February 14, 2018

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On this day when many people are basking in the bliss of romantic love or lamenting that they are not, I would like to offer another perspective for those of us who are not partnered. Many times I have felt very sorry for myself that I don’t seem to get to have what other people seem to have and so many songs and stories say is the ultimate experience that everyone wants, the companionship of mutual romantic love. There are myriad reasons why some of us don’t find this, or perhaps don’t have it currently, and while having it can certainly be lovely, finding romantic love does not necessarily make or break a fulfilling, vibrant life. Many people hold on to relationships that have expired or perhaps were never even all that good to begin with in order to avoid the seemingly horrific potential of life without a romantic partner. Sometimes we put ourselves into situations that are not viable and at times even dangerous because we are more afraid that we need to be held in order to be okay. And many, myself included at times, miss seeing the beauty that’s right in front of us in pining for something that we imagine would make us complete and can’t seem to find. I have been without romantic relationship for many years now, with only very few unsuccessful attempts along the way. In each case we would have likely benefited each other much more to have related as friends instead. While I still get caught up in the desire for that at times, and am not closed to the possibility that at some point I may find mutual romantic love, I have also found great peace in letting go of needing to have it, in being complete in myself.

Some of the benefits for me have been: I am very comfortable going almost anywhere alone and enjoy my own company, whether or not I engage with other people on my journeys. I have come to often prefer it, especially the ability to come and go as I please without having to compromise with someone else’s desires (other than my son, but that is another situation, and also part of why I deeply appreciate my times of pure freedom). I am pretty capable of doing most things on my own, and when I’m not, I am becoming adept at finding ways to support myself to get those things done too. I am not resentful and waiting for someone else to do their part to balance the tally, I just get it done or not. I relate well with men and women and value them as beings worthy in themselves, not so dominated by the tension of being potential sexual partners or not. I am becoming more comfortable walking away when this is not respected, and am able to take it less personally through time and practice. This helps me feel safer and more comfortable in my own skin, and in my own integrity, and sometimes wakes people up to how they are limiting the ways we may be able to relate by fixating on sexuality and romantic love. I experience the transmutation of sexual energy into vitality and creative inspiration, and sexual attraction into appreciation and connection beyond just that initial potential interest. I am often able to desire without having to obtain the object of desire and enjoy the beautiful experience of the desire in itself. Which…is freedom. My identity is not confined to being a partner and I am able to relate with whoever I want, however I want, as long as it is agreeable with the person I am relating with, and perhaps their partners  I continuously discover what I think and enjoy without the influence of others defining what is possible or valid. I have come to trust myself and am my own validation.

I’m not saying these things can’t be found in the context of a romantic relationship, monogamous or otherwise, I’m just sharing that life can be beautiful and satisfying even if you don’t find romantic love. Even if that’s not what we’re conditioned to believe, and even on a day like today. If you’re feeling alone, just know you’re not alone in being alone. And that being solo doesn’t necessarily mean being lonely. There are many ways to have companionship, including the companionship of your own heart.

On this and everyday.
Love

Equinox Sunrise

For many years I taught yoga somewhere that was a 45 minute drive from my house and at certain times of the year I would leave in the dark and witness the sunrise. Often during class I would say, because for me it was true and because I had seen it happen so many times, that the awakenings come slow and steady like the sunrise, and then there are those moments like flashes of light when everything suddenly becomes brighter. When those shifts come, let it happen. Let yourself be transformed.

At some point I noticed that these sudden flashes happened especially at certain places along my drive, like when I drove north past exit 20 on I-93 in New Hampshire. Some of it was that the sun had risen higher and some of it was just that I had moved myself into a position where I could more clearly see the light.
Which really, is all the sunrise is, and the equinox, and the passing out of an eclipse. The sun is always shining. We just move into a position where we are in more in the light than in our own or something else’s shadow.

lalita

i am a child
who is older than you
living in this body
that becomes younger with age

and my mind that was once wrest
as yours is now with strife
with shame and other’s taboos
has gradually left that behind me

for my foolishness has an innocence
that matures as i grow wise
and instead of turning cold and tough
i let it tenderize me

as i step into the interplay
of the light and shadow dance
shimmering on the snow
in pine forests

what i get when i let go…

When I become aware that I am chasing something, often because either I’m not getting what I think I want and/or I am exhausting myself by trying so hard, if I am able to let go and soften back into myself, making space for what I was chasing to come to me or not, I feel a sense of peace and release that can be more sustaining than when I get what I think I want by grasping for it.
Sometimes in this place of calm and openness I get what I thought I wanted anyway. And even if I don’t, I’m okay. Because I became willing to let it go.

true freedom

One of my favorite physical aspects of practicing yoga is that there is nowhere on my back I cannot scratch (I am not suggesting this is true for everyone who practices yoga :-) ). One of my favorite mental aspects is the possibility that even when I feel an itch, I can feel it and not have to scratch.
I can, but I don’t have to.
This becomes more true all the time.

Deep listening

When I say that I am not “strict” in a cleanse, what I mean is that I don’t tell myself I “can’t” have anything. Or that I “have” to do things a certain way. Instead I become really sensitive and notice the effects of my choices. And let myself resonate with what I gain by not eating the whole block of cheese just because I want it, rather than that I can’t. Because I can eat it, I’m just choosing not to, for now. And seeing what that is like. For now.
It is an interesting freedom to feel desire and not have to react. As the tantric adage says – nothing is forbidden, nothing is advised. However we act has consequences…it is up to us to discern through time and practice which way we choose to go in any circumstance. And that may vary according to the situation.

catalyst

For me, snowboarding is physical yoga practice, asana ~ moving meditation, becoming comfortable and articulate in my body and in relation with the physical world. As I ride I gradually tune in to the subtleties of my movement, awakening presence in my entire body. I don’t have to try so much anymore, it just starts to happen. The movement becomes efficient, somewhat effortless. Grounded in my body, I become aware not only of my body, but with my body ~ my movement responding to the contours of the mountain, the crisp scent of the air and the temperature on my skin, the sounds of my board against the texture of the snow and the wind all around me. Everything becomes more vibrant. There’s nowhere to go and nothing else to do but to be right here, completely open to the moment. It refreshes me, brings me back to center.
I used to get pretty sad at the end of the season, as I thought I depended on this activity to do all this for me. Without it I would feel flat, empty, dull…or so I feared. Through time I realize that these activities that have the potential to revitalize us and bring us spontaneously into the moment remind us that this is possible. We don’t have to become attached to the catalyst, there are many ways to do it. Breathe in, feel yourself in your entire body. Hear the sounds. Right now.
I will miss you, my beloved mountain, my mermaid~tail serpentine snow dance. Another season has come and is passing and I have again learned so much from you.
Until the next time we meet dear friend, the love I tap into when I’m with you lives inside of me.
(yeah, yeah I know kinda sappy. And I mean it  🙂 )

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frame ~ another everyday metaphor

I have a potted plant living in my living room that is at least 30 years old. It belonged to my mother-in-law Mary Atala and to her mother Atala Mary before her. It came to me when my son was around two, so about 11 years ago.

When I lived in Salisbury, New Hampshire, it sat in a big window overlooking forests, mountains, fields and the Blackwater River, where we would swim in the summer and build extreme snow tube tracks and cross country ski in the winter. In front of this plant and this window is where I practiced yoga passionately and dedicatedly as often as possible when I first started teaching. The plant grew a really long tendril that spanned the length of the window that ran the length of the long room that used to be the top level of a chicken coop barn at some point in its incarnation.

The tendril across my window in Salisbury

The tendril across my window in Salisbury

When we moved from that room and that valley into Concord, I repotted the plant and it became huge, several tendrils winding their way across three of the four yellow walls that are my current living room.

In this video, the second long tendril winds across the backdrop…

Not too long ago, most of the leaves along the original tendril from Salisbury began to yellow and wither and die. All except the leaves at the very end. I pulled the dead leaves off, which left an empty tendril all across the main wall of the room where my son Philip and I hang out together, and where I practice and teach yoga now. I wanted to cut it and put the living end in a jar of water to grow new roots, and then replant it so the part that was alive could still grow. Yet I was having trouble letting go of the stem, and that the leaves that looked like they were still living beautifully graced the bay window of the room. So there it sat, dying stem plastered across my wall, me too attached to let go of it.

Philip likes to play indoor mini basketball in this room, and yesterday while he was playing I heard an, “Uh oh” and then silence. I called from my bedroom, “Are you okay?” And he responded, “I broke the plant.” I could hear he was sorry, and afraid I was going to be angry. For a brief second I was. And then I felt a rush of such relief.

He said, “The ball hit the stem and it was like a dried branch. Mom, it was already dead. It just broke off.”

Which was true. By not letting go of this that was obviously passing, the part that was still alive and hanging in my front window looking vibrant and beautiful was slowly dying too. I just hadn’t noticed it yet ~ because I didn’t want to. Partially because I was afraid of the change. And so the vine was inadvertently severed for me.

We cut the rest loose, untangled the dead stem and made it into a cat toy. I put the part that was still living into a jar of water where it will make new roots, and twisted the tip of the tendril that was left across the doorway where it currently hangs. For now.

now

now

I love just watching it grow, witnessing what might happen next.

ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् ।
उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान् मृत्योर्मुक्षीय मामृतात् ।।

Aum tryambakam yajāmahe sugandhim puṣṭi-vardhanam ǀ
urvārukam-iva bandhanān mṛtyormukṣīya māmṛtāt ǁ

Mahamrityunjaya mantra, a prayer of protection and surrender, to remind us when we are trying to hold onto something that is passing…
What it means to me…may we be released from our attachments, when we are ready, like the cucumber is released from the vine, without scar, when it is ripe.
The protection – may we be held by what nourishes us until it is our time to be let go.
The surrender – once we are let go there is no reattaching. When it is our time, may we have the grace and courage to let go.
One thing transforms into the next.

https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2014/01/25/mahamrityunjaya/

https://deniseporterkemp.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/everyday-metaphor/

Everyday Metaphor

I took a botany class a long time ago, and a class on growing orchids. I loved the classes and was doing well. The orchids lived under grow lights in my living room and were beautiful. I pampered them constantly. I fancied myself an aspiring botanist.

There was a local scholarship contest, and everyone in the class wrote proposals on what we would do with the money if we won. Looking back, I have no idea what I wrote. But I won. Then those of us who were chosen had to go before a committee to speak about our ideas, and the committee would decide how much each of us would receive.

I was super nervous. I could write but I was scared of people. That they wouldn’t like me. What I had written was authentically me, yet when I went before the committee I tried to be what I thought they wanted. I wore makeup and a skirt from my mom. I wore small heels which I never wore and probably walked funny. For a botany scholarship in San Francisco. None of these women were like that, they were more like me. Yet I bumbled and was awkward. And was not awarded any scholarship funds.

I felt humiliated. The orchids became covered in spiderwebs. I quit botany. Just like that. I felt it was obvious that this was not meant to be.

This past Mother’s Day, last year, I was gifted an orchid in full bloom. It was beautiful and I was grateful. It reminded me of that girl who loved orchids, and botany. Yet I was busy and forgot to water it for the most part. Even so, the flowers stayed for a long time. I never pruned the stems after the flowers passed, which I think I was supposed to do. It has been sitting in my windowsill, and I water it from time to time. I figured it wouldn’t make it.

The other day, when I remembered to water my oh-so-resilient plants, I noticed there was a small bud on one of the orchid stems. I wondered if it was left over from before and I hadn’t noticed it? I watered it by taking it out of its pot and letting warmish water run through the roots. Then put it back on the windowsill.

This morning I happened to look over at the orchid…

IMG_20140304_095934

Don’t give up. Seeds are being planted your whole life through. Sometimes it takes awhile for them to grow. And often they unfold differently than you imagined, and at the most unsuspecting of times.

Continuum

A definition of yoga could be the continuum that spans and contains both extremes simultaneously, balancing at the center. The equal and opposite polarities complementing and defining each other rather than canceling each other out.

We experience this with physical hatha yoga asana…finding the place where the pairs of opposites come into balance ~ left and right, front and back, grounding down to find leverage to lift up with ease, expanding out from and holding strength at the center, strength and flexibility, inhale and exhale…each pair two sides of the same thing. In this balance, the posture becomes self supporting and active effort can relax. And as the yoga sutras and other teachings suggest, when we bring ourselves into this balance, spontaneous presence, effortless awareness, a meditative state, pure consciousness, a deep underlying silence, spaciousness, insight, arises.

The events of my life often embody this principle, equal and opposite extremes balancing each other. Either side alone feels almost overwhelming, yet together they make a balance that brings insight. Perhaps this is life, and sometimes it is more obvious than others.

These pinnacle times, like physical yoga, give us the experience of the potential of this balance. All sides of the spectrum, simultaneous, defining rather than canceling each other out.

We are the synthesis, the balance that holds all extremes.

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