The Edge in Knowledge

By Analyn Revilla

Knowledge. Word play of know and ledge. Knowing is being on the ledge to go beyond the limit. It is the edge. I have this strong fascination of Phillippe Petit’s high wire act of 1974 when he honored the calling to walk on the wire tied between the Twin Towers of NYC. What was and is the inherent capacity in him that sleeps dormant in many of us? The artist within is awaiting for the birth of creativity, “The Birth of Cool” a la Miles Davis. We’re all capable of doing something capricious and daring, to rise to our most audacious potential. What knowledge within us lies dormant? What’s keeping me asleep?

The clock on the bottom right corner of my laptop reads 4:34 AM. The page is framed by the edges of the screen. The Operating System is Windows. Windows have frames. Windows are portals to the other side. The scariest thing is going to the other side and not having a return to the familiar frame of mind: seeing someone we love differently, or an enemy as a friend, or home some place we can’t go back to anymore.

For Phillippe, the Twin Towers were probably no longer the Goliaths towering awesomely into the clouds. After he was forced by the men in blue to get off that wire, I bet he was still walking in air when he was back on his feet on ground zero. On a clear night from his backyard, Neil Armstrong probably looked at the moon very differently after he had walked on its surface in 1969. He said “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

When an employee tenders a letter of resignation to her boss, especially when the boss never thought the employee was capable of quitting, there is that humungous leap and change of perception on both sides of the table. We both let go of that boss-employee relationship. Though the umbilical cord of security of a regular paycheck, benefits and routine was severed, I found a lightness in my being. My breath is easy. My mind is expanded. I feel free.

I’ve been struggling this week to write a blog. Mostly because my life was consumed by the responsibility of passing down what I know and what I do to the successor of my old job. Also, I’m experiencing a rainbow of emotions born from a spectrum of thoughts – from the ultra-violet aura of spirituality (the 7th chakra) to the infra red glow of survival instincts (the 1st chakra). I walk the duality of being human. In between the 1st and 7th chakras is the 4th chakra which is the heart center. What my heart told me was it was time to move forward to the next phase of my life journey.

My boss was delighted that the transition has been one of the easiest she’s known. “Really?” I said. I know of a situations when someone packed up their things on a Friday evening and sent an email of quitting then left their pass key behind and walked away for good. I’ve walked in the shoes of someone who had to draw out the knowledge and practice from someone leaving the company and the person was reticent to convey what they know, because of a grudge. There was also the time when another person exposed their dissolution and bitterness in their exit interview. I sense that the HR person did not check the box “Rehire”.

Yes, “Really”. There is a range of going to the edge when leaving behind a job. I am conscientious to do a good job of teaching and training someone what I know because inherently, I’m a teacher. I don’t do it because it’s polite and gracious, but it’s who I am. I couldn’t leave anyone behind in a lurch or without a rope no matter how well or poorly the relations had been. In the end its better to err on the generous side than on the stingy side, because the path I choose would be what I am at the moment and that precipitates what I will be. My state of mind now is what my state of being will be.

My old job is like my old habit that I will stop wearing, like a nun leaving behind the habit of her convent or even an ex-convict, reformed, having done time. There is a beautiful quote from an interview I heard on the radio. A soprano singer described the suffering of a character as a cleansing of the soul.

That is an edge for me. The edge of being aware of who I am now. Mindfulness of the states of consciousness of my being. Projecting my future by my thoughts now. I’m not a high wire artist, though I am longing to be aloft and experiencing the high. The closest I’ve been to that state was hiking to the peak of a mountain. It’s so much work getting there and the body produces endorphins that gives that “high” feeling. Though the descent from the top can be tougher than the ascent, it’s part of what could be a pernicious journey. Any trip worthy of growth and evolution has the price of danger and loss of the original self. In Joseph Campbell’s analysis of the hero’s call to adventure the possibilities are: Sacred Marriage, Atonement with the Father, Apotheosis, Elixir Theft. For me it is Apotheosis.

I am that which all other beings are.

(from “A Joseph Campbell Companion”.)

Ahimsa (Non-harming or Compassion)

By Analyn Revilla

What I have learned these past 4 months during my yoga teacher training is that yoga is not only about the poses (asana in Sanskit). Yoga is a practice, and like other practices every day is different. The regularity of the practice varies from person to person. What you put into the practice is what you’ll get out of the practice. I am almost near the finish line of this yoga teacher training journey. I wish I could honestly say it was a good journey in that I am coming though it with a happier perspective, but instead I am coming through with a broader perspective and disillusionment.

Los Angeles has grown to be a yoga mecca outside of India. If you google the studios that have proliferated in the Los Angeles area in the past recent years you might see a concentration of studios have budded and matured mostly in the west side. It has grown into a glamorous industry far away from the grass roots yoga images and institutions from where it was birthed. There’s aerial yoga, water yoga, pre-natal yoga, maybe one day yoga flavored ice cream. There’s even a social justice motivated yoga where I studied for my training.

My earliest practical experience of yoga was in a Bikram studio in Vancouver. I really liked it, and practiced yoga regularly there and also here in Los Angeles. Then my practice became dormant while I explored other parts of myself with acting, writing and music. All these other traditions take time so yoga fell off my radar. To revitalize my interest in it I chose to enroll for 200 hour teacher training for myself, without any immediate intention to teach yoga. In my enthusiastic haste to embark on this project the studio I chose to study was the one closest to where I lived in South Central Los Angeles. The cost was reasonable compared to other places offering 200 hour teacher training and the schedule was workable for me.

The course material is Yoga Alliance approved which is what most students would like to do as it gives their training credibility should they choose to audition and teach at a studio. The 13 weekends spent with my fellow classmates covered material from the basic asanas, yoga history, anatomy, ayuvedric nutrition and the different styles of yoga (kundalini, Iyengar, hatha, vinyasa, etc.) There was one module on social justice which was a very difficult class because of the discussions that came up. The primary divisor between the students was the topic of race. The subtlety of yoga is that people are drawn to it for a variety of reasons, but most of what I learned is that people were drawn to yoga for its healing aspects. A professional doctor or therapist may have prescribed to “try yoga” to alleviate an injury from an accident or to help someone manage stress and depression.

What can happen in a yoga class for those unsuspecting of its deep tension releasing asanas and “breathing into that space” is it can bring up emotions related to trauma that has been buried in the tissues of the body. This can happen with deep stretch poses that opens up the hip area. This is the part of our anatomy where we carry the most weight of our traumas related to family and our relationships with others. It is the area of the first or root chakra, and also the second chakra (our creativity). During the eleventh week of our class, the module social justice started with a brief apology from the instructor for not having more people of color teach other modules. The reason was yoga is a new practice that have mostly been learned and taught by white culture.

There’s already an inherent risk in raising a differentiating factor by using a person’s color. What surprised me most was yoga does not differentiate in any form – not color, not age, not body type, not socio-economic reasons, not religion. Certainly yoga is not always affordable and someone curious or really intent on practicing yoga in a shared environment would need to dig to find “free yoga” or “yoga by donation”. They do exist, and there are more and more of these places available. Some students began to rattle names of people of color who are qualified to teach yoga. Then the instructor further explained that the experts she brought in offered their teaching and time for free.

I asked people in the class to clarify what “people of color” meant to them. I have my idea of what it means to me, but I wanted people to express and hear for themselves what they were thinking and saying. The answer most commonly said was that “people of color” meant not-white. When I looked at the ratio of the people that answered vehemently on describing the expression, my observation was they were also the people in the class who seemed to live in their vocabulary of woundology. It is a word created by Carolyn Myss (a medical intuitive, author of “Anatomy of the Spirit” and “Why People Don’t Heal and How They Can” http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/myss-heal.html).

“Woundology is the tendency to insistently hold on to old traumas. You define yourself by your hurts, not by your strengths, and there in those hurts you stay stuck forever.” – Source (Victor Frankl Institute of Logotherapy in Israel. He is the author of a book called “Man’s Search for Meaning”. He was a neurologist and psychiatrist and a holocaust survivor.)

Of the 14 students in the class there was only one non-person-of-color and I will call her Wendy. Wendy bravely spoke out on her views and feelings. I’ve observed her to be a sincere and loving person, and I knew where she was coming from when she said that she does not see people of color, because she sees people by their behavior. I get it when she said that. I am reminded of song by George Brassen called “Quand On Est Con”. The message of the song is when you’re a jerk you’re a jerk (When you were a zygote you were a jerk, and when you were a kid you were a jerk, and when you’re old, you’re still a jerk.) It’s funny and it’s not funny which makes it even funnier to me the way life is (and I’m probably the only one laughing.)

The responses towards Wendy included “well, if you don’t see people of color then you don’t really see me.” It went as far as the teacher admonishing to her that as white women it was their responsibility to teach others about this lack of awareness in society. I was taken aback by this landslide of peoples’ emotions and lack of discrimination between emotion and reason. What I saw was an alienation of someone who had been part of the group from the beginning that was coming to its end. The woman’s eyes welled with tears. I spoke up. I said “Wait. Whatever happened to personal choice? What about respecting peoples’ capacities? It’s my personal choice whether or not I turn on the TV. I don’t like it when people shove their beliefs and ideology down my throat. I came here to learn about yoga and not talk about politics.” Someone rebutted passionately with “Yoga is everything!” And that response made me see that there were many wounds in the midst of the students. I’m not immune to wounds. I’ve had snowballs thrown in my face as a dark skinned islander in the midst of a mostly white community in Northern Alberta. I’ve been beaten and called “chink” and “china man”. There are other wounds too, but I’m not going to bring them into a yoga teacher training environment. People came to this class for a different purpose.

I consulted privately with others in the class after that event. Some agreed that the topic should not have been brought up, especially to those unsuspecting. Racial discrimination issues in this city is not an easy topic and it should be facilitated with thought and finesse. One black student gently reproached me for standing up for a white woman. I thought hmm? I stood up for a human being – one of us who belongs in that class like anyone else. Wendy resolutely pressed on till the last class of the course. That class was spent at the beach. Near the end of the day as we packed our things I gladly ran to my motorcycle to put my things away and dress in my riding gear. As I walked back to the group for a group photo by the water’s edge I saw Wendy walking towards the parking lot. When I asked her what happened she tearfully said, “I’m so done with this class. I can’t even say anything without someone making a case of it.” She explained that she said she needed to get out of the sun soon, otherwise she would turn purple like an eggplant. One person in the class told her that it was a derogatory remark. I wasn’t there to hear this and watch whatever happened unfold, but the result it exactly the opposite of what yoga is supposed to mean – “Union”.

If you’ve tried yoga, a good teacher will begin the class by asking students of injuries or pain that need to be addressed, so that the teacher can offer a modification to a pose to make it gentler or simply to ask the student to refrain from doing a pose that could aggravate the injury. The point is to take care of oneself. So another characteristic I would add to yoga is self-reliance. We all have built in capacities for survival. Unfortunately, some of us may have been exposed to harmful environments that suppressed that natural instinct. I believe that yoga is a tool that can be used as a practice to learn self-reliance to give our mind, body and spirit the vitality to enjoy life. One of the virtues spoken in the bible of yoga “The Yoga Sutras” by Patanjali is ahimsa.

Ahimsa is a multidimensional concept, inspired by the premise that all living beings have the spark of the divine spiritual energy; therefore, to hurt another being is to hurt oneself.” (source Wikepedia)

I am grateful for what I have learned in this journey to become a yoga teacher. Learning does have a price and over time I hope that everyone in my yoga teacher training class, will heal. The process will make us all better teachers. We can begin with practicing ahimsa.

Namaste.

My Unified Theory of Everything

By Analyn Revilla

I can pick from so many things to write about and I want to see it all related and tied together like how Einstein tried to formulate the equation that represents the universe. He had this notion of a Unified Field of Theory – aka Theory of Everything (TOE).

A unified field theory would reconcile seemingly incompatible aspects of various field theories to create a single comprehensive set of equations. Such a theory could potentially unlock all the secrets of nature and make a myriad of wonders possible, including such benefits as time travel and an inexhaustible source of clean energy, among many others. According to Michio Katu, a theoretical physicist at City College, City University of New York, those in pursuit of a unified field theory seek “an equation an inch long that would allow us to read the mind of God.”

(Source: http://whatis.techtarget.com/definition/unified-field-theory-or-Theory-of-Everything-TOE)

As a writer I need to see the relationships of everything. To me, these relationships give meaning to existence.

I am proposing my Theory of Everything to be a cup.

I was inspired last year to write a poem about a cup. I never wrote the poem, but like one of those inspirations that is shelved and left alone to collect dust – it lingered and fell from out of the blue.

The expression arrived in the form of a sympathy card that I wrote to a friend for the loss of her mother last January. I couldn’t focus on my work until I had found the card, signed it and sent it. It’s funny how a deep inspiration just nags when it’s been put off for so long.

I walked to the coffee shop of an office building. This coffee shop is a gem. It is located at the back of the former Variety building on Wilshire (across from LACMA). What makes it a treasure for me is their espresso machine. There is not one coffee shop within a 10-15 minute walking distance of the office that serves the delights of an espresso machine. They also have a substantial collection of greeting cards and magazines. On days when I want to tune out for a little while I go to the coffee shop and just day dream over a latte with 3 espresso shots.

That day I went to find a sympathy card, but I could not find any. The next best choice was a decorative card without words. The most generic card I chose was a graphic design of 5 cups stacked on top of one another. Back in my office I stared at the blank space and thought of what I wanted to say. I remember writing something to the effect of “… her life was well lived. Her lips kissed pressed upon the rims of cups from which she drunk the rainbow of life’s experiences: beauty, joy, pain and suffering…” I imagined her mother drinking cups of coffee or tea in her different moods, whether alone or with company and in different places.

Think of the times you caressed the surface of your favorite cup as your thoughts drifted and the aroma of your coffee or herbal tea infused your sense of smell. That moment is imprinted in your heart. I know it, because I can remember that feeling, that moment when I inhaled then exhaled. That pause in your day was shared with the cup. That pause happens like the periods in our day when we take a break.

My mug at work has a deep brown stain along the waterline. It is brown from the tannins of the tea and oils from the coffee. I surprise myself at how I don’t bother to rub away the stain with some special cleaner or just elbow grease. Some people would probably shirk away from using my cup. Good. Stay away from it. It’s my cup and it’s my theory of everything.

Yoga – A Constant Renewal

By Analyn Revilla

Yoga is a practice which exibits a natural cycle. It’s about the breath, and like the tides of the ocean the breath rises and falls. I started my yoga practice probably ten years ago. My boyfriend at the time was a hockey player and he took his level of fitness very seriously. He discovered yoga and he encouraged me to practice also.

I remember my first class. It was a cold and rainy evening in Vancouver and we went to a Bikram studio on 12th and Oak St. Yoga studios had just started to mushroom allover in major cities. I dressed in a loose t-shirt and shorts. The room was large with a mirror that spanned the length of one side of the room. The carpet was the industrial flat grey type. There were heaters blowing hot air into the room to warm it up to 95-100 degrees Fahrenheit. It was not an inviting experience especially with the funky odor, probably from sweat and maybe something else too.

There were mats and towels spread out within a comfortable distance of each other. My boyfriend put his mat not far from mine. People either laid flat on their back or stretched – their bodies reflected in the large mirror. I sat on my butt, lotus position style taking it all in. The women wore body fitting spandex gear and the men wore shorts only. More people trickled into the room and soon the empty spots between mats were filled up with mats. People were only an arms-length away from each other. It was a full class.

Once the class got started I found I was lost in the vocabulary and just watched what others did, especially my boyfriend who was considerately looking out for me and encouraging me. Once the sweat started to pour out of my body my t-shirt was soaked and flopped around like an inconvenient yoke. My shorts were too wide at the legs and some poses exposed my butt. But I don’t think anybody cared. We were all suffering the heat and exhaustion of the asanas. As a first time practitioner I did okay. I was able to stay in the room and also I did not throw up.

I survived my first class and felt pretty good afterwards. On top of feeling a sense of accomplishment there was also that euphoric afterglow of a good sweat like great sex. I understood then why people fell in love with the yoga practice which turned out for me a momentary spell of addiction.

Lately my practice has become less regular, but what I have observed with my relationship to it is I practice yoga when I am in need of salvation. Whenever my life is in turmoil the practice of yoga stills my mind, body and spirit. I remember times when I would be holding a pose, my skin sweaty, my breath slightly labored, and I’d be thinking – “Thank you for saving me.”

Memorable times in my life when I needed saving were during relationship breakups. I would dive into relationships with joy and hope that this is it! Then when it fell apart then I fell apart too. I practiced yoga fanatically as though it was my lifeline. My body looked lean. I was strong. My gait was confident. My breath was fluid. On the flip side of that rigorous fanaticism I ignored other aspects of my life. That experience showed my capacity to obsess too much, and the balance that yoga is supposed to achieve would tip towards a kind of mental disease.

Now I’ve settled down in a marriage. The relationship yo-yo’s has stopped, but this doesn’t mean I’m immune to relationship challenges. I do recognize that the level of commitment is different in a marriage than the other ones I had. I’ve reevaluated my need to practice yoga again. I miss the things that the yoga practice taught me: acceptance, humility, challenge, consistency, letting go, stillness – among other things. Yoga is a constant sense of renewal and probably this is what I need most about it. I still on occasion go to a studio to learn something new, but the cost of yoga classes these days can be expensive so I practice at home instead. But that’s not an ideal environment either as there are distractions or at least I allow these distractions to curb my intention.

I told my husband a couple of years ago that I’ve wanted to get my teacher’s certification in yoga. Finally I’m taking the step towards realizing that goal. I’ve registered for the training at a studio in South LA. It’s a wonderful place based upon the founding concept of the founder and executive director Raja Michelle of Green Tree Yoga and Meditation.

In 1992, I watched the South Los Angeles uprising on television. The images and exposure of deep racism and brutality shook me. My eyes were opened to the systemic injustice of our world and I set my intentions on a life of service. Years later, I discovered yoga and meditation. These practices not only woke me up and helped heal my personal suffering, but I saw how it helped others to foster acceptance and to be present in this chaotic world. After twelve years of personal practice and teaching, I wanted to serve in a bigger way.

We would like to believe that yoga is available to all communities, but the truth is, it’s not.
Looking at the yoga landscape of Los Angeles, with studios opening on seemingly every other block, there are still very few studios that exclusively offer donation-based classes and even fewer studios with students or teachers of color. In fact, there is only one other yoga studio in the entire area of South Los Angeles.

On Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in 2013, I founded the nonprofit organization Green Tree Yoga & Meditation in South Los Angeles. Ours is not your “typical” yoga studio—and we wouldn’t have it any other way. All classes are donation-based and open to yogis of all abilities. If we’re to stand on the pillars of the history of these practices, it goes without saying that we provide access and opportunity regardless of race, gender, orientation, body type, age, and income. Our mantra is to “allow that which connects us to flourish and to dissolve that which separates us.”

Source http://mantramag.com/yoga-diversity-community-in-los-angeles/

Namaste.

Recycling the Good Stuff

By Analyn Revilla

The theme this week started with cycles so I’m going one step further with recycling.
I’ve been reading some of Nancy Beverly’s past blogs and they’re so good that they’re worth mentioning here AGAIN! Her voice is so natural for one thing.

As I was humming and hawing about today’s blog, I felt oh God… I have to come up with another one. I was playing around with the idea of how cycles keep humanity together. The cycle of nature is bred and coded into our DNA and evokes the humanity in all of us. How can I show this? I looked at the torrential downpour outside my window around 11 this morning. You experienced it and so did I. Certainly details vary but overall there was a unity about being under the same cloud and wearing the same soggy shoes (or maybe warm toes in your UGG boots).

In my search for something to grab me, I read Nancy’s and Robin’s comment on yesterday’s blog. My mind got noodling and I clicked on a link that sent me to Robin’s interview of Nancy (Interview with Playwright Nancy Beverly) last April 2015.

Nancy turned in her blogger’s hat in November 2013. The title was “Thank You”. She mentioned that she tries to be religious about reading everyone’s blog and I felt so low. Then I perked up again and thought ‘you know what Analyn, that woman is teaching you some dedication.’ Nancy has a way of showing the silver lining behind every cloud. So “Thank You” was good for me for that reason. Also she recognized that this blog forum is a safe place for us to “contemplate, to rant, to share… and to feel connected to the wonderful female playwrights of L.A.” Good to remember that too.

She had another one on along the same vein called “Gratitude”. I think I will now consider doing what she did in March of 2012.

Last March I began writing a gratitude list in my journal every night before I went to bed. The practice was supposed to be for 40 days. The practice was inspired by Melody Beattie’s book Make Miracles in 40 Days, and I liked doing it so much (and things began happening that were pointing to the miracle I wanted), that I’ve kept it up ever since.

There was another one called “Connectedness” (January 2013). It’s not a coincidence that she wrote it in the beginning of the year, and here am I at the beginning of the year searching for something meaningful for this time of the year. I want to inspire to aspire.

Nancy speaks of an interview called “If Only We Would Listen” by Parker J. Palmer in “The Sun” magazine (November 2012 issue). The brain is designed to recognize patterns to make connections. (I found this out in reading a book on creativity. The left brain is about details and analysis; while the right brain is about seeing the whole picture and recognizing patterns. We need both to function well in our complex world).

Anyway, she quotes from the interview: “We know from research that the brain’s weakest function is the retention of isolated bits of data. Its strongest function is the retention of pattern, narrative, story, and system. The brain is a patterning organ, and it thrives on making connections, which is why I say that good teachers have a ‘capacity for connectedness.’”

Her recommendation is to check out “The Sun” magazine on-line and get a subscription.
So I’ve done enough (I’m sorry to say ‘stealing’) of ideas from Nancy), but isn’t it true also that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery? How about ‘oldies but goodies’? Let’s try “You can’t keep a good woman down?” (In Nancy’s case she’s already done Mt. Whitney, and I’m still thinking about it.)

Happy New Year!

Sun Rises and Sun Sets

By Analyn Revilla

The cycle of life is the constancy of beginnings and endings and back to beginnings and endings again. The stuff in between these milestones is the skeleton of our core beliefs about ourselves and the world. The meanings are woven into our marrow, the source of blood and symbolically the source of life.

Today is the first day back at the office for many people who work in such an environment. I see an email from a friend expressing with a heavy heart the peaceful passing of his father in the early hours of December 31st in Vancouver. That particular day I was helping my husband cater a wedding in Los Angeles. The following day, on the 1st, we spent the day in our new home in Inglewood. It’s a house where a woman died from cancer last summer. These events are filled with the spaces of our day to day business of getting on with it. There are days when I just don’t feel like participating in the turning of the wheel – at least not at the same pace nor volume as other people are going about it. I question myself what’s wrong with me?

I went home during lunch and was greeted by 3 dogs wagging their bodies and tails. The latest addition to the family is Molly. My husband and I found her on January 1st wandering the busy street of Florence. After an eventful time of capturing the dog we finally made friends with her yesterday. She allowed us to pet her, put a collar on her and she sat on Bruno’s lap in the car as we made our way home. He bathed the dog. It took 4 full baths before the water in the tub started to run clear. Now Molly seems so eager to please us, so much so that the other dogs don’t like her “brown nosing” antics. Last night I watched her wander in front of me with its collar and leash. She sniffed and tugged and wagged her tail. I wondered what traumas this dog had endured. I recall my feeling when I covered my eyes and screamed “Oh no!” when I saw her beeline directly into the 4 lane traffic of Florence avenue 2 nights ago.

Meeting Molly was another milestone. Had I not cared enough to pause from my task of buying wine at the liquor store then I wouldn’t be thinking or writing about her. What’s going on here? These events are strung together by what? My credo is what propels me towards choices and actions. Last night after Molly was bathed I took my turn under the shower, letting the water unfurl the knots in my mind and body. How do I feel about myself? I’ve never asked myself that question before. My feelings can vary about myself, but lately it’s been disgust that I’ve been eating too much and not exercising at all. Honesty to myself is tough. To admit disgust at myself seems so wrong. It is everything that society deems as an illness or abnormality – Of course we love ourselves! But this is not always true. I have many days between milestones and events when I suck.

After admitting to myself this shallow feeling of disgust then I felt I’ve hit rock bottom. Hate and disapproval. Since I am capable of this feeling at myself then I can be capable to feel this towards another. When I think of it that way then I recognize that I do not want to be on this path. If can have kindness and compassion towards a little lost animal, then couldn’t I give myself an ounce of that kindness and compassion? What would that look like? I look to the setting sun peeking through a blanket of clouds. It’s brilliant at this moment. The remainder of the week’s weather forecast is rain. What grace! I love the rain. Thank you. The breath I had been holding whooshes out and my heartbeat slows down. Acceptance. I can’t change the weather but I can relax my grip on what perfect health is. There’s a part of me like Molly who is afraid. I’m afraid of my ennui. Then there was a moment when Molly took a leap of faith to trust this caravan of strangers. I have to do the same too – believe in me and trust that I will get back in the pool and be regular at swimming. One thing at a time, one day at a time are the events and milestones that make up a life. Awareness and minding those sunrises and sunsets is a gift in itself.

Doing It

By Analyn Revilla

I had to compliment a man at the parking lot of Ralph’s because his tee shirt made me smile. “Doing It” with the Nike emblem discreetly below the words. It was simple, just like its progenitor “Just Do It”.

Doing it is what Nancy Beverly has been up to with her new play “Handcrafted Healing”. She is workshopping the play with her cohorts at Fierce Backbone. Nancy has a quiet and warm presence. She welcomed me and my husband at the door, then later directed us to sit at the chairs on the edge of the stage floor. We hustled with our glasses of wine to the area. I said to Bruno, “I wonder why there is sawdust scattered underneath our chairs.” I studied the ceilings to see if there’s some kind of construction going on and guessed that it was probably leftover from some props being built.

I scanned the stage and liked the simplicity and creativity of the set design. At the back is a window frame hanging in midair, and beneath that a countertop with shelves stacked with a blender, bottles of wine and whisky, a jar of marinara spaghetti sauce, tin cans, a pot, a trash bin and a hammer. Next to the kitchen is a dining table with 3 chairs, and at the forefront is the living room couch with a coffee table that would also serve as a seat for monologues.

The dialogue of the opening scene grabbed my attention quickly with a question by Evie – could we influence the outcome of an event (such as our illnesses and our death)? Whammy! hit me with that hammer. It’s a question that has been asked for generations in different situations. What a hook! In that scene the story opens up with the problem that faces Camm, a furniture builder, who has tumors in her lungs. She and her partner Meredith are embarking on a journey to live with Camm’s cancer.

Camm and Meredith as a couple is wonderful. I enjoyed their relationship and also the individual personalities. Camm is the male with her logical tendencies and attitude towards her illness. She is a furniture builder which is predominantly a male occupation. Meredith is the female with her holistic approach. She works as a teacher. Her nurturing personality never imposes her beliefs nor her practices upon Camm. Instead, she envelops Camm with a deep respect and so much love in every nuance of her words and actions by her presence at the medical appointments, and rearranging her life so that they are together in every step of the journey.

Among the many things that I appreciated in seeing this play is it made me ask myself about my capacity to be there for someone I love who is going through this crisis. I watched my father suffer chemotherapy and radiation when he battled with pancreatic cancer. I watched my mother live through the visits at the different doctors’ offices; the dialysis; the array of bottles filled with toxic medicine; the medical bills; the well-meaning visitors; the blisters on his feet; the sores in his mouth; the peeling skin of his finger tips; the needles (picking, probing, invading); his brooding moments; the storms of his anger; the mashed cantaloupe.

What I learned from that experience in watching my parents go through it together was that I’m made of the same stuff. I have their genes in my own gene pool. And this play exhibits our capacities to survive and live with illnesses.

It shows the litany of events that a couple engages in as they battle against the killer cells that are eating away at the life giving cells. As a couple they grow while they evolve as individuals reaching out to their potentials like the limbs of a tree that rises to meet the elements of wind, sun, air and rain. As individuals they are rooted to one another within their own skins.

Whenever Camm has an encounter with Meredith about the illness, there’s a break in the tension with a release to her subconscious. The play turns inward into Camm’s young adult memories of her relationship with her older brother Gary. She idolized him, and he perhaps influenced her decision to become a furniture builder. Camm has flashbacks to events of her first project – building a treasure chest for her mother who was absent. Her mother was also dealing with her own cancer. Replacing the physical bonds absent in her life, she handcrafts her relationships through her work with the treasure chest. The task asks of her to measure twice then cut the pieces of wood; she has to treat the wood and shape them and sand them before she can bind them together with nails, glue and hinges. Through this she handcrafts her relationship with her mother with the help of her older brother Gary. But Gary’s presence is inconsistent as he too finds his path through his fate.

I wonder what changes will come from the workshopping weekend. The play is already budding beautifully and Nancy is doing it! I can hardly wait for her to reach the point where she can be wearing the words “Did it.”

It’s Just a Word (With an Attitude)

By Analyn Revilla

It was before 8 o’clock in the morning. The sun was up and the temperature was rising slowly. I was walking my two dogs around the neighborhood when we met with a couple walking towards us. The logo on the woman’s tee shirt read “Cunt Works”.

I felt uncomfortable. I wondered why she chose to wore this tee shirt. Maybe I was offended, but I didn’t want to judge her. I needed to understand what was behind the words.

Does it mean her cunt works? Does it mean that calling her ‘cunt’ is fitting? Did she buy it at a concert by a band called “Cunt Works”? The logos on our shirts are like sandwich boards advertising something about us. Was it an overstated way of letting others know she’s a lesbian? What is the appeal of wearing this shirt this particular day? Maybe it was a dare?

In 10 minutes I had all sorts of thoughts and feelings about the words and the person who could’ve been of any gender and any age and of any race. Today the wearer was a black woman in her late 20’s to early 30’s. Her hair was cropped and dyed blonde. She wore spandex pants. She was stocky. She was talking and walking with a man. They could’ve been taking a break from working out at the LA Fitness.

After the dogs finished their business I turned back. The man and woman had turned around too, and I had another opportunity to cross paths with them again. This time, my younger dog Goliath seemed to be sporting for something so I moved her to my other side, furthest away from the couple. I stepped aside to let them pass. The man looked suspiciously at the dogs. I looked at her curiously. Then I turned my attention to Goliath to harness her down as she started to lunge and bark at them.

No harm done, as I had checked the dog in time, except for the barking. The woman reacted by saying “Oooo. I’m scared.” Upon hearing her I put the last period at the end of my character study. Within 15 minutes of walking the dogs I encountered a part of me that I had not faced before. It was the word ‘cunt’ paraded by a woman.

What I tried to avoid is judgment based on my own feelings. The initial impulse was curiosity about the words, and that they were brazenly printed on a shirt, and the shirt was worn by a woman walking in public. When I put it in that context it removed the offensiveness of ‘cunt’ which is generally considered rude – ‘cunt’ is harsher than ‘bitch’. But I suppose if a word is thrown out there often enough then it de-sensitizes peoples’ feelings and consciousness that they let the words go by like litter on the streets.

Imagine if your drawer only had tee shirts in different styles and colors with the same logo. You don’t have a choice except to pick the style and color and what attitude you’re going to wear with that shirt. It’s how you say it. Words are words and the power comes from the meaning we attach to it. It can command respect or draw degradation.

I think of Eve Ensler’s “Vagina Monologues” and how the stories in her play elevated the anatomical word to be acceptable in conversation outside of a medical lab or biology class. It awakened peoples’ hearts to the tragedies and comedies about women’s vaginas. It’s not about the hole but the whole of it – in other words, what meanings we attach to this part of the woman’s anatomy.

I’ve only been called ‘cunt’ once by a man who was very angry with me. He felt powerless over me so he could only resort to calling me a name that he thought was the most degrading thing he could offend me with. Calling me ‘cunt’ didn’t hurt me. However it gave me the opportunity to understand his sense of helplessness. Like this woman today, I see her. In my mind, despite her comeback to the dog’s aggression and the words on her tee shirt, maybe she’s really a pussycat and wears a tough exterior to protect her tender parts. There is a story there, and I’m curious about it.

“ – imagination to me is not the capacity to invent what is there but the capacity to see and develop what is there.” Samson Raphaelson

On Kindness

By Analyn Revilla

This spell of hot temperature is conducive to crawling under a rock and sleeping. Call me a lounging lizard. Despite my thoughts flaying my mind “write”, I sit by the opened window on the bean bag and snooze for a long time. When my eyes open, my mind is cloudy from dreams and my skin sticks to the faux leather. I go back to sleep.

This is alternated with sleepless nights. I lie with legs and arms splayed wide. That works for a little while then I need to find under position to cool off the sweat of my back. Finally, I retreat to the bean bag and wait it out. The next day at work, I’m not the only one weary from another sleepless night.

I began to wonder what if this spell of hot temperatures is a continuous trend, and not a cycle of El Nino. Living in LA, we’re used to sunny days throughout the year. We can detect nuances of slight variations in the weather such as the Santa Ana Winds and June Gloom. There are even some trees that change in the fall.

Last night I seriously considered that this drought might be a direct effect of the global climate change. What if we really have tipped the balance towards a climate change that is irreversibly detrimental to the planet? Scientists have been warning us to ease up on burning up fossil fuels. Even Pope Francis has been moved to include the climate change in his encyclical. He spoke in Ecuador urging its citizens to be sage guardians of its natural resources:

The goods of the Earth are meant for everyone. And however much someone may parade his property, it has a social mortgage. In this way, we move beyond purely economic justice, based on commerce, toward social justice, which upholds the fundamental human right to a dignified life. The tapping of natural resources, which are so abundant in Ecuador, must not be concerned with short-term benefits. – Pope Francis on his visit to Ecuador in July 2015

How would I cope? Would I consider moving to a more temperate climate? Or do I change now and have more kindness and consideration for the planet and other people?

This weekend I started to lessen the frequency of flushing the toilet. I learned this practice when vacationing on Pender Island in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. The fresh water was from a well and the sewer was a septic tank. During my first visit I took long showers and ran the tap without reservations. Others who knew about island living made me aware and told me to conserve the water; reminding me that we all shared the same sources. I learned to practice “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down”. This is probably extreme for some people, but it’s my little tithe towards the cause to heal the earth.

The ocean, king of mountains and the mighty continents are not heavy burdens to bear when compared to the burden of not repaying the world’s kindness. – The Buddha

Expect The Unexpected: “The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah” by Four Clowns

by Analyn Revilla

The theme of the story can be likened to the spirit of a verse from a John Lennon song: “Life is what happens while you’re busy making plans” (from “Beautiful Boy”).

The first unexpected is being offered a free beer upon entrance into the theater (and it’s a designer beer too.) The theater is nearly full and the seated audience is already being entertained by a clown fawning for affection and laughter. People are all smiles and curious as to what will unfold for the Four Clowns presentation of “The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah”.

A young woman at the front row is being wooed by the clown. He draws her out to the stage, and they do a Simon Says act in mime. She’s surprisingly good as she follows his soft shoe dance and improvise some of her own. I wondered if she was a member of the troupe. She was a good sport regardless.

“Butterbeans Arbuckle” (Don Colliver) shoos away the clown from the stage. He’s half dressed in a white shirt and underwear. He butters up the audience with jokes. He flirts with the females (“Who likes sausage?” A drizzling of hands go up and he picks on a pretty woman. “We’ll talk later after the show. I know of a good sausage place in Echo Park.”) He cajoles the audience to imbibe on the free booze. Finally, he chooses a volun’told’ member of the audience to be his scapegoat should any any mishaps and failures befall the evening’s presentation. “Leopold, I’m blaming it on you.”

Butterbeans runs to the back of the curtain and hails fists upon the clown for good measure of proof that he will not accept failure or fault. Lights dim down, and the show begins. Welcome to an authentic American vaudeville. In a few minutes Butterbeans is back with his assistant Nimrod (Elizabeth Godley). Nimrod’s costume is a bowler’s hat and a black vest over a white shirt, and she holds an orange cone that pipes her squeaky voice. Her enthusiasm and sweet adoration of Butterbeans wins the audience’s hearts from the get go. Already the story is rich with characters that has possibilities of the unexpected.

The show is kicked off by the Inderdorf Twins (Jennifer Carroll and Dave Honigman). Their suggestive blue dialogue was, at first, strange to my ears until the the light went on – Ahh…that’s better. The twins describes their clean country living at the farm in the alps with strange acrobatic forms and sexual innuendos of “collecting morning wood” and “riding the chicken”. The risque content is standard fare of vaudevilles. “The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah” is complete with a burlesque act by Blonde Burlesque (Jamie Franta). Her mystique is the brave face she puts on and puts out. The black eyeliner, false lashes, bright red lips on creamy skin is arresting. There’s an awkward sexuality beneath the facade. I play along and want her to seduce me with her dance, costume and song. Then she braces for the finale of her act. “Here goes nothing!” she hopes, and shakes her titties to twirl the tassles of her brassiere that covers a modest 34B cup (maybe).

Between the first and second acts a mysterious character calls out from the darkness. “Soo wee!” the voice hollers, and Butterbeans falls into a hypnotic trance that is a combination turret-body contortion that disengages him from his normal faculty into a puppet. The voice is The Real McCoy (Jolene Kim), a figure in an all white western getup that haunts Butterbeans throughout the show. She taunts him to give up his dream of theater and accept that the future is in something outside himself. The latest magic is in technology which The Real McCoy claims as what Butterbeans wants. She holds up the magic wand beyond his reach like the forbidden apple on the tree of knowledge. The relationship between Butterbeans and the Real McCoy is symbolic of the hero and his inner dragon that taunts him to fail.

This relationship and its battles weave in and out through the show; they are the shadows to the light of the heartful comedic acts of: Madame La Merde (Helene Udy) who walks in stilts to spin plates on towers; the angelic singing of Pruella Tickledick (Charlotte Chanler); the liquor vendor (Julia Davis), and a handkerchief trick show by Nimrod. Her expressions are reminiscent of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘The Tramp’. Nimrod catches a teary-eyed audience, the same woman dancing on stage earlier. They have touching interlude that gives the audience some breathing space as the conflict mounts to a crescendo, like the wave building momentum to its crest.

The story has a lot of moving pieces like a chessboard game with each player having a specific contribution to the whole. Their common goal is to pull it all together for the audience. The mayhem culminates with The Real McCoy and her henchmans (Tyler Bremer and Jamarr Love) turning the stage into a scene from ancient Pompeii after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius and it is left to Butterbeans and Nimrod to save the the Halfwits from The Real McCoy. How does the hero face his dragon?

The unexpected of this wonderful souffle is the texture of airy lightness of the Halfwits’ performances to the soul-satisfying struggle of Butterbeans to overcome the struggle with The Real McCoy. It is the forbearance of the heroes to be in the light, thus their last Hurrah! and to shed their mediocrity to be the bright stars on stage as well as to be immortalized in the memory and hearts of the audience.

Four Clowns production of “The Halfwits’ Last Hurrah” is the company’s 5th appearance at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.

The last performance of the show for the Fringe is this Friday, June 26th at 10:30 in the Lillian Theater located at 1076 Lillian Way LA. CA. 90038.
Get tickets through this link: http://www.hollywoodfringe.org/projects/2166?tab=tickets

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