Friday, January 30, 2015

Central column breathing--an easy meditation for those who struggle

In my renewed meditation practice, I have found myself returning to a form of it that I discovered in researching the chakra energy centers. While this meditation doesn't address the chakras directly, it is a good centering device. I like it because it gives my monkey mind something to count and to visualize.

Central Column Breathing

Stand or sit with your spine straight and your body balanced. Do not cross your legs if you are sitting in a chair or your ankles if you are sitting on the floor, unless you are in the lotus posture or a cross-legged posture.

Begin by being aware of the rhythm of your breathing and letting it slow down.

Downward sequence: Now draw the breath in as though it comes from just above the crown of your head; draw it down through the center of your body. Change to the out-breath at a point that feels natural for you and breathe out as though the breath was moving down and through your legs and into the earth. Breathe in this way five times: (five in/out breaths = one sequence).

Upward sequence: Now draw the breath up from the earth, through your feet and legs. Change to the out-breath at a natural point, and exhale up through your upper body and out the crown of your head. Breathe in this way 5 times: (five in/out breaths = one sequence).

Alternate five downward breaths with five upward breaths. Always end on the downward sequence. Repeat the whole sequence more than once if you wish.


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Poem #27

I've agreed to host five angels
They arrive tonight at 10:30
And I'll have to stay up to let them in
There's an altar prepared
White flower, white candle
Three wishes sealed up
One for the Earth, one for me, one for my family
And an apple, to eat on their departure
In five days

They were visiting my friend Concetta
And then took five days off
Being with humans must wear them out
Our angst, our anger
But mostly our fears
Without bodies, these angels must be fearless
Finding some other way to relate to the world
To be with us

During their visit, I can call on them
For counsel
For help
For clarity
But I want to call on them
For peace
For faith
For trust
These are the things I most need
In the face of my aging
In the face of the dying planet
In the face of our misguided desires

I have cleaned for the angels
I have prepared the altar
But it is a gamble
For I do not believe in angels
Not yet anyway.

Jill Kelly
January 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015

Stepping into my new year possibilities

I don't make resolutions anymore but I do consider new year possibilities. I can have as many as I like and I can let them go at any time if they don't appeal to me anymore. So far I've embraced three possibilities with some success.  Two of these have grown out of my writing my book on sugar addiction.

1. I have committed to daily meditation. I have meditated off and on for 40 years but mostly off. However, I can see from thinking about recovery from sugar and food addiction  that paying attention and being conscious are key components. So since New Year's I have sitting for 15 minutes every morning shortly after I get up. There are many ways to become more conscious but meditation always tops the list and I haven't given it much of a try for a long time. Sometimes I have feline company. I am slowly becomng regular in this habit.

2. I got off recreational sugar again. No desserts, sweet snacks, candy, etc. Having done this once before, several years ago, I know it's best for me to not make any other dietary changes for the first month, so I'm allowing myself to eat anything else I want. The first week was hard and now the cravings are less and less. I'm glad to discover that I feel better again and have more energy.

3. I am writing 300 poems this year. Today I wrote #30. I've changed my routine to journaling in the evening and writing a poem in the morning about something I experienced or observed the day before. I'm having a lot of fun with them.

What possibilities are you embracing this year?

Friday, January 23, 2015

A lovely story

A Hasidic rabbi, talking about daybreak, the time for certain holy prayers, asked his pupils how they could tell when night had ended and day had begun.

"Is it when you can see an animal in the distance and know whether it's a sheep or a dog?"

"No," answered the rabbi.

"Is it," asked another pupil, "when you can clearly see the lines in the palm of your hand?"

"No," answered the rabbi.

"Is it when you can look at a tree not too far away and tell whether it's a pear tree or a fig tree?"

"No," answered the rabbi.

"Then what is it?" asked his pupils.

"It is when you can look on the face of any man or any woman and see that they are your sister or brother. Until then it is still night."


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shades of my younger years

Around 1980, I got hooked on the soap opera General Hospital. I was still a graduate student and I'd teach in the mornings and then have the afternoons free to study. But every afternoon from 3 to 4, I watched GH. I even gave this habit to Frankie, the main character in my upcoming novel, When Your Mother Doesn't. But I was never a Dallas or Dynasty fan; the back-biting antics of the rich and famous didn't interest me. That is, until I recently discovered Revenge.

In this just barely plausible TV series, a beautiful young woman of unlimited means takes on avenging her father's wrongful imprisonment and death for laundering money for terrorists. The guilty are the most prominent family in the East Hamptons of Long Island. I'm hooked on the show for a couple of reasons. It has the most amazing plot twists and it's a superb fashion show: all the women characters wear some stunning new item in every scene.

I'm on episode 20 and I keep myself on a leash: my limit is three episodes a day. But I do find it fun to be so wrapped up in this other world.

Monday, January 19, 2015

On Limitations from Leo Babauta

Posted: 14 Jan 2015 09:18 AM PST
By Leo Babauta
We live in a world of abundance, often to the point of excess: we can buy anything anytime, consume as much of the Internet as we want, eat anything all the time, work as much as our bodies will allow.
With so much available, it can become overwhelming, unhealthy, unbalanced.
I’d like to propose a few limits.
Instead of unlimited time online and on the phone, what if you limited yourself to two hours a day, not including time spent on work tasks? You’d now have space in your life for other things: exercise, reading, meditation, cooking healthy food, cuddling with loved ones.
Instead of working from the minute you wake up until you’re going to bed, what if you only worked six hours a day? Or four hours? That would be dependent on what kind of job you have, of course, but in this hypothetical situation, you’d probably use that limited time better, with more focus, and get your important tasks done first. And you’d be better rested and therefore have better focus and energy when you did work.
Instead of eating as much as you can, what if you only ate during certain predefined times? For example, if you only ate between 12-1 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., you’d probably eat less. Or what if you only could eat whole foods, nothing pre-prepared or with sugar, white flour, or weird chemical names? You’d eat less and your health would improve.
Instead of being able to buy things all the time, what if you could only buy things (other than groceries and toiletries) on the 1st of every month? You’d probably buy less, and your debt would decrease and savings and investments would increase.
What if you could only do 3 tasks a day (besides responding to emails)? You’d pick the important tasks.
What if you could only sit for a total of two hours a day? You’d move around more, do some work standing up, drop some of your back problems, and lose some weight.
These limits, of course, are only arbitrary. It would take some experimenting to figure out what would work best for you. But you can see in these examples that limits can be powerful, because they force us to choose, to focus, to go from excess to healthy moderation.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Poem #6

On I-5 South of Seattle

The water rose off the road
As if it were a river
Evaporating in noonday sun
Instead of rain off patterned rubber
Each vehicle shrouded in mist
Color, size, model obliterated
By fog, steam, movement
Each of us a swift cloud
Scudding along a black top sky
Gathering and separating
Hurrying to some meterological home

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My 2015 creative challenge

Each year during the New Year's retreat, I spend some time making a list of creative ideas for the coming year. I make an impossibly long list of ambitious ideas because it's not a to-do list but rather a list of possibilities to consider.And then I spend a little time listening for what really sings to me from the list, what will I most enjoy doing.

One of the ideas that really appealed to me for this year is to write a lot of poetry. I have two books half-completed and I know I will finish them up. But with both, I'm at the rewriting stage, not the imaginative stage, and I wanted a way to write fresh most days. So my challenge to myself is to draft 300 poems this year, basically one a day with 65 days to slack off. And of course, nothing keeps me from writing a second poem in a day if I feel so inclined.

I wrote poem #15 last night and what I'm discovering is that I am beginning to pay attention to what happens in each day that might invoke a poem, a reflection. What have I seen, felt, said, heard, tasted, experienced that deserves deeper consideration? Since a second challenge this year is increase my level of consciousness, of paying attention, this is a great choice.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Accidents and choices

I had lunch yesterday with a woman I knew vaguely nearly 50 years ago. We both went to the same college and lived near each other in the dorm one year. I came across her name in a research project I was doing about a month ago and discovered she lived here and had been an academic like I was. So I emailed her and we got together.

It was interesting sharing our life stories, which are considerable at our ages, and I was struck by how life gets shaped by accidents and choices in the moment, rather than long-term goals and plans. She had planned to be an actress in LA or New York and fell into a university graduate program for acting instead. She worked on the stage a short while in Seattle and then got offered a temporary job at Reed College where she stayed. She acted some and directed some but mostly she was a teacher.

I had plans to be a high-school teacher but put them on hold when my boyfriend at the time got a job as an abortion counselor in Texas in the early 70s and I went with him and did that work for a while. Later I went back to school but fell into a Master's program and then chose to get a PhD instead of high-school teaching. In 1994, I took a leave from my college teaching job to return to Portland and care for my parents and I never went back, choosing instead to develop an editing business.

 Buying the book Life's Companion: Journaling for the Spiritual Quest in 1992 changed my life: I bacame a writer. Buying the book, the Artist's Way in 1997 changed my life as well: I became a painter.What accidents and choices have shaped your life? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moving from line to spiral in understanding food addiction

For the last seven months, I've been writing a personal inquiry into recovery from food addiction. One of the things I've come to see is that unlike recovery from alcoholism, which can have a linear trajectory (stop and stay stopped), the complications of food addiction (we cannot abstain from food entirely) make recovery more of a spiral.

Most of us follow a pattern of abstaining from foods that lead us to binge for a period and then eat them again and begin bingeing and then after a few months or years "come to our senses" and abstain again for a while. This seems to be a wheel of good/bad, do/don't that goes on forever. But I've come to see that that is only a function of our tendency toward black and white thinking, our either/or-ness, and not necessarily a reality that we must espouse.

Instead of a wheel, I think recovery can be a spiral, two steps forward and one step back, that recovery can be progressive wtih diminishing periods of food free-for-all.

Friday, January 9, 2015

A welcome negative

A couple of months ago, my doctor emailed me and advised me to get a test for Hepatitis C. She knew from my history that I had had a transfusion in 1984 when I had a hysterectomy. In the early and middle 1980s, blood donors were not tested for anything. It wasn't until HIV and AIDS viruses were identified that such testing was done. And even if there had been testing in 1984, they wouldn't have tested for Hep C as no one knew yet that it existed.

Hep C is a nasty form of hepatitis in that it works silently for decades in the liver before producing cirrhosis and cancer. It's contracted through transfusion, IV drug use, or sexual intercourse with an infected partner. Researchers estimate that a million Americans have it and don't know they do so they are encouraging people, especially those 50-70, to get tested.  New drugs make early treatment possible.

I put off taking the test until after the holidays. I didn't want to deal with the changes this would bring. I don't have any symptoms but I was in an at-risk group. So why not me? At our annual News Year's intentions gathering, one of the questions was where's one place you need to set aside fear and just do something. So when I returned from retreat, I called the lab for an appt and went the next day. I had to wait 48 hours for results and they were negative. A huge flood of relief.

The Hep C virus

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Moving back into the real world

The last couple of days of retreat are always different from the rest of the time. Home begins to tug at my sleeve and at my thoughts. I begin to miss my cats, my bed, my circle of intimates, and even my work. So I move in a gentle kind of limbo, here but not here, on the freeway home and still walking the road up the hill past the cows, yearning to go and yearning to stay.

This time the tug home is a little stronger, for I have done the major work I brought with me (finishing a solid first draft of Candy Girl: A Personal Inquiry into Recovery from Sugar and Food Addiction) and have time open on my hands now that I didn't expect. I know I will find delightful and restful things to do with that time, but there's a letdown after such a project is finished and I'm feeling a bit of that now.

Our weather too has turned from deep cold and bright sun on the frosted landscape to more typical Pacific Northwest winter: warmer with gray clouds and intermittent showers. The loss of that high barometric pressure registers in my body as letdown as well. And yet my heart is still glad to be here in the circle of friends and the beauty of this place.

Friday, January 2, 2015

My intention for 2015

Each year on this New Year's retreat, we spend time giving ourselves credit for all the things we're proud of in the year before, make a list of possible wondrous things to do in the next year, and then each set an intention that becomes a kind of umbrella idea for our year.

As you know, an intention is not a goal, a task, or a project but rather a way of being that we want to step into. When we gathered in circle last night to welcome in the new year, I hadn't given my intention much thought. We set aside a few minutes in which to consider some things but almost immediately, I knew what my intention would be: to be good to myself and to others.This resonated particularly deeply with me because I'm moving into recovery from sugar and food addiction again and being good to myself will mean yes to some things I want and no to other things I want.

Today I'll be making a list of ways I can be good to myself and ways I can be good to others. I love this process.

What is your intention for 2015?

Photo: The alders at Aldermarsh