The Weight of the World

Once I realized how small the world was
It didn’t weigh as heavily on me. 
It’s so much smaller than it used to be. 
And my time here is getting shorter.
I ground myself in the present moment 
to keep from drifting away 
in a sea of hopelessness.

I watch my children. Sitting. 
Staring into screens.  
They look up occasionally to say something to me. 
My thirteen year old says ‘I love Justin Trudeau.’
I ask her why?

…They have the whole world in their hands. 

They know how small it is.
The other side of the globe is a thumb tap away.
They don’t know a world without this amazing technology.

They don’t know a world where the knowledge of every single thing that ever happened isn’t right there at their disposal.
They are so much more aware than I ever was. 

About everything.

They know about everything.
Science. Literature. Music. Entertainment. Sex.
They know about 9/11, Columbine, Aleppo.
They know about Boko Haram, ISIS, Hitler, Westboro. 
They know about Treyvon Martin, Eric Garner, Kalief Browder.
They know about Matthew Shepard, Tyler Clementi, Omar Mateen.
They know about the tyranny. 
They know about the destruction.
They know about the discrimination.
They know about the hatred.
They know about the injustice.
They know about the darkness,

so they seek out the light.
They find a world that comes together after tragedy.
They find a world where people lift each other up 
They find a world where people stand up for the helpless
build homes for the homeless
speak up for the voiceless 
and use their privilege to empower the powerless.

My children find a world where possibilities are limitless
A world where the glass ceiling has been shattered and the closets are all door-less. 
A world where a black man can be president and a woman can aspire to any office. 

My children know about equality and they celebrate diversity.
My children know about compassion, and they require justice. 
They see inconsistency and instead insist on fairness. 
Their energy is infectious and their hopefulness is boundless.
They are coming up behind me and they are coming with correctness.
They are armed with information 
and they are righteous. They are righteous.

They cut my world right down to size, 
so I no longer feel the heaviness.

They raise me up. I float.
I am weightless. I am weightless.

*******

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Wind and Weather 

John’s pick-up truck has a crack in the windshield. It happened while I was driving, last year, on a highway somewhere in The Carolinas. He put a mark on it with lipstick right when it happened. It has creeped a couple of inches since then. 

If we don’t address the problem, one day it will break for good. And that won’t be good.  We can’t be surprised or upset when it finally breaks. We know it’s probably going to happen. But for now, it’s just a slowly creeping crack. We’re just ‘keeping an eye on it’.

What will finally break it? The cold, the wind, the ice, the NJ winter?  The heat of the summer? A random rock on another highway? Or will it stay just like that, imperfect, fragile, always on the verge of cracking more…

When I was 19, my Dad was 38. That was the year his health unexplainedly declined, and he was ultimately diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkins lymphoma. 

I immediately went to the library at my school and began researching lymphomas. The prognosis was not good. 

Book after book, journal after journal indicated that he had a less than a 10% chance of surviving the illness. Every word, a tiny crack in my heart.  

I remember walking into my house after hours of poring through medical books, my mom sitting at the kitchen table, looking up at me. ‘What did you find out?’

As I read the words out loud from Xeroxed paper, I could feel the cracks getting deeper.

For months I walked around like a shattered windshield; cracked to tiny bits, but somehow being held together by the tension of its frame.

I moved through my days broken on the inside. I withdrew from the classes I was failing, and practically quarantined myself in the college Radio Station. Shattered glass, being held together on the outside by music, friends, obsessive poetry writing, and beer. 

By some miracle of medicine my father’s story went on for another 18 years. He continued living his own shattered existence, holding it together in the frame of my mother’s deep devotion. With help from family and laughter and Jack Daniels.

Every one you meet is a piece of broken glass being held together by a frame. 

Everyone has the potential to slowly break more, to be repaired, or to carry on, lipstick stained, against the wind and weather. 

*****

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Quietus

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One Breath at a Time

We do not have to wait for the solstice, or the new year to make changes in our lives. Every single breath we take is an opportunity for great change. Every second of our lives, change is flowing through us, deep-down-molecular change. Can you feel it?

Take a deep breath in right now. 
Then exhale it very, very slowly. Like a slow leak in a tire tube. 

Take a deep breath in.
Exhale it very, very, slowly.
Breathe in so very deeply.
Exhale so very slowly.

Thinking to yourself, this inhale is nourishing me
This exhale is relaxing me
This inhale is cleansing me
This exhale is soothing me
I’m breathing in new air
I’m releasing used air 
I’m taking in a healthy breath
I’m releasing toxins
I’m breathing in the sunlight
I’m breathing out the darkness 
I’m inhaling serenity
I’m exhaling stress
Breathing in patience 
Breathing out intolerance
Inhaling forgiveness 
exhaling resentment
Taking in the present moment 
releasing all moments that have past
Breathing in hopefulness 
breathing out sadness
Breathing in moderation 
breathing out excess
Breathing in gratitude 
Releasing criticism 
Inhaling fearlessness 
exhaling hesitation
Breathing in confidence
Releasing indecision
Inhaling pure joy 
exhaling depression
Taking in amazement 
Releasing expectation 
Breathing in freedom 
breathing out compulsions
Inhaling confidence 
exhaling doubt 
Inhaling peacefulness 
exhaling frustration
Inhaling the truth 
exhaling my illusions
Breathing in resilience
Releasing resistance 
Inhaling self-care
Releasing busyness
Taking in acceptance 
letting go of all judgment
Inhaling everything I need 
releasing the things that don’t serve me
Breathing in what I really want
breathing out what I don’t want
Breathing in contentment 
letting go of worry
Taking in the good stuff 
letting go of the bad stuff.

Breathe in this moment.
Breathe out very very slowly. 

Take time to breathe as you move through the holiday season. 
Give yourself the gift of clarity, presence of mind. The gift of molecular change. 


*******

Can you feel it? 

******

 

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A Passage Tomb

It was a poet, an artist, a lover of the light. 
Some observant philosopher. 
Sitting, breathing, watching, feeling. 
Quietly observing, day after day.
Absorbing the subtle nuances, 
of color, brightness and contrast. 
Pondering the most minute changes 
in aspect and angle.

It was a poet, an artist, a lover of the light. 
Seeking to express 
the melancholy movement 
of the sun sinking down below the horizon. 
Attempting to pinpoint 
that joyous moment 
when all hope is restored, 
and the golden globe returns.   

It was a poet, an artist, a lover of the light,
crying out to the world: 
Do not fear the darkness! 
It has happened before. 
I have been watching! 
More than once. It got dark. 
So very cold and so dark. 
Our bones were chilled and our outlook was bleak. 
But slowly, 
bit by bit, 
the great dome shifted, 
the brightness returned. 
It returned. 
And returned.
I know it will return again! 
I know!
Here we are in our darkest moments,
But do not dare to embrace the darkness.
We must resist!
Resist!  
For I know- I know-
it will be vanquished yet again by the light.’


It was a poet, an artist, a lover of the light. 
Saving the world from darkness. 

Again and again.

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There’s Mutiny Afoot 

It’s been several months since I found out there were rogue cells in my boob. At that time the doctor and I decided we would wait 6 months or so, then take another look to see exactly how those cells were changing. 

Just chill. Just put it out of my mind and get back to it when the time came. 

So I did. I put it out of my mind. It wasn’t like denial because I knew it was there. I chose to simply accept the fact. But I didn’t obsess. I didn’t worry

In the meantime I continued skipping along on my yogic path. I decided to go sugar free and I began to practice radical amazement. 

If a negative thought did pop up I would grab hold of a few deep breaths and talk to my monkey. 

Are you entertaining some negative ‘what if’ scenario? 
Yes
Then stop it. 
But, but...
Just breathe.

Are you making imaginary plans for imaginary situations? 
Yes. 
Then stop it. 
But, but...
Just breathe.

Will this line of thinking have any effect on the outcome? 
No. 
Then stop it. 
Sigh. Okay. I’ll stop. I’ll just breathe.

So I stopped. I just breathed and breathed. And It’s been all good. 

But since December 1st, I noticed that I’ve been a little off. My head is still fine, but something is happening in my body. It’s subtle. The aura of an impending migraine. A flutter in my stomach, a quickening heart rate. A deep-down mild sense of a brewing panic attack.

My body knows it’s almost time for something to happen. In the past it would have revolted by now. In the past, it would’ve panicked and declared mutiny on the brain. It wants to slip back into its old patterns.

It’s like when you’re on a long car trip and you have to pee. You can hold it in. You can put it out of your mind. You can turn it off. But as you get closer to home your body somehow knows. Your bladder knows! 

You run out of the car. You hope your neighbors don’t want to stop you for a ‘hello’. You fumble for the keys. You bolt inside. 

You get into the bathroom.  You struggle with your zipper. Will you make it? Will you get your pants down far enough to take a seat, or will you piss yourself right there, standing over the toilet?

Who wins this time? The mind or the body? The struggle is real. 

Tomorrow is MRI day. I’m pretty sure I won’t piss myself. 

I’m just breathing. And I’m still amazed by it all. 

*****************

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I Didn’t Deserve That

I’ve always lived in my head. Since I was kid. I was a talker, a reader, a thinker. I was not an athlete. There was a serious lack of hand-eye coordination and body awareness. I couldn’t tie my shoes until I was 6 and learning to ride a bike was a long, painful process. 

Some kids lived in their bodies. It all came so easily for them. The jocks, the athletes, the dancers, the gymnasts. They seemed so comfortable in their own skin. They knew where their bodies were in space at all times. They didn’t trip over their own two feet, like I did, daily. They moved with ease and grace. 

They took up permanent residence in their bodies. I only visited mine from time to time, preferring to reside in my head. My noisy, active, cluttered, chattering head. 

I spent a good deal of time and energy engaging, embracing and indulging that chatter. I figured it was where all of the creativity lived. But I also spent a fair amount of time, energy, and money trying to silence that chatter, do battle with it, drown it out. 

When I finally tripped over my dharma and landed on a yoga mat, I found the ultimate anti-chatter weapon; my breath.

As I moved on the mat and focused on my breath moving through me, there was silence. For just a second. 

I wanted more, so I practiced more. A few more seconds of chatter-free silence…

It was in those seconds of silence that I began to hear the whispers of my body. The more I moved, the quieter my head got, and the more I realized that my body had some things to say.

It started speaking to me. It told me to stop smoking. So I did. It told me run more. So I did. It told me to eat healthier. So I did. 

It told me stop drinking beer… I said ‘No’.  My head strongly influenced that decision. So, my body simply whispered back, ‘Daily meditation.’  (tricky bugger) And I did. 

As I sat in meditation, the chatter got quieter, and the whisper grew louder. It was all because of the breath. The breath was the great equalizer. Now the mind and body were more evenly matched. I could hear them both stating their cases.

Mind: Eat another piece of chocolate. Mmmm. Sooo good. 
Body: Why would you? You already had one.
Head: You work hard. Reward yourself. You deserve it. We deserve it!

Head: Have a beer or three.
Body: Why should we?
Head: To unwind, relax, de-stress. You work so hard. You should reward yourself. You deserve it. We deserve it! 
Body: Who is this ‘we’ you’re talking about? Certainly you’re not talking to me and Liver? Do we deserve that?

The more connected your mind and body become, the more you start to question what it is you actually deserve.

I never bought in to the idea that I might think I was worthless, or that I was carrying around shame and thinking I didn’t deserve success.  But as I tuned in to the power of my breath I began to question all of the subtle little ways that I was rewarding my head, but ignoring, and even harming my body. 

I kept coming back to the question: Is this really what I deserve?

Do I deserve to disconnect? to disengage? to escape? 
Maybe my head deserves to disconnect, but my body cannot afford to be disconnected for another day. My body deserves care, it deserves compassion, it deserves nourishment.

The more I sit quietly with my breath, the stronger the mind-body connection becomes.  Breath by breath, my mind becomes quieter, and my body becomes more articulate. 

It says ‘Treat me with kindness, and compassion. Treat me with respect, and love and great care.’

So, I’m listening to my body a lot more now. Because I deserve health. I deserve happiness. I deserve love, kindness, and compassion. I deserve peace. And I can give these things to myself. 

I’m living a healthier life. I deserve to. I’ll never be an athlete. I still prefer to live in my head. And it’s still pretty messy in here. But it’s a lot less cluttered. 

*****************
My ear worm  The Smiths Still Ill 
(p.s. 80 days with no added sugar and 307 days alcohol free)

***************

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