It’s been 5 days or more that this task has been haunting me. What should I write about? What do I want to write about? A slew of ideas come to me, but I am not able to piece any of it together. Why? Why? Why?
Oh forget the why’s. Just do it.
So I pop open my laptop, a dinosaur of a Mac OS 10.6.8.
First the battery had died so I plugged it in. I am baffled, at first, as to which port the power fits into without ruining the jacks. Hours later, the green light goes on. Yay! Screen displays, password verification… Uh-oh. Oh sh-t. I type in tentatively a few guesses and the screen responds with a terrifying tremble. Eventually I do get in, feeling guilt. If I did this more often, then all this would be in my bones. Ah well, it’s a new year, I promise to be better. Tally on.
Click on Pages… another hurdle – ‘Enter your purchased iWork ‘08 serial number’. Has it been that long? I’ve either misplaced or tossed out the box. I should’ve saved the number in a file somewhere. Oh well, another one to work on getting better at. Continuous improvement, right?
Be resourceful. Ok, got it. Google Docs! Click on the Safari icon. What now? “This version of Safari is no longer supported. Please upgrade to a supported browser…” I press on, hoping I can fool this stupid software. I tap on the “W” and pops open a dialog box telling me “Unable to load file. Try to load it again or send an error report.” a big bold pushbutton “Reload” is below the polite words. I am feeling it, like Captain Pickard. “Make it so, Number 1”. This action clears away the dialog box thus inviting me to tap the next letter “h”, and there it is again – “Reload”. The booming command reminds me of cannons that I feel like aiming aiming at my screen.
Be patient and calm. Just do it.
I choose to shift courses and use Chrome. Click. Search for Google Docs, and click again to find a login screen for my Google account – pinky hovers over the ‘a’ of the keyboard, then press and nothing. Let’s do this again. Pinky hovers over the ‘a’ then down. Nien. Huh? Okay. I now vaguely remember why I haven’t been using this laptop. The ‘a’ letter is no longer functional. I ingeniously remembered my ‘work around’ for this problem. Open a virtual page and highlight the letter ‘a’, and copy it to the clipboard. Whenever I need the letter ‘a’ then I do quick “Command+V”, and there’s an ‘a’.
Voila! Fait accompli.
Now just save this puppy and post it.
The most unexpected things can inspire one to write. For me it was the briefest email from a friend who sent me a comic strip, saying that he saw “this” and it reminded him of me.
Veritas is the logo of Harvard. Its meaning is “truth”.
What is truth? Could it be that it is the convergence to a point from different directions and planes; a traveler through space and time; the weaving in and out of needlepoints that evolve stories depicted in a tapestry?
The majestic tree stood resilient, with its gnarled roots and knotted trunk. Its boughs were heavy with magnolia buds and waxen leaves. This tree will not be moved, unless it fell to blows of external power – mechanical or through an act of nature. This tree is truthful.
October 9th, 2019 was the 50th anniversary of The Harvard Independent newspaper. It is the second newspaper of Harvard, second in its inception to The Harvard Crimson. The first president of The Harvard Independent Morris Abram Jr., gave a remarkable speech that had three parts: a recognition of the architects and builders of the newspaper; remembrance of the good times and hard times; finally a plea to build a new and permanent home for the staff of the paper. Morris recounted how the idea of a second newspaper in Harvard was formulated on a napkin in the cafeteria between himself and Mark Shields, a senior, while Morris was a sophomore. Between the two men they recognized the oxymoron of what they had: • no funding • no experience or idea about starting or running a weekly newspaper • no advertising • no staff – All these combined was a big laugh. “Ha! But we’re still gonna do it” kind of attitude.
The two men had a lot of youthful dreams fueled with energy, humor, boldness and above all – a passion for the truth. In Morris Abram Jr.’s words, “If one paper is good then two is better”, this was the impulse that provided the forum for expression of all views. Past contributors to The Harvard Independent included luminaries such as: Samuel Huntington (Historian), David Riesman (Sociologist) and Noam Chomsky (Linguist/Political Philosopher).
“I” recognize that truth is an unfolding, like a rose opening each petal in due time. The whole truth and nothing but the truth is a process of awakening as the fog of sleep lifts; and the lens of bias is stripped away.
Through persistence and immunity to resistance, The Harvard Independent has thrived for 50 years. I imagine that one day, LAFPI will also be celebrating its 50th anniversary with the founding members and future staff raising a toast together – to recognize the blood, sweat and tears that is drawn from the artist to manifest the human condition on-stage and off-stage. Jennie Webb courageously brought us together as a community of writers who has made the public aware of the gender parity issue in theater. She awakened in us that we are empowered. We can’t wait any longer to be granted the light to shine upon us. We are light in ourselves. Let us shine.
LAFPI started with Jennie Webb and its original members gathered in a darkly lit house in Topanga Canyon. Outside, it was gloomy and raining, but inside, together, we huddled and shared stories, warmed by the communion of minds and hearts. We sensed being part of something bigger than our individual selves. It was for the cause of expressing our truth. After that day, were follow-up meetings with Jennie coaxing or delegating jobs as “instigators”, “editor”, “website architect”… AND we had LAFPI badges to distribute to theatres to spread the word about who we were and what we were about.
The tree observes and absorbs everything under the sun and below the ground. I think with my heart and feel with my brain. This slows me down from jumping to conclusions to make space for growth, because truth is not stagnant. It is not static, but it flows dynamically, evolving yet rooted to its source.
The current staff of The Harvard Independent continue with this new Harvard tradition of a newspaper that is dedicated to publishing work that could be eye-brow raising and bold. The Anniversary issue published, “66 Years of Political Integrity – an Interview with Professor Harvey Mansfield”, known as the “last conservative Professor” on campus. The interview covered topics of: affirmative action, the role and place of women and feminism within the college, partisanship among the Professors and political correctness.
LAFPI is also a new tradition. We serve the community by our stories that turn over every rock to see what lies beneath; and perhaps even break rocks to determine what stuff it is made of. I’ve had my imagination intrigued with some of the most creative ideas I’ve seen on stage that were produced, written, directed and supported by women. But we’re not exclusive to only women anymore. I’ve noticed men coming out to our Christmas shindig at Sam French. We’re gaining tracks of followers and members – one tie at a time till we have a railroad from here to the East Coast!
The Harvard Independent is fondly spoken of by both the old and new members a home away from home. It was home because it was comfortable. I imagine that the sense of comfort comes from being welcome for being who you are. It is what you make of it. The only mold there is is the breaking of existing molds which makes space for evolution. This newspaper has been a launching pad for individuals who continued to have successful careers in journalism (writers for The Washington Post, New York Times, NPR and others) and other paths.
LAFPI continues to nurture seasoned and amateur female writers who need a home to express their stories in drama form, blogging, and above all having a community of writers with the understanding that we recognize each other as worthy.
After all, who do not look to the stars and wonder: D’ Ou’ venon-nous? Que sommes-nous? Qu’ allons-nous? Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?
“In searching for ourselves and a vision, we find greater meaning in all things. It is “art of enduring interest”, that addresses these questions. – Morris Abram Jr. (Class of 1971)
Reflecting upon the stature of the tree, it persists. It evolves each season, another ring to add to its solid girth. If I think I know the truth, then I recognize that I am wrong in my knowing. The tree rises above all this knowing by its being. Being is a process. Being is truthful.
Surrender was the theme that presented itself throughout the week. Allow and accept. Let it be. Let go.
Back in October, Constance wrote a great blog on the theme of “Surrender”, and it was succinct and straight to the point. I liked it.
My take on surrender is like a lazy windy old river. I will meander on.
At my last yoga class I taught Yin Yoga. Yin requires surrendering to the force of gravity to allow the muscle to relax so that it allows access to the deeper and denser connective-tissue. This is different to the traditional yoga classes which use more muscle to move into the pose and to hold the pose.
Then I recall my short-lived acting life at the “Imagined Life” studio. I wasn’t very good. I had the tendency to be in my head rather than my heart and my body. The teacher tried different techniques to help me drop my judgmental-analytical mind. One assignment I had was to play a mother, “Rita”, who has a fling with her son’s best friend. My resistance to the character was the problem. I was playing rather than being; and judging and not accepting – “That’s not me”; “I could never do that”. But once I allowed myself to fall under the spell of this woman’s imagined life, I became authentic.
Surrender also applies to my writing too. I had the best intention of writing every day of my blog week, especially as it is my last week before the start of the new year. But I was more concerned with product rather than process. I was pulling at ideas rather than letting them come to me. Forced writing is more applicable to “work” (like doing a user manual; writing software specifications; or a project proposal). Writing from the gut is organic and flowing.
This piece almost wrote itself one very late night (or early morning) and I was in a half-conscious state. The theme was inspired by the mythology of Demeter. Upon the discovery of her daughter Persephone’s disappearance, Demeter, as Mother Earth hailed drought upon the lands. The crops withered and the land was barren for a very long time. She could not be appeased, until she finally conceded to the fate of Persephone’s marriage to Hades upon Zeus’ persuasion. Upon Demeter’s surrender the land became fruitful again. But Persephone also had to descend back to the underworld for part of each year, and when she returned to earth then the corn crop would also return. Life needs this cycle of active and passive stages. This is Yin and Yang.
December 15th, 2018 is the 11th month anniversary of Bruno’s fatal accident. This past year I’ve had many times of being powerless to the weight of my grief. I felt like Demeter losing my light. And when I resisted being down, I felt more incapacitated because I wasn’t being authentic to my feeling. I was resisting the feeling of the pain. It’s like lightning struck down half of a whole tree. I just wanted to get the season of winter over and done with. But it doesn’t work that way. These things take time. When I decide to surrender and let go of my idea of being “okay”, and allow myself to stay in the dark cocoon of grief till it was ready to melt away then the tears flow; and it passes.
Forgiveness is also a form of surrender to my idea of being right or being granted justice. It’s not fair that Bruno died in the hands of a hit & run driver and that I’ve been robbed of my dreams with him. It’s wrong that this person is still at large. It’s unbelievable that I had to fight to get my green card status, because the INS didn’t believe my marriage to Bruno is real. The list can go on about how life is just – just – just blankety blank-blank. But at this moment, I choose to let it go. I surrender. I can forgive, because I must otherwise I can’t move forward to let spring and summer arise and bear fragrant flowers and sweet fruits into my life. I need air. I have to breathe again. Exhalation is surrender.
day three hundred and twenty-six 6, december 2018 3 days of rain already overflow gutters garbage & fallen fronds lantern fruits paint grey skies international-orange persimmons fatten seasons bright finger tips press firmly, imagining ripeness forgiving peace hope love
I needed a lifeline and a buoy to stay afloat and to anchor myself to another reality of some sort.
The therapist recalled that I stood out from the crowd because he saw that I was in a deep trance. I wondered perhaps if my consistent meditation practice is the reason for this ability to lapse into a different mode. I booked a private session to address the weight that I had been unable to unload without professional help. I was tailspinning into a depression over the loss of my husband Bruno Herve Commereuc in a motorcycle accident this past January. So we begin.
I am lying down comfortably with my eyes closed and listening attentively. My body is deeply relaxed. He suggests that I relinquish my analytical left brain and allow my superconscious to take care of everything. The superconscious knows everything – more than the left-brain modality which sorts, judges and focuses only on what’s at hand, while the right brain has the detailed roadmap to everything the subconscious has recorded.
I am aware that I take deep breaths now and again. I move my head to release the tension on my neck. My body is dead weight. My awareness is acute. I am tuned in to his every word and other noises in the room and beyond its doors and walls. I feel the movement and temperature of the surrounding air. I sense the modulation of his voice and the fine-tuning of my bodily states, mostly heavy and limp and my eyes feel stretched out. What a strange state of awareness – fully awake and yet, under the spell of a suggestive voice. I go down an elevator, then I walk down the stairs to a garden.
What is this garden? The sunlight is softly filtered perhaps by an early morning mist and there’s a tree in the middle. A pathway surrounds the tree and one by one, my loved ones from previous times appear. The first to appear is my dog, Chloe. Not far is my Beloved Bruno. He wears the shirt I gave him for Christmas in 2014. He loved that shirt. Then others appear one by one: my cousin Sonny, my father Andre, my elderly best friend Helen, Bruno’s father, Christian, whom I never met, Bruno’s friend Hiep, and Bruno’s surrogate mother at the farm in Brittany. Her name was Helen also. Then I see David and Valentine – the dog and cat under the fig tree. After a brief conversation with each one or just looking into each others’ faces, I stand back and watch both sides of our families and friends mingle. It is a garden party. I don’t really know what to say or ask them so the therapist suggests to me to ask Bruno what lessons he was supposed to teach me and what did he learn from me.
Bruno to me: “Take a bite out of life”. “Don’t live with regrets.”
What he learned from me: “Sweetness”, “Gentleness”, “Happiness in each others’ company”
This is just the beginning of the journey. Later I am drifting with a light energy to meet my spiritual guide. I know his face. It is also the spiritual guide of Paramahansa Yogananda. Now I understand why I had an affinity to Sri Yukestewar. He was in the pages of “Autobiography of a Yogi”. He was the brightest star in Paramahansa Yogananda’s life. And I find out now that he too was my karmic spiritual guide. He had saved me from poverty in the streets of India. I was an orphan begging at the railway station. I moved from homelessness to live in his orphanage where I was nourished with food and love. Then I grew up there and became part of its foundations to help other orphans survive and thrive.
After an hour of past life regresion I come back to 2018 in my body, in the same room where I entered the garden and later I turned towards the staircase that lead away from the garden. Upon leaving the garden I said to Bruno “I have to go”. This is quite the opposite of what had happened in January with his unexpected and sudden death. This time it is me saying to my Beloved I am going. I am leaving the realm of the superconscious to return to a shallower realm of the consciousness – the realm of problem-solving, questions (lots of it), judgements, loneliness and occasional breakthroughs to the underlying reality that we are all one. We are energy condensed into matter with a veil of separateness because of ego and free will.
I recognize that it would be hard to convince anyone of you readers about this visceral experience. What led me to this particular path of exploration? Why? And where to now? My deep interest in metaphysics is what attracted me to attend a workshop sponsored by the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE) with the featured speaker Gregg Unterberger M.Ed, LPC. The topic was “Edgar Cayce on The Unseen Worlds – Past Lives, Future Lives, the Afterlife”. The timeliness of this workshop was a god-send for someone like me who needs to tether to another realm of truth for answers to questions that this day-to-day reality cannot provide so readily. That answers the What and Why. Where to now? I have a sense of hope, a lightness of being after being unburdened with the questions. At least, I had a chance to see and talk to my Beloved (even if perhaps it was in my imagination). But it was real. I know it. I am moving a little more forward and treading the earth a little lighter. That mountain of grief doesn’t appear so tall and unsurmountable. There is a path.
On this path I carry a book written by Gregg Unterberger. The book is titled “The Quickening”. In my own words it describes proven techniques for spiritual awakening based on scientific research and deep soul searching from an educated and compassionate healer. From my experience, it is the reality-shattering experiences such as a trauma that can jar a person into waking up from a recurring nightmare of flatlining to ennui or meaninglessness. I did recognize I needed help and so I reached out for it. I am grateful that I found this modality of help that is inline with my personal belief system.
Nearly six months since Bruno died, I want time to stand still. Everything of his still remains as it was the day he died. Now I know that scene in the movies when the camera takes the audience into the bedroom of the departed, and in the past I wondered what it was all about. Now I know.
I was reminiscing about Bruno’s 50th birthday in 2015. For his gift, I offered him a trip in to one of my favourite cities, New Orleans. I am resurfacing something I wrote to a friend in an email. I was digging up emails with “New Orleans” as part of another project related to trips with Bruno and came upon “Louisiana Stories”. Back in June 2010 I travelled to New Orleans to investigate what was happening to the city after Katrina and what had been the recent BP Oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
I read the stories and was surprised at my writing voice then. I kinda miss that voice just as much as I miss Bruno’s voice with that heavy French accent. New Orleans and the surrounding towns and cities has many ghosts and where time simply stands still…
I got back from my trip last night. One day you’ll find your way to that great city with its deep roots and soul. I’ve been sending you a couple of updates via phone. I’m writing to you in retrospect after some of the experiences have sunk into my bones.
It’s easy to meet folks and strike up a conversation with locals.
Monday Afternoon –
They have a special way of listening and responding to you. I stopped at a mechanic’s garage to ask for directions in Gretna (just south of the city on the other side of the Mississippi.) An old man sitting at door of the opened bay door watched me get out of the car. His eyes were soft and brown, his skin wrinkled and dark like a purple prune. The whites of his eyes were yellow and stood out like embers glowing from a soft flame. I was in the presence of a saint, and perhaps he was, after all the things he’d endured as a black man in the deep south.
He spoke while his hands rested on the cane between his legs. He’s imagining the pawn shop as he describes how I can find it. “There’s a seafood place across the street… It’s on Van Kempf.” We exchanged few words, but we shared so many thoughts in between. I’ve met this soul before, perhaps he is knowing of the suffering we all endure, and he reaches out with his grace… I know. I know. It’s alright.
Sunday night –
One of Jonathan’s homeboys told him about this new hookah bar, so my housemates and I see what it’s about. We get out of the parked car in an alley in the French Quarter and walk to non-descript warehouse door. At the lobby three young black men welcome us. One of them has shiny shoulder length braids. He pointed up the stairs and we go on up to find the booze bar to the left and the hookah bar to the right. Low couches and tables all around with burning scented hookahs. It’s crowded enough that Jonathan asks a couple if they wouldn’t mind if we shared their space. While Jonathan gets our hookahs the couple introduces themselves as Paris and Shanikah. They offer Josh and me tokes from their hookah.
Later, we now have three hookahs at the table. We’re smoking, chilling, and getting to know one another. Paris is funny and quite good looking. It’s their second date, and she looks goddess like in her turquoise dress. She wants to dance, but Paris doesn’t. I guess he might get offended if she asked either Josh or Jonathan to dance so she asks me. We do the salsa, and she’s teaching me most of the steps. She’s a teacher from Boston. She likes it here in New Orleans, but the challenge as a teacher is to motivate the kids. But once she found that once she gains the student’s trust that they’ll do anything for her. I thought about it then said… “When you believe in them then they are inspired to do.” “Yes!” she agreed whole-heartedly.
Wednesday morning –
I got three hours of sleep before the alarm went off at 4:30 am. I wanted to watch the sunrise over the Mississippi delta, but I got there late. The nose of the rental car faced due south in Venice at around 8 am. (I had left the city around 5:00 and drove around somewhat lost which I didn’t mind because I was exploring to find the I-10 West / I-90 West. I finally walked into a Starbucks in the Garden District to get coffee and ask for directions at 5:30 am. I’d been wandering for about 1/2 hour looking for the onramp to freeway.)
LA 23 into Venice goes from a two lane highway to a single road that forks into little harbors. The road is level with the water and the long-necked birds are extensions of graceful water plants. They sway gently with the breezes. The waters out here are still protected from the oil spill I am happy to find out.
I spoke to a few locals to hear about their laments about the BP oil spill. As one local put it “They cut off our right hand, and now they want to cut off our left hand.” He refers to the moratorium on the oil wells. Everyone is waiting to get out and work on the clean up. Every tool is commissioned to help out: trucks, boats, helicopters, oil spill separators. Right now most of the effort is to put out booms or pick them up. It is literally ant work. Helicopter trails dot the skies as they carry booms one-by-one to the Deepwater Well, and return boom-less ready to pick up another.
I got back into the car and headed north on LA 23. On the way I stop at Buras where hurricane Katrina began in 2005. I to get some oyster gumbo, but “Camp’s” had closed after the hurricane. The firehall station where I got married a long time ago is replaced by a modern red brick building. The JP’s office had transferred to Port Sulphur, just north of Buras. The only place to get something good to is “Black Velvet”. I stopped by at 10 but they didn’t open till 11. I smelled the bacon fat cooking which is a key ingredient in the gumbo. “Nothing’s ready yet,” was the answer from the waitress, “I’m sorry.”
Before leaving Los Angeles, someone had told me everything happens for a reason, and I remembered this as I drove the lazy road back to New Orleans. I thought of my blessing to have had the opportunity to go back and revisit a place that was the birth of many pains. I discovered there wasn’t any pain anymore when I retraced steps to the past. This is the grace of this place. I look to the side to catch the name of a road “Grace Harbor”. I think it’s another sign that I’m going in the right direction. I’m approaching Home Place, a small town that dots the LA 23.
Before crossing the bridge back to the city I stopped at Gretna again to pay a visit to the saint, but he wasn’t around. I asked the man there if he could give the old man these fresh peaches and Creole tomatoes I picked up on the way. He looked at me funny and grateful. I told him, how the old man “made an impression on me”, and that I wanted to see him again and say “thanks.” I found the pawn shop and got what I was looking for. I bought an old guitar. It was beat up but its sound resonated deeply like an old soul, and I felt kinship with.
On my desk are two books that have “Mindful” in the titles: “Mindful Meandering” by Laura Lee Fritz. It’s a workbook containing 132 original continuous-line quilting designs. The second book is “Mindful Reflections – Patterns of Hope” by Antoineta Edwards. It is a journal for reflection, growth and relaxation. Interestingly, both use quilt patterns and mindfulness concepts. A copy of the May issue of LA YOGA is close by. Inside is an article on a “Call for Education Around Mindful Communication”, by Adam Avin, a 14-year old who founded the Wuf Shanti Program. The theme of mindfulness abounds.
Antoineta attends my yoga classes at the library. She got interested in the classes because I teach mindfulness. She wrote a dedication in the journal I purchased, “Analyn, thank you for inspiring us to be mindful in our lives…”
After completing the first mindful exercise from her book I felt a sense of accomplishment without really doing anything. I followed the steps of reflecting on the quote, writing down what came to me, then followed with two writing exercises on what I like about Analyn and what I am grateful for. (It’s key in the exercise to write “I like <your name>”). The last step is to color in the quilt pattern. Optional is a final step to write an afterthought, like a celebratory thought.
Perhaps a lot is being accomplished in a state of doing nothing – in that mindful stillness. In allowing a pen in hand to meander and to color I achieved a state of relaxation and surrender – a natural state of equilibrium.
Laura Lee Fritz’ book is designed for quilt makers to use the 44+ meandering patterns. “Meandering” is a terminology in quilting to describe lines that do not intersect other lines. She notes at the end, “A word about art… Throughout history, quilts have represented people’s lives, often expressing a love of story as well as a love of color. It is sufficient to practice your craft in an expressive way, and follow the path of just ‘doing it’. You will begin to see the world with a greater attention to what it truly looks and feels like, and those observations will appear in your work. Now you are an artist.”
Meanwhile, Adam Avin says “As a 14-year old, I’m striving to live my life to the fullest. But it’s hard when…” and he lists the distractions of the discouraging news on the TV about danger and shootings. What can we do? he asks. “I think we can look at education.” Wuf Shanti program is a team that visits schools and children’s hospitals to teach how to practice yoga, meditation and positive thinking. “Yoga, meditation and mindfulness can improve the healing process, help us handle stress and have better interaction with others.”
A beginning exercise of mindfulness is to observe the breath. Tuning the attention to the breath, the seer can also watch how the mind wanders away from observing the breath. The seer reminds the mind to watch the breath. It is a continuous observation of the flow of the breath and the flow of the mind. In doing this exercise the practitioner begins to understand the nature of the mind – how the mind can move from one thought to another and another so easily like a gamboling goat on the side of a mountain.
What is the connection between the mindful books, the LA Yoga article and mindfulness exercise on the breath? I summarize it to a conversation I had with Alex, the owner of a motorcycle maintenance and repair shop on Pico Blvd. He’s a racer and also a mechanic, the kind of mechanic any motorcyclist would want to go to when you’re cruising and zooming along on two tires. Alex knows and has the feel for motorcycles and the rider. I venture to identify Alex as a mindful person. He’s the Zen of Motorcycle Maintenance. He’s the observer and the doer.
He specializes in motorcycling and as a seasoned racer, mechanic, entrepreneur and mentor – his education is a process that can be applied to other areas in life. Mindfulness is a process of revelation; and in peeling off layers to reveal the true nature of things there is also an accumulation of more light – an illumination that brings about clarity and a sense of peace. His process of accumulating a body of knowledge and work from years on the track, the shop, running a business and being an artist can be transposed to the “human condition”. The “human condition” is what is.
We came to the conclusion in our conversation over a bottle of Pacifica when the shop work had wound down, and my Suzuki was ready to go. The bike was scheduled for a fork job. The seals had been worn and rust had started to corrode the forks. He gave the bike extra TLC: he lowered the seat so that I don’t have to be on tippy toes; fixed a slow leak on the back tire, oiled the kick stand. I noticed he also polished my mirrors – a finishing touch like putting the sprig of mint on a strawberry parfait.
We talked about the education of police officers who are trained to shoot a person posing a threat. The example was a mentally imbalanced sixty-year old woman who is wielding a knife. If she moves to threaten a police officer then the officer is trained to shoot her once she’s within a defined perimeter – say 16 feet. It is baffling why the officer is not trained to contain the situation, rather than pull the trigger as the first line of defense. The officer could call for backups or at worst shoot to disarm the woman (say aim at the feet), rather than aim to kill. Then upon containment of the situation call on an expert to deal appropriately with the hysteria of the woman, and perhaps begin to understand the root cause of the problem instead of shutting off the possibilities of beginning to understand why she’s mentally imbalanced and carrying a knife.
“The main purpose of education should be to enable us, as John Dewey said, to come into the possession of all our powers, to help us grow as human beings, and to locate our potentialities so that we can better develop them” – interview with Norman Cousins from November/December 1984 posted on Mother Earth News.
A practice on mindfulness is a path that leads to seeing the possibilities and the potentialities within an individual. As an example, to control your breath as means to direct and extend the prana (life force) within you has a direct effect on the mind and anatomically the brain that secretes hormones that brings a sense of calmness and even euphoria. In a state of equanimity we can make better choices. Mindfulness is a practice. It is not medicine. It is exercising your free will to choose to attend and to be present to regularly practice mindfulness. There are other methods of practicing mindfulness and it need not be in a yoga studio.
“What is the eternal and ultimate problem of a free society? It is the problem of the individual who thinks that one man cannot possibly make a difference in the destiny of that society.” – Norman Cousins from his book “Human Options”.
Alex White is practicing mindfulness just being human and doing his work of calling. His mindful practice resolves to showing compassion to a fellow rider and being a steward of human kindness.
I express a deep gratitude to Alex who has helped me deal with all of the motorcycle work and dealing with the situation of Bruno’s fatal accident on his bike. Alex is a solution to the problem of a free society. He made a positive difference in my life and that will have domino effect that I can make a positive effect on others too.
When you’re seeking motorcycle advice, repair, maintenance, performance tuning and purchases of bikes and accessories go to MPS – Motorcycle Performance Services, located at 4150 W Pico Blvd 90019. Phone number: 323-939-2370. You’ll find Alex there and his sweet and friendly staff including the two gorgeous German Shepherds.
I am self-conscious in my new outfit, a widow of a tragic accident, but my self-awareness is still intact. I will shush the self-conscious one and let the self-aware wise woman on the hill write so that I can get on with the task of living authentically.
The last three and half months has been an inward and outward journey. I feel I’ve exploded and imploded at the same time. To make sense of death the way it came upon Bruno and our life is still beyond making sense to me. Maybe someone else has the answers so I talk to others who’ve been through this and I read a lot. I found a copy of “Further Along The Road Less Traveled” by psychiatrist and educator M. Scott Peck. The third chapter, “The Issue of Death and Meaning”, speaks how society has a tendency to turn away from the reality of death. He observed, “Of course, most people have very little taste for struggling with the idea of their death. They do not even want to think about it. They want to exclude it from their awareness thereby limiting their consciousness.”
Yesterday, Monday morning, I racked my head for what to blog about. I struggled with not writing from the shoes I’m wearing; one who has just lost a dear loved one, my husband. But nothing else has occupied my mind other than that loss. What can I contribute from my perspective? I asked myself. At this moment I can share that the pain, suffering and sorrow have expanded my consciousness. It is a loss of innocence, not unlike losing one’s virginity that opens a new dimension to living and dying. Losing sexual innocence is not just the ecstasy of a sexual relationship but the wholeness of losing oneself in a relationship – the whole gamut of sharing inner and outer space together with someone you’ve chosen and whose chosen you.
There was supreme joy in finding that special one, Bruno, who loved me for who I am and not what I am. His joie de vivre and compassion attracted all kinds of people and he accepted them all. We were enthralled by his burning bright flame till one day that light was snuffed out. The pain of the loss is confounded by the suffering of the suddenness and unexpected death; and deepened by a hit and run accident on his motorcycle, only five minutes away from home. All that is a tape that plays over and over. I get relief by meditating, gardening, eating, drinking and trying to get on with life again.
Death is a shadow on my shoulder, but I don’t carry it in a morbid sense. I appreciate the circle of support I’ve received from friends and family. I encounter loving and caring words and gestures from strangers whose heard about it, or with whom I’ve shared the news with directly.
In Elizabeth Kubler Ross’ book, “On Death and Dying” she identifies the stages a person who is dying can experience and these are: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. These stages are also the same process that a person experiences in steps towards psychological or spiritual growth.
I cannot say it better than how M. Scott Peck ends the third chapter other than to quote him directly:
It is not an easy journey. The tentacles of narcissism are subtle and penetrating and have to be hacked away day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year, decade after decade. Forty years after first recognizing my own narcissism, I am still hacking.
It is not an easy journey (he repeats), but what a worthwhile journey it is. Because the further we proceed in diminishing our narcissism, our self-centeredness and sense of self-importance the more we discover ourselves becoming not only less fearful of death, but also less fearful of life. And we become more loving. No longer burdened by the need to protect ourselves, we are able to lift our eyes off ourselves and to truly recognize others. And we begin to experience a sustained, underlying kind of happiness that we’ve never experienced before as we become progressively more self-forgetful and hence more able to remember God.
I hack away at the weeds daily, throughout the day and the night, hoping and hoping that light will pour in through the crack.
Upon Bruno’s sudden and unexpected accidental death on his Yamaha, the world changed in varying degrees. Like a Google Map I am faced with re-centering my life. It’s not our life as a married couple, but my singular life.
‘dBruno Hervé CommereucMy mom gives me a well meaning advice this morning. Remove his clothes from the drawers to make room for yours. I bit my lip and clamped off the Mt. Vesuvius inside of me. If you have an opinion just keep it to yourself I wanted to scream.
People say, “He’d want you to be happy. You have to move on.” My intellect gets it but my heart doesn’t. Better to keep your opinions for later because right now I only need your presence and not your judgments. Be one of my dogs and just sit with me. It’s times like this when there are no words.
As a writer I write to make sense of what’s happening. I want to write but I can’t. My heart is lead and every limb and joint is heavy too. I want him to linger. I want his scent to stay. I cut off the string from the lemon tree where he hung the wasp trap. I save the knot because no one will ever tie a knot like Bruno… the way he would truss a bird before it goes into the oven to feed the lonely hearts and the empty bellies.
There are no words to put order in the midst of chaos. I move like an automaton to survive. Yes I’ve got that. I can’t let the wall of dignity crack lest ‘I lose it.’ Maybe this is why people offer structures to align myself to: “Have you thought about what you’re going to do?” Please don’t ask me this question in a phone call in between errands. It hurts my feelings.
Words create order. A skilled writer and/or speaker can put disorder into order. A meteorologist can enlighten what’s happening in a hurricane. The eye of the storm is the calm surrounded by the vortex of violent forces that destroy what we believed as permanent. No matter how hard I tidy up, sweep the floor, dust the picture frames and put clean laundry in its proper place entropy will rule. It’s a matter of time. How long can I keep up this face of composure like Humpty Dumpty sitting on the wall?
The natural laws of the universe is held in place by a tension… Life is a delicate balance shadowed by that moment of “Time is up. Let’s go. Leave all else behind. You won’t be needing it. You’re a light traveller. You are light.”
On January 15, 2018, Bruno Hervé Commereuc was killed by a hit and run driver at the corner of 54th Street and Arlington in Los Angeles, California. The Los Angeles Police Department is asking for information to help in apprehending the driver of the grey Nissan 370Z (updated vehicle description from the flyer, below) who is still at large.
Do a search on the internet with the words “yoga and creativity writing” and a plethora of websites for “writing & yoga retreats” will cascade down the page. I’ve written in a past blog of how yoga has helped me through chaotic times in my life. I teach yoga to young children (ages 2 to 5), seniors and at a Pilates studio or anybody else who’ll listen to me expound the benefits of the practice. Now, I want to teach it to fellow writers because of the parallel universes of writing and yoga.
Yoga is an exploration to our inner territory using our mind, our breath, our awareness and our body as it moves together into a pose (or ‘asana’ in Sanskrit). It’s the same journey with writing. My first writing teacher in Vancouver warned her students to be careful with their bodies as they write, because the energy of the thoughts and words is cathartic and moves along the tissues of our bodies and breathes out through the pores of the skin. Writing moves the molecules of our breath, whether its held and waiting for release or the replenishing cycle of intake, then over and over again, till we say it is done. In another writing workshop here in LA, I shared with my group that I always felt lethargic when trying to get some tracks down on the paper. Some writers understood what I was experiencing. The teacher said that the process is natural, because we were working through some sludge, and it’s not unusual to sleep a lot working through the heavy lifting of writing about it. It does take courage to write some things; and beyond that it takes endurance to get through it. I’m still working on both.
Courage and endurance is part of regular yoga practice. It’s not always easy to show up on the mat (or be in that quiet space) where you decide to work it out. Some days you try out a new pose that looks gorgeous, but when you imagine and assemble the different parts of your body to fit the pose, it’s a wobbly faulty towers. It’s the same with writing too. There are some things I want to say but the assembled words are not expressing the essence, so I let it go. Perhaps try again another time. Or I may decide after further attempts that I’m not yet ready. It’s the same with yoga. Sometimes I have to let go and admit that an asana is not for me, not yet anyway. “Adho Mukha Vrksasana” (translates to Downward-Facing Tree Pose or Handstand) is a mouthful for me, and I’m not ready to try it, because, because… fear. I’m afraid that I don’t have that upper body strength, I don’t have the technique, or that it’s not worth the effort today. Maybe someday I’ll get around to it. Yoga is not about the body fitting into the asana, rather it’s the asana fitting the body. Yoga and writing is about expression and the honesty of the expression.
I like how the yoga teacher, Sarah, tells her story about the Handstand: “that this is the scariest pose for me”, and that “for many years I just avoided it”, and that “now a days I just try a little bit every day”, and that “to be okay with where I’m at”, and finally, “to learn compassion for yourself”.
Were I to introduce yoga to writers I would start with chest opening and hip opening asanas. If you’ve heard of the expression ‘issues in your tissues’ or ‘biography is your biology’ then I’d start with these parts of our anatomy because we carry our grief, joy and stresses in these areas. I am inviting you to join me in a yoga and writing practice. Are you interested to try this? I’m game if you are.
It was a visit from the SPCA that prompted the owner to remove Stuart from the junkyard. The officer had asked the man living next to the place if he knew the owner. “Soul” (aka Michael) told the officer he didn’t have the guy’s information, but he did know that the dog is neglected. It was only through the constant care of neighbors that kept the dog fed and watered. Those who were aware of the situation couldn’t fathom why the dog was “guarding” a junkyard littered with old dump trucks, pickups, and broken concrete and 2 by 4s with exposed rusty nails. The dog, Stuart, slept under the belly of a dump truck.
When I first noticed Stuart it was he who made eye contact with me. His expressive brown eyes looked into mine when I walked by casually with my two dogs, Goliath and Molly (a mix breed of Rottweiler & German Shepherd and a purebred Cocker Spaniel). Stuart didn’t pounce and bark at us. He sat on a mound under the trees, about 10 yards from the chain wire fence that would eventually become the only means we could touch one another. A few more times after that first meeting, I came around to observe what the deal was. I talked to Soul and the old man who owned the house next to the junkyard. The owner comes once in a while to feed the dog, and only slips the food under the solid metal fence. He never takes the dog out for a walk. The first time I approached the owner I broached the idea of adopting Stuart. “He’s lonely” I told him. “Yeah, but I need him,” he countered. It was beyond arguing with a man who needed a dog to guard scrap metal. There’s a mental illness that can’t be reasoned with when someone has a need to sacrifice the life of a living creature to protect material objects that are no longer in use.
After I overcame the initial fear of slipping my hands under the metal gate to check on the food and water, I was horrified and disgusted to find the water bowl filled with slimy water and dotted with furry blackish mold. I took it home, scrubbed it clean with bleach and brought it back to the yard refreshed with clean water. When Stuart recognized I was a friend he let me touch him through the eyelets of the fence. I became a habitual visitor bringing food, water and giving him cheese at night as a ritual of putting him to bed. I came so often (2 – 3X during the day on my way to and from work and once again at night) that people living nearby started to ask if I was the owner. On other occasions people would stop in their car and said “you’re doing a good thing.” They were aware and grieved by Stuart’s solitary confinement. In the mornings he would sit by the fence and watch the traffic go by. At sundown he would do the same thing as though appreciating the beauty of the changing lights. At nights I would rouse him from sleep to give him cheese like the chocolate placed on the pillow in the nice hotels when they turn down the bed. I waited for him to crawl out from under the dump truck, worried that if there was an earthquake he would be crushed. He accepted the cheese then wandered back to being sandwiched between the cold earth and the belly of the dump truck.
One day, Soul came to ask me, “Do you want the dog?”. I said yes. He would do it for a fee. I said I’ve already offered $500 to the owner to take the dog from his hands, but he won’t have it. So Soul said he would steal the dog for me if I gave him $600. I didn’t want anyone to break the law. The dog is a personal property. As much as I wanted to free Stuart from his miserable incarceration I couldn’t face up to the consequences of something like that. I emailed Peta (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) about the situation complete with pictures. They replied that the South LA Animal Services is a “tricky” jurisdiction. I surmised that when the Stuart’s owner told me he knew some folks at the Animal Services that they condone the situation. So my next step was to contact the German Shepherd Rescue Society. They were more helpful than Peta. They advised me to report the situation to Animal Services while they also came around to check out the situation. Upon seeing Stuart’s living condition they filed their own complaint to Animal Services.
I was so absorbed by this situation that I talked to anyone and everyone about Stuart. My dental hygienist also called Animal Services and she had the right intuition to call SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Eventually, Animal Services and the SPCA did their own separate investigations and reached out to the owner to fix the problem. They posted letters on the metal fence and buggered the people living next door to the yard to get the owner’s contact information. I started to feel good about the possibility that Stuart would be relieved from having to endure the jail yard. I continued to nurture him with food, water and affection. I was really loving this dog, because he was such a beautiful spirit.
One Saturday morning I had to get up at 4 o’clock to drive my husband to work. On my way back home I had stopped by the yard to say hi to Stuart. It must’ve been around 5 in the summer. The sun was already rising and Stuart was up and sitting by the fence. He looked regal and guru-like as though a Bodhisattva communing with the gods in meditation. When I came to the fence he walked up and rolled on his side, belly exposed. I stroked him and we sat together in silence, comforted by the companionship and friendship. I said I’d be back later. I went home to sleep. I dreamt about Stuart. He and I were frolicking down a hillside of a meadow in a starburst sun. I woke up happy and looked forward to giving him his food and water. I had been experimenting with the law of attraction, and divined that if I imagined it hard enough then I can manifest what I want. I wanted Stuart to be part of my family and to be free. When I returned to the yard, he didn’t come around to eat. He was gone. I worried that he might be hurt somewhere in the yard, and I couldn’t see him or get to him. I searched around and asked people if they knew what happened to Stuart.
It’s been almost 3 months since Stuart disappeared from the junkyard in late August. I called Animal Services and SPCA and was baffled by their response. Both groups said once the dog has been removed from the place then they do not follow up on his condition. I felt I knew what it must be like for a parent to have a missing child, not knowing their offsprings whereabouts or condition. The child has gone missing. Missing is a deep longing for reuniting. I’ve since tried to reconcile myself with living without knowing what happened. I still call Animal Services to find out what’s happened, but they’ve turned a deaf ear to my inquiries because they’re too busy with other cases. I wonder how many missing cases they’ve accumulated. The SPCA officer has also closed the case. Call back, I’m told, if I see the dog turn up at the junkyard again.