Mind Control to Major Tom – No, wait…

I was certain that was the opening line to David Bowie’s Space Oddity.

It was 5 a.m. in Bali. Roosters crowed. Shadowy edges of sleep retreated. I reached for my phone and typed in those words, mind control to major tom. They’d registered so clearly as I hung in pre-consciousness. I wanted the lyrics – find out what message the Universe had sent through my dreams. I found it – whoops! Not Mind Control – Ground Control. Hmm, Freudian slip?

I read through the verses. The last one said it all:

Here am I floating round my tin can
Far above the Moon
Planet Earth is blue
And there’s nothing I can do.

Don’t listen to it unless you’re in a super cheery state of mind. It’s dark.

I could immediately relate. That sense of floating through the days, losing track of weeks, months. Planet Earth is indeed blue if you define blue as sadness. But is there really nothing I can do? Isn’t there always choice? Somewhere? I’ve built my life on the belief that there is, that I have sovereignty over my thoughts, that my thoughts dictate my reality.

So if my reality sucks, I’m the one to blame for not exercising mind control because, as realities go, I’m still living a golden life. It’s just different, very different from what it was before.

Once fully awake I felt the shift in energy. My gut told me this was a big deal, an opportunity to enter into a new agreement with myself. Mind control to Major Tom…get your shit together, human. Today’s the day. You need to jump on this power surge now. You’re being supported by forces beyond yourself to make this change.

After ten months, my morning ritual is sacrosanct. I don’t waiver from it. I don’t skip a day. To some, that may seem obsessive-compulsive but I’ll tell you what. It’s survival at its very basic level and I cling to that routine for dear life.

So I journalled, exploring the morning message with questions and words. Nadda.

Then I went through my yoga routine. Not even a whispered clue.

My last hope was meditation. I lit incense, put on my earth and sky mala beads, sank to the cushion and –

Woah!

I wish, wish wish I had words for what happens in those moments. Sometimes it’s a quiet knowing. Not this time.

It was as though someone shouted at me –

Mental Reset

However, and this may give you some comfort, I don’t hear voices. Instead, the words sailed toward me through the sky in Arial Black typeface and entered my skull with a jolt. My eyes flew open. In that instant, the landscape transformed from overcast to radiant.

Do you remember being in love? Or better yet, being loved? My insides felt like that. Happy. Hopeful.

Everything is the same, yet everthing’s different and I’m still sorting it out. There’s a tickle that feels like maybe, just maybe I want to start writing again. (Blogs don’t count.) I no longer feel panicky about the future and I’ve lost the compulsion to try to plan for it. What an exercise in futility that is! I still miss family. I still see transition in my future. But my present is here, now, and it’s populated by precious relationships and equatorial green.

My gratitude bucket is bursting it’s seams.

Normally I’d pull this phenomenon apart piece by piece, looking at all the angles, wondering what I should DO with a new perspective, a mental reset. I process. It’s who I am.

But that’s the most amazing part. It’s done. All I had to DO was sit on the cushion. The rest was a direct download from the Universe. Zap! And my new operating system was installed and running.

I want to encourage you if you don’t already meditate, start now. It’s not just for ‘those yoga types’. It’s the doorway to accessing your intuition – the things you know that you don’t know that you know – the most powerful tool the mind has to offer. Everyone has it but few take time to develop it.

Alan Alda said it well:

“At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.”

I’d love to hear your experiences with meditation. It’s a practice that is unique to every individual.

Hit the road, Jack, and don’t you look back (at 2020)

It’s almost in the rearview mirror – this never-to-be-forgotten year. Even though turning over the date on the calendar won’t change reality, there’s something about ditching the double 2-0 that feels hopeful.

I’m not setting out to bash what we’ve gone through the last ten plus months. A microscopic virus has accomplished what monarchs, armies, and governments never could. Overnight it brought life as we knew it to a screeching halt.

I want to acknowledge and honor the significance of all of it. Once. Then it’s face forward utilizing what I’ve learned in preparation for a very different future.

So what were my lessons of 2020?

Number one with fifty exclamation points:

I need people

Boy, oh boy! Do I need people! A deep-seated belief that I’m a loner, perfectly happy to entertain myself for days on end, ended when that became my reality. But it’s not just people. It’s friends who care, who are committed to being there for each other – give-and-receive relationships that spring from the heart and don’t disappear when times get tough. Living alone with neither a partner nor pets, these friendship connections have kept me sane.

Number two could be listed shoulder-to-shoulder with number one, it’s that important:

I need ritual

I have to know there’s something to wake up for, something to occupy the beginning hours of the day. Fortunately, that routine was already in place, it just became longer, and vital. First, I journal with coffee. When I realized coffee was adding nervous energy that exacerbated anxiety I switched to ginger tea. Journaling finished, I do a yoga workout to hypnotizing hang drum music. After that, relaxed and soothed, I sit in meditation. By then I’m starving and ready to mindfully savor every bite of breakfast.

I need to move my body

Yoga’s great, but a walk gets me out of the house and out of my head into the empty sidewalks of Ubud. Sometimes I stop at Circle K even though I don’t really need anything, just to say a few words to another human. Sometimes it’s the library. The disorganized shelves of used books for sale are like hunting for treasure in a sea of trashy romance, but it passes time.

I need sunshine’s vitamin D

Rainy season came and cloudy days along with it. I wasn’t getting out as much and my thoughts grew steadily darker. It dawned on me one bright morning that I no doubt lacked vitamin D, a mood elevator delivered naturally via sunshine. I was out the door in a hot minute. That day I walked four miles and felt almost euphoric. Now I’m more cognizant of the shift toward depression and avail myself of stabilizing sunlight whenever that golden ball appears. It works like magic.

I need purpose

This one’s tricky. From my arrival in Bali in March 2012, until I returned from Italy in March 2020 and found the island in lockdown, my purpose and single-minded focus was writing. I wrote two novels, a memoir, poetry, this blog, and an occasional short story. My entire life centered around writing and writers’ groups. Literally, overnight all desire to write vanished. I’m still trying to figure out why. But whatever motivated me prior to Covid was suddenly as utterly absent as my non-existent sex drive. Months passed and I regularly engaged in other projects, cooking projects, sewing projects, puzzles, and a plastic-bag-flag project. But I’ve found nothing to replace the all-consuming passion I once had for writing.

I need adventure

Perhaps some people get their excitement fix from movies or TV. I’ve never developed the habit. For me, it has to be an embodied experience. Go there, do that! But in my Covid-altered state, I forgot that I could jump on the back of Ketut’s motorbike and take off for favorite haunts or discover new ones. Even a bike tour of the backroads surrounding Ubud is adventure enough to scratch that itch for days. Now that I’ve remembered what pure joy it is to ride, it’s become part of the survival plan.

I need hope

We all need hope – a belief that 2021 will be better. But I’ve let go of the fantasy that there will be a return to what was. After flailing about for the first few months of the pandemic it began to sink in how destructive and broken the old ways were. Some were already obvious. Others have come boldly to the forefront to blatantly challenge history as contrived by and for the privileged few. In spite of the chaos, loss, and irreversible damage, Covid has pushed a massive reset button. For that, I am deeply and truly grateful.

Tomorrow is the 31st here in Bali. Fireworks and parties are banned and I can’t say I’m sorry. On this night in the past, Ubud has sounded like a war zone until three or four a.m. Instead of tossing sleeplessly for hours, tomorrow, in the silence, I’ll pay my respects to 2020 for the things it’s taught me. Then I’ll burn the calendar – a letting-go ritual signifying endings. I’ll bring out the fresh, new one with the number prominently displayed at the top. 2021. I’ll crank up the music to that iconic song from the Broadway play, Hair, This is the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, Age of Aquarius…

and I’ll dance.

Where’s my ear chakra?

image from Proko.com

I’d just settled into a comfortable half-lotus on my meditation pillow and rested my hands on my knees forming the Gyan mudra for knowledge.

image from padmes reiki room http://www.padmes.com

I opened my Crown Chakra to receive wisdom from the Universe, then my Third Eye to see beyond the visible.

image from jillconyers.com beginners guide to the chakras

About that time a thought barged in. Where’s my ear chakra?

Why wouldn’t my ears have a chakra? Listening is far more advantageous than speaking during meditation and if messages were incoming I wanted to know why ears didn’t have their own reception center.

No sooner had the question formed, abrupt and silly as it was, the answer came.

Wisdom of the Universe and visions seen with Third Eye go directly to the Heart Chakra. The heart hears all unspoken information meant for you. It translates and forwards it to the Throat Chakra. The messages coming through the heart enable you to speak your truth.

I no longer cared about my ears. I was awed as the story unwinding in my head continued.

Your gut (Third Chakra) listens to the body and transmits messages to the seat of creativity and innovation, the Second Chakra. There, an appropriate course of action is conjured. That information travels to the Root (First Chakra) communicating what the body needs to survive and thrive. You have two intuitive listening centers, the heart, and the gut. Your ears are for the earth-plane only.

I think this may have been the most elegant download of information I’ve ever received. I’d wondered a stupid question not even expecting an answer. But the Universe honored my curiosity in the most beautiful way.

To be clear, this was for me, nobody else. I’m not a guru of the chakras and I will never challenge someone else’s interpretation. I’m also not a medium. Those gifted souls regularly hear messages for others. Furthermore, I don’t usually post details about my rituals. I refer to them, but I don’t belabor them. It’s the quickest way to lose a reader and I value my friends who follow this blog and respond so caringly. In over 400 posts I’ve only gotten one rude comment and I take full responsibility for that. I broke my own code and wrote a political piece, an area best left to journalists.

So if this is going to turn people off, why am I writing it?

I hope to generate greater interest in meditation. These are strange and complex times. Much of what we depended upon in the past to chart the way ahead doesn’t work anymore. There’s too much unknown. Too much uncertainty. Those who can access their ‘inner knowing’ will gain insights that won’t be forthcoming any other way.

The human organism is vastly under-utilized. We have so much more potential than we employ to our advantage. I’ve been steadily drawn more deeply into the exploration of those untapped reservoirs of possibility and my mind is blown. Over and over again. It’s exhilarating, humbling, and simply magnificent. I want that for others – for everyone. That’s what is called for as the Age of Aquarius dawns.

How to maintain mental balance in the face of fear

After being sucked down the ever-deepening black hole of today’s news, I decided to look for something happier. It didn’t take long to find Sunny Skyz, an online media source with the tagline, Live. Laugh. Love. I scrolled past one happy tear-jerker after another unsure of what exactly I was looking for until this title grabbed me.

Stolen Therapy Goat Found, Reunited With Depressed Cow

I laughed out loud.

It’s about maintaining balance. Too much of anything tips me over. I don’t mind being toppled by an excess of joy, but when warning bells in my head signal an overabundance of darkness, it’s time to change course.

In my late fifties I had a teacher. Three times a month for fourteen months I sat with a group of six others to learn from this woman. I’ve never run into anyone else who talked about the things she did, or used the words she used. Every week she blew my mind.

As the world goes dark I remember her teaching on valences. A valence, in chemistry, is the power an element or atom has to combine and form molecules. She used the word to refer to the power of energy to attract like energy and our need to be aware of the affect that has on us.

She talked about valences over countries – collective energy from the thoughts, attitudes, and behaviors of the people and politics of a nation. The more powerful that energy becomes, whether positive or negative, the more deeply it impacts those living beneath it. It takes determination and a strong will to remain on an even keel when the overarching force is dark.

Her warning was for a country.

With the vast tentacles of the internet broadcasting doom on a daily basis, our entire world is blanketed in death-energy. The uncertainty of not knowing when or how this epidemic will end, doesn’t bode well for staying centered. It can send our thoughts spiraling into overwhelm and leave us feeling anxious, panicky, worried and afraid.

Those of us who are natural optimists fare better in times like these. We usually know what it takes to maintain a healthy state of mind when faced with difficult times. But even those blessed with eternal sunshine in their souls may be struggling with this one.

I’m grateful for having spent those months with my guru. She didn’t stop with the explanation of valences, she taught us how to work with them, physically and mentally. She showed us how taking just a few minutes to ground our bodies can make all the difference in how we deal with stress.

To ground energy, place both feet flat on the floor, take a deep breath and say your name out loud. You can do that anywhere. It takes about three seconds.

A three-minute grounding meditation can help you relax and bring your focus back into balance. I hear you groaning. Try it! It’s only three minutes.

Set a timer. Then…

  • Pause, take a deep breath and place your bare feet flat on the floor. (Wear stockings if the floor is cold!) Wiggle your toes. FEEL your feet in contact with the ground beneath them
  • Place your hands on your stomach. Take 3 breaths as deep as you can. Feel your stomach rise and fall with each breath.
  • When you’re ready, close your eyes.
  • Breathe deeply into your stomach while counting slowly to 5. Hold your breath for another count of 5. Breathe out while slowly counting to 5. Continue breathing in for 5, hold for 5, out for 5 until the timer buzzes.
  • With eyes still closed, notice how your body feels starting with y.our feet and working your way up your legs torso and arms, to your head. Really pay attention to how your body feels. Slowly open your eyes.

These are simple techniques to do on your own. They can be life-savers when time is short.

But…

If you have ten minutes and want to go to war with the valences, I challenge you to The Warriors Path Grounding Meditation. I love this one, but it’s not for the faint-hearted! You’ll see what I mean.

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When I’m grounded it’s easier to detach from the stories, turn off the news, and take care of myself.

Whether it’s Sunny Skyz and therapy-goat stories, or my guru’s guide to grounding, I hope this post has provided a respite from the daily grind of negative news. Better yet, I hope you’ll find these tools help you de-stress and maintain your mental balance.

Caught in the Crossfire

white and red balloons

Photo by Sirirak Boonruangjak

Someone says something, does something, implies something that upsets you. For days following you rehearse rebuttals, running the scenario through your mind over and over again. You write a scathing email but have the good sense not to push send. You run the incident past whoever will listen, adding their shock and outrage to your own. Ugliness expands and overshadows everything.

When that happened two weeks ago the insult wasn’t aimed at me. But it grew horns and a tail and I took it on, enacting the above scenario to the letter. In the midst of the heat and angst of that simmering kettle another situation developed. It was a blast out of nowhere that blindsided me and I was still trying to make sense of it when, Wham! A third shock-wave slammed full force.

The disruption of peace is so foreign to my life that by the time the fourth and final jolt landed, the utter absurdity of the sequence of events left me shaking my head. What was I missing? What lesson was being pounded home with unrelenting force?

The Universe knows me. When it comes to subtle hints I’m hard of hearing. Some people pick up the slightest whiff of – you might want to pay attention to this – and execute a course correction mid-stride. Not me! I have to be bludgeoned with it.

Intense dialogue between the inner world of experience and the outer world of events ensued. It was as though my personality was in surgery, undergoing a central re-calibration without anesthesia. No wonder I wanted that second glass of wine. And forget about Bintang kecil, the small bottle of beer. Bintang besar silakan! Large please!

But the numbing blur of alcohol was temporary. In the morning the issues were still there. My higher self looked on with disapproval.

It was time for a better choice. I dusted off the meditation cushion. I’d offer my predicament back to the Universe and see what She had to say for herself. She’s a chatty sort I’ve noticed. Given the chance, insights gathered from eons of collective wisdom are there for the asking.

No sooner had I maneuvered my legs into half-lotus and She was transmitting.

That injury you took on wasn’t yours – – an acquaintance had an expectation that you were unwilling to meet – – you were wrongly accused of an imagined infraction – – the performance of another fell short – – Why are you angry? It’s not about you.

What? Why am I angry? Not about me? What? What?

She hummed a bit, waiting. Blew a sweet-scented breeze through my hair. Whispered mysteries and magic while I reflected. I’d grown quite attached to my indignation. Entitled to it. I’d thought of hundreds of ways to verbally bring them down, make them think again before they messed with me. But, would I ever actually say those things? Probably not. I’d just let distress eat at me when indeed, it wasn’t my injury, my expectation, my mistake, or my performance.

She was speaking again. I strained to hear.

Let it go, She said. Let it go, let it go, let it go.

There are times when we don’t need to justify ourselves to anyone. Perhaps we’ve been standing too close to the conflict and we’re caught in the crossfire of a battle that has nothing to do with us. Engaging in the turmoil, even mentally, pulls us down. Fast.

It takes a conscious act of will but there is sweet liberation and personal empowerment when we choose to move away from the ruckus and just LET IT GO.

 

Mt. Agung – You’re not in Kansas anymore!

 

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Image result for minnesota prairie images

I grew up with prairies, forests, and the sky-blue lakes of northern Minnesota. The earth under my feet didn’t move. Ski hills were hills. They didn’t erupt. My nervous system calibrated to this solid certainty and made assumptions.

I’d heard of The Ring of Fire – first when the scratchy voice of Johnny Cash made the song popular – and later when the Science Museum in St. Paul brought the reality of volcanoes and earthquakes to the tundra.

The IMAX film produced by the museum introduced a different world. I watched mountains spewing fire, their molten guts dribbling down like icing on a cake. I remember the shiver of terror and the thought that followed: why would anyone live there? And yet, fascination gripped me. For weeks afterwards I felt a bit off-kilter and walked around humming, “I fell into a burning ring of fire,” under my breath.

Fate takes interesting twists. Was that day a foreshadowing of things to come? Now I live in Indonesia. This nation has the most volcanoes and earthquakes of any other place in the world. I’ve transplanted my Midwestern beliefs about solid ground to a country that shivers and belches daily. What was I thinking?

For the past week, Mt. Agung, 25 miles from my home in Ubud, has been threatening to blow. There’s a side of me that has gone untested until now. I’ve never faced a looming natural disaster. Ever. In northern Minnesota the worst we had were blizzards. Roads closed, 4 – 10 foot snowdrifts piled up, and school was cancelled. Yippeee!

Image result for minnesota cars buried in snow

Waiting on Mt. Agung is different energy. With every tremor, adrenalin floods my system. I have caffeine jitters though I haven’t touched coffee for months. And there’s an overwhelming helplessness that triggers people in different ways. Some get angry. Some rush out to stock up on food, water, flashlights. Some spring into action organizing shelters, collecting donations, working round the clock. Some cry.

I haven’t gotten angry, and I haven’t cried. But I’ve worried, and I’ve haunted the news channels as well as Twitter, Facebook, and the Indonesian government sites that dole out information in careful bites. Through it all, I’ve realized how little I’ve changed. Something in me needs to know, needs to suss out every factoid and warning. In the U.S. we get used to 24/7 reporting when disaster strikes. We expect to be fed a non-stop diet of fear and distress as stories repeat and images burn their indelible imprints on our retinas.

There’s a better way – I’m sure of it – a kinder way. Somewhere between getting ready, and having done everything I can do, there must be a quiet place in the mind to go and wait. There must be an off switch that allows silence from the clamoring voices and peace in the midst of uncertainty. In the interest of self-preservation, I’m determined to get there. The well-being of my Midwestern nervous system depends on it!

 

 

Tears Before 9 A.M.

Tears are easy for me. Sad movies, happy movies, a poignant story, a gesture of kindness…. It’s 9:00 a.m. and I’ve already had two good cries this morning. But first a note about meditation.

Ubud is a guru-abundant community crawling with yogis and healers. The streets are full of tourists, half of them are couples in matching his/hers outfits and the other half sport breathable but form-fitting, zen but trendy, yoga attire. They’re everywhere. But the ones I listen to are often seated at the next table in a café. Eavesdropping because it’s impossible not too, I’m soon aware that whatever else spirituality might be, here it’s big business. In what could easily become the spiritual seekers capital of the world, these enlightened beings self-promote shamelessly and one-up each other on daily hours of meditation, mastery of impossible poses, number of followers, DVD sales, podcasts, guest appearances, until I can’t help myself. I slow- swivel in my chair for a serupticious peek at the braggarts.

What happened to the student seeking the teacher in a cave on a lonely mountaintop somewhere in Tibet?

So when I sat down to tell the story about my tears and was about to mention meditation, discomfort squirmed around the word. My prejudice goes back to being raised Lutheran in the Scandinavian style. There were two subjects in our household that were taboo for discussion: politics and religion. They were seen as controversial, and controversy wasn’t tolerated. Kids, crops, and cooking, were acceptable topics.

Spirituality settles into the broadly defined religion category and I’m not surprised to note that prior programming still kicks in. So although it makes me uncomfortable to tell you that this morning I was meditating, it feels important in context, and in truth, I was.

It was at the end when, with prayer hands stretched high overhead in thanks for the unbelievable blessings of my life, that the first onslaught hit. Intense sobs from nowhere heaved in my chest and tears drooled down my cheeks. Gratitude feels like that sometimes when the bigness of it doesn’t fit the smallness of my expectation. I’m still incredulous that I’m here, in Bali, living in an apartment that dreams are made of, with a view of palm trees and red tiled rooftops and the overarching blue bowl of sky.

I collected myself, finished the meditation, and made coffee.

Sipping the thick, sludgy brew that I’ve come to love, and staring off into space imagining the day ahead, I didn’t hear Ketut come in. “Good morning.” His voice made me jump. He carried an armload of bags and deposited them on the kitchen counter. “Kue from Ngusabetegen,” he said and proceeded to remove fruits and cakes, and treats from the bags and place them on the countertop.

“So many, Ketut? All for me?”

“Oh ya, not so many. You keep in kulkas.” Kulkas is the Indonesian word for refrigerator and mine is a 2′ cube that sits beneath the counter. This abundance will max it out. Abundance. What he has brought me are not the 20 cent packets of fried dough or the over-ripe finger bananas that usually appear after ceremonies. Quite the opposite. I’ve watched his family make these confections over the days preceding an important ceremony like Ngusabetegen, and this gift represents more than just sharing leftovers. The gesture speaks to my heart with clarity. You are appreciated. You are respected. You are loved.

He sees my delight and hears my thanks. The Balinese culture is one of controlled emotions but Ketut has become accustomed to my hand-clapping, squealing excitement. He grins and beats a hasty retreat. As soon as he’s gone the dam bursts again and remnants of the earlier overwhelm wash over me. I dab at tears while unwrapping each precious offering.

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In the front are hairy, pink, rambutan. Behind them are the cutest fruits on the planet, mangosteen, with its round purple body, perky green cap, and six-petaled brown flowerette at the base. In the back at the left is bulu. It reminds me of a bundt cake or a very large donut with a hole in the middle. The bon-bons in palm leaf wrappers sit directly in front of the bulu. These are dodol and they contain a sticky-sweet black rice paste with a mildly smoky flavor. Unusual. The red and green grapes are red and green grapes, anggur merah and anggur hijau. In front of the grapes is an orange but it tastes and peels more like a tangerine. Jeruk. A giant pink and white cookie that is made only for Ngusabetegen in this village is simbar. Behind it are pink and white rice crispy cakes, jaja gina. The white satuh balls remind me of Mexican Wedding Cake cookies, but these have no moisture. The moment you bite into them they decompose into a pile of sticky dust in your lap. Notice the green leafy thing at the right-hand edge. It’s called tape beras. My first encounter produced the gag reflex, but I’ve acquired a taste. Inside this banana leaf packet is watery, fermented rice. Yum!  Oh! I forgot to put the lycee in the basket! There were 8-10 of those fruits in my gift as well.

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But the granddaddy of them all, the sweet snack that took me to Ketut’s family home for a stay of four nights so his mother could show me how it’s made, is jaja uli. Brown rice, black rice, and white rice are the basis for this delicacy. Pounded and pulverized first, then mixed with palm sugar, or in the case of the white, left plain, they are packed into forms to get the round shape, then wrapped in coconut leaves to preserve them. To serve, thinly slice and saute in coconut oil until crisp. The flavor is exquisite. But the time…and the labor…? This is enough to feed the entire village and it’s now in my kulkas.

So like I said, I cried twice today, and all before 9 a.m. Can a heart break with happiness? If it can, mine does every single day. And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to have a little nibble of dodol while I fry up some jaja uli!

My Top Ten Resolutions for 2015

* 1) Don’t forget how to be still and stare off into space P1070437 2) Trust your gut and follow its guidance photo 3) Remember every day to be grateful for exactly where you are P1080226 4) Allow the abundance to flow through you to others P1080117 P1070406 5) Accept help gracefullyPriest applying the ash to my forehead 6) Ask for help when you need it P1080495 7) Hog your peace: don’t over-extend and don’t over-commit P1070797 8) When you’re uncertain, wait. Don’t be pushed into a decision before you’re ready IMG_7947 9) Continue to be a student of life…and love P1040793 P108040310635758_10152536452433037_2535777418164997883_nunnamed 10) Live your truth!

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HAPPY NEW YEAR EVERYONE!

A (Very Small) Room of One’s Own

Virginia Woolf had it right. People need a place to escape the rigors of social interaction otherwise known as life. Some of us need it more than others. You closet introverts know who you are.

I used to fight my introverted self. It isn’t the preferred category. The extrovert catches the worm. The introvert agonizes over the proper approach to the worm, whether or not the worm will be receptive to the advances, rehearses a dozen different speeches to break the ice and by then the worm is gone.

When Pasek asks me if I want to rent the place next door while mine is being renovated, I say, “Oh no. I’ll stay in my house during the construction.”

“No,” he says.

“Yes,” I say. “It’s okay, I like building projects.”

“No,” he says. Pasek is the project manager. Normally I would defer to his greater knowledge of best building practices in Bali. But this time I’m adamant.

“Yes,” I say, and that’s the final word.

It begins innocently enough. I arrange the sofa and chairs in my open living area so the crew can relax while they eat breakfast and lunch. I buy coffee, tea, and sugar for their morning and afternoon beverages. I make the extra bathroom available for their personal needs. In my mind it’s like a very long tea party and I’m the ultimate hostess.

My yoga and meditation routine gets pushed to 6 a.m. so I can be finished before the noise starts.

During the day I sit with my laptop at the dining table so I can watch the work while I write.

After a month the dirt and noise encroach. I remove the dining table and chairs, shove the sofa against the back wall, and relocate my writing to the front terrace. Not sturdy enough for constant use, the sofa breaks. That too is removed. Then the bags of concrete arrive and take over the terrace.

The desk in my bedroom becomes my island of calm.

A day later, the concrete for the new second floor is poured. Without warning, gray cement water rains through the bamboo ceilings of both bedrooms flooding them in minutes. I lurch away from the desk and run for buckets, mops, rags, anything to staunch the flow. I feel my enthusiasm slip a few notches.

Hours later, with the help of Ketut, things are drying.

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“Roof go tomorrow,” he announces as we return the furnishings to their original places. “Maybe furniture move, move.”

“The roof? Tomorrow?” I squeak.

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“Ya,” he says.

We assess the situation and I send him to buy tarps. The next morning I get up with a plan. There’s space in my extra large bathroom for the wardrobe and the chest of drawers. If I move those things out of the bedroom and arrange everything else at the far end to avoid possible future flooding from the unprotected area, the absence of a roof should matter less. I set to work. By the time Ketut comes back I’ve finished.

“Have help?” he asks, as he eyes the large, heavy wardrobe and chest now sitting in the bathroom.

“No,” I say. “I did it myself.”

“Not broken?” he asks.

“No, not me and not the furniture.” He laughs.

P1060865I change the bedding, arrange the side tables and hang a few things on the wall. Not bad. I sink into a chair and gaze at my handiwork. With the bulky items out of sight in the bathroom, the space feels larger. And it looks more like a studio apartment than a bedroom, granted a tiny studio, but the energy of it has shifted.

It’s a refuge. It contains everything I need.

Pasek says in two months the work will be finished. Yesterday two months would have sounded like twenty years. But now I have a place that feels organized and moderately clean where I can shut the door and claim private time. I’ve banished the ridiculous notion that I’m entertaining guests. Enthusiasm has resurfaced. I’ll be fine. All I need is a nook, an undisturbed corner where I can duck away to recharge my introverted batteries…a (very small) room of my own.

101 Breaths

Nine eleven.

Those numbers, in that order, will forever mean something more than just two numbers spoken together.

It was early morning. I was driving my youngest daughter to school. We had the car radio on and the program was interrupted. A plane had crashed into the World Trade Center. I remember thinking that something in the traffic control tower must have gone terribly wrong. Within moments, another plane hit.

I had been in New York two weeks earlier with middle daughter, Joy, helping her move into the dorm at FIT in Manhattan. Now I dialed and redialed her number. Nothing.

By the time I got to work a third plane had careened into the Pentagon. My cousin worked there. My daughter still didn’t answer.

Twelve years later, can it be? It’s over a decade, but still fresh, still a terror of the heart. Both my daughter and my cousin were unharmed. Many others were less fortunate.

This morning I sat in meditation. I couldn’t still the thoughts until one idea caught my attention. It said, “Take 101 breaths to cleanse the heart.” I gulped a lungful of air and expelled it slowly, tightening the stomach muscles until the last wisp of it left my nostrils. Then slowly, methodically, I counted each deep inhale and elongated exhale, one hundred and one times, remembering and letting go.

Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Image

Justin Lane/Pool/Getty Image

Breathwork, or pranayama in yoga circles, brings harmony to the body, mind, and spirit. My body knew what was needed and sent the subtle message to me in the form of a thought.

The breaths completed, I sat in gratitude, the heaviness of those memories lifted. I honored the losses in a way that didn’t consume me.

Once again the body has taught me a valuable lesson. When dealing with too much emotion…101 breaths.

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