avoidance, and felt the need to find the root of my anxiety, chronic guilt, impulsiveness, indecisiveness, and a need to keep busy with a million things in order to be ‘satisfied.’ I believed a retreat, where just me, my ego, and potentially the dark night of my soul could get together for an overdue intervention.

Being alone for 10 days in silence simultaneously excited and scared the shit out of me. Hence why I chickened out twice before and gave up my spot to someone I thought would be a more worthy goer. No regrets, as I was simply not ready at the time. After taking the time off from work, I finally convinced myself that there was no more avoiding. I just had to do it.

In mentally preparing myself, I spoke to friends who had completed the course, read tons of blogs, read the book 10% Happier (as per a friends’ recommendation), all in preparation for this epic journey I was undertaking. I bought a special meditation chair so that I would be as comfortable as possible in my discomfort, but nothing could really prepare me for what I would endure over the next 12 days.

Keep in mind, this journal may seem a bit disjointed due to the fact that it is in indeed journal format, straight from my diary… Er, memory.

I hope you enjoy reading about my journey, as much as I enjoyed experiencing it.

Renee Zellweger Talks about Her Journey through Hollywood (Full Interview) Chelsea | Netflix

 

Just a phenomenal interview overall, especially this: “You are honoring yourself every time you follow though on something you want to explore.” What excellent advice.

 

Happy Thursday, kitties.

In which I gave my spider plant a little haircut for my friends

Remember my very appreciated girl?

Well, in the last 3 months she has kept up being her beautiful and productive self. Today she got a homemade haircut from me. The trimmings are adventuring to Missouri and California to hopefully become glorious houseplants in their own right. Today was a good day.

Happy Wednesday, friends.

I signed up for Slow Fashion Season 2019

… and you can too! Click here to join.

I have really been working on changing the way I spend (and save), and trying to take my time with each and every purchase so that I make deliberate, informed choices as much as possible. I had been doing quite well since the end of January. Yesterday I had a bad “cheat day”/”relapse” resulting in two big hauls. I’ll go over those in detail in my next spending breakdown, but I have reviewed and made note of how/why it happened and will work on actions to prevent it in the future.

 

After that I randomly came across this crowd-action pledge and immediately signed up for it. I already planned to get back on the horse and created actionable items to put into practice going forward, but finding this was a great morale boost. It’s really bolstering and refreshing to see other people on a similar path/with similar goals. I even signed up my close female cousin and a few friends. Today was such a good day 🙂

 

Poetry Ptuesday will resume in a week. Happy Tuesday, y’all.

Poetry Ptuesday: Becoming American by Vern Rutsala

The Yankees needed ditch diggers,

sandhogs, fodder for the wild

hunger of their mills and sent out

invitations with no RSVPs.

My people came then, dimly knowing

they had to cut away the baggage

of the selves they brought with them.

The cutting was strangely easy

as they gaped at clerks smoothing

harsh corners off their names,

docking final vowels like tails.

Distance helped the cutting too–

the ocean roiling behind them

with all that danger and disease,

the old country already swallowed

by the horizon’s bulging lead.

At most it was only a village,

a hut, the midden out back

all frozen in the endless winter

of the past. The new language

squeezed more color from that past,

making it shameful–starving winds

and nothingness. They tugged

the new words into their mouths

like odd-shaped and exotic food,

curiously spiced, hard to choke down.

The rolled its oddness on their

tongues, tried to suck the sense

from it and the new ran together

with the old like milk in coffee,

the color changing until the old

was mostly gone, half their lives

dropping off the edge of the world.

***

I had my citizenship interview last week and the officer who interviewed me was a German/Polish immigrant. He told me that his and his sister’s last names are different from his older brother and father’s because when they immigrated from Germany to Poland, their surnames were changed. He and his sister were born in Poland after the change. He explained that the original spelling was harsh sounding so they changed out a vowel to make it sound more pleasant and smoother. To make it more Anglo-friendly, I ventured. He replied that was it exactly. So there we were, American and American-to-be, sharing a snippet of immigrant life. He also shared pictures of his family’s doberman with me. It was a good day.

Helpless to Help

Today I had an eye-opening but ultimately unproductive discussion with someone I care about dearly. This person refused my help. They specifically requested that I do not treat them any different and that I treat them like normal. They didn’t want any resources even though they appreciated the offer. They told me they didn’t want what I offered. They told me they didn’t think they needed it and did not find it helpful in general. They said they’ve tried it and did not benefit. They had their own way.

 

They are right, of course. Unwanted help is no help at all. And I am not wrong. We hold very different views in some fundamental ways. No one did anything wrong today. We felt what we felt. We said what we said. We told what we held true, and just couldn’t get anywhere. I am learning a truly difficult lesson.

 

My heart is heavy and it hurts. But I had to stop forcing the issue. I have to accept that everything I want to give, stops at the boundaries of another human being. And rightfully so. I can’t tell people what they need or want. All that I can offer is of course of no benefit when it is not wanted. I have to face that, for all I can do, there is still so much I just can’t.

 

I feel awful. I feel lost. It’s not my fault, and it’s not anyone else’s either. That sucks. But what can I do? I can just feel how I feel. I can sit with it, breathe it out, and get back up again. I can keep going. I said my offer did not expire, and I can make absolutely sure that I’m good for it. I can still learn, too. I can change. I can do better. So I didn’t help today, I guess I’ll just have to be here tomorrow, and every day after that.

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