Lonely Boats

1-boats

 

My 90 yrs old aunt in my old country lives by herself.   My Auntie does not call me because she is not sure how to call U.S.  I usually call her every other week to check on her.  Every time I call she tells me she will kick the bucket soon as she has been telling me for the last 15 years or so.  She is a tough old woman.

My home town is one of the dying towns.  The young left home for larger cities, while the old are slowly dying out.

“Most of the neighbors are gone,” Auntie said.  “After Ms. Ono passed, the house is unoccupied.  The Oharas are gone too.   Mine is the only house lit at night.  It’s like a small boat in the middle of ocean at night.   Even your Mom’s house is dark.”

Ma lives nearby.  They watch over each other.   “She hasn’t turned on the light yet.  Go check on your Auntie.  She might be dead,” Ma says to me when I’m around.  “The light is out.  Your mom must be in bed already,” Auntie says when I am with her.  My Ma has been in hospital for about two months and her house has been dark.

Being alone on a boat in the middle of ocean at night.  Nobody hears you.  Nobody sees you.  Nobody even know you exist.

It’s what we all are afraid of, isn’t it?

The ocean must be full of those lonely boats…  I would rather be a falling tree in the woods in silence because nobody is there to hear it fall.

Skeleton Meditation

I don’t sit and meditate.  I have a monkey mind some might call ADD.  My friends with monkey minds don’t sit and meditate.  Some bike, others run.  One non-moving meditation I actually liked and practiced for a while is Skeleton Meditation.  I don’t remember where it came from.  Probably Tibet or somewhere in Asia.  I’ve read or heard about it and just liked it.

In Skeleton Meditation, I lay down as a corpse (Shavasana if you are yoga person) and observe my body decompose layer by layer, muscle by muscle, till my form becomes a skeleton.  It was peaceful experience.  I liked my clean dry white skeleton on the ground.  Then I imagine a bamboo shoot coming through my eye socket, reaching up and up to the sky.  And I fell asleep peacefully.

There was one major problem for me with this meditation.  At that time I didn’t have much awareness of my own body.  My perception about my body was something like a gingerbread man.  So the entire process to become a skeleton took only a few minutes.  Poof, my leg muscles were gone.

If you are fully plugged into your body, this meditation could take at least hours, maybe years.  This is an ultimate “let it go” meditation.  Then you may let the skeleton go, too. Or you may reconstruct a new body from the skeleton, adding layer by layer.

After decades of training of one kind or another, the latest of which is a full body dissection workshop, I’m much more plugged in.  Tonight, I might be able to meditate for maybe 10 minutes…

Have a happy meditation.

Teacher

We don’t have to go and look for teachers.  Open your heart and you will find yours walking with you.

 

Snow

An old dog and his old human, supporting each other.

Our footsteps have merged on the snow-covered path,

In the winter of our life.

He still teaches me how to walk the life,

As he has been doing so since he greeted me in his full youth

With his shiny black muzzle, now gray.

He loves snow, and this could be his last.


It’s important to have teachers when you are searching for your path, just as it’s handy to have a trail map when you are trekking an unfamiliar territory.   Some people look for THE teacher.  I don’t have THE teacher.  Many teachers guided me to be here and now.   Anybody who teaches me what I didn’t even know I needed to learn is my teacher and I appreciate and respect them.  My teachers include my martial art instructor, my therapists, my acting teacher, my dog, my trainer, my yoga teacher, and go on and on and on.  Yes, you could be my teacher one day and I’m looking forward to learning from you. A teacher does not necessarily give me an answer. My teacher said, “I learn in order to ask better questions.”

I learn in order to ask better questions. ~Gil Hedley

 

Emptying

Bowl

A man had contracted a then incurable disease and set out for a journey to find a cure. He traveled all over the Western world to find a medical doctor who could cure him. When he realized that nobody could, he started to knock on the doors of philosophers and great thinkers of the West to find out the meaning of the life. Nobody could give him THE answer.

Eventually the illness wasted him and he decided to go home to die. On his way back he met a yogi on board. The yogi said, “Follow me if you want the answer.” He followed the yogi to India without even asking where.
The man waited for the yogi to teach him the meaning of life day after day. Two months passed in vain. Finally, one day he walked up to the yogi and asked, “When do you teach me?”

The yogi answered, “I’ve been ready since the day we arrived here, and waiting for you to be ready day after day.” The man did not understand, since he was eager to learn from the first day.

Then, the yogi told the man to fill a bowl with cold water and bring it to him. He did. Then the yogi told him to pour hot water in the bowl. The man objected, “Any man from civilized world should know if you pour hot water in a bowl filled with cold water, it will overflow.”

The yogi said, “Now, you understand what I mean.”

I try to keep my bowl empty.  Will you?

You can find the original story in 天空先生座談 by  宇野千代

People love to teach what they think they know.  When somebody start to teach what they know and what I don’t know, I listen.  Free pearls to pick up.  I appreciate and take some with me.  I hold it dear till they become part of me.  A good teacher gives only what I could take.

Some have asked me to teach.  When I teach, many start to teach back to show what they think they know.  They are not ready to learn.  I stop teaching.  They don’t get pearls.

About the photo: Taken at Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

About Diagnosis

It is useful to have a trail map when you hike unknown territory. It will save you from getting lost at dusk or falling into an abandoned well. When I become familiar with the territory, I’ll know the trail is not the territory, and I’ll start to communicate with creatures in the woods.

DSM V is merely an incomplete and tentative trail map of the vast and unfathomable territory of our psyche.  I hope your therapist is willing to communicate with creatures in the woods without getting lost.

birdy

Dogs Keep a Promise

DogskeepaPromise

Last night I talked a woman through putting her unconscious dog to sleep.  She is somebody I constantly bumped into in Central Park when I took my dog for a weekend morning off leash walk, a doggy friend, not a human friend.  We never saw each other without dogs.  My dog passed about a year ago.  Since then, I haven’t seen her.   That’s how it works.  People with dogs and people without dogs occupy separate worlds in the city.

She was one of those people who lived for their dogs, who won’t leave their dog alone more than a couple of hours.  One of us who don’t trust people, but trust dogs.  One of us who learn what love feels like for the first time through our dogs.

Her dog had a cancer surgery and came back home O.K.  Then suddenly the dog collapsed and lost consciousness.

I’ve been there.  My dog had a brain tumor and one day suddenly collapsed at the ripe age of 14.

She knew there are no options but one.  She just needed confirmation from somebody else.  She had already spent 10 hours in the hospital waiting for her dog to regain consciousness.

Most of time, we know what we should do, and still sometimes we need to convince ourselves to do.  We get  trapped in the fear of should have, could have, might have.  What we need is somebody who hear what we can’t say and mirror it back.

She said she wanted to follow her dog.  I told her I felt the same way. But then after one year I still feel my dog’s love saturating my life on a nice spring day.

Dogs keep a promise a person can’t.
–Dr. Bloom.
A quote from Hannibal by Bryan Fuller

 

The Mysterious Chinese Herb Shop

Every large city has its own Chinatown.  New York City has one.  I went to see my herbalist there today.   The shop is accessible to non-Chinese speaking ordinary Americans.  The lady at the counter speaks fluent English and the herbalist does, too.   It’s a kind of no-nonsense store you won’t walk in to browse.  You need to know what you want.   It’s a traditional chinese medicine version of your corner pharmacy.  Most Chinese customers bring in prescriptions for herbs.

stairs“Is Doctor in?”  I asked the lady.  “Upstairs” the lady said.  I passed the long dispensing counter, where several men were eating lunch, to the back, and opened a door to staircase. The first time I ventured in, it was intimidating in a Diagon Alley kind of way.  It’s not anymore.  The herbalist’s office was on the second floor next to accupuncturists office.

They keeps my chart, just like my physical therapist’s office does.  Sometime I see other patients waiting, most of the time not.

In the office, the Herbalist took my pulse on BOTH wrists.  I don’t understand what he is doing but definitely he is not counting my heartbeat.

The Doc asked many questions, like “How is your bowel movement?”  “How do you sleep?”    He told me to stick my tongue out.  He wrote something in Chinese on the chart, then asked another question.  “Do you like cold weather or hot weather?”   And he pondered and scribbled down more.

He handed me my chart and instructed me to go downstairs to get 10 days supply of herbs.  I asked what was wrong with me.  He mumbled something like “Liver and Spleen weak.”  O.K. whatever, Doc.

I walked down the stairs and handed the chart to the lady.  They have a floor to ceiling old school pharmacy built in cabinet.  A couple of guys started to put together the combinations of herbs in the prescription in an amazing speed and coordination.

herbpackage

Herbs come in packages.  One pouch contains about 10 different kind of herbs.  Some herbs are more expensive than others.  I never got itemized receipt so I never know.  I usually pay between $90-$100 for 10 days of supply including Doc’s fee.

Today’s pouch contains:

  • COIX TEA
  • White Atractylodes tes
  • Codonooposis tes
  • Pyrola tea
  • Albizzia tea
  • Schisandra Tea
  • Alisma Tea
  • Ilex Cornuta Tea
  • And a couple of other mystery herbs if you don’t read Chinese.

herbtea

Those powdered herb make one mean tea.  I sip it throughout the day for 10 days. I go through this 2 or 3 times a year as part of body maintenance routine.  When I feel something is off, it is my way to pay attention to what my body want to tell me.  The effect is mostly subtle.  After 10 days, I usually forget what my major complaint was.  Once in a while, it works like a magic.  Who knows.  I like the taste fo the tea.

I once went to a different herbalist.  The place was much cheaper but I had to actually boil crushed leaves and make real tea.  As a New Yorker, I didn’t have that kind of patience.  My grandma used to plant, grow, harvest, dry, cut, boil and make tea…  Good old days.

Disclaimer:  I don’t speak Chinese, but I studied Traditional Chinese Medicine 101 in college.  So I actually have some vague idea about what the hell the doc is doing.

If you are interested in How Tranditional Chinese Medicine Works,  visit:

http://health.howstuffworks.com/wellness/natural-medicine/chinese/traditional-chinese-medicine.htm

 

A Pigeon and Dandelion

What’s wrong with the girl who kicked at a pigeon?

A group of teenage girls were walking down the street.  It was an early afternoon in the late spring.  A couple of city pigeons were picking up pizza crust scraps on the sidewalk in front of a neighborhood pizza place.   An ordinary pleasant day in a relatively quiet street in Upper East Side.

As they pass by a girl in a plaid skirt kicked at a pigeon.  The pigeon trotted away.   “What’s wrong with you?”  “Gross!”  other girls said.  The girl who kicked at the pigeon didn’t say anything. They walked on, talking as ordinary teenage girls did.  Nothing noteworthy happened.  Just another day in their teenage life.

It was a five second clip too familiar for me not to pick up from the cutting room floor.   It was the nonchalant way the girl kicked at the pigeon that caught my attention.

I was the girl who kicked at pigeons.

When I saw a yellow fluffy dandelion flower on the sidewalk, I stepped on it to squash with the heel of black pumps.  My friend said, “What’s wrong with you?”

I tell you what’s wrong.  That’s how the girl is treated in her family.  That’s how she has learned to treat herself.  It’s so natural that she doesn’t even think something is wrong with the way she reacts to the sight of pigeon, a vulnerable and unimportant creature just doing what pigeons do.  Nobody cares.

The sight of innocent and vulnerable creatures like pigeons and dandelions exposed and defenseless made me feel uneasy.  It’s dangerous to be innocent and vulnerable in the open without fangs and claws to fight back.  I can’t tolerate the prospect of the pigeon-dandelion being attacked, being kicked, being squashed.   So I will be the one who kicks and squashes, so that I don’t have to feel my vulnerability.

I hope the girl who kicked at a pigeon will learn what is wrong is the way she has been treated.

And dandelions are not vulnerable.

dandelion

 

 

Sliver

For the most of my life I tried to fit the expectations of others. For the most of my life I tried to make others fit my expectations. My Teacher said, “Remember, not all people operate in the same way you do. ” It has freed me from the misery endless expectations create. I can’t change how you respond. But I can let you know how I am affected by your response. The rest is up to you.


Sliver

This is how I am. Deal with it. Or if not, leave me where you found me, and walk away.

This is how you are. I deal with it. Or if not, I’ll leave you where I found you, and walk away.

It’s not your fault.

It’s not my fault.

It’s just that this is how I am.

And this is how you are.

That’s how we all should be.

And some of us still keep on feeling our way for a sliver of connection in the treacherous territory between how I am and how you are. Continue reading