Hide and Seek: thoughts on practice from the underworld.

“You have two choices,” I thought to myself. “Sit in pain and suffering, or move through pain and suffering.”

 I decided on the later.

Within fifteen minutes I was in the yoga studio at a very full class. I had to talk myself into staying when I saw all the mats. I also had to talk myself out of lethargy and inertia at 5:30pm on a dark cold evening.

I recalled the voice of my teacher and mentor. “When you are tired, dance tired. When you are sad, dance sad.” So I figured: "since I am depressed, I’ll yoga depressed."

I stayed, moved, breathed, turned my body into various shapes. In so doing I rediscovered an aspect of yoga practice I had, I suppose, long taken for granted.

So here it is.

I remembered that, indeed, the body knows. The body has the incredible capacity to unwind itself—its pains and aches, its feelings and beliefs, its shock and awe--the body is its own knowing organism. Our emotions, like obstructed rivers, held in the deeply grooved river beds of our bodies will flow freely when we remove the rocks and debris. Our bodies will unwind the tightest threads and well kept secrets that we have locked away deep in our hearts when we treat ourselves with gentleness.

There is an unnecessary assumption that gentleness means moving very little, that gentleness equals stillness. Sometimes though the sweetest thing to do for an aching body, mind and heart is to dive into the ocean of a movement practice. Sometimes we must simply and profoundly let ourselves be rocked by the pulsation of rhythmic movement.

These I know and have learned with a steep price tag and a big degree. But I was so acutely reminded in going to class that now I KNOW these to be true.

Yoga and dance are the original somatic psychology methods. Their teachings are many and though universally profound, distinct when they come through each of our unique experiences. Movement reveals that...

The truth is not anything other than what lives inside. We must let go and hold true simultaneously. The game is to get lost to get found. We must be willing to talk to god.  God is not the big G up there somewhere. It is the biggest G that lives in every cell, every tissue, every muscle and that is pumped moment-by-moment through our blood and beat across the heart. When every waking moment is a version of a heaven, do your yoga. When every waking moment is a version of a hell do your yoga. When every day is just another day of earthly living do your yoga. It works.

By 'it works' I mean to say that if you allow the spirit to stream through you as you move your body into different shapes, you are literally creating 'seats', shapes, asanas, within which the spirit as you will rest into itself as you. Do not expect the experience to always be pleasant or joyful. But fully expect that your practice will unravel all the necessary layers.

Your body is so filled with intelligence and wisdom. Your job is to create the possibility for the river to flow. Nothing needs to be locked up and stored away. Ok, perhaps sometimes it is appropriate to hang stuff in the proverbial closet for a while, but every ache and every tingling has an origin and is seeking a completion. Your job is to be curious about what they are. Be so curious that you shut-up, and do your practice and become ever more open to discovering what is seeking you.

My philosophy teacher always teaches the concept that whatever you are seeking is seeking you. There are days when we are lost and we do not even know what we seek. On those days move your body, even if just a little. Your body will, through its sensations, seek its own beginning and end of movements, and in so doing perhaps reveal what it is you seek.

The Creme De La Creme (eulogy for my grandmother)

How do you commemorate one woman’s life, one woman’s loving, one woman’s smile and furrow of her brow, her accent and back scratches into words?

Words are one way we share memories. We share through stories and tales of days gone by. We tell stories to remember and to co-participate in the literal re-membering of our experiences. 

Stories are how we re-member together our experiences so they might continue to be shared.

In this way I offer you a few words about my Bubby. First it feels important to simply say how much I love her. I have never loved in the way I share with Bubby. It was and is a special kind of love. One I know I share with Lauren, Izzi and Morgan. We knew we were loved.

Bubby was, still is and will forever be, the champion of my heart. I was raised in her embrace and under her watchful eye. Those of you who know me probably remember that as a young child learning to speak I even had an accent just like her. My parents tell me I would say “vait a minute, vait a minute”.

Bubby did not teach me about the great planet we live in. She taught me about the vast inner world we each have within. And in so doing was a huge influence in my devotion to its understanding as my life’s work

I found Bubby curiously reserved in her emotions. Of course she expressed happiness and joy on many occasions with me, but I never heard her speak badly about someone to my face. She never actively disagreed with me and she never, well almost never, shared stories of her past. Bubby rarely bestowed to me the word--her word--of the past. On rare occasions after I had sat with her for quite a while she would sometimes tell me bits about the old country and the war. But she rarely shared prolific memories. Though I always knew she had them.

As a child and through college actually I was a figure skater. Some of you probably remember those days of skating practices, competitions and the little outfits. Years of skating went by before Bubby told me that she too had figure skated.  I sat dumbfounded that day as she told me how she and Leo would skate down the frozen river together. The entire time prior I thought I was forging a new path being original in the Shapiro line. Little did I know I got the gene from her. She gave me her very old pair of ice skates with fur on the top ankle rims.

And so despite the few instances like what I just mentioned, Bubby kept her inner world mostly separate from me. Which frankly as a child I think I liked. I loved that I could go to her and be her entire world. I loved that when she picked me up from school she was 15 minutes early always. I loved that she had a food remedy for every mood of mine.

See what Bubby may have not realized all these years is that in the space of not sharing so many words and stories of the past she always showed up fully for me in the present moment. She taught me about what it is to BE with someone. She taught me how to be quiet and just exist in the comfort of another’s company. She taught me that the inner world could be shared without words. She offered to me through her love, her devotion, and her quiet even attitude a sense of respite and relief in a world that always seemed big and mad.

Bubby was my island of sanity.

Just recently a colleague said to me “Livia, you are lionhearted. You are a voice of sanity amidst the madness.” I took this as a great compliment with tears in my eyes. For what this friend and colleague didn’t know is that I am after all named for Bubby’s ever and always beloved Leo. Indeed, I do have the name of the lion And the lion heart is always betrothed to the voice of reason and sanity. Bubby was my voice of sanity inside my own madness for many years. She never waivered. Ever.  

Bubby also understood that people thrive in the arms of love. She knew that in order to be lionhearted and the voice of reason in places where everything seems bonkers, We need a beloved with which to share.  She was devoted to seeing my heart in love more than most.

For years I tried to get her to give me the recipe for her Kugel. I remember she would make a big pyrex of it and would slice it into portions and freeze them individually. Then when I would come over she would immediately put a piece in the microwave and serve it up with some sour cream. Have a problem? In a bad mood? Here have a piece of Kugel. It’s worth mentioning that the sour cream was always fat free. The kugel however was not. Defintley not. And the running joke in the family was always when we would ask her how to make it and what was in it. She would say:

“Vell, noting really. Dere is really noting in it.” She then would proceed to list the ingredients.

“You know, vone cup sugar, five eggs, vone stick butta, vone package egg noodles, vone package cottage cheese. Vell and you know you can use any cottage cheese. Can be vone percent, two percent, four percent. Don’t matter. And zen you know you put vone can crushed pinaple. And zen of course ze raisins. You know ze fruit is very good for you.”

So for years I tried to get her to right it down for me along with the directions so that I could make it. But to no avail she would say yes but then I never came a way from the house with the coveted prize

When I met my husband I told him this story and it of course became a comedy act of me impersonating Bubby. I have to tell you. I do an amazing rendition truly. It is sort of to the point where my friends tell me I am such a Bubby. He was so excited at the prospect of having real old style kugel he was determined to get the recipe.

On a trip to visit Bubby a while back I was determined to get the recipe. We sat down and chit chated a while and I slipped into the conversation.

“Bub, I have been cooking a lot”.

“Oh yea, “ she said, “vat do you make? Do you cook for elliot?”

“You know me Bub, I cook a lot of vegetables and chicken and salmon.”

“Vell sure sure you can’t go wrong with those.”

Elliot then of course chimes in saying

“Yea, Liv is such a good cook”

“Oh, yea?” bubby replies, “Vell of course she is a good cook. Her mother is a good cook and you know i taught all da  boys too cook”

So here was my chance. My big moment to use the boyfriend as collateral for the recipe. I went in for it.

“You know Bub, I really want to make Elliot the kugel”

“Yes!” Elliot chimes in. “I reeeeeeally want Liv to make some kugel. Do you think you can give her the recipe.”

“SURE! Get a pen.”

So she gave Elliot the recipe and the directions and told us the trick is to cook it at 325 covered with aluminum foil so it stays moist. She also told us not to cook it on the bottom rack but in the middle of the oven so the bottom doesn’t burn. Upon arriving home I proceeded to buy the ingredients and cook it ala her directions. The completed product was one of such culinary family traditional beauty. It looked exactly like hers, and you know, it tasted just as good. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach well I came to find out that the way to get Bubby’s recipes is through being betrothed. It was as if she had kept these recipes under lock and key until I had a man and potential babies to feed. So the lesson was that sometimes these family recipes are best kept through sharing with those you love. Bubby understood food was meant to be shared and so she made sure I would carry on her traditions in the right way. After all cooking and food is as much an act of the lion heart as any great act and provides sanity to a frantic world.

I wish I could express in words to each of you the complete joy and contentment she had at the end of her life seeing me and my husband Elliot together. I never heard her speak of her own mortality. But several months ago when Elliot and I were visiting, we sat side by side with her and she wept.  She told us how at peace she felt knowing I was ok. She told Elliot how good of a man he is. This was the first time I ever saw her loosen her grip on her own life force. And it was perhaps the first time I was really let into her inner world deeply. Like a beautiful stained glass window she cast the light of her own awareness onto her heart in such a way that we were allowed to see through. 

Bubby gave me the best of her world. She gave me her happy memories. She gave me her recipes. She gave me her joy. She gave me her blessing. And today she gives us all her blessing.

Bubby gave me the crème de la crème of herself, which ironically is what she used to tell me I was. “Livia, you are the crème de la crème”. She used to say.

So today,  I would like to say, Bubby, YOU are the crème de la crème. 

We are all forever changed by you and we rest in the light of your spirit. 

IMG_0331.JPG

Wedding Bells

The snow falling down outside my window, fire on, tea in hand, hanuman chalesa playing, basking in an afterglow of sitting in circle with some of my closest women dear to my heart from infancy through older adulthood.

I feel inspired to write.

The muse is funny, you never now when a strong wave will hit you.

I believe finding the right partner is like the coming of the muse. You never know when and where the wave of infinite love is coming.

I am empty and humble in the face of Krishna. There is a profound letting go of hard unnecessary will force. I am letting go of never being enough. I am releasing seeing the world through the lens that things need to be different and that IT (whatever the it might be) is not enough. It truly is enough. At every level it is enough.

There is absolutely nothing more I could have said, done or changed in order to prepare myself for this man. I have done the incredible soul searching, the hard old pattern excavation. I have tested and been tested. I have been hurt by my love and stayed. I have been broken hearted by our love and allowed the feelings of mistrust, fear and anger to break my heart more and more until only a new heart was able to form from the speckles of dust I thought were true.

HE is enough.

I have observed someone transform at a deep core level in order to serve my life force without loosing sight and integrity of their soul and purpose. This, I am realizing, perhaps for the first time, is the deepest gift I have been given from the man I love. He has stood upright and strong with a willingness to serve, but not indulge my madness. He has welcomed the wild in my heart in a productive life giving way. He has opened himself to being touched, moved, and inspired by love. This man, this relationship, the good work we have done  together is truly, Enough.

There is a word in Hebrew--Hineni--it means here I am.

So I stand finally as bride empty and yet so full. I stand here with no fear of the other in my heart. I have only the silent inner prayer. “This is enough”

I stand here saying, “here I am”. I am here, humble servant to love. In the end my soul has been left with no choice but to join and be grown by something much bigger than anything I could have ever imagined was capable inside this small body-fractal of the universe.

I am enough.

You are enough

We are enough.

Hineni.

IMG_5482-lores.jpg

No Other Way

People ask why I am so intense about my yoga practice.

Well honestly, it’s a freekin mental spiritual and physical workout for some of us to be here, on this planet, in a body. I am one of those people.

The effort on my mat directly translates to the presence of my daily life. The thing is, I experience God every time I practice. Even if its a little glimmer of starlight for a second or two. I have to go into my body to experience the star from where I came. Which frankly, is a whole lot safer for everybody than me astral projecting somewhere else to find that connection. The strange paradox is that the more I am in my body--the more I am in my physical practice--the more I see god around me when I walk down the street. I see the other realms of being dancing about in plain site. When I do not practice, I miss it. I do not see.

The mystical is there, right inside.  

Many of us are longing to be reconnected to our star. This cosmic diaspora is an epidemic--its hole being filled by drugs, raves, false teachings of manipulative self-proclaimed gurus and the belief that we must leave our body to feel that connection.

I am so uninterested in transcendence nowadays. I am only interested in descendence. What I can see touch and feel in my body is the truth. It is real. I am real. I am only interested in being in THIS house of a body. And when the time comes, I will give back this body to the earth. I will send her back to the mountains, valleys and oceans.

Practice makes me live as if my insides were my outsides--my sensitivities alert and in plain site. But with physical sadhana I have the body strength to support this way of walking on the earth.

There is just no other way for me.