Tag Archives: mystery

follow the breath

Two years, ago, for Christmas, Mitch got me a meditation cushion. I was probably going through one of my phases, trying to win a hot yoga award (by returning a second time) or deciding that this would be the year  – gasp, finally – that i would go off to an ashram in India to study the Kirtan yogic chants I had always dreamed about.

I guess the cushion was Mitchy’s way of saying, “Now you can meditate from the comfort of your own home, babe.”

Mitchy’s great at knowing exactly what i need. Less wine, more quinoa. Less writing, more revision. Less frazzle, more meditation.

I’ve been “practicing” the – um – meditative arts for about a decade now, although i have yet to levitate off the ground in a cloud of transmigrational smoke.  Not that I haven’t huffed, or puffed, or prayed, or cried, but I honestly haven’t been able to hit the top shelf of the enlightenment hierarchy, even though i own not one but two copies of Chögyam Trungpa’s 1973 classic, Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism.

How can something that’s so easy and so mundane  – to follow your breath – be so complex at the same time? Much like a lot of other things, I blame TV. Child of the eighties, Micheal Jackson, Whitney Houston, growing up in noisy arcades with a lot of blings and beeps, no worry we have a hard time sitting and thinking. Then add a kid to the mix, the ever churning swirl of the mommy brain? Practically impossible.

I always seemed to start out on the right foot: positive intentions, good posture, and a clear mind.

Deep breath. There you go, Maureen. You’re doing just great. Can I make it to ten? In, out. In…out…. but then it would start. The voice.

I’m breathing too fast. I should slow down.
Ignore the voice, Maureen. Hold it, and exhale.
You call that meditating? I should be working. I’m procrastinating.

I am NOT! I’m helping myself calm down and develop self-awareness. It’s a life altering practice.
I’m hungry. I should have called that women back.
Deeeeeeeep breath. Focus.
Did I cancel that dentist’s appointment yet? Lei doesn’t even have any cavities.
I’m trying to breathe, here!
And you’re doing a marvelous job. Congratulations. You’re ALIVE.

And so it goes, year after year. For a while I tried to focus on the exact conditions that i would need to meditate – hence the cushion. Then I tried to focus on the schedule: six to ten minutes daily, with a weekly working up to half hour and hour long increments. This is when i bought a second yoga mat (in case I wore the first one out right away!) and got the kundalini yoga chants prepped on the CD player, thinking, it may be soon time for a guru!

Deep breath, there, Little Mo.

I guess now since i’m getting a little older, i may be finally realizing that I may never make it to that Tibetan Buddhist mountain retreat that I always meant to get to, and that frankly, I may be okay with that. I’ll stick with my thirty-somethings uses for my meditation cushion: laundry folding, bedtime out loud story reading, and exam correcting at my low lying, teak coffee table.

Folding tiny kid clothes? Meditation. Emptying the dishwasher for the fiftieth time this month, putting the groceries away or humming a song on a radio that you don’t even remember turning on? Meditation. Petting a purring cat and having a glorious, momentary lapse? Meditation. I bet Trungpa had big cats.

Maybe I shouldn’t give up on my mountain retreat …..just yet.

Please, share your meditation successes and failures with me, favorite tricks, sites or recites. I’ll meditate on them.

teaspoons of sugar

Oh glorious summer! You’re slipping away so quickly. Thanks for the great times, Summer, for keeping the sun worshiping, south shore ocean dipping, lobster cracking, oyster shucking soul in me forever blessed by your sandy toes and your smoky barbeques.

In August I got some news on the book front: the prolonged, mystical journey that has been my road to publication. The good news is that the marvelous, important Toronto Editorial Director that read White Butterfly both loved the memoir and gave me a lot of positive feedback on it, thus confirming that all of my hard work was worth it.

The bad news is that she could not offer me a contract to publish, as she felt like it would better served by a different, smaller press. And so I carry on, holding my head high and believing in my work. Anybody who wants to leave comments like, how many times Anne of Green Gables was rejected before its final glorious acceptance (and so forth) are please welcome to do so!

I immediately set pen back down to paper, while even writing some short fiction and resurrecting some poetry from my twenties, which now, I somehow seem chapters away from. There’s nothing like walking through your past to find the way to your future. Thank you, crazy Mo journals from the late nineties.

I also decided i should catch up with my New Years resolutions for 2011, and see how I was doing. Here was my general list.

And so where are we, you ask? Well, let’s start with a few easy ones.

Try new things. So far this year I’ve tried querying my book, writing short stories, traveling to China, and eating hemp seeds on my fruit and cottage cheese breakfast. I have yet to take up racket ball (minus one).

Subscribe to ten more interesting blogs. Thanks to the miracle of Google Reader, I’ve hit the nail on the head with this one. Here are a few of my blogs scores of 2011. Dangerously Irrelevant: Technology, Leadership, and the Future of Schools, Write for Your Life, Let’s Explore: Play everyday, and for all you techies addicted to productivity apps, The Next Web. Oh, and I couldn’t forget Love Social, which I discovered on an Al Jazeera podcast.

Learn a new language. I’m not sure if two weeks of Mandarin classes in Beijing count, but for the purposes of keeping track, let’s say that it does.

Celebrate the big 5 with Mitchy. This we did in style, which if you missed the blog post about the Great Wall / our date, you can catch up with here.

Be more of who I am. This is a bit esoteric, but I certainly don’t feel like I’ve been any less. More of myself might be too much for my poor husband to handle.

Consider alternatives. I’m not sure where I was going with this one, but for anyone who’s asking, the answer is No, I did not change my Cows Ice Cream flavor at all this year. Cow-rispy Crunch is still the only kind for me.

Join TESL Canada. This one I can shut the door on. Although I’ve been working in the field for years, after a teaching practicum in July, I officially became a “certified” ESL teacher. If anyone would like some help with their dangling modifiers, let me know.

Surrender ‘Mystic’ and write a proposal for ‘Barefoot’. These are the nicknames for the large bodies of work that I have produced, and let’s just say that these are ongoing.

Lose the Freshman 15. Don’t ask.

See my darling turn six. Looking forward to this October date. Current theme is BRIDES. FAIRIES.PRINCESSES, and transitioning daily.

Meditate and breathe. On the agenda – let’s slot this ‘inner zen’ program into, eeek, the last two weeks in November.

And when I flipped over my resolution chart, I meet this:

A Prayer for 2011.

Tell about how your year is going please! Have you met your goals? Share your accomplishments here so we can congratulate each other.

City of Ghosts

Ghosts. They really catches up with us up by times. Our ghosts, they haunt us, they  involve us, and they embrace us. Usually we go to them.

It wasn’t until I was I went to Fengdu Ghost City in China, that I asked myself,  where do they go? I guess I had always believed in ghosts – a child of the eighties reared on good old fashioned Unsolved Mysteries (Robert Stack), not to mention Demi Moore, the Ghostbusters and a whole host of other eighties paranormal flicks. I had never wavered on the fact that, well, there was something more.

According to the China Travel Tour Guide, Fengdu was considered a “grave yard” for Taoism, as Tao believes that when people die, their spirits are gathered there – at Ming Mountain. The first thing I notice is temples – and hundreds of them. Tourists and heat accompany the day; a Mandarin speaking guide shuffles me along.

I find this spiritual place fascinating, with its an energy-centric temples and detailed sculptures. First, we walk up the two hundred steps up and into the realms of the great Chinese heavens. I know I’m a romantic, and I’m swept away in the rich mythology that surrounds us. Mitch, on the other hand, fakes that Leila has to pee and tells the guide that he will meet her at the bottom, not giving her the chance to reply. I can’t go with them. I really want to see more, to go up and up the steps of this unusual place.

We come to a huge character set in stone, Yi-er-sun -se. The characters individual meant kindness, comfort, and to make peace. When you put them together, they make: “Only Kindness Makes Peace”. All of the older Chinese people on the tour looked really impressed, flashing photos and sighing, “Ahhh, ahhh.”

Directly across from it was another giant character, meaning literally, “Happy Birthday Mom, 70.” This is the character for longevity. I wish we had the same system in English  of putting words together, equaling more than the sum of their parts. Haiku definitely comes close.

The tourists gather around each one getting their photo with the stone, and insisting that I get mine taken, as well. For luck, they say. I don’t want to offend the spirits here, dead or alive, so i comply. (Later I decide that the photo diminishes the eeriness).

I walk on, through a small temple and into another, observing the intricacies of this place. I’ve reached the Ghost Torture Pass, where the ghost report to Yama, the King of Hell. His goons stand out front – a goblin for just about every sin you can name.

Enter Lushy, Lusty, and according to the kid from Hong Kong that I ask,           the Professor -whose sin as far as I can tell – is that he thinks too much.

Judgement Day, I think to myself. Sheesh. Tough crowd. It’s funny what the living depict in the dead. Personally I’m hoping to go towards butterflies and star shine in the afterlife . Judgement by the King of Hell? Sounds pretty serious.

But wait- there’s more. I meet Yama, who doesn’t seem like too bad of a guy himself. He’s big, and red, and fiery – but I’m a fiery Sagittarius – so I think we’d get along. But once I pass Yama’s tests, there are more yet levels to the afterlife. (As if I didn’t have to prove myself enough in death).

Here we come to the torture chamber – where the spirits of the dead (in living color) come to judge all the ghosts that walk through. I have flashbacks to the Cavendish Wax museum, a place that used to scare the heck out of me. I’m glad that Mitch took Leila away.

It’s dark and it smell old and musty in here. I can only imagine the number of people that have made the pilgrimage to this dark place. Were, they scared, too, to meet their maker?

A culture obsessed with death. I look around. I’ve lagged behind the group, and I’m left alone with this guy, to face my own mortality. Would I pass his test?

I poke my head out the door of the temple and back into the light. My eyes hurt briefly as they readjust. Uh-oh. A reincarnation of what happens to those who don’t make the cut into the spirits’ good books: Hell.

I take a deep breath and peer behind the old wire barrier, broken in some places. Yikes. Be warned, dear human! What follows may irk your soul.

Here’s the entrance, I’m guessing where the poor tortured souls try to get back to their living lives. Double yikes.

I gaze into the display, somewhat unsure if I should approach the guide for explanations. Part of me is taken away, to this unearthly world of mad spirits.

Talk about putting the fear of god into people. I’m suddenly really sad for all those who fear this judgement, or any judgement for that matter. Can’t we all just get along?

Who’s the blue guy and how did he get the job?

I walk through ten different torturous deaths, all resembling the horror of the first. And I smile when i get to the end, because in good old fashioned Chinese style, when you’ve completed all the tasks, the Devil gives you tea. I like that. Maybe that means they call it a truce.

The final pagoda is a tall and intricate one. I catch up with the guide and ask about what the character says above the entry way. She explains that it is a safe place for the spirits, a way to transition them into the spirit world so that they don’t miss their lives too much. It says all that? I question. There are only two characters. Well, no, she explains. The characters say “Your [home] Kitchen Table.”

That’s awesome.

Well for the 80 kuai (about ten bucks) that it cost me to get into this place,  i’d say it was really worth it. I walked through life, was given longevity and strength, passed through my own mortality, and possibly through my very own death and judgement, not to mention that i had tea with the devil. And where do i end up? My kitchen table.

Anybody got a ghost story? Leave ‘em here, and I’ll take ‘em to the campfire. In the meantime, wishing you “happy birthday Mom, 70 years.” [longevity].