Archive for category: Buddhist Practice

Lima: Tears of Joy & Sorrow!

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Gourmet, Mindfulness, Oncology, Personal Growth, Psychology, Relationships, Spiritual, Travel - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

Prudencio, Tania Harriet & Margarita

This emotional roller coaster, these tears of joy and sorrow, this laughter, all within 48 hours, this is NOT JET LAG. It is the joyous proximity to celebration of a new life, juxtaposed with the sudden confrontation of the possible death of a friend, both of whom we have specifically come to South America to visit.

But here and now, the poignant celebration of a new life. We touched down in Lima at midnight on Sunday, exactly one year to the day later than we were expected. After the usual scurry of pre-departure preparations for a six-week absence in So America and Cuba, we arrived in Lima after 22 hours in transit, and exactly one year after we expected to arrive. The surprise sight of Prudencio waiting for us with his bride Margarita and their baby daughter, Tania Harriet, my Aymara Indian baby namesake, awaiting arriving international passages straining at the rails, simply and totally dissolved me.

Loving Newlywed Parents

Loving Newlywed Parents

I had not seen Prudencio for ten years, not since I was the one at LAX awaiting at the rails for him among arriving international passengers after he’d returned to us from his visit home to his family in Chicuito,, his Aymara pueblo on the banks of Lake Titicaca, in Peru. But in 2004 Prudencio, even with the ten year visa we’d helped arrange for him to visit us, was quite harshly denied re-entry by US border officials.

That was one of the penetrating traumas that preceded my diagnosis of breast cancer, and that introduced me to the visceral experience of powerless disenfranchisement that the majority of third world people experience daily. As I waited eagerly for Prudencio to emerge from customs, the hours dragged on with no word. US Border Officials refused to reveal anything about Prudencio whom they had detained in a darkened room behind closed doors, while, I later learned, they threatened him and his whole Peruvian family if he did not confess to whatever trumped up charges they accused him of, before loading him on a return flight to Peru.
In the intervening years we tried several times to clear this up, to no avail. So this is the first time we have seen each other in ten years, and why, upon seeing him waving and smiling as we emerged from customs after midnight, I dissolved in tears of joy and relief.

Since then we have spent nearly every waking hour together while we are in Peru. They show up at our hotel mornings after what turns out to be typically long bus rides across several zones of the city of Lima on the Metro with Baby Tania Harriet. We spread out over the two queen beds and on the floor of our large hotel room for hours, sharing photos, catching up, exchanging presents, and reading aloud in Spanish from one of the dozen or so classic children’s books I have brought my namesake, year-old Tania Harriet, long before she will be interested in reading!.

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Reading Curious George in Espanol

Listening to Ariel's iPad Reading of "Ferdinand"

Listening to Ariel’s iPad Reading of “Ferdinand”

Margarita crotchets booties for Daughter Ariel and her partner Kate’s baby boy due in June. Ariel has recorded a dramatic video reading on my iPad of “Ferdinand” in her fluent Spanish; Prudencio read us my favorite story of “Frederick”, and we stumbled and laughed through pidgin Spanish escapades of “Curious George on His Bicycle”. We visited museums together and their immaculate modest house outside the city, appreciating anew the struggles he faces supporting his family with his work in housekeeping at the downtown Sheraton Hotel.

P1020506The last day we played in our shallow hotel swimming pool, introducing Prudencio, Margarita and the baby to their first time ever dog paddling and “swimming” before taking them out for a celebratory final dinner at “Rosa Nautical”, a fancy and delicious seafood restaurant on Lima’s Pacific shore.

All in all, a delicious and wonderful visit before we set out on the rest of our long awaited return to Latin America,, and next, our also long-awaited reunion with travel buddy and English Expat friend, Kevin Poulter in Santiago.

Silent Spring

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Biking, Buddhist Practice, Cancer, Conscious Living, Family, France, Health and Fitness, Horses, Psychology, Relationships, Travel

My life has been so blessed overall–but I/we surely got dealt our lifetime ration of yuck over the past six months!!

In January, my beautiful young Rocky Mountain Horse, Shambhala Sunrise, died ;  our local property “caretakers” did the opposite of taking care of us and our property, instead figuring out how to destroy our yurt, and bilk us and the state of California, no more said about them, but we don’t miss them; the son of a (unbeknownst to us uninsured) roofer fell off the roof of our ranch in the Sierras; my truck was vandalized and my wallet and ID was stolen by a ring of sophisticated identity thieves; we had to cancel our long awaited trip to visit our godson in South America when my beloved husband, Jim, was diagnosed (mis, fortunately) with colon cancer; my new horse bucked me off twice and fractured my collar bone.  I didn’t feel like talking much about it all!  IT seemed like a good time to observe “SILENT SPRING” and wait until the dark clouds passed over.

Today, in celebration of the end of that Silent Spring, we are back on track-marking the end of the winter of our discontent and celebrating our 30th Anniversary with a tandem bicycle trip following the Rhine and Moselle Rivers,  More to follow!

A Beautiful Gift of Friendship

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Endorsements, Meditation, Women's, Writing - Tags: , , , , ,

“Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom”–an ink and watercolor drawing by Linda Johnson Roesch

Words cannot begin to describe the surprise, amazement, delight and gratitude that I felt when I opened a large mysterious package recently.  I was agog.  I have loved our adventures and I have loved writing about them, even to the extent that writing is part of my meditation practice.  Editing and publishing my first personal book was challenging, scary and exciting.  My readership is considerably smaller than  Cheryl Strayed’s who is living the writer’s dream, whose book “Wild”, about redemption hiking the Pacific Crest Trail be selected by Oprah for her book club. www.cherylstrayed.com/wild_108676.htm

My gratification as a writer is more private, though very deep.  And I have thoroughly relished invitations to speak with readers at book clubs.  Those readers really have great questions leading to wonderful discussions, and opportunities to relive experiences and explore life lessons learned.  More than enough conditions for happiness…..

However, this surprise package thrilled me to the core.  The beautiful watercolor and ink painting arrived unbidden, created by my high school classmate, artist Linda Johnson Roesch. San Marino High School Class of 195www.smnet.org/comm_group/smhs1958/WhatAreTheyDoing/

 

Linda lives in Vermont and we have only seen each other a couple of times since high school, but she got wind of my book, Pulling Up Stakes: Stepping Into Freedom, and bless her, was so inspired reading the book, that she took up brush and watercolors and created this mosaic, listing every single place mentioned in the story–and most of the characters including each of my children, and she signed it with an ink drawing of a llama with wings, an homage to the cover art.  Without saying a word, she packed it up, shipped it west, and gave me the deepest thrill a friendship over decades and across the continent could possibly bring to an author.

Cheryl Strayed, were you any happier when Oprah called you?  I am sure  you were in bliss, but this inspired act of generosity surely nourished my bliss as well.

Together, we Step Into Freedom practicing random acts of kindness.  Thank you SO much, Linda, Dear Friend!

How To Find Solace In the City

Categories: Adventure, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Meditation, Mindfulness, Personal Growth, Relationships, Self-Improvement - Tags: , , , , , , , ,

It is so easy to get caught and stressed, and yet so precious to be able to find opportunities for calming the mind, breathing and smiling, and centering.  For example, Tim Kreider writes in the New York Times about “The Busy Trap” (http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/30/the-busy-trap)  and how we too often overload our schedules and run around lamenting how over busy we are, just to avoid the fear of space, quiet, down time–the true ingredients of creativity. “More, more, and more” has long been the American way of life (or, should I say the American way of death…?) but there are (dare I say?) more and more of us pursuing a quieter, calmer path.  As Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh so sapiently offers:

DONT DO SOMETHING….  JUST SIT THERE…..

          Cultured Asians have long understood the value of solace and respite, and to that end, have created sublime gardens to foster peace, calm and tranquility.  This fall, while traveling on the book tour, we have savored three such beautiful gardens:  the Chinese and especially the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library and Art Gallery in San Marino, California–(about a block from where both Jim and I grew up), and the Chinese Gardens in Portland, Oregon.

In each, we found peace and quiet and such a clear privileging of aesthetics and beauty over any other value.  Time spent in an urban garden as even a brief respite from the busy-ness of urban life can be as refuelling as a day in the wild.  

 This lovely scene is from the Japanese Gardens at the Huntington Library in San Marino, CA  Japanese Garden – The Huntington Library www.huntington.org › Gardens

The Chinese gardens in Portland provided welcome respite from a busy schedule on the book tour in the Northwest–In Portland, we did a “meet the author” at Annie’s Bloom’s Books.  Annie Bloom’s Books | Your neighborhood independent bookstore. www.annieblooms.com/.   We stayed at the beautiful Portland hillside home of Lilio Aragonez, one of my favorite colleagues from teaching days at Beverly Hills High School a few decades ago!  We adventured around the city with Maina Ptolomy, one of my high school buddies from San Marino.  So book touring was always an adventure combined with kicks and old home week.

Taking only a whole city block, these gardens invite us to step into the home of a Chinese scholar and calligrapher, pausing by contemplative ponds and bridges.Lan Su Chinese Garden is one of Portland’s greatest treasures—a powerfully inspiring experience that takes one through time, offering a window into Chinese culture, history and way of thinking.

Lan Su Chinese Garden   www.lansugarden.org/

Entry mosaic invites the eye to contemplate patterns and rhythms while walking in meditation

A seasonal array of Chrysanthemums reminds one of the falling leaves, the coming of winter and consciousness of time passing…

Entering the welcoming courtyard,  looking through the keyhole gate, we are invited to look inward, to leave the city’s hustle and bustle behind and to enjoy time for contemplation, for focusing on aesthetic beauty and on both timelessness and time passing.  As Thich Nhat Hanh teaches, “I have arrived, I am home”  and “No Coming, No Going…..”

Each vista is calming, centering, lovely…

Don’t Lose Your Cool in the Warmth of the Holiday Season!

Categories: Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Family, Mindfulness, Parenting, Personal Growth, Relationships, Spiritual - Tags:

        Tis the season to be jolly, right?  Sometimes, doing our best at this time of year to be kind, and generous and thoughtful, remembering our friends, our family, our neighbors, wanting to reciprocate that random act of kindness that went unacknowledged, sometimes we just discover ourselves running out of gas, spread too thin, uber stressed.

I remember the coup de grace of this pattern, a time, way back when, when I was a single mom, a full time graduate student, and trying my best to do it all and to make the holidays wonderful for my two children, Gabriel and Ariel, then probably seven and five years old.  My kind mother, a creative grandma sewed an advent calendars for each of  them.  the calendars each had twenty-four little pockets with each day numbered from December 1 to 24, and each pocket was to hold a small surprise to be opened every day until Christmas.  So, writing papers and meeting deadlines for grad school, I also did my best to find forty-eight wonderful tiny surprises, and wrap each in tissue paper to fill their calendars.  Of course in addition, there were gifts to buy for the whole family and many friends, stockings to fill, holiday cards to create, write and address, lights to hang and a tree to decorate.

Gabriel and Ariel delighted in helping glue family photos on the cards, baking cookies and decorate the tree, hanging ornaments as high as they could reach, but we had a high ceilinged living room and a very tall tree, so they could only do so much.  At night, after they were tucked into their beds and sleeping, I got a tall ladder out of the garage, set it up, and began working my way up the tree with ornaments (many of course hand-made to make them more meaningful–Martha Stewart, are you hearing me?).  As I reached the top of the tree and the top of the ladder, to put the star on top of the tree, I teetered, lost my balance and fell to the floor in a crumpled heap, alone, sobbing, overwhelmed, and utterly exhausted.

Big life lesson!  Can you relate?  Anyway now, our extended family,  Jewish, Buddhist and Christian, celebrates the holidays very differently.  We rotate holidays, taking turns to host and decorate a tree.  For gifts, except for little children, we have a drawing, each of us drawing the name of another family member.  We have each submitted the name and contact information for our favorite charity (If you are feeling generous, mine, which I founded locally, is Bread for the Journey, a non-profit that raises money to bestow micro-grants to seed creative projects to serve the underserved in our county: www.bfjsantacruz.org).  We give one  generous donation to support the charity of the family member we’ve drawn.  So conscious, so simple, so nourishing!  So respectful of our intention to consume less, be lighter on the planet, and to celebrate the season with unfettered love and generosity.

So, my gift to you, this holiday season, Dear Reader Friends, is the gift of Stepping Into Freedom!  Stay cool, keep it mindfully simple  and be warm!

 

 

Llama Drama: An Opportunity for Practice

Categories: Adventure, Animals, Buddhist Practice, Conscious Living, Family, Health and Fitness, Hiking, Meditation, Mindfulness - Tags: , , , ,

All Black Llao Llao Grazing by Matlock Lake

Arriving in bliss with the llamas and our dogs, high in the John Muir Wilderness, we chose a relatively off the beaten path lovely lake to set up camp for our week.  While the Kearsarge Pass trail gives access to both the John Muir Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail and thus sees lots and lots of backpackers this time of the summer, Matlock Lake is a hidden gem.  We are the only ones here.  It is in a basin surrounded by gnarled weather bent White pines and granite outcroppings against a backdrop of jagged minarets.  From here we can explore Flower Lake,  Gilbert Lake, Heart Lake, and Bench Lake.

Packing with llamas gives us some luxuries backpacking must deny, such as a commodious tent, extra thick sleeping mats, a hammock, a table and two low Crazy Creek chairs, my small inflatable boat the “H.M.S. Sassenatch” launched summers ago on Crabtree Lake into Bench Valley, as well as fresh fruits and vegetables and other delectables.Feeling immeasurable gratitude for all their exertions in making this possible, I wanted to offer the llamas something in exchange.  Down by the banks of the lake I saw a wonderful garden of fresh green bunch grass, their favorite.  I could liberate them from their stake out line, up the required 200 feet from the lake, and let them enjoy an hour of grazing while I paddled across Matlock Lake in my little boat on a reconnaissance mission.

Paddling H.M.S. Sassenatch with Beau and Tashi on Matlock Lake

Jim had warned me that that he had seen Kalmia Polyflora,a toxic form of heather,  the same noxious neurotoxin that had killed Llao Llao’s grandmother Hopi on a pack trip many years ago.  I had seen a bit of that plant down by the lake but felt that there was so much good bunch grass available for the llamas that they wouldn’t eat it, especially if they were only allowed to graze there at the lakeside for an hour.

Last night we climbed into our tent early, read for awhile, buttoned Tashi and Beau into their bright red fleece sleeping jamis and fell fast asleep.  That is, until I was awakened by my muse to write ” The Zen of Llamapacking in the Wilderness” as Jim and the dogs snored on.   I finished writing just before turning out my headlamp to go back to sleep.  But not quite!  I heard a disturbing noise.  Was it a llama choking and sputtering?  I knew it could be the worst.  Terrified, I pulled on my camp mocs and jacket, and rushed out of the tent to discover my worst fears realized.

Llao Llao was frothing at the mouth, just like his grandmother Hopi had done before succumbing to paroxysms of neuromuscular trauma and death.  OMG.  At least this time I had fully stocked our llama emergency first aid kit and was prepared with activated absortive charcoal, a camelback and tube for intubating a poisoned llama, as well as an injectable bio-sponge to absorb toxins from the gut.

At first, so chagrined that I had not heeded Jim’s admonition, and dreading the inevitable “I told you so.” I hastily mixed the granulated charcoal in water in the camelback and tried to administer it by myself to the downed llama.  As soon as I approached Llao Llao with the hose to intubate him, he got to his feet and I knew I couldn’t wrestle 325 lbs of even a sick llama by myself.

I had no choice but to swallow pride and wake up Jim for help. Torn between terror about losing Llao Llao and dreading Jim’s reprisals, I called out imploringly to him.  Aroused, he snarled, “I knew it!” but pulled on his pants and shoes and came to my side.  Realizing we had to figure out a way to immobilize Llao Llao’s head and incredibly strong neck, I haltered him and led him to a large granite rock, pulled his head down onto it, wrapped the lead rope under and around the boulder and handed the rope to Jim to immobilize him while I tried to get the hose down his throat and into his stomach, not his lungs.  Not easy at all, as naturally he fought with all his might and when I did snake the tube in he tried to grind it up with his molars.  He didn’t try to bite my hand inside his mouth per se, but I did get some cuts but somehow managed to pump quite a bit of the bladder full of charcoaled waters into him.  We released his head and watched for awhile, until we figured there was nothing more to do for him but pray.  Charcoaled water all over my clothes and feet, I looked like a refugee from a coal mine.

Jim couldn’t resist telling me that I had shown way too much hubris.  Meekly, I replied that I thought it was misguided compassion more than stubborn pride. Nonetheless, deeply sobered, I realized it was definitely time to practice, to breathe, to meditate, to embrace humility and calm, not get feisty and defensive.  So, exhausted, we returned to our tent and fell back into deep slumber.

The following morning at daylight we checked on our patient and to great relief found him standing and even tentatively chewing his cud.  To be extra safe, remembering Hopi,’s prolonged fatal poisoning ordeal, we repeated the procedure this time with the orally injectable bio-sponge.  The whole drama was such a practice opportunity!  Breathing in my humiliation, breathing gratitude that a potential tragedy had been averted, and that Llao Llao would not die, I realized that compassion and gratitude must be tempered by good judgement and common sense.

Confirming the crisis had passed, I was able to feed and water the llamas then stake them out far from the lake and the heather.  Assured they were cared for, secure and safe, we were able to actually take a great day hike, climbing to the top of spectacular Kearsarge Pass at 11,804 ft.  Surrounded by jagged minarets, we found a new vantage point overlooking our breath-takingly beautiful high Sierra world!

Jim & Me with Tashi & Beau on Kearsarge Pass

 

 

 

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