Meditation is Hard — But Getting Softer

happy happy

I have dabbled in meditation here and there over the years but it wasn’t until this past February that I found myself sitting in the local buddhist temple, which is a strikingly peaceful oasis to sit and soak in the silence.  And to begin my foray back into mediation.  These Buddhist Monks hail from Sri Lanka and I can’t pronounce any of their names except I have recently learned that the equivalent of “Father Sujatha” is “Bhante Sujatha” so I find it’s safest to call each of them “Bhante.”

Bhantes

A few months ago it was all I needed to sit in the beautiful temple to attempt to quiet my mind, which ping-ponged all over the place like a mad chicken on crack.  I was all over the place so the silence did my mind and body good, and I probably tweaked and twitched as I sat there in the silence.  It doesn’t matter, any and all are welcome at this temple and I totally appreciate the warm welcome they gave me.

As the weeks unraveled and I began to recover from everything that had happened over the past year, I was having more and more questions for the Monks and requiring more direction.  Three nights per week they host silent mediations, followed up by a talk from Bhante Sujatha, if he is in town or one of the others.  When Bhante speaks, he refers to the benefits of his mediation and how he is able to allow things to bounce off him and not bother him and is accepting of most situations in life; he is always harmonious with life.  These are my words and not his; he would never say something so arrogant as this.  I’m sure of it.

My questions during class hover around, “so in order to get to this place of acceptance, can you suggest maybe five or six ways to achieve this through mediation?”  No, just continue to practice and you will see.  “But my thoughts stampede out to the wildest situations, usually sexual in nature or something along those lines, but it is never still, always racing.”  Just keep coming here and you will see.

This worked for a few weeks but I knew that I was in need of some direction, because I really want to reign in my thoughts and quiet the mind. I’ve had glimpses of this in the recent past and know it’s possible, so my desire led me to search for more.  It led me to google things!

Another benefit of the exploration years in San Francisco is that I used to take T’ai Chi lessons in the park in the early mornings and I remembered how calming it was for me.  I googled t’ai chi and soon stumbled upon Qi Gong, another Asian healing art I studied briefly a long time ago and was drawn to it because it’s referred to as the Mother of T’ai Chi.

LeeHolden

It didn’t take long for me to have an A HA moment and realize this is where I wanted to spend my time.  I googled deeper into Qi Gong and discovered Lee Holden.  He has a few free youtubes and I was hooked with 7 Minutes of Magic that was filmed in Sand Harbor Beach in Lake Tahoe, as well as taking a class at the Temple.  I knew I was starting to wake up because for the first time in a very long time, I was ready to go some where.  I went to South Lake Tahoe.  I climbed a mountain. I did Qi Gong. T’ai Chi. Yoga. Mountain Biking. Hot springs. Ate organic salads. Had a blast!

 

Of course I made a Vine too (I am @meagburnt on Vine)
meagburnt Vine Lake Tahoe

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2OvA9Hg9u8w&feature=em-upload_owner

Since returning home I signed up for Lee’s online classes because his world head quarters are in Santa Cruz, California. Or perhaps it’s his studio!  I am going to give myself 30-days to stick with it — and if I do, I will pursue taking more IRL classes.  So far, the lessons have been wonderful and my QI is starting to wake up!

No seriously, this is serious.  I am enjoying every minute of this.  After this morning’s meditation I felt the qi rising in my cheeks and shins like I had never felt them before in my life.  Who’s body is this?  It’s mine! xo

Here’s Henry the day I came home from Lake Tahoe, he was soooooooo excited to see me, he went airborne!  His qi is incredible too …

LT_larkabouts_13

Going Green, Take Two

I've been waving to the sunsets for decades now; here's me in Big Sur in 1998
I’ve been waving to the sunset for decades now; here’s me in Big Sur in 1998

When I think back to the last half of 2012, it occurs to me that I was in a rather suspended mode and did not make many waves as I waited for yet another holiday season to roll on by.  I knew something was up with my mom, but I was not allowed to get too close, so I numbed it out of my mind.  I remember walking out of my office and I could feel my feet walking down the sidewalk, but it felt like my head was staying in the same place.  I was trapped in a tunnel.  It’s all rather surreal when I think back, because it was literally right after the holidays ended that my mom went south, after her youngest brother went into the hospital and was told he had about a week to live.  Tom did not make it past three days and the night of his funeral was when I first had to bring my mom to the Emergency Room.  They told me they couldn’t keep Mom, they said excruciating pain was not enough of a reason to admit someone.  WHAT?

It was a snowy Friday January evening; I took the bus home across the Loop and arrived at my West Loop neighborhood in record time.  I didn’t want to go upstairs just yet; I don’t even know why because I never usually hesitated.  I walked through the alley behind Girl & The Goat because I didn’t feel like looking at all the beautiful people on Randolph going to dinner.  I smoked a cigarette in the alley and it tasted God awful, I couldn’t even finish it but I held it and looked at it in the falling snow.  I hated that thing.  I flicked it at the dumpster and made my way home.

Twenty minutes later the call came in that Mom was really sick and I needed to head out there.  Ninety minutes later I was there with mom.

I took a leave of absence from my job.  A job I knew I was not right for, but so many of us know that we are not right for a job and do it anyways because it’s 2013, and dammit we should be grateful that we have a job at all, so fake it ’til you make it.  All bets were off when my mom got sick, I knew the gig was up.  I will make amends for this when the time is right.

Now it’s the middle of May and I have radically changed almost everything about my life.  My current reading and doing list:

Crazy, Sexy Diet by Kris Carr
(Eat your veggies, ignite your spark and live like you mean it!)

The Rainforest by Victor W. Hwang and Greg Horowitt
(The secret to building the next Silicon Valley)

Soak Your Nuts
(Karyn’s Conscious Comfort Foods and Recipes for Everyday Life)

Astrology for Beginners (just because!)

The Holy Bible (I pick it up, give it a side-eye, then toss it aside)

Modern Qi Gong by Lee Holden
(a 27-part online series to learn & live the basics of Qi Gong — wonderful to learn how to breathe from my toes and awaken the Qi)

Mother Daughter Wisedom by Dr. Christine Northup
(
also attending the Doctor’s 4-part workshop on Lightening the Motherload, which has been super super helpful and freeing)

I’ve changed my eating, drinking, breathing, address, job and spare time since my mom passed away.  I go to yoga, I meditate with Buddhist Monks, I hike the hills (mounds?) of McHenry and Walworth Counties and every day I learn something new about where our food comes from and how screwed up the American food system is today and I am trying to discover a healthier ways through this.  I teach social media at a creativity incubator and also am doing in-store demonstrations for a smart phone company (I made this connection while at a funeral, so always remember to keep your options open).

I was Meagan the Vegan many years ago when I lived in San Francisco; however things were so very different back, but then again not really.  The cool thing to do was to jump on the “John Robbins, “Diet for a New America” bandwagon; I did it and I loved it, but I think I took everything too far as I was known to do. This was when I first learned how wrong the American diet was (is!), how proper food combining was necessary to thrive, all about food allergies and how poisonous Baskin & Robbins ice cream is to a body.  I soon became convinced I was addicted and allergic to everything under the sun.  I attended 12-step meetings, saw several therapists, tried different religions, worked with shamans in the forest, went to women’s drumming circles, had soul retrievals, studied expressive creative dance, did ecstasy naked on the beaches of Big Sur with hippies, rode my bike all over Northern California (mostly because I didn’t have a car for the first two years) — honestly it was an incredible time in my life and I will never forget the San Francisco years.  I worked in SOMA’s South Park neighborhood (the exact park where Twitter and Instagram were born!) as a 35mm slide designer and then I tripped the holistic light fantastic at night and on weekends.  I lived in Mill Valley with my pastry chef boyfriend and rode my bike to the Sausalito ferry to ride across the bay each day, right on past Alcatraz Island — could there be a more beautiful start the morning?  No! It was cold of course, but absolutely gorgeous.

So here I am going green again twenty years later and I am basically re-learning everything — which is the cool part because I always love a challenge, and naturally it’s all different.  My mother is dead now.

I don’t say that flippantly.  Losing my mother was such an incredible kick in the guts, I was so not prepared. Even though I thought I was and had been preparing myself for the past two years.   The lessons have been hige; my mom’s death is teaching me so much about myself and about life.  I am extremely grateful for this bittersweet message that has changed my life.

I am not saying that it isn’t difficult for sons, but the mother-daughter connection is such a powerful connection, even if the two were not friends. My mom and I were occasionally friends, but mostly not.   I’ve been amazed at some of the stories I’ve learned in the past few months; both heart -breaking and inspiring.  Never in a million years would I have thought it would be me to have a complete meltdown after my mom died, in fact I would have wagered big money that I would NOT be the one to lose it.  No Siree Bub, not me.

I did lose it.  But I quickly crawled up to gasp for air and asked for help in turning my life around.  I was in bad shape. Not on the outside necessarily, but my insides were all topsy-turvy.  I was empty and then shattered.  My mom apologized for being so mean to me for so many years.  She apologized.  I laughed at her when she said it, but it was a nervous laughter because I did not know how to respond.  Then I saw the look in her eye.  She looked away and stared out to nowhere with an empty sadness in her eye.  I knew she meant it.  I knew right then that she was going to die soon.

I was fired twice in 2012 from two shitty jobs, and these back-to-back firings were very challenging to recover from their blows. I didn’t get fired for lack of trying, that’s for sure.  I took this last job out of desperation — even my co-worker mentioned that I seemed “very hungry” when I first started working with the group.  It’s true, I was literally hungry and scared because I had to sell my truck, my jewelry and anything else of value to stay afloat.  It was very scary and I avoided calling my mom for several months because I did not want her to worry.

My Monk buddies tell me there is no such thing as being “balanced”, there is only “balancing” – I agree!  I will continue to attempt to balance things through thick and thin, but I realize there will be challenges and setbacks, along with the successes, and perhaps those setbacks may require a strawberry sundae.  It’s starting to sound less and less appealing but perhaps some rainy day may call for a cheeseburger to make things feel alright.

I couldn’t be more inspired than I am right now to live a right life.  I don’t expect perfection, in fact I don’t want perfection   — I want the real deal.  I intend to remain soft, spongey and teachable as I enter the autumn of my life.  I want this to be the best time of my life and live well for both myself and my Spirit Sister; my mom Juls.

Spring has grown legs, finally!

larkabouts magnnolia

May has finally warmed things up in the Midwest after a never-ending winter, and now the buds, blossoms and green fields are singing everywhere —  I have even spotted a real live elbow or two (a sure sign of spring) while out and about.  I am on Month Two Point Five of my “time out” from the city and I continue to make good on the promise to myself that I would not get bored. Outside of work and school, I intend to find new people, places and things and interesting things to do.  People live here for a reason, right?

I’ll be honest; Northern Illinois bores me to absolute tears.  I know I am not long for this area because I am here for a reason and I am dedicated to discovering things that I had not known while growing up, nor back for ocassional visits.   I’ve officially made peace with Woodstock, but c’mon you all drive me crazy Illinois.

When I go to grocery stores and ask if they have organic vegetables, they look at me as if I am the Creature from the Black Lagoon.  A produce guy said to me, “I’ve been eating these pesticides my whole life and nothing has happened to me!”  I laughed, said “me too!” and sashayed away. We’ve all been eating them but now it’s time to stop, Bubs!  I don’t expect it to be Organic Town USA here, but I do enjoy the conversations it can encourage.  Northern Illinois has a huge resistance to it.

I have never understood McHenry County and probably never will.  I went to the local community college because I heard they had a map of all the county trails but when I pulled into the main parking lot, I almost fell out of my car.  Literally.  They had created a mock-cemetery in the front yard of all the babies aborted.  There were vicious signs everywhere.  I was aghast.  At the community college.  eeee-gads.  I’ve often commented that it feels more like Texas here than Texas.

There is something about this county that just does not want to be budged.
So be it, I am only a visitor.

My temporary explorations must carry on!  The curious mind has pushed me across the border to Wisconsin, once again.  My ex-sister-in-law Wendy and her family live in Linn Township and we have long considered each other as family, even though technically we are no longer.  Wendy’s oldest son, Jackson, now five, has autism and recently they added Inka, the German autism service dog, to their rowsy family.  Inka was trained in Germany and continues her training locally yet has a fairly substantial bill to support her services.  Wendy and her neighbors are really good about creating events to support each other and a few weeks ago they hosted a partial-walk around Lake Geneva to raise funds to defer some of Inka’s training costs.  The walk ended at Foley’s Bar & Grill where they offered a special Reuben sandwich for the day and sponsored a meat raffle.  yes a meat raffle, say what?!  Tables & tables of meat were raffled off, I’ve never seen anything like it.  I won a huge a Wisconsin salami.

Walk for Autism Inka

So this was not only a great event to be involved in, it totally sparked my memory that there is a 20-something-mile path that goes all the way around the lake and it’s open to the public.  Over the past two weeks, I have hit this trail and it is SPECTACULAR.

As you make your way around the lake, homes that are not visible from anywhere but the lakefront are visible, as are their gorgeous landscapes and lake-faring accouterments.  No two homes are the same and the path is varied and semi-rugged, by going through golf courses, flat beaches, endless green lawns and beautiful lakefront patios and so on.  I recommend remaining very respectful because you are very close to people’s homes, but there certainly are areas you can sit back and take in the views.  I sat at William Wrigley’s boat slip to take in the sunset — very serene indeed.

More information in case you want to plan this thing out a bit more than me:
http://www.makeitbetter.net/entertainment/outings-a-travel/1506-hiking-through-historythe-geneva-lake-walking-path

Naturally I made a Vine:

Vine Lake Geneva
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAF66cbAU_c&feature=youtu.be

I look forward to learning more about Lake Geneva this summer, especially because this is FREE!  Things just taste better when they are free, yahvoh!

I am completely grateful my health has returned (WHEW!) and my legs are strong once again and ready to hike, hike hike.  Ever since I read Cheryl Strayed’s “WILD” when I was in Lake Tahoe a few weeks ago, I am feeling compelled to plan a super-big hike, but not entirely the same as Cheryl Strayed’s hike of the Pacific Crest Trail.

I back-packed through Northern Arizona several years ago and hiking with a monster-backpack is very hard work — I felt very tall and my legs were never stronger. It’s hot and dirty, dusty and smelly but I absolutely loved the experience — even though a mountain lion growled at me and I thought I was going to die right there.  I didn’t.

That was an experience a woman should experience in her twenties, and that’s about when I had mine.  Except I think I was 32.  I am looking to do something different now and will continue to research and plan.

My legs are ready to climb things again, this much I know.  A treadmill will not cut it.

larkabouts biking

Next up, mom’s ashes are going for a swim.
Thank you for reading my words, I do appreciate it. xo

Mmmmmm Muddy Water

juicingNot to be confused with Muddy Waters: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ztavykflak

I have started juicing in the morning and it has now offically replaced my morning coffee.  I didn’t intend to quit drinking coffee but I honestly feel so much better starting my day off with fresh juice, I didn’t want to wreck that high with coffee.

I started juicing at the suggestion of my doctor; when I went to see her in late February, it as as if I was trapped in one very large panic attack and I was quite scared.  I had tunnel vision, I couldn’t breathe right and I was feeling very terrified. Like terribly terribly terrified.  I have never once in my life felt afraid to be out in the world…. until February 2013.

Turns out my adrenals were off the charts and I had to slam the breaks on how I was living.  Fortunately I was able to take a leave of absense from life and I literally shut down for about 2 weeks.  I slept. And I slept. And then slept some more.  My doctor prescribed xanex for me and I have not even taken one. I no longer felt it was okay to be fuzzy.

One month later I am feeling a million times better. I feel strong again and every day feels sharper than the day prior.  Even my hearing feels elevated.  I take deep breathes and thank the stars above for giving me another chance to heal myself.  I smile when I see myself in the mirror. This is the autumn of my life and I’m going to make the best of it.

I made these  types of lifestyle changes once before in my life, during my late 20s, early 30s and you know what? I preached loud and proud about how I was living and I drove people away from me.  I believe I was “all in yo face” about things, UGH.  I remember my mom telling me I was weird.  I was weird!  I don’t want to do that again and I keep the focus on me and my health, helping those around me or at least not harming them.  Doing work that feels right for me. That it reflects who I am.

I also will not take this all too far nor take myself too seriously.  I remember sitting in Old Jerusalem in Old Town about a thousand years ago and I was deep into a wheat grass and carrot juice bender.  I was sipping on carrot juice and eating hummus with friends and a guy yelled across the restaurant to me to lighten up on the carrot juice!  It had happened. My face, palms and feet had turned dirty orange because I was drinking WAY TOO MUCH carrot juice!  A few weeks later I got super-sick from drinking too much wheat grass and have not been able to drink it ever since.

While living in San Francisco years ago I attempted to be vegetarian, vegan and I even gave up flour AND dairy, but I did not have much luck at it.  I was an annoying Food Nazi, the worst kind of Nazi! (well, not really) I’m sure I probably didn’t go about it the right way but I did try.  I would have dreams about milkshakes and pancakes and I would literally cry when I saw bread because I missed it.  I was chubby and not feeling well and my doctor looked at me, grabbed my shoulders and said, “Please have a steak, you need protein.”   So I started eating meat again and lost a bunch of weight.  I just cut portions down tremendously and have continued that manner of eating.  Like the French, but sans the smokes. For real.

Moderation Meag, All Things In Moderation. Even Muddy Water.

Some veggies put up a fight before they get pulverized:

pulverized

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KG471g76zm0&feature=youtu.be