Thursday, November 8, 2012

28 Day Ashtanga/Running Challenge - The actual point

So, yesterday we had a "snow" storm here. Basically it was really heavy wet snow - snow-cone-snow, if you will. I stayed home from ashtanga and planned to practice here. Unfortunately the only place I could find to practice where there weren't other people was down in the basement. And once there I found that ceiling was so low that I could not reach my hands over my head! Ha Ha. We have lived in this apartment for the better part of three years and I never noticed that before. Tonight is more of the same. Max is home sick, again, and I cannot leave him alone in the apartment so I will not be going to class again today. Life gets in the way of our best laid plans. So I will practice at home tonight. Upstairs with my ashtanga dvd - going as far as I have in class. Then tomorrow when Max is back in school I will start this challenge all over again! I promised myself 6 days in a row for 28 days. And since I have not done that I have to start at the beginning. It may take me months to get to 28 consecutive days (not including Saturdays when there is no mysore class - or moon days - the new and full moons - when the studio is closed). A lot of this challenge is about getting used to going to yoga six times per week. But more than that it is about keeping my word to myself. I so often let myself get behind and to put myself last. I make promises to myself that I do not keep because somehow something else gets in the way. Most of that truth is evident in things like Max getting sick and bad weather. But it is still a point that I want to stay with - no matter what else is going on - to treat myself well and to put myself first. My kids are older and can, in a lot of ways, fend for themselves. When I am well-rested and I have eaten well and exercised I am a better, happier person. I feel it and the kids notice it. And it is not too late in life to find this path. And to really practice self-care. So, I will continue to strive for 6 days in a row. I will begin training for the 5K. And I will be posting more about how this challenge is shaping me and changing me. That, afterall, is the point of it. Be well, Keisha

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Ashtanga/Run Challenge Day Two

Okay, I am techinically writing this on day 3. I really did not want to go to yoga yesterday. I am not very strong, yet, so I was not looking forward to a few positions which really hurt my arms. Upper ward facing dog into Downward dog is horrible for me. And thinking about that position brought fear into my heart. But I made a commitment to myself to go through this challenge and so I went. And that transition was a lot easier. Was I still filled with pain and dread when it was time to push my hips back into downward dog - yes I was. But for a few moments I could actually feel how it is a restorative pose. Now for confession time - I did not start to run yesterday. I was too cold. So I decided to start my running program on Saturday. It is the one day when I do not have yoga and it seems like a good day to start. As I go through this journey I will be posting more information about ashtanga (there is so much there for me to learn - and it dovetails nicely with the Hinduism homework I had for the month of October.). That is all for today, ummm, yesterday! Be well, Keisha

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Ashtanga/Run Challenge - Day One

Technically, as Vivian is fond of saying, my first day of ashtanga was this past Friday night. But I only decided to stick with the 6 days a week ashtanga challenge this past weekend. So here we are. I am pledging to go to Yoga class 6 days a week for the rest of the month for 28 days, because it takes 28 days to change a habit. I can not go on Saturdays as that is a led class. And since I am new to ashtanga and don't know all the poses it would not be useful to go on Saturday. So let me explain for those of you not familiar with ashtanga - it means 8 limbs and the third limb is asana or a physical practice. There are a series of postures that you learn one at a time from your teacher. The practice is called Mysore after the home of the main guru of ashtanga - Sri K. Pattabhi Jois, also known as Guruji. I was first introduced to ashtanga 8 years ago. I loved the workout ashtanga gave you and I liked the one on one time you received from your teacher. After doing research and reading and watching movies (I highly recommend Ashtanga NY), I found an ashtanga studio here on the Upper West Side where I live. Literally two blocks away from my home. And what's more they have a Mysore schedule that fits with my life schedule and a student discount on the monthly cost. Perfect. I am a big fan of my teacher, Zoe, and so far I am maintaining my discipline of getting up and going but it has only been two days after all! And I am sure that if I keep to it it will become a regular part of my day. Now about the running. I registered for my first 5K with the hopes of expanding my running program over the next year. Where it will take me, I am not sure yet, but I am pledging to run 3xs per week using the Couch to 5K program. So this is the first day of Ashtanga and the first day of running begins tomorrow. Check in if you want to track my progress! And please feel free to post comments or to offer support or advice! I would love to hear from you. Here are some useful links about ashtanga and running. Ashtanga Guruji, Upper West Side Ashtanga, Ashtanga NY (available for stream on Netflix) Running Progam Couch to 5K, Cupid Run See you all soon!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

In the beginning was the Word....

When I first started this blog I made a point of writing fairly often. As time went on my posts were more sporadic because I felt I needed to be "deep" and "inspiring" every time I sat down to write. As I have grown as a human and as a writer I realize that there is no need to put off writing until I am in the grasp of some huge idea. Every small idea opens doors and windows. I was also guilty of creating separate blogs to address different areas of my life: one for food, one for camp Mommy, and one for "deep thoughts," a la Jack Handy, just not as funny. Completely unnecessary. Everything I do, eat, wear and think are part of me. There is no need to separate all of it out into neat little categories. I can't do that in my brain, so what makes me think I can do it on paper - well, virtual paper at least. On Facebook I have started posting my gratitude journal. I usually do it for 30 days but this time I decided to do it for 35. From the first day I began posting my gratitudes until September 16th - Rosh Hashanah - the Jewish New Year. I began remembering why I love the fall so much. New school year means new beginnings, fresh paper and pens and pencils. Books yet to be explored. Thoughts yet to be written. What comes with the fall is the Autumnal Equinox and the Jewish New Year and Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). I love these holidays and indeed these traditions because they follow a lunar calendar. A lunar cycle is how my body naturally works. It is my life circadian rhythm, if you will. Since I am a traveler actively working to make sense of my earthly experience, I have studied many different traditions looking for a home. None of them fit me fully, but I am able to take bits and pieces from different traditions, belief systems and even religions, to make my own spiritual ontology. Recently, I listened to an interview of Krista Tippett interviewing Kate Baestrup, the author of "Here If You Need Me." Here is the synopsis of the book, because it does a much better job of expressing the truth of the book than I can: "Ten years ago, Kate Braestrup and her husband Drew were enjoying the life they shared together. They had four young children, and Drew, a Maine state trooper, would soon begin training to become a minister as well. Then early one morning Drew left for work and everything changed. On the very roads that he protected every day, an oncoming driver lost control, and Kate lost her husband. Stunned and grieving, Kate decided to continue her husband's dream and became a minister herself. And in that capacity she found a most unusual mission: serving as the minister on search and rescue missions in the Maine woods, giving comfort to people whose loved ones are missing, and to the wardens who sometimes have to deal with awful outcomes. Whether she is with the parents of a 6-year-old girl who had wandered into the woods, with wardens as they search for a snowmobile rider trapped under the ice, or assisting a man whose sister left an infant seat and a suicide note in her car by the side of the road, Braestrup provides solace, understanding, and spiritual guidance when it's needed most. HERE IF YOU NEED ME is the story of Kate Braestrup's remarkable journey from grief to faith to happiness. It is dramatic, funny, deeply moving, and simply unforgettable, an uplifting account about finding God through helping others, and the tale of the small miracles that occur every day when life and love are restored." This book changed my entire perception of my "calling," (Thank you Kim Collins for hipping me to this book.) What do I mean by "calling?" When I was ready to apply for college I had a decision to make, and it was one I didn't share with other people. I was deciding between going to college or going to seminary. I felt very sure that my work on earth was to minister to people and help them soothe their souls. There was just one problem with this idea -I wasn't sure, any longer, if I could embrace any one religion. This is where Kate's book comes it. She writes that she is religious but not spiritual, giving the common phrase: I am not religious, I am spiritual, a quick turn on its head. I disagreed. I am spiritual and I am a pracitioner of many religions and none at all. So this is what made the decision to go to seminary, at the age of 19, very difficult for me. I still held onto the idea of a personal G-d but not a personal religion. So I had to walk that path and find out what I could, in fact, do to minister to people's souls. I became a Religious Studies major. I sang. I entered theatre and practiced creating sacred space. I studied Judaism and loved the prescribed behavior of the Orthodox. I entered Witchcraft and found solace in making my own reality and magic(k) through writing and casting my own spells, in taking control of my happiness and my "luck." I walked a short path into Ifa, the tradition of Yorubaland where I have been repeatedly told, when I was in a consultation with an Ifa priest, that my destiny was to be initiated into the religion (seriously I have been told this three times) and that choice still scares me because it would require that I settle in one place on one tradition. But during all of this my desire to minister never left me. I knew my job: to make people's lives filled with love and serenity. And to fulfill the prophecy of my loving astrologer: "To teach people the meaning of life," yea, I would have to figure out what that was first. And what does all of this have to do with words, new beginnings, Kate Baestrup, death and a spritual calling? Let me tell you: I recenty made the decision to attend seminary to become an interfaith minister and to receive ordination. I also made the decision to work as either a hospice or hospital chaplain. My desire to have people experience love and serenity in their life is as strong as my calling to help them achieve love and serenity in their active dying. I have never been afraid of death or the dead - and this was long before I had cancer. I have always found death strangely calming because it was the only thing I knew for sure. So these thoughts and my desire to live a holistic and not a fragemented life, led me to place everything about me into one blog and this is it. Three days ago I started a gratitude journal and I will share that here. I am in the middle of a rigorous job search and I will post that here. I am still working to live the healthiest life I can and I will post that here. I working at placing love and trust at the forefront of my daily practice, and I will post that here. And I am about to embark on a wonderful, joy-filled part of my life as a seminary student and I will most definitely post that here. So, walk with me. Find you own inspiration, love and serenity and let's have a conversation. There is so much to share in this life - in my life - and I want to know what is going on in your life. I want to hear your heartbeat. So bring your life, loves, triumphs and even your disappointments here or keep them to yourself if you wish just allow yourself to live every moment fully. That is my wish for all of you. To be in love with yourself and with your life. It is going to be quite a trip. In peace, Keisha

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Time threw a prayer to me

I wanted to write about my last post. Most people might assume that once you achieve clarity and can surrender that you have done all of your work. You will live out the rest of your days in Buddha-like bliss. Not true - as a matter of fact as far away from the truth as humanly (and other worldly) possible. Once you get clarity and can see how the various webs of your life are interweaved then you can begin to address whatever the common denominator might be. But like a marriage you have to work at it - all the time. And I will use myself as an example, simply because there is no one else available. I learned something invaluable about myself lately. That despite my opening myself to intimacy I still had a rather pervasive habit. I loved people not readily available to me. They were either physically far away or emotionally distant. And I did this for a few reasons but the most pervasive one was that I was reliving my relationship with my father. He was neither emotionally nor physically available to me. And I didn't pick people who were like my father, I became my father. I was emotionally and physically unavailable to others. A great shield for my very tender heart. Picking people to love who would inevitably take up unncessary real estate in my world. And none of it was their fault. They didn't ask for me to have grandiose ideas about their presence. They didn't expect me to grow to know them only to say to myself - see they are not available to me. Or perhaps they wanted too much from me and rather than take the risk to love I hit the bricks. Now, this is a very convenient way to live but you cannot sustain this for your entire life. You will live a very long, sad and tiring life. Surrender takes work. You have to renew your dedication and relationship with it on a daily basis. Today, I choose to open my heart. Today, I choose to be reasonable about my expectations. Today, I promise not to project my feelings of loss and isolation onto another person. Today.... I wanted to be honest with you and to let you know that surrender is not a one time deal. Neither is enlightenment of any kind, otherwise the Buddha would have stopped meditating that very day under the bodhi tree. But he continued until his earthly death. Then there was nothing left for him to do or fix. So, yes, surrender can be eye-opening and freeing but it must be lovingly attended to each and every day. Your vigilance will never end. Make peace with that and know that it will keep you free and full of possibility.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Intimacy Part III - The Final Chapter

Oprah and I broke up about ten years ago. And like all my breakups (with the exception of Ilya) once it is over you are dead to me. But I have been spending a lot of time on Twitter lately, trying to convince myself that due to the character limit it is less of a time suck than Facebook! Denial. And Monday night something happened on Twitter. My feed was blowing up about Oprah's Lifeclass. She had Iyanla Vanzant on. I love Iyanla Vanzant having followed her work since the mid-nineties: seeing her speak live at every possible opportunity and finally meeting her in 2007. She was, to me, a conduit to Grace, probably the way Catholics feel about their priests and Jews feel about their rabbis. She taught me so many life lessons. So, per my twitter feed, I found OWN (Oprah's network) among the myriad of channels and set my DVR to record the second showing of Iyanla and Oprah.

Iyanla said a lot of things, most of which I could say with her after watching her two seasons on Oprah, her short-lived television talk show, and reading her work. Words of wisdom like: "When you see crazy coming,cross the street!" and my favorite:
"Tell the truth and shame the devil." Most of all she always told people she loved them and genuinely meant it. And she referred to people as "Beloved. "My name means
"Beloved,"in Swahili. She then said something revolutionary (at least in my head). She said that we need to stop telling our "Story." The story of our lives. What happened to us. How we have been wronged. Who did what, when. And I realized - had an epiphany: (I will not call it an a-ha moment as Oprah and I are still on the outs!)I constantly tell my story.

My story is made of so many components and moving parts. Things that I keep talking about over and over. Thinking that re-hashing them will bring me closure. That's from years of therapy. But those things usually don't heal. They keep me stuck in my story. I get it: when you are told to surerender! We constantly make excuses about how difficult it is to surrender. It's because we don't want to let go of our story. Who would we be without our pain and our past? Well, we might be free people. In that moment I surrendered. All the guilt and the pain and the illness and the wrong I had done and that had been done to me. I decided to tell a different story. One that has me experiencing love and success and freedom - in this very moment.

It also did something revolutionary: it opened me to the possibility of intimacy. Intimacy is redefined for me. It is releasing your guard to invite people in. It is also the courage to let things go. I have been doing a great deal of excising people from my life lately. People can be thieves of my goodness, my compassion, my joy. All because I allow them to stay, afraid of hurting their feelings. But it hurts my feelings and it hurts me to be around people who "peck at you till there is nothing left of you," (Maya Angelou). And it also remindes me of another brilliant thing that Maya Angelou said, which is, "when people show you who they are, believe them." I can only change myself. Intimacy becomes something I do for myself. I learn to know and care for myself and then I can see the light in others. And more importantly I can open myself to others, without fear. What is the worse thing that can happen? They don't want to be around me. Fair enough, time saved.

After many years I finally get the message on how to be closer to other people. It is simply to trust myself and my love of self that makes intimacy possible. Hearing another's heartbeat. Some hearts will beat in time with yours and others will not. And either way it is okay. Accepting it without judgement is the answer. Intimacy is not being able to share the deepest moments of your life with someone else. I have friends with whom I share and have shared the deepest parts of me, and our relationships are anything but intimate. And there are people I have just met with whom I connect and whose heartbeat is in time with my own.

I get it now. And it is so much better than before. And so much more fulfilling.

Monday, January 9, 2012

It's Not Always About Me

Have you had the experience where someone you know or care about is going through a crisis of some sort and it reminds you of a similar crisis of your own? It brings up past hurts and challenges. And you don't want to put your situation on the other person, but you need to deal with all the crap that is coming up your drainpipe.
That is why I am so glad I have a blog today. I have crap galore coming out of my drainpipe.

A friend is battling cancer. My immediate reaction is to give advice and to help with their process of getting through this horror. Mostly the way no one did for me. But I am realizing that much like being pregnant and having had the baby - no one can tell you what the other side of the bath of fire will be like. You have to walk the path yourself to get to the other side. I know this and I am doing my best to keep my freakin' mouth shut. It's hard. So much stuff has come up in me regarding my own battle with cancer. So much I never talked about. So much I ignored because I needed to get on with life. And so much I felt was old hat now that it has been almost four years since the surgery.

But I don't feel whole yet. I have daily, constant reminders of all that cancer took from me. And, don't get me wrong I am glad it didn't kill me (most days) but when I remember who I was before cancer there are some things I liked about myself that I will never have again and with which I am having a hard time being okay.

1. The first are my scars. I wore them as battle scars for years, to show what I had been through and how I had triumphed over that evil tumor that no chemotherapy could abate. I had looked death in the eye and it blinked first. But now I look at my scars as a story that I have to explain over and over again should I ever wear anything that isn't a turtleneck.

2. My voice. Someone said to me the other day - "Wow, Keisha you always have a cold." Well, no I don't always have a cold. My voice cannot get above a whisper by the end of the day. When on the playground I cannot call my children because they can't hear me. And G-d forbid they were in any danger, I would have to grab the nearest adult to yell at them and get them out of the way. My voice gives out from time to time. And I think about getting back in front of a class and teaching again and I am overcome with tears. My voice was one of the best things about me. Gone.

3. My epiglottis, I still have to take my time drinking or eating lest any of it end up in my lungs - which is really freaking painful!

4. The missing lung is doing its own thing and as I exercise more, she is getting stronger and stronger. And for this I am completely grateful.

5. Anemia. A new edition to the list of side effects. I am cold all the time no matter what I am wearing. All I want to do all day is sleep because I am so exhausted even after a good night's - or at least long night's sleep. And there is not much they can do about it because the medicines cause more trouble than they are worth.

Now that I have enumerated all the things that I hate about being post-cancer. I don't know how to be a good friend to someone going through it in real time. I can say things are going to get better. But they might not. Fight the good fight, when they are exhausted and just want all of this to be over. It will get better, but what if it doesnt? And do I really believe that? Sometimes just being alive after enduring cancer is not enough. Okay, greedy me, but it's not enough. And walking around saying I am just glad to be alive is a bunch of Pollyanna bullshit. I want my life back. I want my family together. I don't want to be getting a divorce (but I don't want to stay together either). I want my house back with the energy to finally fix it up. I want my kids to still be able to walk down the street to school and for my Zachary to have spent another year at Playhouse. I want, I want, I want. But I don't get to have. And I have to accept that. Accept the life that I have right now in this moment. When I don't really want to. I am sick of all that cancer took from me. And not grateful for anything she left behind. But sometimes its not always about me.