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.

Golden Cauliflower Soup

Perfect for soaking up the warmth and sustenance of the sun on this crisp and golden autumn morning, as we shift from the final night, last night, and following day, today, of Laksmi, into the first night, tonight, of Sarasvati, in the Indian festival of Navaratri.  The goddess of good fortune and abundance in the Hindu pantheon, Laksmi is symbolized by the harvest and the light of the sun that nourishes us, and the color yellow.  Sarasvati, associated with purity and the color white, is the river of wisdom and inspiration that moves through us when we have cleared the path and built the channel strong enough to hold her.  This soup, both raw and pureed, is very cleansing and sustaining, as it moves easily and quickly through your digestive system and provides lots of food and nourishment in each bite without as much bulk in your stomach.  The fiber in cauliflower acts like a scrubbing brush that pushes other food through your system, the lemon juice an astringent that draws out impurities and leaves you feeling clean.  The tahini provides calcium and protein, the miso and soy sauce friendly enzymes, the avocado potassium, vitamin E and healthy monounsaturated fats that soothe your stomach and keep your skin supple and moist in this drying time of year.  Cumin and coriander both stimulate appetite and improve digestion, and make everything more delicious!  They also balance each other as cumin is slightly warming and coriander cooling in nature.  Turmeric is also warming, and is an anti-inflammatory that relives joint pain and stimulates healing in the body.  And it imparts the golden tint to this cauliflower soup that causes even its aesthetic to reflect the blending of the golden light of Laksmi and the clear white purity of Sarasvati symbolically occurring on this day.

Enjoy!

(This recipe and some of the nutritional information is adapted from the recipe for Curried Cauliflower Soup in Brigette Mars’ amazing cookbook, “Rawsome”, which is, um, rawsome, truly…I am not raw or vegan and yet including these types of recipes in your diet can increase your nutrition and add another way of experiencing food to your repertoire of food preparation.)

Golden Cauliflower Soup

½ head cauliflower

1 avocado

Juice of ½ to 1 lemon

5 Tablespoons tahini

½ teaspoon turmeric

teaspoon each ground cumin and coriander

2 Tablespoons soy sauce

2 ½ Tablespoons sweet white miso

2 or more cups water

Cut cauliflower into pieces that will fit into your food processor.  Peel and pit avocado.  Squeeze lemon juice through a strainer to remove seeds.  I use whole cumin and coriander and pulse them to a powder in a coffee grinder that I only use for spices, never coffee – coffee is too strong and will overpower the taste of all your spices.  Put everything into a food processor and blend until smooth.  Adjust water and all seasonings to desired taste and consistency.

Wisdom that came to me while holding my Aunt Judy’s ashes as I lie upon the shores of White Lake, N.C.

  1. There is no one right way to do things.
  2. If something is uncomfortable, keep making tiny movements.  Letting the fire ant bite me so I can stay perfectly still is not being present to the experience, moving away from the ants is.  I’m not stuck with anything.
  3. I talk to myself inside my head so much it’s hard for me to listen, so I’ll just have to start listening more to myself because that is how the wisdom is going to have to speak to me.
  4. See the beautifulness in people, and recognize everything else about them too.  Perspective.
  5. I can be both strong and sensual.  And I don’t have to cow to anyone.
  6. Love is not rational.  It blooms wherever you are planted.  And you are not stuck there either.
  7. Believe in the signs.  They are teaching us things beyond what we can figure out.
  8. Appreciate.

And she always said, “It really is that simple”.  And I know from  my own experiences that simple does not mean easy.  Or painless.  Just that life is not as complicated as we tend to make it.  And I think she knew this from her own experiences too.  And yet she always reverted back into her “happy place”, the notion inside herself where she manifested that everything was going to be alright.  Which in some way it always is, even if it’s not what we want, or even what seems is best for us personally.  It’s all much bigger than that.

Thanks Great Judy,  I’m glad I can still feel you with me.

Reclaiming Tantra

Tantra has become quite a loaded word, largely due to the extremity of practices utilized by the so-called left handed path of tantra as ways of challenging practitioners to be able to stay awake and steady in the midst of the most overpowering of situations and emotions.  Which can be quite potent, even if just looked at as metaphor.  And tantra IS this – practicing awareness and stability through the trials of life without getting lost in that which overwhelms us.  Staying awake so we can navigate as best as possible, whatever comes our way.

Tantra is not hedonism; its potential is quite the opposite.  Utilizing the guise of tantra to engage in risky behaviors in order to test ourselves before we are ready – or at all – will most likely not lead to enlightenment.  More likely it will end up causing us to get even more stuck in self serving greed and grasping for what we can never get enough of.  We all know this trap.  It usually is too good to be true.

Physical hatha yoga, for example, which is a form of tantra, helps us to bump up against both what is uncomfortable and what is ecstatic and gives us the opportunity to touch these sensations while steadying our nervous system with the breath and rhythmic movements.  Facilitating calm presence and awareness so we can go through whatever experience we are having.  Cultivating the strength and awareness to sensitize to the subtleties.  So that we can experience intensity – and boredom, which can be even more overwhelming – without losing our grounding or having to react.  Potentially.  Sometimes.  With practice.  And when we practice this, we are more likely to find this presence in the moment as we need it.

We don’t have to cover ourselves in the ashes of the dead and meditate in the cremation grounds or practice the 5 M’s of the ritual consumption of  meat, alcohol and sex in order to be able to help ourselves become strong and sensitive in the face of that which has potential power over us.  Such practices can be seen as metaphor, and we can bring the potential of them into our every encounter – grounding ourselves and staying present in whatever we do in our lives, experiencing the fullness of every moment.

Although, as it is said, nothing is forbidden, nothing is advised.  There is no one stock way to behave that fits everyone and every circumstance, it is very subjective.  It is up to us to learn what is useful for us and those around us, and what causes harm.  And be really honest with ourselves about this.  We suffer when we won’t learn.  Our karmas are the lessons we need to learn to evolve, and if we refuse to learn them and keep trying the same things that aren’t working, we have to learn the same hard lessons over and over again.  Tantra teaches us to notice our intentions and experience the results, and as much as possible, learn to move from a place of respect and love over greed.  Liberating what is obstructed in ourselves.

Love