Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 19: The Wheel (of Bliss--Illusion) and Its Stopping

What is this subtlest form of deception?
What is this promise that my bliss in this moment,
that my fullness in this moment,
is a guarantee of eternal salvation?

What is this longing for a wholeness
that only the "other" can provide?
The other with his firm grip,
his sweet words, his knowing demeanor,
his emotional intertwinement?

And where exactly is this perfect other,
the one that I "find" in every brief connection,
the one that I try to seduce with my "profound words",
with my "heartfelt yearning"?
And why is it that he keeps shape-shifting?
Now the understanding and invested husband,
now the attention-rapt student,
now the perfect spiritual community,
now the book that will "change my life".

How pervasive, how mysterious, is this dreaming of mine.
I dream that perfection, that endless bliss,
is in my grasp--or is out there somewhere.
What a baffling thing to believe, when only my whole life--
a series of sweet chases, of cotton candy promises--
has proven me wrong.
Yet still I chase and still I believe--
because, of course, this time will be different.
And still I find myself, and still I betray myself,
and still I praise my limited sight as vision.
And thus turns the wheel of samsara.

And so now, this begs the question:
how do I hop off the wheel?
Do I jump aside in the moment that I begin chasing a fantasy?
Do I strive to cut down every illusion mercilessly?
I can try.
Do I argue with my insanity, try to beat myself sane?
Do I create the "perfect state" internally:
a state that I can rest in, a state complete in itself?
(If only it could sustain!)

No.  I can only stop a moment, and ask (honestly):
Can I love the one who is on the wheel?
Can I have some tenderness?
Can I let her spin and spin,
until she tires and willingly returns home?
And can I hold her in my own arms, in her own arms,
knowing that she has never left?

Ah yes.  Perhaps this is a beginning. 

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Day 18: Defying Gravity, part 3 (finally!)--the current astrological scene

So, picking up on the a thread from early last week, let me explain a little bit more about the astrology that mirrors the themes in Wicked.  Last time I was explaining the roles of Saturn (authority/responsibility), Uranus (individuation/sudden revelation), and Jupiter (faith/progress/expansion).  Tonight, I'll delve a little further into what's been happening in the sky related to all of this.

First of all, I'll start with the Uranus + Jupiter conjunction, which is progressively becoming tighter as we speak (right now, about one degree from exact).  So, basically, a conjunction happens when two planets meet up at the exact same point (same sign, same degree) in the sky.  During a conjunction, the planets involved "gang up" and pool together their energies.  So, since Uranus and Jupiter are currently conjunct (or just about--it's exact on June 8th), we are currently experiencing a combination of these energies.  So, this could mean, amongst other things, an expansion of the energy of individuation, a sudden burst of faith, new philosophical/social revelations about energy (I forgot to mention that Uranus rules electricity!), etc.  Here's what astrologer/historian Richard Tarnas, author of the incredible book Cosmos and Psyche, had to say:

"In world transits, the cyclical alignments of Jupiter and Uranus correlate consistently with condensed waves of celebrated milestones of creative or emancipatory activity across many fields.  The conjunction of the two planets occurs approximately every fourteen years.  During each of these. . . decisive crests of remarkably synchronous breakthroughs and innovations appeared to take place within a brief period of time in many areas of human activity."

Alrighty.  So, there's a stage setter, for starters.  But, in addition to this, we have both Jupiter and Uranus currently opposing Saturn (e.g., "the establishment").  An opposition is a 180 degree angle between two planets which are "facing off", in this case Jupiter-Saturn (which have a 20 year cycle) and Uranus-Saturn (which have a 45 year cycle.)  Both cycles represent societal--as well as individual trends/shifts.  The Berlin wall, for example, fell in November of 1989, during the last Saturn-Jupiter opposition.  Saturn and Uranus have actually been opposing off-and-on for about a year and a half now, with the first exact opposition happening on election day, 2008.  (Hmm. . . I wonder why Barack Obama's election might be considered historic or revolutionary?) On the level of U.S. society/government, another example of the Saturn-Uranus opposition would be the passing of health care reform legislation this past March.  (By way of comparison, Medicare was passed in the summer of 1965, e.g., during the previous Saturn-Uranus opposition.)

So, there are some interesting astrological tidbits regarding astrology and society currently.  I'll relate it to a more personal level, and to then back to Wicked, in future posts. :-)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Day 16/17: Wow

Alright, so before I get into anything else, let me face the facts: I didn't blog yesterday.  Therefore I suck.


Okay, obviously, I'm joking.  And I forgive myself.  When I got home at 1 AM last night--fresh and high from a swing singing (+ dancing!) gig--I knew I needed to get by 8:30 AM, and consciously decided not to stay up ultra-late (again) blogging/writing.  Not to make excuses or anything, 'cause I am going to try to do better for these remaining days. 

So, there's that.  Now, as a small half-penance, I did spend a little time this morning--really only a little, maybe 10 minutes?--toying around with a potential new song idea on piano/vocal.  I haven't been doing any music writing in a while, so this is a good start, albeit small.  And this was right before I rushed out the door for my gargantuan Midway Fair recording session.

Why do I say gargantuan? Well, the first, and main, reason, is that it was nine and a half hours long.  No, really!  Okay, sort of.  (I got there 10 minutes late, and left the studio for about 50 minutes, so it was maybe eight and half hours long for me.) So, even though we reserved the whole day, for as long as we needed it, I don't think any of us really expected nine and a half hours.

So, there's that.

And then, secondly, it was gargantuan because there's been a lot of off-and-on tension in the band over the past couple months.  I did a recording session with Jon (the Midway Fair leader) two months ago that ended up with me crying hysterically, and him sending me a two page e-mail a couple days later.  Yeah, so, um. . . I guess you could call that creative differences? (I will say, very briefly and with self-responsibility, that I was being pretty high-maintenance that day.  Not so relaxed, and hence, not so cooperative.)

And so, the last reason today was gargantuan? Bliss.  Pure and simple.  Despite factors one and two, everything went well!!!!! :-) Wow, am I relieved about that.

I think part of what made today go so well for me, frankly, was Tim, the drummer.  We had a bonding discussion a couple weeks ago and really got to know each other better (much-needed therapy for both of us, I think).  So, today we were supporting each other with hugs and reiki, which was wonderful.  I've never recorded before on a "reiki high" but now that I've done it, I can say, it's the way to go! (Especially for someone like me, who has a lot of nervous mental energy just wanting to rush in and clog up the pipes of music and intuition.)  Another thing which was inspiring about Tim was watching him power through the songs.  He would really nail things on the first take, and then, if corrections were needed, he would toss himself in and power through those, too.  No hesitation.  Again, in marked contrast to my own high-strung, "I'm-super-critical-and-need-lots-of-reassurance (and just as many takes)" ways.

So, Tim, if you're reading, thanks for being awesome.  (I could give lots of props to Tim's wonderful wife Cellina, as well--who is my friend and masseuse, as well as fellow reiki practitioner--but I will sing further praises another time.  Love you, Cellina!)

But I also need to give props to Jon and to myself for working together amiably--for being two sensitive and stubborn people, we both went the extra mile to respect each other!--and to Chris Freeland for being an awesome engineer, "Mr. Cool-calm-and-collected" and a great extra set of ears.

We accomplished alot today and I am SO proud of these tracks that we are creating together from Jon's wonderful songs.  And today was also so affirming of everything that is happening in the life, of my friends, my reiki, my music, my faith.  And I say my, knowing that none of this stuff belongs to me.  And, ah, what a blessing!!

I'll be playing with Jon and Tim tomorrow at Ukazoo Books in Towson, from 4-6 pm.  So, we're not done seeing each other yet! Come see us tomorrow, or sometime, too, if you're local. And check out


P.S. If you're not really into hyper-ecstatic writing, I apologize.  I will do my best to settle down at some point in the near future. ;-)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Day 15: A full moon, and yesterday's thoughts continued

Tonight (at 7:07 PM) marked the once-a-month event of the full moon.  This month's full moon is in the sign of Sagittarius.   Each full moon is a time of "taking stock" in some area of our lives.  It is a time of evaluating our habits and determining if they are serving us--then if, not, being willing to release stuck patterns and to adjust.  Since the full moon is in the sign of Sagittarius, we would especially be evaluating Sagittariun themes at this this full moon, including: faith/religion, philosophy, high education and travel.

In addition, each of the degrees of the Zodiac (all 360!) have a special special meaning assigned to them, called a Sabian Symbol.  The Sabian Symbol for 7 degrees Sagittarius is: "Cupid knocks at the door of a human heart."  I love astrologer Benjamin Bernstein's elaboration on this: "At this extraordinary time in history, however, Cupid is offering not just human love, but the indescribable bliss only available from the unconditional love of the divine.  Can you open to it?"

In honor of this theme, here is my continuation of yesterday's poem-meditation.  (The tone doesn't quite match up, in my opinion, between yesterday's portion and today's portion, but I decided I'm okay with that for the time being.)

Oh, my friend, do you know what you possess?
Such power, such beauty, such gifts beyond measure.
To imagine yourself as a tiny, limited being--
what a disgrace to Truth! What an insult to God!

No, you are more, so much more, than you imagine.
You are infinite light as expressed in one luminescent thread.
You are a river of being as grounded into a single body.
You are joy in its purest revelation, exalting in each moment,
ever eternal, ever born anew.
This you are, and so much more.

This busy life of yours is a series of forgettings.
So, first and foremost, remember to pause.
Remember to step out of that cluttered mind, now and again,
and create space for truth to dawn upon you.

Do not believe that your life is confined
to the lists you create in your head,
to the distractions that capture your eyes and mind.
No, this is surface.  Life is much deeper than this.
Life is the unfolding of that which you are in every moment,
the yearning heart ever reaching towards the infinite soul.

You will always reach.  You will always sense that painful gap
between that which is form and that which is eternal.
So, why not surrender, relax, into the reaching?
And in this relaxation, perhaps, you might glimpse
the resting of the eternal in the very form of your heart.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Day 14: Another post-Reiki extemporaneous diversion

Oh, my friend, do you know what you possess?
Such power, such beauty, such gifts beyond measure.
To imagine yourself as a tiny, limited being--
what a disgrace to Truth! What an insult to God!

No, you are more, so much more, than you imagine.
You are infinite light as expressed in one luminescent thread.
You are a river of being as grounded into a single body.
You are joy in its purest revelation, exalting in each moment,
ever eternal, ever born anew.
This you are, and so much more.

**I feel like this poem-meditation has more to it than 2 stanzas, but after several "false" continuations, I'm choosing to leave it be, for now. . .**

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Day 13: A digression. . .

It is late, again, and frankly, I do not wish to continue my previous "Wicked" contemplation at this hour.  I'll try again tomorrow.  In the meantime, another extemporaneous contemplative poem:


I feel something brewing,
an energy, unexplainable.
It seems too dark, too tense,
to penetrate, and yet
I know that coiled within
is a source of unfathomable power.

Do I fear this power?
Do I believe myself to be
stained and dirty? Corrupt?
Do I shrink away,
and fail to see the beauty
that is trapped within?

In all this pondering
of dark and light,
it seems that I have split
myself in two.
In believing I am a monster,
I have forgotten
that I am a child of God.

So, now, I welcome the dark,
because I fear it not,
and in welcoming, I open,
and all is subsumed in light.
All is now right
(as it already was).

Monday, May 24, 2010

Day 12: Defying Gravity, part 2

So, it's late at night, and I've procrastinated on my writing assignment again--by going out swing dancing!--but I'm back to honor the commitment before heading off to bed. 

So, to briefly elaborate on the "Defying Gravity" theme from yesterday, I want to bring in some discussion of astrological themes (again, being the "astrogeek" that I am ;-)).  To do this, I'll be briefly discussing the archetypal significance of three planets: Saturn, Uranus, and Jupiter.

  • Saturn represents responsibility, the establishment, the wise elder, "the way we do things", conservatism, fitting in
  • Uranus represents the maverick, the individualist, the brilliant thinker, the mad scientist
  • Jupiter represents faith, expansion, teaching, social advancement, progress, and doing things in a big way
So, here's my basic premise: The character Elphaba is a very Uranian character, a maverick with (initially) uncontrollable powers.  But she's initially held back by a mis-placed faith (Jupiter) in the establishment (Saturn), especially as personified by the Wizard. 

The reason why this fascinates me is that that these same themes are currently being played out in my life, in yours, and in society at large.  Why? Because, right now, astrologically, we are experiencing oppositions in the sky between Saturn, on one hand, and Uranus + Jupiter, on the other. 

I'll unravel more of this (part 3!) tomorrow. . .

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Day 11: Defying Gravity

So, the song "Defying Gravity", from the musical "Wicked", has been running through my head incessantly over the last few days.  Originally I thought that this was probably, simply, because I have been singing the song weekly with my one of my 9-year old voice students.  She sings the (main) part of Elphaba, and I chime in with Glinda's part whenever necessary, and coach her ("Don't belt it like the original singer; be careful and use your high voice!") whenever I'm not singing.

But it also occurred to me, as the sung began ringing in my head right around my birthday, that perhaps it's also a message that I am trying to learn and integrate as my new solar year begins.  And perhaps it is also a lesson that society is trying to learn and to integrate.  More about that in a bit.  But first, here are the lyrics, specifically those from Idina Menzel's "pop" solo release (slightly adapted from the orginal):


"Something has changed within me
Something is not the same
I'm through with
playing by the rules
Of someone else's game
Too late for second-guessing
Too late to go back to sleep
It's time to trust my instincts
Close my eyes and leap!

It's time to try
Defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
And you won't bring me down

I'm through accepting limits
'Cuz someone says they're so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I'll never know!
Too long I've been afraid of
Losing love I guess I've lost
Well, if that's love
It comes at much too high a cost!

I'd sooner buy
Defying gravity
Kiss me goodbye
I'm defying gravity
I think I'll try
Defying gravity
And you won't bring me down

Unlimited (Unlimited)
My future is unlimited (unlimited)
And I've just had a vision
Almost like a prophecy
I know - it sounds truly crazy
And true, the vision's hazy
But I swear, someday I'll be...

Flying so high! (Defying gravity)
Kiss me goodbye! (Defying gravity)

So if you care to find me
Look to the western sky!
As someone told me lately:
"Everyone deserves the
chance to fly!"

I'm defying gravity!
And you won't bring me down!
Bring me down!
Bring me down!"

It's kind of funny to read the lyrics, stripped away from their musical power (especially the power that Idina Menzel gives!), but there they are.  And as far as the personal and universal theme goes, I definitely think it came be taken as a song of defiance.  You know--"Authority is corrupt; society is biased.  Screw them--I'm gonna do my own thing!" But it can also be thought of as the willingness to individuate, to take a risk, to be willing to be authentic, no matter what people might think.  (This blog is a small example of that, for me.) I love this line, because I can so relate to it: "Too long I've been afraid of losing love I guess I've lost.  Well, if that's love, it comes at much to high a cost!" Amen.  Beautiful words for anyone who likes to reshape themselves to please or appease others (like, oftentimes, me).  It leads one to question, is this compromise of myself really worth it?

I'll continue on this theme tomorrow, so tune in then!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Day 10: Reflections from after the storm

And then there are the moments
when I am certain I am possessed,
so fiercely do these crazy thoughts
charge through my head, and possess my being.
And these demons, they are merciless,
running ramshackle through every organ,
every chakra, slashing every pretense of peace
they can find, screaming bloody murder,
insisting that darkness, and darkness,
and only more darkness, is the way.

And it's true, it's sad, that in the
midst of all their screaming,
I have no room to remember my true nature,
my true name, and I believe their cries of darkness.
There's no room, in these moments, to remember
that these are only thoughts
(not evil, but unhealed),
and that they will pass,
they will not consume me,
I need not fear.

And then it blows over.
And I am thankful for time.
And I am thankful for God.
And I am thankful for friends.
And I am thankful for meditation.
Oh, how essential, these things that hold me.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Day 9: Vocal-reiki healing?

So continuing on from yesterday's post:  After my birthday lunch with “Erin”** and Kathy, I headed over to Erin's house to give her a vocal lesson.  (Erin is one of the few students that I teach in-home, mostly because she is my longest-running student, starting with me back in the summer of 2002!)

Erin was experiencing a lot of fatigue, both physical and vocal, with the physical symptoms including a lack of awareness of her lower body (especially in the lower abdominal area) and stiffness in the neck and shoulders.  As a vocal teacher, I have always had an intuitive ability to tap into what my students are producing and feeling vocally (although the extent to which I use this ability, frankly, varies, depending on the amount of my own "presence").  In other words, if I close my eyes, I can "see" and "feel" the sound that my students are producing in my own body.  Then, I can use this information to help them make vocal adjustments in how they are producing, visualizing and "placing" their own sound.

In addition, I will occasionally get some intuitive information about which exercise to do with the student next, which modifications/explanations might be helpful, how they could breath more effectively, etc.

Today, this ability seemed majorly augmented and expanded--almost as though I was "downloading", or channeling, intuitive information to a much higher degree.  The stream of commentary about what to visualize, how to adjust sound/breath, etc. was just flowing right through me.  And then, at one point, near the end of the first exercise, I had Erin switch to the vowel "oh" and I intuitively told her to drop the sound down to her lower belly (which seemed, at the time, like an odd instruction to my rational mind). 

Not only did her sound "open up", become more full and resonant, but emotionally, this seemed to “wake up” something inside of her. She realized that she had been “numbing out” this part of her body, in which often felt discomfort during her period. Physically and emotionally, Erin had other reasons to numb the discomfort she felt in this area. As an incredibly feeling and nurturing person, Erin had always wanted to be a mother, a dream which became dashed when, with midlife at her doorstep, her husband informed her that he did not wish to have children. Most recently, last September, Erin needed to have surgery to remove over a pound(!) worth of tumorous growth from the same area.

But the this area—which is, in energetic language, home of the second chakra—is not only the womb of the fetus, it is also the womb of self-acceptance and creativity! Recognizing this immediately, I asked Erin if she realized that, by numbing her awareness here, she was also shutting down her creativity. She agreed, stating that it was during this “time of month” that, in addition to numbing out to her body, she often felt unmotivated musically and questioned her choice of career. Wow.

We continued on with our exercises. My eyes closed, I began “seeing” and feeling (a correspondence in my own body) energy rising up from the stomach, through the torso and shoulders and down the arms. Almost immediately after, Erin spontaneously commented that her neck and shoulder pain had disappeared.

Wow again. I was stopped in my tracks by this. I consider myself intuitive, but this was beyond normal, and I wondered aloud where this the source of this energy and information was coming from. Erin, a devout Christian (and therefore generally, and understably, suspicious of my “New Age” ideas), offered: “Jen, it must have something to do with the reiki. When you engage in a spiritual practice that deeply, it's bound to have an effect.”

And, after my incredible experience of the distance healing visualization the previous night, I could see the direct effect and correspondence. Not only had I been powerfully personally affected, but I had been marveling at my teacher/friend Greg's ability to guide us, improvisationally, through such a profound visulization experience! He commented that his gift was dependent on us being there, because he was psychically (not his word) sensing where we were at, how each of us was responding to the visualization, in order to know how deeply to go into each part of the process, where to go next, how to segue. (I know he was also “feeling/seeing” this because he was the only one of us to utter a word.) Amazing.

So, it occurred to me, that perhaps my ability to work with people's voices is a similar intuitive ability, and one that I can deepen through my own meditation and energy work. I will be interested to see if I can continue this kind of vocal “healing” in the future, as it would be a beautiful bridge between my vocal teaching and my energy work. I would love to be able to expand in this direction professionally—what a unique and blessed calling that would be. But that remains to be seen. At any rate, to have the experience even once was quite a blessing.

**A pseudonym is being used to protect the privacy of my close friend/student.**

Day 8: My official birthday (written late at night)

I had a beautiful day, with a large blissful "bleed-over" effect from my reiki experience last night.  Being treated to lunch at Macaroni Grill, by two close friends, and to dinner at Great Sage, with Alex's family, was a wonderful treat.

I had one particularly interesting experience today that I want to write about.  But, about 20 minutes into the entry, I've decided I need to go to bed.  So, I'll finish up that writing and post tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Day 7: Bliss

So, very briefly today,  b/c it's past 12:30 AM and I should be in bed!

The solar return interpretation was cool, and a nice confirmation.  But honestly? It didn't give me a lot of new info.  Kind of validating in that I know more than I give myself credit for--I had basically already given myself a reading just in glancing at it the other day! Why did I discount myself, and pay someone else to do it? I don't know.  Ah, well.

But the reiki class? Learning, experiencing, the distance symbol? That was awesome.  Incredible.  I'm still buzzing with this tingling of connecting with all that is.  (I know that this sounds kooky, but oh well.) Really so beautiful and so confirming, this knowing feeling of bliss, of heart opening, of wanting so deeply to inhabit this connective space in every moment.

It's weird, because these days, I step in and out of that space.  Sometimes I'm rigid Jen, sometimes I'm spaced-out Jen, and sometimes, like this evening, I'm blissed-out connected Jen.  I like the latter the best, by far.  I was definitely feeling much more bored/anxious earlier today, and my reiki class experience was such a nice respite from that.

So, now, a brief, stream-of conscious writing.  I don't know that I would call it poetry; it's just what I'm feeling in this moment:


In the beginning, there was light.
And the light was me,
the light was you,
the light was the space within us,
between us,
and enfolded in the arms of our infinite God.

He holds us still in his arms,
always, infinitely,
with the love of a thousand mothers
all opening their hearts and
gushing out infinite love.
Yes, this much and more
(so much more).

If ever, for a moment, you experience darkness:
You need only open one tiny sliver,
one fraction of this amount,
to be flooded with absolute
love and devotion,
the kind that will melt you,
the kind that will hold you,
the kind that knows no end.

**Love, and Namaste.  (The light in me honors the light in you.)**

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Day 6--Happy (astrological) birthday to me :-)

So, this Thursday, May 20, at precisely 2:12 AM, I will turn 31.  It feels like much less of a "big deal" than 30 ("Oh no, the end of youth!!").  Basically, I'm just excited to have an excuse to celebrate with family and friends.  I'll be having four celebration meals in three days--a Thursday lunch with two close friends, a Thursday evening dinner with my in-laws, a Friday dinner with a large group of friends, and a Saturday dinner/evening spent with my family--so I feel pretty darn spoiled.

In addition, I've got some other special birthday things going on:
1. Tomorrow morning I'm getting an astrological "solar return" chart done ("What is that?" you ask--I'll come back to it, don't worry ;-));
2. Tomorrow evening I'll be attending a special reiki class (we'll be learning the distance symbol, which will allow us to do spiritual and hands-off healing, even when the client is not present); and
3. Friday afternoon I'll be getting a massage.
Sweet.  This feels like a very special week, for more reasons, even, than just my birthday.

But back to this whole solar return thing.  Since most of you out there (even, perhaps, all of you) are not astrology geeks such as myself, it bears some explanation.  So, let me explain what a natal chart is, very briefly, and then what a solar return chart is (also, hopefully, briefly).

A natal chart is basically a snapshot of you at the moment in which you were born.  It basically shows the blueprint of your personality--your strengths, weaknesses, the way you are emotionally/socially/intellectually, what you "came here" to learn in this lifetime-etc.  Basically, since your natal chart is your personality blueprint, you carry it through your whole life.  It doesn't mean you can't change and learn (you can and should!), it just show the core of who you are throughout your life.  Here's a picture of my natal chart.

(Don't worry about what the symbols mean.  That's a whole other ball of wax, which perhaps I'll get into on another day.)

Now, in contrast to that, let me explain what a solar return chart is.  A solar return chart is basically a chart that is made up for the exact time that the sun in sky returns to its natal position in your chart.  This happens once a year, right around (but not at the exact same time as) your birthday.  For example, the sun in my natal chart is at 28 degrees, 38 minutes of Taurus.  Tomorrow, May 19th, at 1:52 pm, the sun in the sky--we astrogeeks call this the transiting sun--will return to this exact position.  Happy astrological birthday to me!

Here's a picture of my solar return chart:

As you can see, even just at a glance, it doesn't look a bit like my natal chart.  In contrast to the natal chart, the solar return chart is basically a picture of what you can expect in the year ahead.  I am just learning to interpret solar return charts--I gave it a crack a few weeks ago, for a friend--but I'm far from being an expert.  That's why I'm glad to be getting an interpretation done for me, tomorrow morning, just hours before my actual solar return!

Yesterday, I printed out my solar return chart for my last birthday--just out of curiosity.  (I now have a nifty astrological program that does this.  Last year at this time, I didn't even know what a solar return was!) Here's the chart for last year (May 19, 2009 to May 19, 2010):

It was really wacky for me, yesterday, to look at this chart, because there are some pretty strong and challenging energies here, and indeed, I had a pretty challenging year, in many ways.  (But also a very eye-opening year.)  I can see a lot of last year's challenges being displayed in this chart: Financial restrictions, job/career confusion, a real questioning of my approach to life (from a religious and personality frame), a budding interest in astrology and new study of reiki, a severe car accident, a new car, physical therapy, etc., etc. Phew! It is interesting to see this stuff spelled out in the chart, in retrospect.  And perhaps, in a later entry (tomorrow?), I'll describe how that's so. 

But for now, I'll sign out, looking forward to the fresh astrological year that starts for me tomorrow. :-)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Day 5: Eden, Art and Poetry

The most striking exhibit that I saw in the Brooklyn Museum of Art, by far, was "The Dinner Party" by Judy Chicago.  Here's the description from the Brooklyn Museum website:

"The Dinner Party by Judy Chicago is an icon of feminist art, which represents 1,038 women in history—39 women are represented by place settings and another 999 names are inscribed in the Heritage Floor on which the table rests. This monumental work of art is comprised of a triangular table divided by three wings, each 48 feet long." (For more info, and visuals, check out this page.)

Along the entrance hallway to the exhibit, there hangs six tapestry banners, which I personally found very compelling.  Here they are:

The message on the tapestries really resonated with me, as I have been working on a poem with the same theme.  (Incidentally, the tapestries were apparently completed in 1979, the year I was born, which I think is pretty neat.)   Here is a "rough draft" of my poem:

Oh, brother, sister, when did we begin
this forgetting of our true names?
this pretending of race, of rank, of age,
of this and that, of me and you?

When did we begin believing that we were separate,
when once we danced together—
shapeshifters, melding and flowing seamlessly in the light?

When did we stop tasting the love God
(and of ourselves) in every moment,
breathing it as air, drinking it as water?

Oh, my lover-friend, it is sad, this forgetting.
And yet, we pause now, and together,

The Garden is yet among us!
If we have not felt it, seen it, KNOWN it,
It is because we have banished ourselves
into the dark dankness of our own minds.

No matter, my friend, for in this moment,
Eden beacons.
And I inhabit her now, through the joy of my mind,
And I sense you, too, now , in the space of my heart.
And I feel your hand now as it once more clasps mine.
And with our feets, our hearts, our voices,
we rejoice together, once again, in the light.

I bought a copy of The Dinner Party banner postcards (as I scanned above) and am seriously considering creating a home "installation" involving these 6 postcards and my own Eden poem--most likely on my blank dining room wall.  The cards have a a lot of red and gold that would match my downstairs colors perfectly!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Days 3 + 4: To New York and Back

So, first of all, let me apologize for not blogging--and therefore, on the apparent level, not following my commitment(!)--yesterday.  Yesterday morning I left on a bus at 9 AM for New York City, and despite lugging the laptop along with me (Alex carried it all over NYC in his backpack, bless him!), I didn't really have an opportune time to sit down and use it until the 1:30 AM that night. . . I did actually try to log into the website repeatedly with my smartphone on the bus, and that didn't really work out.  Ah, well.

Anyways, I DID actually still honor my meditation and writing commitment yesterday, though, by engaging in both during the bus trip.  So, let me start out my typing up the poem that I wrote on the bus yesterday, despite my small reservation at the fact that it could use some heavy editing/fleshing out, etc.  No matter, honoring the writing commitment is the important thing, not perfection (right?), so here goes:

New York (Inside and Out)

As I see the skyscrapers
looming up ahead of me,
I feel my breath catch, and
my teenage self revive.

At 17, I could feel the pulse
of each bright light as it
zoomed through my big-eyed,
small-town veins,
shot after shot of pure adrenaline.

At 20, then, it made perfect sense
to drop my small school and small life
and to move to the Big Apple--
to pursue freedom and good fortune
in a big way.

I lasted 3 weeks.
Then came crawling back to the
safety of the little school,
the familiar faces,
the controlled routine.

Oh New York,
despite our sordid history,
I love you still.
I love your mischief, your glamour,
your hundred ways to cook,
your thousand ways to entertain.

I love you because
my ever-restless mind
does need a place to flit to,
to dance with,
to play in--
every now and again--
before returning to the snug security
of home.

**Admission: I did allow myself a little "fly-by" editing as I typed up the poem.  So, it's not in the exact format that I wrote up yesterday, despite my above intention.  Ah, well.  I forgive myself. ;-)**

So, moving past the poem, the NYC experience was also nice.  What made it especially enjoyable was the beautiful mid-70s weather, especially in contrast to the last two chilly December visits I made (2009, and before that, 2006).  I can't remember the last spring visit I made to NYC, so that was great.

Also, I was a little nervous about being "chained" to another couple for the weekend, but I needn't have worried.  Tiffani and Dave were great, and I think we all managed to have a great time and not get on each others' nerves.  Go us! :-)

Wait, you want to hear about what we actually did? Figures. ;-P

Here goes. . .

The ride up was a bit lengthy, so we didn't arrive in central Manhattan (around Penn Station) until about 1:15.  Upon arrival, we made a beeline for Greenwich Village--mostly b/c Alex and I both adore the village!--and ate at a unique, but very small, vegetarian spot called "The Hummus Place".  Then we went shopping, picking up some clothes/jewelry from a Tibetan shop, some fancy soap from another shop, and some amazing chocolate--mine was dark chocolate with almonds + cherries--from a specialty shop called Pure Dark.  We then picked up some lattes (tea, coffee and yerbamate, depending on the drinker) from a cool coffee shop called Grounded and headed back towards our Marriott Hotel in Brooklyn.

When we arrived at the Marriott, they were not ready for us to check in--despite the fact that it was nearly 5 PM at this point.  So, we checked our backpacks that we had been lugging around--our backs were getting sore!--and once again hit the subway back to Manhattan.

Our next destination was Central Park, where we simply took a leisurely, relatively undirected stroll for about an hour.  Then on to Max Brenner, an amazing dinner spot that specializes in all things chocolate (gifts, entrees, desserts, drinks, you name it), and also just has an amazing presentation to everything they serve.  Alex and I make a point of visiting Max Brenner during every NYC trip now, and we felt compelled to share the experience with Tiffani and Dave.  Needless to say--1) We all love chocolate. (You may have noticed this theme.) Therefore, 2) We all loved our dinner and 3) left with slimmer wallets and expanded waistlines.

Shortly after leaving dinner, while sitting in a nearby park, Tiffani made a rather embarrassing and costly discovery: She had accidentally bought tickets leaving from Baltimore to NYC for the next evening.  So, we had no way back home.  The next 20/25 minutes were spent in a semi-panicked scramble to evaluate our options and secure new tickets (from a different busline, since all the Bolt bus tickets for the next day were sold out.) Pro: We managed it! :-) Con: It cost Tiffani a bit of money to buy 4 new tickets. :-(

After navigating that rather startling situation, we went to a late-night (11 PM) show called "Stuffed and Unstrung"   It's by Henson Alternative productions, and is basically adult-oriented improv using Henson puppets--hilarious! Alex's biggest interest in visiting NYC was to see this show, and I have to say, it was well worth it.  But it was also quite late when we arrived back to the hotel, and after 2 AM when we finally all got to sleep.

Speaking of sleep, it sounds like a good idea.  So, let me describe today's experiences as briefly as possible.  The highlights of today were two-fold:

Firstly, visiting the Brooklyn Museum of Art and viewing some amazing exhibits, especially their feminist collection and stylistic retrospective of American dress styles from the 1850s to modern times.  Fascinating to see, and to read descriptions of, the evolving American dress styles through different cultural eras.

Secondly--we met up with our friend Greg and ate a late lunch (3 pm-ish) at wonderful Ethiopian restaurant (a first for Greg), before heading back towards the Penn Station area to catch our 5 pm bus.  It was wonderful to see and catch with him.  We have a common interest in health food issues, and I may actually end up doing a (weekalong?) juice fast with him! We're going to be following up with each other about that, so I'll let you know more details if it ends up happening.

So, I've rambled on for an hour now, and, though I feel my descriptions could have been more in-depth, personalized and evocative--oh well.  That's quite enough typing for one night! Suffice to say, we crammed a lot into our little trip--and a lot of yummy goodness into our little tummies--without feeling rushed or over-whelmed.  Yay! So, NYC was  a wonderful experience. :-)

More--and back to "normal" life--tomorrow!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Day #2 Writing

So, my destiny card for today was the 7 of Spades. Here's the description:"The powerful Seven of Spades will challenge you to rise to higher levels of thinking, speaking and acting. Its challenges will manifest mainly in the areas of work and health, areas where you are likely to be holding some negative patterns that need to be changed. If you are willing to take responsibility for your condition and practice positivity in spite of circumstances, you can realize the powerful spiritual potential of this card and attain new heights. In its highest form, this is the card of FAITH."

Yay, another positive card!--NOT. (Already I hear a voice in my head chastising me, "but all circumstances are positive, Jen, if you know how to use them properly.") I did notice today, however, a tremendous amount of self-doubt surfacing. First it was in relation to my writing commitment. All the while that I was showering and getting ready for work this morning, my head was churning:How do I know that I can pull this commitment off?
What will I write about today? (Not this, not that, well maybe that, but. . .)

What if people don't care enough to read it?
And the biggest one:Why am I exposing myself in this way? If I write the things I really think, really care about, people will think I'm weird. People will reject me. I'm sacrificing my ability to tailor what I say to who I'm talking to.

Phew. It's exhausting to be in my head sometimes. Even when I feel the running commentary is "dumb", even when my "wise meditator self" realizes that the things my head churns out have no correspondence to reality--still, it's hard to give it up.

The voices of doubt continued throughout the day, especially manifesting in the form of approval-seeking: subtly seeking positive regard from the parents in my Music Together class, from the director of the music school, etc. And then, the doubt crept into my decision-making process of how I was allocating my time. Suddenly, I was not accomplishing enough during my 4 hour break from teaching. I had "wasted" my time in talking taking a walk, in indulging in astrology conversation with a friend, in getting groceries, in making a bank deposit.

Ludicrous, I know. But my inner critic is harsh, and it wanted to punish me for not getting things done and getting home more quickly, hence "putting off" my writing. By the time I did get home, I had 20 minutes until it was time to teach, and I was exhausted, beat up by these voices.

So, I did what any self-respecting person would do. I laid down, and took a deep breath. And then I softly gave myself a deep inner hug, in the form of these words:

Spring Within

This childish mind--
this mind that startles
and shakes in the night--
rock it to sleep with prayers and a lullaby.

These waves of emotion—
this dance between faith and doubt--
know that it is only an expression
of your longing for God.

You can't grab the truth and clench it in your fist!

So. . .
Trust and relax.
Open and love.
B r e a t h e . . . .
and feel the blossom of an eternal spring
unfolding within you.

These words have comforted me in many crying and anxious moments over the last three years. I wrote them during my brief stay in Sheppard Pratt (a psychiatric hospital), directly after having a "psychotic break". (The entire story should be told another time, but suffice to say I experience the depth of my fear and the height of inspiration within a very short time. Not a very easy experience to summarize.)

And the words worked their magic today--bringing comfort, soothing my soul, restoring my faith and my balance. I stood up slightly groggy but much calmer, ready to teach, and have continued the rest of my day gladly leaving those voices of doubt in the dust.

(At least, momentarily.)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Here I go!


May 13, 2010; 7:37 PM

Wow, so I might as well come right out and say it: Sitting down and writing tonight is a difficult thing. I want to and I don't want to.

I finished teaching at 6:30 and reflected today on some things that happened earlier in the day, while preparing my simple (microwave) dinner. And then I decided to treat myself to a TV break. So, I went upstairs with my meal and I started watching the final episode of Jamie Oliver's “Food Revolution”. . . Awesome show, by the way. Awesome, but not what I felt I should be doing. No. What I should be doing is writing, I felt this.

Let me take a step back. Starting with this morning. When I woke up, as part of my daily “routine”, I used my little computer program that tells me my destiny card for the day. Here was today's:

The Nine of Diamonds is often associated with financial losses of one kind or another but its true meaning is that of a completion in regards to some values that we have been holding. For this reason, it could be an indicator of the ending of a certain kind of work that you have been doing for a long time, or the ending of a certain pursuit. This could be the pursuit of some financial goal, some relationship, or some other 'thing' that is valued.

When money does seem to be lost under the Nine of Diamonds, keep in mind that this is just the preparation for a new cycle of incoming money. Sometimes we need to spend some money to stimulate more to come in.

“Hmm, well, that doesn't sound too great,” I thought. “Haven't I been dealing enough with losing students, and the income that come with them, already? Let me hope this is wrong.” But, as always, I was also curious to see if anything would come of this, as I very often see the Destiny Card theme play out, emotionally and otherwise, over the course of the day.

Later in the day, I did lunch with Keith. (We had rescheduled his lesson for the week to be today, rather than tomorrow, and to be preceded by lunch.) I was in an interesting frame of mind—riding pretty high, I guess you could say—and didn't have a lot of tolerance for his semi-pre-scripted tales, but rather than come up with my own things to say (too much work), I would act goofy, and gear my energy towards bursting Keith's bubble. Which, I have to say, I was occasionally successful at, due to my overwhelming persistence and audacity. (How long can you keep seriously rambling if someone is poking you in the nose or staring cryptically at you through their water glass. Okay, childish, I know, but effective.)

His vocal lesson was also geared in a somewhat unusual way. Rather than focusing on technique, and starting with the usual warmups, etc., we spent the whole time going over instrumentals + vocals for a new song that he chose—Gary Jules' version of “Mad World”.

And then, at the end of the lesson, Keith stepped out of student mode into friend-advisor mode, and he started grilling me. Is this a song that I would be interested in adding to my repertoire? And by the way, what solo gigs did I have lined up? (Ummm. . . none.) And what was I working steadily towards to ensure my progression towards my own happiness? (Uh, what?)

Still in my amused frame of mind, I pondered for a while that he was so convincingly stuck on this point of me needing to do something to be happy. Why, didn't I already seem happy? I really didn't want to talk about it—I just wanted to cherish my 90 minute break before the rest of my teaching ensued—but, under some duress, I tried to explain how I wasn't worrying about these things right now, that I just working on being more fully in the moment, on re-programming my worrying brain to be more grateful, on modeling joy in teaching/helping others.

Keith didn't totally buy it. He kept trying to convince me that I should commit to a 21-day program geared towards something that I cared about—for example, writing. I started to get more defiant and irritable, and he finally and reluctantly left.

But it did stay on my mind. Because in truth, upon reflection, I do want to commit to something. I just don't know what yet. The easiest and most basic thing seems to be to commit to my own reflection and creativity, to consciously set aside time for it every day.

And I've decided that, despite my earlier obliviousness and petulance, I am, in fact, ready and willing to make this commitment. In fact, I think this is actually what the nine of diamonds is actually about. It's about dropping my refusal to commit to myself. It's about dropping the preference for a foggy but indecisive non-future and choosing instead to commit to my own creativity and self-regeneration.

So, here goes:

For 30 days, I commit to doing the following every day:

  1. Meditate for 10 minutes in the morning.

  2. Engage in 20 minutes of writing (any type—including reflective, poetry or song)

To help me with this process, I will be following the journaling protocol set aside in Cheri Huber's book, “Making a Change for Good”. Meaning: In addition to doing my 20 minute writing commitment, I will also be journaling briefly at the end of each day on how the day went. As an example, here is my journaling activity for today. . .

(You can click on it if you'd like to read it.)

. . . So why don't I go ahead and complete my assignment now, shall I? After a small break, that is.

Break at 8:30, Resuming at 8:46

Okay, I'm back. I really dislike staring at a computer for a really long time. So, I decided to take a break. And bonus—during my break I made a phone call, finished washing the dishes and persuaded Huxley to come back inside. I feel so accomplished!! :-)

So, ANYWAYS. . . Where was I? Right. My journaling activity. Got it. So, my assignment for today is:

Decide where you will sit and what you will use for your journal. In your journal write your answers to these questions:

  1. What does “self-discipline” mean to you?

  2. What is your history with self-discipline?”

Hmm. Okay, here goes. . .

  1. What self-discipline means to me. . . Okay. I feel like there are several ways I could answer that one, ranging from “a self-made prison” to “making an ongoing commitment to something that is valuable for my own self-growth”. But even though I often feel like the former, I'm going to go with the latter, which I think reflects a deeper truth.

  1. My history with self-discipline. Okay. Well, as one might expect from answer #1,

    it's pretty varied. I have made short-term (10, 20, 30 day) commitments in the past, including a “Commit to Sit” meditation challenge (30 days), a month trial vegetarian diet (which converted me to be a “real” vegetarian), a raw food fast (21 days—amazing!), and one other time (about a year ago) through the Making a Change for Good. But I've also had many more times when I haven't committed to things, or I've made a short-term commitment that then fizzled away. So, yeah, pretty varied.

Oh, and a far as the deciding where to sit: I will sit in my meditation room (no brainer, there). And as far as what to use for my journal. Well, I just took another small break, hopped online and started up a blog. So, I'll be using that.

So, there it is. A small step, yes. But also real, decisive and committed.

Wish me luck. And see you tomorrow. :-)

Signing out at 9:20 pm (Phew!)