What a week

Rarasaur is hosting this year’s NanoPoblano again. I’ve had such a busy exhausting time I decided not to sign on just as I get to a point of things winding down but I’m reading posts (check out the tag #NanoPoblano2022 to see lots of good posts) and enjoying. Ra put up a post today on the prompt “tell us about your week”; thought I’d try that.

I’m dipping the week back to last weekend because it had a lot of impact on the week for me. It was the weekend before my friend Hanna was to arrive and the guestroom still had unpacked boxes, stuff to move out for Goodwill, etc. I arranged for the guy I hired early on to help with moving, clearing, unpacking, etc. to come back for a couple of hours that weekend. So I kept working and also had a pile of stuff for him. Except he never showed. So Sunday, already exhausted to the point of dropping, I did not only everything left on the list for me but also most of his list. Grrr.

Not my favorite way to start a theoretically fun week and I struggled for most of it to rise above the fatigue and enjoy. Starting with never having been to the St. Pete airport, so driving with the anxiety of hoping the navigation system would not do one of its weird misdirections. Fortunately it got me right there and it’s hard to stay grumpy while driving across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.

Hanna is much younger than I and very lively so she wanted to be out and going! Fortunately for me she had a couple of other friends here so I got breaks, but we did a lot of eating out, a little shopping in the adorable Village of the Arts area, and picking her up from one of her outings I even found out about a really great beach off St. Armand’s and an organic restaurant in St. Armand’s circle.

All of it put me in touch with issues I’ve long been aware of regarding being able to recognize the happy and joyful stuff and be in the moment with it. So I kept moving from feeling “I’m too tired to do this” to realizing how great this restaurant or that crystal shop or this beach, etc. was. Hanna is fun and good-spirited so it wasn’t hard to enjoy being with her but otherwise an interesting dance between old numbness/”no fun” habits and new awareness of happy moments.

All that wandering in the area and finding new restaurants, etc. turned out to be good for feeling a little bit more like I really landed here instead of that life brought me to a strange place I don’t know well. And being in places having fun with a friend felt like a little harbinger of more fun here once I know some people. Been too busy unpacking, getting settled, obtaining new car title, etc. so far to be out meeting people anywhere.

Closer in, some issues I’ve always had about condos and condo associations cropped up when Hanna hung some beach stuff on the front courtyard fence, which is apparently a no no. Instead of coming over here to talk to me, several whiny people with the emotional maturity of a 5-year-old called the office to complain. Though the office manager was very diplomatic, it really ticked me off and reminded me why, after some run-ins with busybodies in the early years when both my parents lived here, I decided I would never live in a condo.

The couple remaining days of the week after Hanna left I sank bank into relaxation. Made a decision that the rest of the unpacking is on hiatus since I have everything I need for day-to-day life set up. Once I could just sit back and be for a while, the reality of being far from the home I’d had for 24 years started sinking in. And questions about staying here.

Most of the day yesterday I was on a schedule that was off from my normal of recent years. Early in the evening, while lounging on the couch reading, I had the sudden feeling I should be doing “the next thing”. Which led, after realizing I’d already done the exercises I usually do then, that SO much of my schedule in recent years was set up around my mother’s schedule and that I’m now free to have my own. May sound small, but to me it’s big and I’m still mulling the aspects that suit me fine so I’ll keep versus what I may want to change.

Quite a week, from frantically working past my limits, through having a mini vacation with my friend, to lounging and having time to reflect…

Healing/heat pads

HealthyLine Far Infrared Heating Pad

Having been guided for a while toward info on various healing pads, I finally purchased the one pictured above, a HealthyLine Far Infrared Heating Pad with jade and tourmaline. But I wandered through some other choices with a huge price tag range and different healing qualities and thought I’d share a bit of what I found. All seem to have claims about helping pain and circulation issues.

It began with a couple of people I know mentioning occasionally how much benefit they get from their Bemer devices. I looked up Bemer and the $4-5,000 price tag deterred me from looking farther. It’s a PEMF, or pulsed electro magnetic field, therapy.

The devices help open circulation/open the body and are being studied for multiple healing effects. Some therapists have Bemer pads in their offices and offer treatments so rather than purchasing you can just pay for an occasional treatment. Not widely available, but you can look up availability here.

Another friend recently purchased one and raved to me about the results for both her and her husband, who has multiple awful symptoms from years of battling cancer. As we talked, though, about the prohibitive price and its benefits, she commented that she credited it mainly with opening the body/energy flow up and said she thought my 36+ years of yoga plus working with Robert Masters’ Psychophysical technique probably meant it would have a less dramatic impact for me.

Then she also mentioned she’d done some research for another mutual friend and came up with the HealthyLine Platinum Mat, which is half the price and has both PEMF and infrared therapy. That’s still way out of my price range so I found it intriguing but not for me. The review article she found: https://www.well-beingsecrets.com/best-pemf-mats-reviews/

Next another friend, who’s also been my frequent bodywork/healing practitioner, brought up her PhyMat Far Infrared Amethyst Heating Pad and how much she loved it. When I mentioned the PEMF pads, she agreed that I’m probably already opened up enough not to need that and felt the somewhat more metaphysical and subtle benefits of the crystals added to these infrared pads (which the HealthyLIne PEMF above also has) would be more for me, added to the pain-relief capability, especially for my ongoing hip issues. This pad brings the price down to $330, so much more in the right ballpark for me.

I’m an inveterate researcher, though, so I started hunting for info on infrared heating pads with crystals. That led me to this review and the HealthyLine Far Infrared pad I wound up choosing. It’s the same company as the PEMF pad my friend came up with and I noted also that customer reviews raved about how great the customer service is, which is something I value. Also $100 less than the PhyMat. So I wound up with a price point much more in line with my budget.

The jade and amethyst in both pads are listed as mainly being there for their calming/relaxing benefits, so the trade to jade felt equal. Then the tourmaline adds some detox and energizing benefits and I really liked the idea of including those. Several friends have since mentioned experiencing the amethyst pads and really loving them, so sounds like that’s a great choice too.

The mat is a new arrival so I’ll wait to review other than to tell you the first thing I noticed was how much energy I felt from the crystals while the mat was still in its plastic wrapper. The recommendation is to use it initially only for short spells and on a pretty low setting. My first round felt good, definitely got into my muscles (an impact that kept unfolding for some hours after) and left my energy really buzzed. I’m looking forward to reaching the point of using it at higher temps and, at least occasionally, longer times.

The in between place

I’ve reached the point of settling in where clearing Dad’s stuff, unpacking my stuff, moving things around, etc. has slowed down. With that slowing, in moments of sitting back, I realize I feel incredibly “in between”.

I can barely take in that I’m now living in this condo. Incredibly thankful my parents bought it 40+ years ago and that my dad kept it in the divorce so the home at least is deeply familiar. Because I never spent large amounts of time here, I don’t know my way around town well and feel as if I’ve landed in foreign territory when I leave home.

The car navigation system is a must for almost every venture out though I finally have been to a couple of places enough I can just drive to them. Other than chatting a bit with neighbors and cashiers, I’ve not met anyone, don’t have friends here… I miss my fave restaurants in Lexington and am struggling to find places here.

I’m still on zoom for regular happenings at the spiritual center I attended in Lexington and my attempt to reach out to a place here has landed no answer, adding to the feeling of being more connected there than here. Once in a while when out driving in territory I really don’t know I feel untethered, lost on another planet.

And deep within the actual physical relocation and sense of being lost in a strange land, I’m at last at the end of the long healing journey and finished with the caretaker role I’ve held for a long time with my mother. I’ve seen those endings coming for some time and realized nothing loomed to be the next phase and I still have no idea what I want to do next.

My main gratitude, as in so many things, is for the many years of meditation, yoga, emotional clearing, etc. that are allowing me to hold a calm space in the face of this uncertain in between place. When the last of the clearing, unpacking, etc. is done I’m hoping for a quiet spell to contemplate, to let the flow of normal life move me in a new direction…

The energy of stuff

In the last 4 months I’ve had an almost non-stop immersion in the practice of letting go of stuff. Some days so much stuff has been emptied that I was literally buzzing and off balance from the energy shift created.

My mom was a hoarder. Never quite got to the level of whole house piled with pathways through, mostly because of her social sensitivity, me insisting periodically on some clearing and the fact it was a big house, so she could pile a couple rooms and the basement and leave some spaces presentable-ish. Most of that, of course, didn’t belong to me, so when Mom died, going through it was a part of my job.

I was also moving to a furnished condo, so even my things needed to be culled, as well as extracted from the midst of Mom’s piles. Among the challenges Mom left, were years and years and years of bags of bills/statements, etc., many of which involved still existent accounts and I had filing cabinets with tons of out-of-date files so there was also a LOT of shredding and a lot of bags of paper recycling.

Then I got to Florida and needed to clear a ton of stuff still in condo from my Dad and his late, second wife. The amount that a combo of junk haulers, me and a guy I hired moved out in 4 days literally left me reeling with the energy shift.

I kind of got used to the oppressive amount of stuff in Mom’s house though I was sometimes aware of the weight of it. Clearing giant amounts at a time, however, really brought home how much energy all that stuff sucked from us. And every time an extraordinary amount exited in a day, whether auction place taking a ton or friends helping me do some clearing, it was startling how palpable the change in the air became.

I’ve known for years that everything has and is energy, but I hadn’t quite taken in the power of energy contained in “stuff”. The process leaves me so much more thoughtful about what’s in my space and how I want to move forward from here.

See No Stranger: an inspiring read

The law was designed to colonize and control the rest of us, not set us free. And yet the founders had invoked words whose power even they could not constrain–justice, freedom, equality, the guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These were magical words that had a power of their own and seized the imagination of the people for whom they were never meant. In every generation, people had risen up in movements to unleash the magic of these words, to bleed for these words and expand the “we” in “we the people” to include more and more of us. Constitutional Law was an archive of these expansions and contractions.

Kaur, Valerie, See No Stranger: A Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love (One World, 2020), p. 177

I’ve been reading Valerie Kaur’s excellent book, See No Stranger and not only enjoying the book but fascinated by the inner roads its content leads me down. The book is a combo of autobiography and a history of the Revolutionary Love movement she founded.

Ms. Kaur is a Sikh whose family came to the U.S. several generations ago and her commitment to change/transformation began in the wake of 2001 and the backlash of hatred in which many Sikhs suffered violence and death. There were some respects in which her path and mine were similar, politically speaking. I was inspired by the Viet Nam war and the things I learned in college about the many ways our country did not live up to its hype as a welcoming place of freedom.

We both continued to follow those convictions, learning more via things we studied in college, graduate school and then law school. The big difference was that, from the beginning, she “got” how to make every right move from joining with like-minded people, to taking internships and positions that connected her to a more powerful network, to figuring out how to inspire change in a whole community. I never knew how to be that smart about the moves I made; instead I kind of blundered along, studying, volunteering, trying to find jobs that let me help, etc.

One big difference was I homed in, in college, on the “power elite’ aspect of our problem. I quickly understood how deeply the behind-the-scenes maneuvering of the rich and powerful impacts our government and our lives. I studied it from many angles and throughout my anti-war/hippie crowd of friends I talked about it till they told me I was boring. But no one wanted to hear this.

So it’s a little bit hard to launch a movement if you can’t convince anyone there’s even a problem to address. Of course we are now seeing in our country how deeply the rich and corporate factions have affected our lives and that the right wing group is trying to destroy democracy in favor of the rich basically doing whatever they want while everyone struggles, starves, suffers, etc.

But I will admit, I grew up just thinking you got an education and got a job and things fell into place, so I was clueless about seeking out networks, taking positions that would seat me next to power, etc. I can see how many times and ways I failed to make moves that might have put me in a better position to be an influencer.

My dad spent many years at Buick as a second in command in a department which he pretty much ran while a variety of others kept getting promoted over him and then on to higher positions without ever having really done anything in his department. It was years before I realized it boiled down to those other men knowing how to play the political game and my dad hanging out believing that if you worked hard and did the right thing you’d be rewarded. That’s just how I grew up.

What I did do always was to find where I could volunteer to help with environmental issues or get a job where those issues were addressed, attended rallies and marches for many causes and wrote lots of letters to senators and reps. Just a quiet dedication to trying to do something, however small. And I know the world needs the foot soldiers who just do those little things.

But I always kinda wanted to be more like Valarie, moving into a position to influence and really impact change. Very inspiring to read her book. And I love her Revolutionary Love movement!

Unwinding update

It’s been a while since I’ve given an update on the unwinding muscles in my face and head. The process has been relentless for most of the last year, without regard to how many other things claimed time and attention (like my mother’s hospital and nursing home stays, etc.). And it’s been down at the core for so long I’ve regularly thought I’d be able to start posting the “Unwound” series I’ve long been planning.

But it’s still going. And it’s been more debilitatingly constant since my mother’s death than ever. It’s become so rare to sleep for an entire night, I can’t actually tell you the last time I did. The awe-inspiring part is feeling these granite-like ropes of muscle open and how blood and prana begin to flow in places where nothing has gone through for decades. Or looking across at a bookshelf or objects on the counter and realizing I’m seeing them more clearly at the distance I’m standing than ever.

The more the energy opens up, the more I’m connecting with the “inner voice” that I’ve blocked so long. The opening is also restoring a lot of energy flow. I’ve noted before how very much energy it takes both to hold onto those tight knots and twists and for blood, oxygen, prana, etc. to fight to find pathways through your body. So the more open I become the better I feel — especially helpful since I’m not getting nearly enough sleep.

Not surprising, all this shifting in my physical body, which has always related to both personal and ancestral issues, is creating some shifts in my life. And it feels like a big one is looming. Not just the fact that I’m moving to another state, something else feels large and near.

Such mixed feelings keep flowing through about leaving this town that’s not only been home longer than any other place I’ve lived, but has such deep ancestral roots for me. For a while I got strong messages indicating it’s time to let go and it may be better to live some place where I don’t have so many nostalgic childhood associations. Then a friend who has amazing abilities to tune in psychically said I’m corded here and I just need to let go of the cord. As soon as we hung up I threw up, accompanied by a strong sensation of letting go.

One of the teachings in the Fisher-Hoffman process I went through long ago is that the final piece of letting go of Mother is literally “throwing up mother”. I also felt strongly a letting go re: mom in that moment and that the cord my friend saw included her.

In the meantime I’m down to about 3 weeks before I’m aiming to move and I’m caught in the house with a ton of Mom’s stuff still here, estate sale places telling me nothing has enough value for them to do a sale, working madly to sort, dump, shred decades of paperwork she left behind, extract the belongings I want to take with me and get them packed, figure out handling the reverse mortgage people, choosing between U-Haul and moving company… and doing it all on way too little sleep accompanied by lots of buzzy, weird feelings and nausea and headaches all due to the wild unwinding muscles.

Fun times. Not…

The upside is through all of it I feel all of this transition from the loss of my mother to the loss of my home to starting over in a new place to finally reaching the end of an unbelievably long healing journey with my muscles is leading to the massively transformed life I’ve worked, shifted, transitioned toward for 37 years.

What does “my own schedule” look like?

Since Mom’s death, several people have asked me about my new “freedom” of schedule now that I don’t have all the caretaking duties. From my perspective I just traded one set of time-dictating “musts” for another. And it has me contemplating how we all so often set up our days by the “musts”.

Losing my mother set off an emotional roller coaster of its own and on top of losing her, because of a lot of not very smart decisions she made years ago, instead of inheriting the house in which I’ve lived for 24 years and a sizeable trust fund, materially I’ve inherited nothing from her but a giant hoarder’s mess to clean up and the need to move with great speed to pack up and move to the condo in Florida my dad’s more careful ways left me.

Some of the time I’m pretty angry and put upon. Until I remember the privilege that means I have a condo to move into and enough money to scrape by for a while.

The last months of her life, taken up with hospitals, nursing homes, diapers, wheelchair, etc. were exhausting and the second she died I had to begin the even more tiring task of clearing out her unbelievable piles of crap and trying to separate out and pack up my own stuff for the move. So no, at the moment I don’t feel free.

And Salty apparently decided to help me see it. He’s very old and frail and really upset by all that’s changing around him, from the absence of Mom to furniture and items disappearing and moving around, etc. He climbed on my lap a while ago for a snooze. I had a packing schedule in mind and the snooze was interfering.

I sat for a couple of minutes, tense and worrying about being late already at starting. He gently snoozed, his head tucked under my chin. I tuned in and noted the tenseness and chose to relax into the lovely moment with my fur baby. I’m not sure he’s going to live through all this and I’d rather drink in his sweetness while I can than be sorry later that I was too busy packing to enjoy him.

I’ve also been thinking about how nice it will be once I get to FL and at least largely unpacked. No caretaking. No clearing and sorting after I finish getting the dad/stepmom stuff I don’t want out of the condo and my stuff put in place. Ah, but then I remembered, in order to survive, I have to re-start yoga teaching, figure out doing classes on line, etc. Or get a job. How long can I float and relax, schedule-free, before I must get moving again?

Which then started me thinking about how many days when I have nothing on the schedule like an appointment or a lunch, etc. I still feel I “must” go to the grocery, do a load of laundry, make a new batch of granola or cashew creamer. How free is my schedule ever? And don’t most of us have these daily “musts”? Actual days of floating along, doing nothing are pretty hard to come by unless you have the money to pay someone else to fix your meals, including getting the provisions, or to take spa vacations.

Now I’m contemplating how little activity still leaves me feeling my day is “free” and mine. Much relies on perception and how I choose to feel about what I need to do. My mother resented pretty much all domestic tasks (she grew up in a household with a housekeeper and a cook) and I realized years ago that I internalized that dislike.

I have to actively shift my emotions just to get to neutral. Thanks to how much I love the smell of Mrs. Meyers cleaning products and love a clean floor, I’ve come to enjoy mopping and ignore the twinging back that results, which leads me to believe I can manage to shift the “ugh” feeling about other chores 🙂

I figure the whole schedule thing is mostly a question of staying in tune with how I feel about all the aspects of my day and choosing the feeling tone that leaves me also feeling free. But I’m not sure I’m gonna get there about clearing 30 years of clutter or packing for a move…

Between grief and relief

A number of years ago, when both my parents were into their 80s, a friend asked how I was going to cope when they both died. I thought a second and said, “I think I’ll take the first free breath of my life”. Now I’m there, my dad having died 2 years ago and my mother last month.

Right now, of course, the loss of my mother is fresh and in this case we’d been living in the same house for almost 24 years so I’m also feeling a general loss of companionship. I’m still at the phase of bursting into tears multiple times a day and wishing she could still be here.

But I also feel that sense of relief. The immediate relief is at being set free from the caretaker duties. I was glad to be able to keep my mom well cared for, but it was a lot, especially since my own health issues didn’t disappear just because she needed me. But concerning both parents the story had bigger dimensions.

They each survived a fairly awful childhood and both were clearly emotionally damaged. Besides being physically and emotionally abusive, they also had very vulnerable child-like aspects and I knew from an early age that they both relied on me–their only child–somehow to make up for their troubles, to keep them from breaking, etc.

After having met both my parents and spent some time, one of my friends told me that if I ever operated with a feeling of being watched all the time (I did) I came by it naturally as they were each intensely focused on me and my every move. I felt that pressure most of my life.

So, while I’m also sad to have lost them and sad that their lives held so much unhappiness, I also feel great relief peeking through the grief. I can take a free breath now. Sometimes I feel guilty for that relief. More of the time I feel like it’s only fair to get to live a portion of my life without their needs and expectations hovering over my shoulder.

I’m also really glad I went through the Fisher-Hoffman process long ago and continued to use the process to explore inner feelings, the past, etc. I released huge amounts of anger toward them long ago. With mom that remained a work in progress till we were finally able to just say “I love you” near the end and sit holding hands. With my dad I had actually managed to transform from the place of underlying anger constantly seething, to feeling much more balanced in my dealings with him, even tender as he grew more fragile.

I feel that work with the F-H process is helping me a lot to work through these shifting emotions and also studies with the same facilitator which she called “Emotional Mastery”. Both helped me to just allow emotions to move in, to feel the feelings, to know that I can choose to move to another, etc. Our society doesn’t do enough (anything?) to help people feel their feelings and learn to navigate them.

At a time like this, not only am I grateful for the calm and equanimity 36 years of yoga and meditation have brought me, but so grateful for all I’ve learned about feelings and emotions. Even twenty years ago I’d have fallen apart (and driven my friends crazy with my anxiety) at all I’ve had to cope with in the last 2+ years. I feel like I’m making my way pretty well through volatile emotions while still being able to get done what must be done so much better than I ever could have in the past.

Moments of peace

While life is pretty busy with all the sorting & clearing, trying to get ready for my big move to FL, with the many caretaking duties I’d been undertaking for Mom the last few years lifted, I’ve also been a bit more able to carve out time for meditation. I’d not been keeping up as well as usual with Steve Nobel’s meditation offerings though I often listen to his affirmations.

He has a few nice ones up lately and I found this one really soothing and healing:

My shifting world

An estate sale place came yesterday and took most of the stuff in the living/dining room area. A number of family pieces were in the mix and lots of Mom’s finer decorating choices. She was very proud of having nice things. Now I walk through those rooms and hear the echoes.

While there are some chairs and a couch and a LOT of little stuff still in there, it’s largely empty and they took almost all of the artwork, which I think is particularly creating the echo. The emptiness and the echoes make this huge transition so real. It has somehow made my mother’s death hit home more deeply.

Getting those two rooms prepped, given her hoarding habits, was a huge job but the whole rest of the house faces me and I feel overwhelmed. The main task now that I have some clear space is to extract my stuff and get it gathered in one area for the movers to make their estimates and haul it to Florida.
But the crap load of stuff filling all the rest of the space is still there and at this point I have almost too many options for how to deal. My favorite much of the time is just walk away and leave it all. But I have the name of a yard sale “picker” who would come offer a flat fee and haul all or most away. Also tempting but requires more prep from me.

We’ll see. Right now I’m really tired. Since Mom broke her leg in February I feel like I’ve been on a hamster wheel and on top of all the jobs that created for me, my unwinding head muscles have been REALLY in overdrive, so I also don’t get nearly enough sleep. And hanging around here in the house I’ve shared with her for 24 years (and visited her for 12 years before that) I miss all our interactions.

I keep telling people, the crazy one is TV. Since neither of us have felt great much of the time, we both watch a lot of TV and especially in the last few years, as the technology escaped her, we’ve watched together. So it’s weird to watch AGT alone after something like 15 seasons of watching with her. Or to finish the last episodes of the new Bosch spin-off she’d been so excited about. Every day it seems I watch something we would have watched together and wish for one more time we could talk about the characters, the scenery…

Add in the blows SCOTUS is delivering every day and I feel like I’m spinning in a world of madness while trying to cope with my personal grief.

After the big push to clear the two front rooms so I have space to get my belongings piled together, I’m taking a couple of days to kick back a little before tackling the monumental task of getting this place emptied. I’ve lived here the longest of any home I’ve ever had. Hard to imagine how short a time I still have.

Losing Mom

My 96 year old mother died last Saturday. At her age I guess it shouldn’t have been a big surprise, but she’d just fought hard through a broken leg and rehab and we were looking forward to doing a few things once she could move a bit more. She was tough and I really thought she’d have another year or two.

Suddenly she was very ill– an undiagnosed issue that had been growing for a while. After nearly 2 weeks of ups and downs from “she’ll be home tomorrow” to “do you want to prolong life or go into hospice” back to “she can come home soon”, to a downhill slide to death sooner than anyone thought.

I’m not only in shock about her, but the house I’ve shared with her since 1998 is on a reverse mortgage and I have to be out in 3 months. So I’ve been frantically going through things, organizing several rooms for an appraiser/real estate firm to look at the good stuff. etc and will be moving to the condo I inherited in Florida. I’m also a bit uneasy about that as I don’t really know people down there and have lived here in Lexington longer than any other place in my life.

The hardest part was watching my mother cope with the prognosis. She wanted to live and started off wanting the long, complicated surgery that would have been required. It was a huge disappointment to her to be told that she was too frail and wouldn’t be cleared to have it. As we rode the roller coaster of opinions from her coming home with me required to do more stuff than I could possibly do for probably some months to her staying in hospice where she’d probably die soon, etc. her distress was palpable. Until it wasn’t and she reconciled with the idea that death would come soon.

After a long, close and sometimes tumultuous relationship in which there was always a little stiffness, we finally said, “I love you” every day and sat for hours at hospital then hospice holding hands. Those moments of finally just settling into the love were priceless.

It’s weird now to be in her house but not able to go tell her things. Weird to watch some of the TV shows we liked to watch together without any commentary from her. To watch the ones she loved the most — and was most looking forward to seeing this summer — and realize she doesn’t get to find out how Bosch or Sweet Magnolias latest seasons ended and won’t know the acts on America’s Got Talent. Other moments I’m kind of relieved as the caretaker duties falling on me have been growing in recent years and it’s a huge weight gone.

Throughout all the increasing caretaker duties, sudden prognosis and now this whirlwind move, I’ve been so incredibly grateful for all the years of emotional work, meditation, yoga, etc. The calm space I’ve come to occupy has kept me from being anywhere close to the level of panic I once would have been in. Not that there’s no panic 🙂 but only at scattered moments. Synchronistically, Deva and Miten are offering a 7 day Gayatri event coinciding with this exact week so I’ve been tuning in to chant and feel the big group energy every day, which really helps. Thank God for my spiritual path.

Savitri and Me

In the mid-nineties I took a lengthy class with a Sufi master that included some private counseling sessions. During one of those he stopped midstream, staring over my shoulder, and mentioned that he always saw the Goddess Savitri standing over my shoulder and wanted to know if I could feel her.

Well, no, not only had I never heard of Savitri, but I’d definitely never noticed an entity standing at my shoulder. He felt strongly that I should work on sensing into her and learn about who she was. Over the next several years I periodically ran internet searches on Savitri and also tried to find a small statue of her. I don’t know how many of you remember how incredibly primitive internet searches were in those days, but suffice it to say I could find very little.

Savitri is a Hindu goddess who is an aspect of Saraswati. She’s considered an inspirer of speech and word; since I’ve always been a writer and have a long-standing interest in questions of communication as well, it seemed fitting. But I couldn’t find much more. There’s also a mythic Hindu story of a Savitri who I gather was human and I just found the two different tales confusing. Any hunt for a statue of Savitri seemed to lead only to various statues of Saraswati.

I pretty much gave up on the pursuit of knowledge about her or a picture or statue and concentrated on feeling the link. Eventually I felt I had made a connection and have tuned in periodically to commune with her ever since.

Fast forward to recent years, when I’ve moved increasingly into chanting. Six or seven years ago I started a regular chanting practice in which I first spoke the lovingkindness chant and then sang the Gayatri, to which I felt very drawn. Then in 2020, early in the pandemic, Deva Premal and her husband Miten began doing online Gayatri sessions which morphed into a Global Gayatri Sangha with membership and an app and weekly Gayatri. I’ve been participating from fairly near the beginning and feeling ever more connected to the world of singing chants.

Imagine my surprise and delight a couple of weeks ago when Deva introduced a chant to Saraswati and it sparked me to look up Savitri for the first time in years, which led to discovering Savitri is also “Gayatri” and the chant we sing is considered to be Savitri’s. It felt like such a completion of a circle.

I also discovered it’s much easier to find information about her now and to obtain a statue if I decide I still want one. I still find a lot of the commentary confusing and different writers handle all the stuff about “aspects” of goddesses, etc. differently. Some writers consider the Savitri in a story in which she’s married to someone else and seems to be human as the same Savitri who’s a goddess and married to Brahma. Some don’t mention the second story. And the discourse on Savitri vs Saraswati and “aspects” is widely varied. So the connection to Saraswati remains hazy to me; some sources speak of them as if it’s the same being and some discuss the “aspect” thing. But the story of her becoming one with Gayatri and the chant being hers was clear.

I love how the Universe guides us along these paths and brings things together whether we “know” what’s going on or understand all the connections or not.

Some Savitri links:

Straddling the science line

The enormous divide over science wrought by the advent of Covid has left me in an interesting spot. I’ve not seen an allopathic medical doctor in 30+ years and I totally credit an alternative health path with slowly but surely healing ailments that, when I began, Western medicine insisted did not exist.

However, I always felt that allopathic medicine knew what it was doing on certain things. I used to joke that if I’d been in an accident and clearly needed a cast and some stitches, I wouldn’t tell the ambulance to take me to my acupuncturist. And I also think Western medicine has been pretty good at figuring out vaccines, so I had no problem about getting a Covid vaccine as soon as I could and I jumped on the opportunity for a booster.

But the arguments have led to a lot of ugly remarks about alternative medicine and I’m really disturbed by the ignorance with which so many assume “science” has everything right and that if big studies haven’t proven something it means it’s wrong. Acupuncture and many herbal traditions, for example, have thousands of years of history and, as both have been increasingly studied both are being shown to be effective. Yet even such studies have made very small inroads into the arrogance of allopathic medicine practitioners about the superiority of what they do.

Early in the 20th century, the U.S. had a fairly large array of homeopathic, osteopathic, herbal, etc. schools and a lot of people went to such practitioners for health care rather than medical doctors. A seminal paper by Abraham Flexner (who’d been a teacher, not a doctor) in 1910 promoted biomedicine and wound up having such an influence that biomedicine dominated and the thriving alternatives withered away. The Flexner Report of 1910 and Its Impact on Complementary and Alternative Medicine and Psychiatry in North America in the 20th Century

Perhaps my biggest issue with biomedicine is the lack of interest in actually curing people. The orientation is to finding drugs that will mask symptoms and without regard to possibly causing other ailments because of something in the drug. It ties people often to a lifetime of taking a drug– which means continually having to consult with the doctor to get renewals — and then having to take another drug to deal with the symptoms caused by the first drug, also endless because it masks instead of curing.

I will not be at all surprised if, somewhere down the road, an exposé shows collusion between the AMA and big Pharma on keeping patients tied to a lifetime of dependence on their “treatments” and continually adding on more problems created by side effects and drug interactions.

The approach of most alternative medicine modalities is to try to find the source of the problem and discover what combination of herbs, diet changes, exercise, etc. will get to the source and cure the problem. The process sometimes takes time — in my case, years — but leads to restoring optimum health. Suppression of Symptoms is Not a Cure of the Disease

I consider myself fortunate to have landed on the alternative path and I have allopathic medicine to thank for sending there. When I first started suffering extreme fatigue and pain in my muscles, the biomedicine community was quite sure that neither existed and told me to see a shrink. I knew something was wrong and had friends who were seeing acupuncturists, chiropractors, etc. so I got recommendations and set off down the path.

For me the whole story wound up being complicated by the eventual realization that all my muscles, including even the connective ones, were tightly wound around all my organs and glands. Initially none of the practitioners could see that, but their tests showed weaknesses in all the organs and glands and thus kept treating me on a rotating basis for those. Since they were, in fact, weak, all the herbs, needles, etc. gave me boosts that helped me move along but not the type of progress anyone thought I’d make. Once I focused on the muscles and getting the complicated patterns released, everything started improving.

I’ve spent years seeing brilliant practitioners of many alternative modalities and all have contributed progress to the long, slow process of restoring my health from being so exhausted I slept 16 hours a day and then was so weak I couldn’t stand up through a whole shower. Also moved from having every single muscle from head to toe wound up like a steel rod, intertwined with other muscles, muscle groups glued together, etc. to a life in which most of my muscles have been restored to normal and my energy is much greater. Because of this restoration of REAL health, I have enormous respect for alternative medicine.

On the other hand, I can point directly to failures of western medicine to SO many of the muscle issues that resulted from either having injuries to muscles or ligaments that weren’t even diagnosed to injuries for which they felt no need to do anything. I have enormous contempt for their lack of knowledge of musculature. and how much it impacts health. When biomedicine finally decided fibromyalgia existed they came up with a treatment that, as usual, masks symptoms without doing anything to cure. Had I been stuck in that model I would still be taking meds for pain while every muscle remained twisted instead of enjoying more flexibility and healthy movement that ever before.

Ever since I ran into the great divide provided by Dr. Flexner, I have wished we could find a way to return to the broader array of healing choices that used to be the norm. In the meantime I straddle the line, willing to have a vaccine or be treated for trauma by western medicine and looking to alternative medicine for actually being healthy.

A Week of Chanting

The first week of January turned into a week of chanting and chanting for me, not entirely by design, but a delightful accumulation of events. I signed up for “Ecstatic Chant” a six-day workshop featuring Deva Premal & Miten, Jai Uttal and Krishna Das, not having noted that Deva and Miten were also doing the second annual New Year’s week daily 108 round Gayatri and not assuming Krishna Das would also do his regular Thursday satsang. But all were happening and I really worked at keeping up.

Managed to do every day of the 108 round Gayatri, which I find incredibly powerful. This time it also became more of an exercise in mindfulness than usual, which I’ll discuss more below. Also got to tune in for the satsang. The workshop I fit in around the other things (plus, you know, I have a life) as best I could — still have some to watch so very grateful they’re giving us a month to see the videos.

I’m not sure I have adequate words to describe how it felt by the end of the week to spend that many hours a day chanting and/or listening to chant. Extraordinary. Uplifting. Pulsating. All are true and yet don’t quite say how amazing it was. Really loved it!

The first day of the Gayatri there were either transmission problems or my YouTube was acting up — they often have trouble with signals in Costa Rica and YouTube has been screwing up for me a LOT — but the Gayatri was stopping and starting, stopping and starting. I was using my mala beads but I kept singing on into dead spaces and then picking up again with them when the stream re-started. Soon I was struggling to decide where I was on the beads and realizing the struggle was moving me out of connection with the mantra.

Thus the chant became a challenge for staying mindful. Only at the end did I laugh as I realized I could have just put the beads down… Meanwhile I considered the challenge well met when I wound up in the right place with the beads while keeping attention on the mantra. Afterwards I realized the starting and stopping and beads distraction had kept me from feeling thrown by the super fast guitar playing that goes on in sections of the 108 round version.

The next day the transmission was fine and when the –to-me– frantic guitar playing started my heart started pounding and my stomach tightened up as usual. Then I remember how the distractions the day before had kept me from reacting and concentrated on the lyrics to move me into the chant and out of noticing. Good reminder that I can mindfully make choices about how to react and what to notice, etc.

I thoroughly enjoyed the workshop sessions viewed so far and Krishna Das’ Thursday evening satsangs are always good. I will say as far as the workshop, not much was done kirtan style and many chants were new to me so while I loved every minute, listening was not as spiritually expansive for me as it is to chant the Gayatri with the Global Gayatri Sangha — often thousands of us at a time from around the world.

The overall experience of spending hours and hours in one week chanting was divine. In a future post I’ll talk about how my slow, tentative launch onto a path of chanting is contributing to the “sparkles” I discussed in the last post.