Tuesday, November 30, 2010

No Mittens Allowed!

Photo courtesy of Bing images
and Stephanie Lynn
A great many blog articles that I write are inspired by random conversations with friends, and this one is no different. It occurred through a series of emails and blog comments posted between my friend and fellow blogger, Dave Roy (Dave's Buttoned Up Mind blog) and I. He writes about a lot of tech-ish stuff, video games and such, as well as a fun series on music's one hit wonders. We're so opposite in writing style, yet we find a great deal to enjoy about one another's respective blogs. Dave has mentioned a couple times that he appreciates my ability to write long, thoughtful, involved blog posts that flow to the point that he never feels restless or burdened while reading them.

That made me smile, I must say, because every writer dreads hearing that they're writing content so ponderous and lengthy that it is exhausting to their readers to plow through. I am definitely verbose - I admit this right up front! In the past, I have actually challenged myself to write tighter content, to produce blog articles that are briefer in format, and I have succeeded. In fact, some of those examples represent some of my favorite work. That being said, writing short blog articles isn't all that comfortable for me. There's definitely merit in constantly challenging oneself, as it sharpens the mind and writing skills. I don't deny that concept, and I do practice restraint much more than anyone could imagine when writing.

Short articles, however, are not natural to my writing style. In that conversation with Dave, I likened it to wearing mittens. For the record, I am not a mitten person. Not even close! In fact, I loathe the things. During my childhood, mittens were the norm for children to wear and actual fingered gloves weren't all that commonly available in stores. So, mittens prevailed. My wee hands would be stuffed into those abominations, crammed together and sweating, muffled by the thickly woven material, unable to breathe or FEEL anything. I would fumble and drop things because my mitten wrapped hands were made clumsy and incapable of securely grasping items, or turning doorknobs, or picking something up. I absolutely despised it and begged my Mom for fingered gloves every winter, because as the original overly protective single parent, she was determined that we stay bundled up every second we were outside.

As an adult, regardless of the cold weather, I rarely wear gloves of any type. In fact, it is rare that I even wear a coat. East Tennessee has fairly temperate winters these days. But beyond that, my fingers would much rather feel frozen and be able to breathe than be cloaked in thick mittens, shrouded from the world, unable to experience or express emotions. Yes, I talk with my hands. It's intrinsic to my nature, much as is writing.

Ergo, in case you were wondering what my point is with this post, writing short blog articles is akin, to me, to being forced to wear mittens. Yes, I can write a brilliantly succinct, tightly woven, punchy article that is beautiful in its brevity. Off the top of my head, there are several of these that come to mind in the Healing Morning archives, and I am justly proud of them. However, where I truly shine as a writer is in the longer, flowing articles that Dave described. I like to mosey a bit as I broaden the body of the storyline. While brevity can deliver a knife edged presentation, there is a lot to appreciate for a bit more of a leisurely stroll down the path towards culmination. Nuances are there to explore and elaborate upon. Colors and textures and shadings....tangible memories to paint with words, scensory wonders to revisit and prompt within the reader's mind...those are so much fun to weave together in written format to me! And to do that in my own unique manner requires that my hands not be mitten muffled.

So, for the most part, my writing is going to be that longer format. I always do my best to ensure logical progression and flow to the thoughts expressed here, and I do appreciate the kind affirmation that Dave gave me with his comments on same. It's always a happy thing to be appreciated and accepted, unconditionally, for who you are at your very core. At my very core, I am a wordy writer! Bare fingers tapping madly away at the keyboard, or scribbling with equal fervor with pen and paper....the end product will rarely be brief, unless I am consciously making the effort, out of begrudged self-restraint. As I am much happier when not practising self-restraint in writing, you can expect the longer, flowy posts here. I hope that you'll enjoy my efforts and find that the reading is enjoyable.

For this writer, the rule of the day, no matter the weather, is simply, "No Mittens Allowed!" Freedom of fingers to produce a rhapsody of words suits me.

**Thanks to Stephanie Lynn for graciously helping me out with the above graphic image of the No Mittens Allowed icon. Stephanie is a gifted graphic artist who makes beautiful banners for Facebook and blog application. You can contact her on Facebook via http://www.facebook.com/#!/steph4c.**

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Monday, November 29, 2010

When sons trump daughters

Every time I visit India, I am hit in the face with gender discrimination. Some obtuse remark, action, or general sense of “women are lesser than men” reminds me we still have a long way to go when it comes to mass societal acceptance that women can do everything men can equally well — sometimes better.

This time around the realization that we may never be able to reach the end of the journey was even more obvious.
As I sat cross-legged and moist-eyed in a room full of mourning relatives, I couldn’t help but question the “done things.” My cousin brother who lived halfway across the world had been flying in every other week to check up on his ailing mom. This time he had flown across two continents to light her pyre.

My aunt lost her battle with cancer. A breast cancer survivor, she couldn’t ward off the disease that had sneaked its way into her brain and liver.

Her youngest daughter sat across the room, head bowed, tears streaming down her face relentlessly. She was the only “local” child. Her older sister, like her brother, lived abroad. Three years younger to me, she had shouldered the responsibility single-handedly. Taking my aunt to the hospital, consulting with doctors, managing day-to-day household chores, being the caregiver for my uncle who had recently suffered a heart attack. She had left her job and moved in with her parents, so she could be there for them full time.

She did everything — and more — that folks in India expect of sons.

And yet, during the havan, she was sitting by the door, her role relegated to that of an usher.

She couldn’t handle any of the puja samagri, she couldn’t help distribute the prasaad, she had to ask if it was ok for her to touch anything that made its way to her during the ritual. The reason? Someone somewhere eons ago decided that the departed soul could only find peace when the last rites and other funeral ceremonies were performed by the son (or another male relative in case the deceased had no male offsprings).

And here we are, in 2010, blindly following that custom.

While the whole idea of the havan and other ceremonies associated with death doesn’t sit well with me (what’s the point? … the person who died is gone; all this “stuff” is only being done for those left behind … to give them some sort of closure and help the pundits expand their coffers), what irked me even more was the fact that the person who did the most for my aunt when she was alive, was not allowed to partake in any activity related to her death.

Things had to be done the “proper” way, i.e. by the son. If she participated, everything would become “impure” and the departed soul would find no rest.


I haven’t found any evidence in our scriptures that daughters can’t perform the last rites or actively participate in any funeral-related traditions. It may be considered a man’s “duty,” but is there any reasoning why?

For years I’ve heard how daughters are always so much more caring and affectionate than sons. For years I’ve witnessed the reciprocation of love and emotional nourishment between parents and their female offsprings. For years I’ve experienced zero gender discrimination in my immediate family. But at a time like this, all of that means naught.


I think my cousin sister had as much right –if not more! — as her brother to perform the last rites. But our culture doesn’t allow for that.

And I doubt it will anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Men just aren't designed for Christmas shopping

Hello all – as you can clearly tell I am alive, this is a bigger deal than you may expect, because this weekend I faced a deadly and dark peril.

This weekend we went Christmas shopping.

Ah yes I can hear the collective sigh as you tut, “but it’s the middle of November Glen, what are you going on about?” Yes indeed it is, but my wife has learned well over the years. Jo knows exactly how to work me.

We men do have a completely different outlook on the whole shopping experience to those of the female persuasion. My wife knows full well that if she wants my help and support when it comes to the Christmas shop, if she wants me there holding bags, making suggestions and decisions for her to overrule, then she has to think hard and use her most cunning tricks on me.
Firstly I absolutely refuse to go anywhere near a British Mall or High Street after 25th November. It just isn’t worth it. The crowds jostling for 5p off an Arran Jumper just get out of control and I can’t stand it. Therefore Jo has to accept that Christmas shopping happens early if I am to be present.

Next, Jo will arrange for the boys to be taken into care. It may sound harsh but it is for the best. Happily, in our case the care home chosen is where the boy’s Grandparents live, so it wasn’t too bad for them. With the boys taken care of for the night we were able to book a room and make a weekend of it. Jo knows full well that I can’t resist the idea of a romantic night away in a hotel, so she will hint and wink that that she will be packing her best underwear. I fall for it every time.
With a room booked and the boys in care, we headed off to Bath.

It wasn’t long at all before we arrived in Bristol.

It was a last minute change of plan forced on us by the appalling weather. At Bristol we could go to Cribbs Causeway, which is inside. When we got there, Jo told me that if I was good and stayed with her for two shops I could have a hot chocolate, and so we hit House of Fraser. I had been conned. House of Fraser may be technically one actual shop if you look at it objectively, but I always think that Department stores are a cheat and should count as at least five shops. We were in there for hours. Every now and again I’d get a knowing nod from another bedraggled husband as he was dragged along by his wife. I saw one man having a tantrum by the changing rooms, he refused to try a jumper on until he was told that if he didn’t try it on, he wouldn’t be allowed to stay up and watch Match of the Day that night.

Time stood still, literally. I asked Jo how long it would be until we could have hot chocolate every 5 minutes for an hour, and the answer was always 10 minutes. I had strayed into ‘Shopping Time’ which uses different rules and runs at different speeds depending on what sex you are. When we finished shopping I was 8 years 6 months, 4 weeks, 3 days, 2 hours, 7 minutes and 25 seconds older than before we started. Jo had only aged three hours.

Eventually, Jo released us form the store, only to dive straight into a shop that had absolutely NOTHING useful in it whatsoever. You have never seen anything like it. Every inch of every shelf was taken up by something utterly useless but pretty. I heard Jo mumbling about how this or that would look good in OUR kitchen, I figured I was supposed to be noting this down, but I couldn’t work out what it was that Jo was actually looking at. For sure it wasn’t a George Forman Grill, which I happen to think WOULD look good in our kitchen. Apparently it was something that you dangle from the door knob and look at from time to time, strictly on the grounds that it is the same colour as the walls – I really do not understand women.

True to her word, I was allowed a hot chocolate, and Jo even produced a packet of wine gums from her pocket as an extra reward. I think that may have been a mistake though, because I soon wound up in trouble for running around Costa Coffee giggling with the sugar rush.
The day continued in little chunks of two shops followed by a treat. Two shops, treat, telling off. Two shops, no treat, punishment and then back to the start. Eventually we made it to the hotel absolutely knackered and frazzled and cold. It wasn’t very romantic. Jo’s best underwear, also turned out to be her most comfortable.

The next day we hit Bath. Bath is lovely. In Bath there are (I counted) exactly four million shops. As the day slowly wore on, my will to live evaporated. We even somehow wound up in a couple of shoe shops. I thought to myself that Jo was being particularly generous to her friends this year, and tried to work out which one of them had exactly the same size feet as my wife.
Eventually Jo took pity on me. My wife is not heartless after all, so she gave me a smile and said “come on”. I was led into Bath’s one and only ‘Man Creche’ cunningly called ‘The Sony Centre’. I was led into the centre of this glorious haven and told not to leave until Jo came back to get me. Jo picked up a ticket from the lady at the door and left a small bag behind containing some spare pants – just in case.

I browsed about in a daze, looking at the beautiful systems on display. I listened to the sounds coming from the crystal clear speakers and marvelled at the 44 inch Televisions. A few of the other men were huddled around a 48 incher showing Star Trek and I happily joined them. We all shared a nod and a smile.

Slowly all my new little friends were picked up by their wives and headed away back to shopping servitude. I was left all alone, Jo was nowhere to be seen. The man who sells the i-pods, noted my growing concern and came over with a beaker of Ribena and a biscuit. It was a beautiful moment.

At last Jo returned and with a hug took me across the road to Debenhams. Apparently there were some baubles I needed to see.

The shopping continued until at last, we were done. Before I knew it we were back home and the kids were excitedly telling us what they had done at Grandma’s.

Job done for another year.

Happy bloody Christmas.

Glen Staples - also posted at www.Glenslife.com

Friday, November 19, 2010

Song of Friendship

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
As I drove around doing my errands today, I reflected on energy patterns and how they relate to friendship. This post will be published here on Healing Morning blog, but is also destined to be an article in the next quarterly issue of Aromatique Essentials E-zine in Australia. The general theme of this upcoming issue is friendship, and this is why it took me a while to decide exactly what to write. I didn't want to recycle old thoughts, or repackage a prior blog post.

Everything we do, say, think and feel is producing energetic patterns. These patterns manifest into myriad corporeal forms, but friendship is one pattern that is slightly ephemeral. It takes shape and form in those people we choose to call friends, be they blood relatives or family of our heart, but friendship itself is an unseen thing.

We all know a wide range of euphemisms that denote how we interact with others. One would be that "water seeks its own level". Another would be that "we are judged by the company we keep". Yet another is my own thought, and it is that when walking on a beach, one grain of sand cannot shift without affecting the millions of other tiny grains around it. We are like unto that grain of sand in relation to friendship and the people we allow into our Inner Circle.

As with water seeking its own level, we as human beings resonate at a specific vibratory level, attracting other people vibrating at that same or similar vibration. This is my own theory, of course, but I feel it rings true. It would be highly unlikely for any of us to feel physically, emotionally or spiritually comfortable spending time around another person whose intrinsic energy is discordant and not in harmony with our own vibration. I feel that in this manner, we attract others and we form relationships that complement on an energetic level.

Because all of Life is of a cyclic nature, there come those moments when friendship...and harmonic energy...no longer match. It is this moment that we usually find most painful, as it is the hallmark of that relationship coming to an end. I used to struggle mightily with this experience, as it is my nature and preference to keep people I love in my life forever. It took many years of living through these cycles to understand and accept that not all relationships are meant to last forever. For some, these cycles are more easily weathered, but I haven't always handled it with equanimity. Indeed, the realization and understanding for me, now, tell me that many friendships are meant to burn brightly, quickly, bring strong blessings, and cycle to a close rather quickly. I still don't like this particular manifestation, but I have come to recognize the beauty of these experiences when they do occur. I have found a way to be thankful and appreciative of the time and happiness of every friendship I am blessed with. If they are of a short duration, I have also learned that sometimes, they cycle back around years later in my life. When this occurs, it is particularly lovely, as both I and that old friend have grown and changed in the interim, allowing a homecoming that is a fascinating celebration.

With age comes wisdom....another old homily. The older I get, the more I recognize that Life is, indeed, an endless cycle of patterns, dances, puzzles, harmonies and paintings. I mentioned in my last blog post that "friendships are the defining, delicate touches of color on our Souls, I think. Each person we allow into our Inner Circle adds a new element to our personal canvas, and in so doing, they add contrast." (Contrasts, November 6, 2010) Through the medium of the internet, I have connected with people I would never otherwise have been able to meet in this lifetime. From Knoxville, Tennessee to Australia, I have connected in friendship with Julie Nelson (Aromatique Essentials proprietor) and as a result, my writing is reaching an even wider audience.

From a good health perspective, friendship is essential to us. Being able to confide in that close friend, being able to laugh, to play, to relax completely...all of these things nurture our Spirit and bestow a wide range of health benefits. I could go off on a wild tangent on all the good health aspects of friendship, but that is a topic for another article. Today, as I ran errands, I reflected on the esoteric application of friendship and how the interactions we have with our friends ultimately weaves a strong energetic presence, albeit invisible to our human eyes.

Photo courtesy of
 I imagine that the love between friends produces the most beautiful energy pattern, if we could see it with our eyes....produces the most ethereal musical rhapsody, if we could hear it with our ears....produces a woven tapestry of unspeakable beauty, if we could touch it with our hands. We can do none of these things, but the gift we are given is to feel it with our hearts and minds. Our Spirit, that essential, unique thumbprint of energy each of us is, feels the blessing and happy energy that friendship produces. And we are all richer for this blessing.

Here in the United States, we are approaching our Thanksgiving holiday, so I find this a very fitting tribute to be writing about my own perspective of friendship. We are always, always exactly where we are meant to be in our lives, with the perfect people surrounding us, offering lessons and reflecting back to us what we are sending out to the world. Take a moment to give this thought, as it is a powerful statement. People come into our lives to teach us and also to reflect back to us. I often remind myself of this very fact if I am feeling dissatisfaction or a lack of harmony surrounding me. That niggling sensation of things not quite feeling right, as though puzzle pieces aren't aligning properly, is usually a red flag indicating some inner house cleaning is necessary. Yet another blessing friendship can offer us, if we are willing to listen, be open and also be honest with ourselves.

I find it very appropriate, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, to be writing about the beautiful harmony and blessings of friendship. As I have written this article, my thoughts have come together in a manner that pleases me, because I also learn from the process. Little gems of wisdom that I have stumbled across over a lifetime will suddenly surface, fitting into the body of text in just the right fashion. As a result, my own resolve and Spirit are strengthened and the vibrations that I radiate outward get a bit of a shine and polish. It is my choice, my conscious intent, to always radiate positive energy so that in return, I may attract similar positive energy and people. I want the friendships and love in my life to reflect the best version of Me that I am capable of rendering each day. I call it a song of friendship, this harmony that we all come together to produce.

To those in the United States celebrating Thanksgiving in the coming week, I wish you a safe, happy, blessed holiday. To my friends and readers elsewhere in this big, beautiful world, I wish you days of peace for the coming holiday season as well.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Spending quality time on urban India's streets

For the first time in two weeks I was able to comfortably lounge in the backseat of my dad's Honda Civic.

The cyclists who appeared from nowhere ceased to elicit a "watch out, you'll hit him!" shriek of terror; I stopped cursing the motorcyclists; turned a blind eye toward the rickshaws; and didn't care about cars being driven so close alongside ours that I could roll down my window and touch them without having to ever so slightly stretch my arm.

Yesterday for the first time I did not cringe when we were stuck in a traffic jam for an hour. I, in fact, made light of the fact that we headed out at 4 p.m. and were back home at 5:30 p.m. without having reached the store we were headed to.

The hour and a half in between constituted of being stuck in a jam on a side road (ironically, we avoided the main thoroughfare for fear of being stuck in a jam), taking a U-turn after three failed attempts, getting stuck in another jam, using an alternate and much longer route to return home (owing to a third traffic jam on the main road), getting stuck in a Saturday bazaar on the street when taking a U-turn again, and lots and lots of high-pitched arguments between drivers and street vendors.

On another shopping expedition last evening (yes, we are resilient), I was almost spat on, my posterior was attacked by a cow's snout, my arm was swatted by another cow's tail, and as hard as I tried not to, my shoulders brushed against fellow pedestrians in an attempt to keep up with my parents who effortlessly sashayed through the traffic jam, successfully avoiding vehicles, people, and cow dung.

While everyone continues to acknowledge, and be aggravated by,the traffic issues, it doesn't stop them from adding to the street chaos.

Whether they buy them out of necessity or as a social status symbol, more and more cars are being added to Lucknow's streets every day.

With 10 lakh (that's 1 million) registered vehicles on the roads and 200 being added every day, with 300 traffic personnel on the streets instead of the required 6,000, with an average of two vehicles per home in
multi-storeyed apartment complexes mushrooming everywhere, with roads being dug everywhere and street side parking constricting already narrow roads, with cyclists, pedestrians, and animals waltzing willy nilly on the streets, with everyone wanting to squeeze in their foot, hoof, or vehicle into any spot they can, the streets in Lucknow city have been transformed into a living hell.

According to an August 2010 report in India Today:
Compared to the mollusc, our cities have super speed records-Bangalore's peak traffic speed is 18 kmph, while Delhi's and Mumbai's are 16 kmph. Indian thoroughfares host over 48 modes of transport, with 40 per cent of commercial vehicles plying illegally. Forty-one percent of streets are taken up by parking. Most Indians drive 10 km on an average daily; one in four spending over 90 minutes every day; 32 percent of the country's vehicles move on urban roads. India has 50 million two-wheelers and rising. Despite this, national car sales have grown by 38 percent; 2009-10 was the pinnacle with 1.95 million cars sold. The cheapest car in India is about 12 times the annual per capita income of a citizen, while in the U.S. it is about one-third the average income. Urban India's love affair with the automobile is scandalous: the country's five mega metros have over 40 lakh cars out of a total vehicular population of 10 crore, its auto market growing by 26 percent last year. India is paralysed by its traffic.

Indeed it is.

I saw my parents' relatively calm composure in the midst of all this chaos. The car's engine was turned off, their necks were craned, they talked about daily "hassles" like these in subdued tones, and as soon as the rickshaw in front moved half a foot, they got excited at the prospect of reaching their destination.

For four years I rode my scooter on these streets, for another four I drove my mom's car, but now when I look around at the stalled traffic, I can't imagine sitting in the driver's seat.

The Lucknow I deftly navigated my way through no longer exists. In eight years, this peaceful Nawabi town has become a metro-wannabe bursting at its seams.

It's only a matter of time before it explodes.

In the meantime, the "relax, this is India" attitude has rubbed on me. The roads may have come to a standstill, but life goes on.

Also posted on my blog.

Saturday, November 13, 2010


Inside the altar
of my heart,
I knelt down before him.
My forehead touched his feet,
his hands gently rested
upon my bent back.
Waves of bliss rose,
mingled with tears
of pure joy.
I looked up at him
with misty eyes,
and immersed myself
in the shimmering
that sparkled within
his radiant eyes.

(Also posted on my blog)

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Apple Charlie; a Memory

Bill Grover at Apple Charlies

I just wanted to see some pumpkins!

The farm is well taken care of by the new owners.

I carefully scanned the pavement looking for signs of Mom left on the driveway.

Coming back from Michigan, I again thought of the life that was made for me there, and all that has changed because I left home at seventeen (and didn't look back). The years of separation and absence have provided an unbroken memory that continues to be alive in me. Though the events and relationships are long gone, they exist completely intact in my memory.  I continue to feel close to people I have not seen for three decades. My unbridled affection is surprising because I'm essentially a stranger who has unexpectedly popped up from the haze of the 1970's. 

Bill is a friend from Huron High School. He is connected to the fall season the same way apple cider, orange pumpkins, and leaves caught in the wind or crunching under our feet are connected. He was a football player and champion wrestler who celebrated with us after the games with pizza (and sometimes beer) in Flatrock. I was a drum major, flag captain, clarinetist, all around band member and team supporter. He was protective of my sisters and me, and I believe he had a special deal with our father, Richard, to guard our honor; however, an unforeseen event wedged a terrible break in our friendship and we could no longer be friends.

It was my sixteenth birthday party and all of my family, friends, and their friends were there. The house was open, and traffic flowed in teen party fashion. People were drinking, smoking, and talking too loud. My sister came up in a car with her boyfriend. She had disappeared for many months, running off with her older boyfriend in the middle of the night, packing her clothes in large black plastic garbage bags and storing them behind the evergreen bushes that lined the front porch. Her arrival to my party was tense and unexpected. My father was quietly ignoring this turn of events. The couple was arguing in the car, perhaps about coming in the house or leaving before there was trouble. The discussion became physical and one of my cousins ran into the house yelling, "He's beating her up and she's in labor!" My father sprung into fierce action; he ran outside, grabbed the man and pulled him out of the car. My sister started screaming for everything to stop. However, it was too late and a fight became the main event. Yelling party goers crowded around shouting, "Fight!" Bill tried to break the two men apart, but it was impossible. They rolled into the field next door and it started to get bloody. Mom went into action, picked up a two by four board, and slammed it down just when they flipped over. She nearly knocked Dad unconscious, and it was all he could do to maintain awareness. I was appalled at her mistake! "She almost killed Dad", I thought. Mom came running back with a hammer, and I blocked her by grabbing her hand, "Don't you dare!" I was ready to get physical. Suddenly, lights were flashing, and people scattered. The police broke up the fight, and began taking reports from witnesses. "Who started it?" was the critical question. When Bill was asked he reported what he had seen, and so Dad was taken off to jail. Later, Bill stood as a witness for my sister's boyfriend, and that is why we could not longer be friends. It was as if he disappeared. He was completely removed from all interactions with us, all contact. My father felt he was disloyal to our family because he told the police exactly what he had seen, and in Bill's version, Dad was the angry aggressor. My sister went to the hospital, had my nephew, and decided to stay with her boyfriend because children need a father. Mom went to the hospital to be with her, and later helped her get settled but Dad remained stoically detached. He felt betrayed by family, friends, and society. A father is supposed to defend his child, isn't he?

The farm is well cared for now, with the exception of the circle driveway, which somehow seems appropriate. I stood looking down the drive for several minutes trying to find some remnant of my mother, a darkened area, a bit of the chalk that outlined her body but all that remained was broken cement. I feel sorry I challenged her when she was "defending" Dad. She wasn't ever a bystander, patiently waiting and helpless. She was a powerful participant- abet with a poor aim. She continued to be brave, running out to try to help her partner, Christine, after she was shot by our neighbor, Brooks. I wish she had stayed inside and waited for the police to arrive. I wish she were still alive. I wish we had just celebrated her birthday on Halloween, instead of her being murdered at fifty five years old.  Dad made peace with my sister and she escaped the domestic abuse situation. (He died when he was forty-nine.) Dad never knew about Mom's lifestyle changes.

I don't know if Bill remembers this story; we didn't talk about it. As a matter of fact, I didn't even know that he was "Apple Charlie" -or rather that was the name his father used. My cousin, Tammy, was just taking me to an apple orchard and a place to see a pumpkin patch. (Living in the tropics makes me yearn for signs of seasons sometimes.) We drove up to Apple Charlies, I got out and started taking lots of poor quality photographs with my cell phone, then I started chatting with one of the workers, "So who is Apple Charlie? What's his last name? What's his first name? I mean, people don't call him, Apple, right?" I was just bothering a stranger with questions when I discovered that this was Bill Grover's place. I had forgotten his family owned an apple orchard. I wondered if he wanted to see me again. I decided to be bold, and when I saw him heading into his house, I called out, "Bill! Hey, Bill!" I'm glad I did. I feel as though a new bookend has been placed on that past disturbing phase of my life. When I left, he said, "Thanks for stopping by and looking me up." Bill's okay. I'm okay. Life goes on.

Reprinted from Oasis Writing Link (TM) 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

365 Lessons-Lesson 303: No Pain, No Gain

My husband Yoon has adopted the English expression "no pain, no gain." His other favorites are "location, location, location," "bundle of joy" and "awesome." He uses words and expressions until he finds new ones. Sometimes, in his yoga class, he says "no pain, no gain." That might sound very against the way of yoga. After all, in yoga you are suppose to tune into your own body and go at your own pace. It's meant to be a journey from within. But when he says these words, I don't think he means for his students to push their limits or suffer a charley horse in class. I think he means something entirely different.

When he says these words I feel love in his voice. I don't feel like he's a drill sergeant up there shouting out commands. When he says these words, it's out of compassion for what each student might individually be experiencing. So much gets released during a yoga session with Yoon. There's a lot of contraction and expansion happening in the class. As we work different groups of muscles, things come out. Every experience we have ever had in life is imprinted on the body. The mind and body are so connected. In meditation, I have often felt a pain somewhere in my body along with a memory. As soon as I witnessed the unpleasant sensation in my body instead of reacting to it, the pain passed away along with the memory. The body says a lot about a person's state. You can't hide how you are feeling, it's written all over you.

So, "no pain, no gain" in Yoon's class means that when we go in and work from within, sometimes we might feel pain or memories. If we stay in our body and work from within, being gentle and kind to ourselves, that which we feel as pain will come to pass, but it might not be a pleasant experience as it is happening.

I'm working on a difficult chapter in my memoir. For those of you who don't know, I have a book contract. My book is called Lessons from the Monk I Married and it will be published by Seal Press/Perseus Books in March 2012. By the first week of December, I have to turn in half the book to my editor in Berkeley, California. It's very different from this blog even though it has the same title. It's about my 14-year journey with my husband, a former Korean Buddhist monk.

The chapter I'm working on was a very painful period in my life. I have found, while writing this book, that my body remembers the experience and as I'm writing it, I go back to that time. Chapter Five has been so painful and slow for me because that's how it was in real life. I read the chapter to my husband and asked him what he thought. He said, "Oh...it's intense. I seriously feel pain."

So I wonder why I am choosing to re-live this experience and my experiences in this memoir. Why am I going through the pain again? It was so hard to go through the first time. I barely made it through and now I'm re-living it again. Why?

Well, it's in the book. I guess you'll have to buy it to get the scoop. No, in all honesty I'm writing it to share my experience. I gained so much through this journey I've been on, but I had to go through some seriously difficult times. I had to follow my heart even though I felt like I might die.

It was a process. Life is a process. We all experience and go through things. What I have found is that its true. No pain, no gain. If you really want to experience life to its fullest, you can't remain stagnant and hide from your fears. Hiding or running from what scares you or what is painful only increases the fear or pain. You have to face life head on. Once you do you will realize that everything comes to pass. That it all changes. Instead of feeling restrictive or holding pain in your body out of fear, when you face life and accept the reality of life as it is, you will find that life becomes more fluid, that you don't feel as much pain, that you are stronger than you think. By facing your life, you become confident. It takes practice, but step by step, it will become so natural. Soon you realize that what you feared or what was painful for you was mostly created by you. By facing yourself and loving yourself as you are through both your fear and your pain, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Also posted on my blog Lessons from the Monk I Married where I have been writing 365 Lessons for 2010.