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Posts Tagged ‘gogo’

Yesterday I started writing this sappy syrupy sickly sad post called “Requiem for Love Lost.” Perhaps one day I will finish it. I was thinking about Gogo (who I saw last weekend!), T, and D. I am not a stranger to loss. And those are just the losses of the past six months. (Not really lost, in the case of the men… love lives on in friendship, but the loss of romantic love is something to mourn. sigh.)

Lately, I am really into living in the vibration that I want to be my reality. No use dwelling on what’s lost. What’s to come…. now that’s what I’m interested in at this very moment. And I just bought my ticket to Element 11!

What is Element 11? It’s Utah’s regional burn, the official regional Burning Man event ™, out at Seabase, somewhere on the Bonneville salt flats. It starts Thursday. I can’t get there until after my nephew’s wedding on Friday evening. Hmmph.

Looking over the description of the theme camps and events, I feel the rebirth already. There’s Camp Oasis of Transformation, with yoga and bodywork and even a “Transformation Testimony Meeting and Fashion Show.” These are my people!  Then there’s Anti-M’s Home for Wayward Art & the Artery, with an art station for creating stuff. The Black Rock City Canoe Club is setting up a communal kitchen for anyone to use, and is making grilled cheese and bacon every night (reminiscent of Bianca’s). The Giggle Collective is having banana splits and ice cream sundaes on Sunday. I’ll probably skip Viva Las Vegas camp’s banana blow job competition.

I first went to Burning Man in 2000 with some friends from San Francisco. I went again in 2002, which was a bit more challenging, as I was making the trip from New York (where i was living at the time). The 2003 burn was even more of a schlep. My ex and I (who i met at the 2002 burn) traveled all the way from Puerto Rico to Black Rock City, about two hours north of Reno.

So after six years, I’m easing back in, starting with Element 11. Compared to the 40,000 or so who attend Burning Man, there will be maybe 800 people at Element 11. I’m going to be in Pineapple camp, with my friends Mark and Kameron. I’m driving up with my friend Phidias, who I met via Twitter. I’ll teach yoga on Saturday and Sunday for anyone who wants to come. It’ll have to be spontaneous, because I can’t even imagine setting a schedule. I predict there will not be a lot of sleeping going on. Summer solstice is on Sunday — hallelujah!!! the longest night of the year!! — and there’s a solstice burn with offerings to Ra, the Sun god, at 3:45 a.m.

Tonight I pulled out my costume bin and started planning a mixture of old and new. I lost most of my burning man photos when my hard drive crashed five years ago, sadly. I wish I could share some of my creations. I spent two entire months in the summer of 2002 (visiting Utah while waiting for my nephew Logan to be born) going to Deseret Industries every day and making stuff. I found a coconut shell bra, and made a green fabric grass skirt to go with it. I made a lot of hats. My favorite was covered in moss and flowers. Paired with flowing green fabric wrapped into different styles, depending on my mood, I was an earth goddess. The year before, I dressed as the angel Moroni’s wayward sister. Gold body paint, gold spray-painted wig, gold lame fabric wrapped everywhere, and I carried a golden trumpet. That year, I drove out with a bunch of ex-mormons from Utah who created a temple and re-enacted certain ceremonies. But by then, I was connected to Asylum Village, where I stayed my last two years, with 300 or so amazing New Yorkers.

I usually changed costumes four times a day. I guess that was my contribution. At Burning Man, you are not a spectator. You are a participant. You can create whatever you can fathom. Friends from Brooklyn, part of the Madagascar Institute, created an Octopus on the far reaches of the playa. They welded the structure, 80 feet by 30 feet, covered it in fabric or fiberglass — i can’t remember. At the end of each tentacle, fire cannons erupted all night long. It was glorious.

People create beautiful art and burn it. And they make gifts they hand out. Or they just do random sweet things. My first year, at the end of the week, parched and dehydrated, I was walking along the esplanade (the first street in the series of concentric circles that make up the village) when a man offered me a tray of watermelon. Cold, crisp, perfectly cut into big cubes. I picked one cube. It was delicious. I kissed him and told him I loved him. It was such a random, perfect act. That to me is the essence of Burning Man. Unexpected kindness. Love. Vision. Creativity.

Last year, when I went to San Francisco for Heather and Stacy’s wedding, just after the ceremony, as the summer heat was overtaken by clouds, I handed them two fake fur coats. Heather told me later that it was a perfect Burning Man moment. They wore their coats the rest of the evening as protection against the cold.

There’s something about Burning Man. The sense of community — when you arrive at the entrance, greeters say, “Welcome home.” Just purchasing my ticket tonight, I feel like I’ve come home.

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future cherries

future cherries

Though everything outside this morning was flocked heavier than any christmas tree, it feels like springtime for me.  (It helps that much of last night’s heavy snow has already melted!) Today marks my one year anniversary of leaving Puerto Rico and moving to Utah. It has been a very difficult year, chronicled in my old blog, A Series of Small Failures, which I am retiring today. The main goal in moving to Utah, into my parents’ basement (ouch–how i miss having a great job and a house of my own!), was to get out of the massive debt I was in, mostly due to opening and running my beautiful little organic vegetarian restaurant, Natural High. Rincon, the surfing mecca of the Caribbean, is gorgeous but sparsely populated when the tourists go home, making any business endeavor there impossibly challenging. A year later, I still don’t have a job and I’m still in debt, so when looking at the past year through that lens, I’m still failing. But it feels like time to change. I liked my old blog title originally because I felt like my life was truly a series of small failures. I wasn’t throwing a pity party — it was sort of tongue in cheek, trying to make light of the situation.  I was processing. But it got really depressing.  I like to think that failures are attempts at doing something grand, and I’d rather fail than not try at all. Still, it sounds so negative. And I am shedding that negative persona.

My parents convinced me to come home to Utah last year. Utah was never my home — i grew up in California — but Utah is where my brothers and their families live, as well as my mom and dad. And the offer to live rent free while i got back on my feet, something they’d offered for years, suddenly seemed like the only real option i had if I wanted to really move on. How easy it would have been to stay in Rincon, making the bare minimum to exist and having ample time to take my dogs to the beach every day… But I had depleted my entire life savings betting on myself and my restaurant (FAIL!). Now, that move seems almost prescient — if i was going to lose it anyway (and many people have lost most of their 401ks and other savings in the recent market madness), at least I got to spend it living on a tropical island and trying to build something of value that I owned. Worse than just losing everything I had saved, I actually took out loans to keep feeding the dream. You sort of have to drink your own Kool-aid when in business. If you don’t believe in yourself, who else will?  I needed to move away, however, to break the connection to my ex, who I owned the restaurant with (imagine working with your ex practically every minute of every day). Plus, I thought getting a job in the states would be easier.

I didn’t think the job would be a problem.  I was a staff writer for Fortune and the San Jose Mercury News. I had tons of experience. But no one would hire me!  Even though I wanted to keep teaching yoga, I didn’t believe i could make anywhere near enough money to pay down my debt by teaching, and eliminating the debt was my primary goal. So I looked for journalism and other writing jobs. I did lots of freelance at first, but the recession hit. I’d apply for jobs and get no response whatsoever. I finally got an interview at a natural foods store for a position in their produce department, but after a three month search, the job went to someone else. Talk about demoralizing. In one of the most surreal events, I applied to be a census worker. I drove to Springville in February to take the test (a Kafkaesque experience in itself). As they hire people based on their test scores, and I had aced the test, I was sure I’d be hired. But I found this out later: when they have a position, they start at the top of the list. They call. If you don’t answer, they don’t leave a message and move on to the next name. After a little digging, I found out that they had tried to call me three times when I was in Connecticut last month working as a personal chef/private yoga instructor for a family–a career that seemed promising for a month or so, but fizzled because I slacked on promoting myself. Alas, there was no cell phone coverage in the home where I was staying and working, so I didn’t even get a missed call notification. I was so hoping for the Census experience because I needed the money — plus I thought it might be fun to write about working for the government. I even thought about joining the Navy Reserve. No joke. I was that desperate. One bright spot during that time: I wrote three articles for Yoga Journal — fun and rewarding.

As if dealing with unemployment and being broke and in debt wasn’t bad enough, we had a family tragedy last summer that made everything else seem unimportant. When my nephew died, I sank into such a deep depression that I really didn’t care about finding a job or pitching freelance articles or anything for quite a long time. I am so grateful that I could be here with my family through that, and to this day.

It feels so good to be emerging from that black period. Good things happened, to be sure. Healing happens, slowly. Rededicating myself to my daily yoga and meditation practice has been the key. I also started a daily yoga blog, which i kept up for about two weeks. FAIL! but at least I’ve been practicing every day. Also, feeling loved and accepted by my amazing boyfriend — who stuck with me through all the darkness — as well as other friends I gradually met helped immensely. It’s challenging meeting like-minded souls here in Utah County, but it’s happening.

I am crossing my fingers and praying that i’ll get this really cool job next month that seems likely to be mine.  I’m practically counting the days until I can move out on my own again!  I am talking to yoga studios about teaching again — for love, not so much for money. I finally put a few things up on Etsy, and I’m learning lost wax casting to make unique pieces to incorporate into my jewelry. Despite the desperate state of journalism, I actually was given an assignment last week to write about Iowa and Vermont’s recent same-sex marriage laws for Salon. I can’t even remember the last time someone called me and asked me to write something. Okay, yes, I do: it was my story of resigning from the Mormon Church last November after Proposition 8 passed, nullifying same sex marriages. But before that? It had probably been years since I was asked. As a freelancer, it’s usually the other way around.

So things are looking up. Tight buds are opening, gradually.  I live near an orchard, and on my daily walks past it, I watch the trees blossom. Cherries, apples, apricots, peaches, plums, mulberries. I know them all, as I plundered them freely last summer and fall. I thought the orchard was abandoned, but it turns out that the man who owns it is old and wasn’t able to spray them last year — thank god for that! — so he didn’t bother harvesting them. It seemed such a shame to watch the fruit wither and fall. Those were the best cherries and apples I have ever eaten. Plus it was so beautiful to observe the fruit growing through the months. Perhaps the anticipation of its eventual ripeness made picking and eating it more enjoyable.

It’s still challenging living in my parents’ basement, not having a job, trying to create structure and motivate myself to keep writing and creating jewelry and making my credit card payments. My parents are constantly giving me advice: “Just get a job at a bookstore! Just get any job!” But I’m grateful for the time to cocoon, think and heal. Taking the wrong thing means not being available for the right thing. Which I think this thing is. I hope I hope I hope. Here’s to new beginnings. I miss Puerto Rico. I miss my friends, my yoga teaching, my restaurant, the beach, and the dogs I left behind with my ex. I brought two of them with me, but I only have Pooka left. Gogo seems to be adjusting pretty well to his new home. I still miss him every day.

It’s taken a while, but i finally feel I am blossoming.

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yoga with the dogs

yoga with the dogs

 

 

This is about giving up something that I didn’t want to let go of, and never thought I could — Gogo

Aparigraha, the fifth of the yamas, or ethical constraints, is defined as abstaining from greed (Patanjali’s Yoga sutras). In the Tree of Yoga, Iyengar calls it “freedom from hoarding or collecting, absence of greed, and of possessions beyond one’s need.” Sometimes aparigraha is defined as non-attachment.  In buddhism, it’s acknowledged that attachment is the root, and the cause of suffering.

We hoard stuff. We also hoard friendships, or people, or even pets. Suffering enters in when we fear losing what we think is ours. 

When I found Gogo and his brother on a one-lane road in the hills of Rincon, Puerto Rico, I intended to find homes for them. But then I fell in love with them, and didn’t want to give them up — even though I knew that giving them up meant I could rescue more dogs. Part of that holding onto them was a fear of losing them and the joy they gave me. Also, there was probably a bit of believing that no one could love them as much as I could, or take care of them as well as I could.

We had a crazy bond. I used to say that if I could marry him, I would. I loved him more than anything in my life. He opened me up to love, after a long drought. But then my attachment to him started causing pain. I fell in love with a human, and Gogo was threatened. He bit my boyfriend’s kids. He was trying to dominate me, and usually did. (You can see the way he’s sitting on me in the photo above). Long story short, I didn’t think I could survive giving him up, but I did. 

It’s odd to know he’s out there, in a new home, with a new mom, and still feel the same love for him. He doesn’t have to be mine for that love to exist. And his new mom, who just lost her last dog, is so happy to have him.  

Aparigraha can be defined in other terms as well.  Nischala Joy Devi, going beyond defining something by what it’s not, calls it “acknowledging abundance.”

“Aparigraha gives us the secret to earthly life. Take a moment to feel gratitude for the great blessings that surround you… Even when you acknowledge the bounty, is there still a lingering apprehension that part or all of it may be taken away? That the well might run dry? Just thinking that a resource is limited initiates fear, thereby lessening the joy in the present moment.”

Change is constant. It’s scary. I think practicing aparigraha can help us survive change without experiencing too much pain. 

From the Bhagavad-Gita: “What is it that you lost that you are grieving for? What is it that you brought into this world that you have lost? Whatever you gained, you gained from this world. Whatever you lost, you lost to this world. What belongs to you today, belonged to someone else yesterday and will belong to someone else tomorrow.”

 

Gogo

Gogo

 

 

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parivritta parsvakonasana

parivritta parsvakonasana

 

This afternoon, I knelt down, palms pressed together at my heart, thumbs resting on the breastbone, and bowed to my inner perfection, that part of me that doesn’t want to rip someone’s head off at t-mobile, or swear when someone cuts me off driving, or feel uncharitable toward the person who has been using my lost cell phone.

Krishna Das has become an instant mood tranquilizer, so I put on All One, with its versions of Hare Krishna that lead me, like bugs bunny’s violin, to a calmer, less savage place. Hare Krishna starts to rock out, and I find myself feeling fierce in my calmness, pushing to the point of sweat. Sometimes tapas, or burning effort, is the perfect approach.  Tapas is “a burning desire to cleanse every cell of our body and every cell of our senses, so that the senses and the body may be made permanently pure and healthy and leave no room for impurities to enter into our system. It is in this spirit that the asanas should be performed.” That’s from B.K.S. Iyengar’s “The Tree of Yoga,” one of my favorite books on yoga. And today, feeling a bit irritable as I’m detoxing from some bad 2008 habits, it was perfect. I threw in a lot of twists, which help with detoxing. The twists wrung out little beads of sweat, and toxins from those numbing alcoholic beverages that were making me less grumpy (duh! they also make me numb). I’ve even been smoking occasionally (whatever was i thinking?), plus eating meat, taking ADD medication, which is so good to not be on — it’s hard to do inversions without feeling like your head is going to explode when on Ritalin — so there’s a lot to squeeze out. Shocked? Don’t be. Yogis are human beings.

I love the symbolism of twists. Wringing out the old, and making room for the new. Each twist compresses internal organs and glands, like squeezing a dirty sponge, forcing out toxins. And when you release the twist, fresh blood rushes in, cleansing, rinsing and soaking. Why don’t I do more twists? From seated and supine twists to the bound twisted triangle, even the balancing bound twist, bird of paradise, ah. Just ah. After an hour of tapas, followed by alternate nostril breathing and meditation, I no longer want to hurt a t-mobile employee. And the idea of the perfect me that I bowed to at the begininng, in anjali mudra, seems less ridiculous. A bit more attainable.

I decided today that part of making time for yoga every day is to schedule it. I’ve always had the excuse of not doing it first thing in the morning because my dogs always want to get up and go. Jumping up on the bed, licking my face, and then basically whining or staring at me (which is sometimes worse than the whining) until they get their way. So, I only have one dog now (Pooka), and she’s much more mellow than she was when Gogo lived with us (he has a new home and a new name!) My plan is to feed Pooka and then take my 15 minutes of meditation while she is eating, before doing anything else,  including taking her out. I hope it works. It’s another attempt to live life and not let it live me. Who’s the top dog here? 

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