Clean and Elegant

Clean and Elegant

Monday, 31 August 2015


On cumulus clouds:

They sometimes resemble a series of cotton balls, or a cauliflower. 
Cumulus Clouds

On anti-depressants:
At the eating disorder program at the children’s hospital in Ottawa, the team wanted me to go back on Prozaac. I was strongly opposed to the idea. I felt it was unnatural, and cheating. But I was super down and although I had resumed healthy nutrition, my progress had sort of stagnated. I told the doctor that I didn’t want to go on anti-depressants unless the psychological surveys confirmed that indeed I was depressed.

“We don’t need the measures to prove you’re depressed,” said Dr. Feder. “I can see you are profoundly depressed. You’re only happy when you’re so busy you can barely tell where you are.”
I was seventeen years old and life seemed so long. Time is precious. Time flies. Everyone says this. Tempus fugit. Before you know it, you’ll be a grandmother dying of morphine. Imagine. I cannot. Me, the dying grandmother, counting all my limbs, wiggling my fingers and toes and laughing at how the massive and tedious hours were now over. And I’d survived all the hours, with no amputation or spinal cord injury.

On Counting Down:
Don’t tell the vipassana people, but I went to the Zen centre a couple times in June. One Saturday morning, a woman who had been to the intro session with me brought her seventeen year old daughter. For your first month at the Zen centre, you don’t have to sit for the whole hour and a half. You can leave after half an hour, or one hour. The woman and her daughter left after one hour.

On Sunday, June 28th, Simon’s 36th birthday, I brought daisies to the rooftop of Simon’s apartment building, where Simon had jumped off and killed himself. I walked home in the pouring rain. Just a few blocks away from Simon’s apartment, I ran into the woman from the zen centre. I had already walked all the way down the city and all the way up the 23 floors of Simon’s building in silence. Now I was in front of this woman's apartment on De Bullion Street. The silence and the ritual were over. Or at least changing. The woman told me that after their hour at the zen centre, she and her daughter had gone to a café, where they’d laughed with immense relief.
“We were both so happy when we heard the airplane fly over the zen centre. Finally, something else to think about,” she said. “We were so relieved to get out of there. I wonder, is that what death will be like? Deep relief that it’s all over. Like finally, we made it through?”

I wonder.
In the meantime, we get so busy we can’t even tell where we are.

I’ve counted down so many days of my life.
The summers when I was eighteen and nineteen, I worked at a camp for kids disabilities. The sessions were ten days. Just like at vipassana, you arrived on day zero, and left on day eleven. Just like at vipassana, I would count, Day One, Day Two, Day Three. Seven days left to go, six, five, four. If there were six days left, I would count how many days ago this was, and decide whether or not this seemed like a long time ago. Almost always, it seemed like a long time ago.

When I worked at the house for adults with disabilities, during my second year, I counted down from March to the end of July. How many days is that? A depressing number.

At vipassana, I would count down the hours. Twelve hours left in the day. Twelve hours ago, we were going to bed. It felt like forever ago. 
Sixteen years old, with my friends Tamar and Caleb,
reading Amelia Bedelia, at another summer camp where the sessions were only 5 days.
Well, I don't look like I'm counting down. Must be the excellent book.

On Breaking Up:

When I was with the Boatman, every trip, I would count down the days until I got to see him again. No matter how wonderful the experience, I couldn’t wait. Last year at vipassana I remember crying in the woods and thinking nothing would be more beautiful than seeing him again.

I just got back from a short three-day stint at vipassana. Only three days, and of course I counted them down. It was Day Two that I realized how many of my days I’d counted down to seeing the Boatman. My body was filled with memories of Halifax and our relationship. By Day Three I felt panicked at the idea of going back to Montreal. I was counting down to nowhere, nothing, no one. Up until then, I hadn’t cried all that much or intensely. I had made immense progress on my delicate weeping skills, just letting the tears slide naturally down my face, not succumbing to hysteria.  I did not feel that this could last. I wished all the pain and loneliness would dissolve in one enormous emotional blow-out.
“It’s a long path,” the teacher told me in our interview. “There’s no quick fix.” Alas. She suggested to continue with the vipassana technique, scanning my body, observing the sensations and not engaging with my internal conversations and emotions. It worked okay. No quick fix. No ultimate cure. It’s a long path.

When it was all over, I turned on my I-phone. God bless I-phones. My friend Emily had sent a message that she needed me to feed her cat. I was happy about this because it made me feel like I was part of someone’s life.
Through much of the vipassana course, the song in my head was, “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” by Neutral Milk Hotel.

I think it will remain one of my favourites.
“When we meet on a cloud, I’ll be laughing out loud, I’ll be laughing with everyone I see. Can’t believe. How strange it is to be anyone at all.”

The End.

On Coherence: maybe next time. It’s nice to be blogging again. 
The Spiritual Pants made an appearance at vipassana.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

What a Beautiful Face
Deep Unyielding Depression, Part One
Deep Unyielding Depression, Part Two
In the Aeroplane over the Sea


Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Closer I Am To Fine

While I was in Ontario helping her with her bunion, my mother gave me a small notebook I’d kept in 1999. I’d decorated the front cover with a yellow sun, outlined in red, blue and then a final line of yellow. On the back, I’d drawn a child-sized hand, red with disproportionate fingers, outlined in flowy lines of yellow, blue and red. It seems I was into primary colours. Inside the notebook were pages of graph paper.

 “June, 1999,” I’d written on the first page. I’d drawn five-pointed starts in each corner. All the words and the stars were in pencil.
“Erica Schmidt, I wrote in perfect cursive writing, with unenclosed smiley faces on either side. Then I quoted Jewel, from the song, Hands, still in perfect penmanship:

“If I could tell the world just one thing, it would be, that we’re all OK.”

The whole thing is amazingly embarrassing, but what the hell.
“I’m okay too,” wrote Erica in 1999. I was at the end of ninth grade, and thirteen years old.  Maybe I was on the verge of hating myself, as some thirteen year olds are.

“This is my feel better book.” More unenclosed smiley faces on either side. “My Sunshine Book.”

Squint and you might see.
In the Sunshine Book, in my perfect penmanship, I’d penciled stories and quotes from lofty and inspirational sources such as, “Chicken Soup from the Teenage Soul,” “Anne of Green Gables,” Dr. Seuss and “Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.” Back then there was no such thing as LOL, so whenever I found something amusing, I would write, “teeheehee” or “heeheehee” surrounded by countourless happy faces.  The teeheehess and heeheehees are everywhere.

In addition to a list called, "On Guys," there is a section of hilarious jokes, pick-up lines, and the playlist from a carefully selected mixed tape. “My Tape,” it was called, “Songs that were written for and about me” “My Tape” included hits from 1999 and before. The Googoo Dolls, Frosh, Sarah MacLachlan, The Dawson’s Creek soundtrack, Grease, and my Women and Songs CD. Next to each song I articulated some astute memories and/or insight.

Closer to Fine, by the Indigo Girls – "I love it. After all, the best thing anyone could do for me is to help me take my life less seriously. It’s only life after all. Contourless happy face."

Foolish Games-by Jewel- "happy face – I can’t say I’ve ever really had anyone who could have played these sorts of foolish games with me… oh well. Heeheehee."
I Don’t Want to Wait, by Paula Cole – (from the Dawson’s Creek soundtrack. Choosing between Dawson and Pacey paralleled my real-life crush choices. It was between the swim team hotties Alex Crampton and Michael Brown. I switched back and forth every year. In grade nine, I think I was back onto Alex. He looked more like Dawson. So maybe I was more a Dawson Girl.) – "reminds me of Dawson's Creek. (drawn heart.) Silly show but I love it, it’s great. Teeheehee. Plus, I guess maybe it should make me happier before my “life’s over” (hehe) and live in the present moment because it’s called a present for a reason (teehee)."

Dawson and Pacey, Such lookers
Angel, by Sarah MacLachlan-"this is the best song in the world and it’s gonna be played at my funeral or maybe at my wedding or maybe both – or maybe I’ll become an immortal old maid."

Whatever happens, please don’t play, “Angel” at my funeral. I’m not sure how I pictured it at my wedding. Well, becoming an immortal old maid is not a bad option. I was surprised that Alanis Morrisette didn’t make it on the list, but I suppose she was more grade six.

In grade eight, for public speaking, I wrote a speech called, “An Ode to Appearances.” The ode made it into the Sunshine Book. Probably I didn’t really know what an ode was. Seemingly cutting edge, the speech was about beautifying methods such as wrinkle cream, liposuction and plastic surgery.

“All around the world, women aren’t satisfied with their appearances. They feel that their noses are too big, their bottoms jiggle when they walk and their ears stick out too much.”
I wonder what my delivery was like. I remember people laughing quite a lot, and my grade eight teacher Mr. Dutton peering at me in shocked confusion. The speech is not all that well researched, but perhaps I talked so fast that nobody noticed. And I banked on shock value by using words such as “breast implant” “bottom lifters,” “jiggle,” “cellulite” and “padded brassieres.” For undereye puffiness, instead of some expensive procedure, I recommended hemorrhoid cream. I describe liposuction as “when they open your face, stick the tweezers in and pull out all the fat.” According to the ode, during a facelift they “stick the knife in and kind of rearrange things under there.” Pretty much the premise of the whole thing is that all the beautifying methods are too expensive. The speech came in second, behind Clare Banerd, who performed a charismatic and highly detailed discourse on jelly bellies.

My childhood heroine, Anne of Green Gables used to speak of something called “High Ideals of Earthly Bliss.” Likely the most simultaneously adorable and embarrassing section of the Sunshine Book is a list named after Anne’s ideals.
Some High Ideals of Earthly Bliss (heeheehee)

1.        Get flowers from a boy. (illustrated by stick figures of a boy and a gift, and a tulip.

2.       Get a teddy bear or stuffed animal from a boy. (teehee again) Countourless happy face, more stick figures, a teddy bear.

3.       To go on a picnic with a boy. (teeheehee) More stick figures! A picnic basket.

4.       To have (a) best friend(s) someone who I can have fun with and giggle with who knows me really really well and still loves me even if they don’t have to. Illustrated by two happy faces. These ones are outlined.

5.       To have a normal degree of photogenicness. (teehee)

Illustration: contourless happy face not Ugly happy face. (2015: I used to feel so self-conscious in photos and ended up look rather awkward if not terrible. I had almost forgotten about this ordeal. And now my phone is filled with a shameful amount of selfies. Teeheehee)
Very photogenic
6.       This one is surrounded by hearts: To know all the time that I am loved and to let others know all the time in little ways that they are loved by me.

7.       To love myself and not worry about what other people think.

For all the boys who were thinking of sending me flowers, or teddy bears, I'll leave you with these clever pick-up lines which conclude the Sunshine Book:
“Are you wearing Windex? I swear I can see you in my pants.”

“If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

“They call me Milk because I do your body good.”

Teeheehee, teeheehee, teeheehee.
The End.

Selfie with Raisin Bran. Teeheehee.
Hoping to conclude the blog's Semi-hiatus in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, feel free to send me your Internet Diagnosis of the Week.
Exuberant Bodhisattva on Facebook
Twitter: @mypelvicfloor

I Let Go, by Erica J. Schmidt

Yours Til Ekam Inhales
Life and Death are of Supreme Importance

Slow Dance (featuring some memories of 1999)

Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Lying Down Club

As I compose compelling skin care copy, the blog is supposed to be on hiatus. Despite this, I am inspired to write a response to Angela Jamison’s lovely and recent post called “Rest.” Among writers and bloggers, Angela is one of my favourites. Her masterfully selected words stick with you for a long time.

“Rest.” by Angela Jamison is the perfect complement to "How to Wake Up to Yoga,"and "How to Get Up for Yoga Again."

 (Forgive me if I sound like a bottle of re-hydrating anti-age serum. The syntax has permeated my cells.)
Angela Jamison
Ashtanga Yoga, Ann Arbor
 Says Angela,

“Waking up, check. Around here, we like intensity, sharp focus, and fire. Life on the razor’s edge is sweet and clear. But if you only practice getting up strong, and do not practice going to bed soft, then imbalances can form in the nervous system over the long term. Some of the first indicators of lack of deep rest may be: fuzzy mind, emotional unavailability or reactivity, and susceptibility to illness. In this light, deep rest enables creativity, meaningful relationships, and vibrancy.
Conscious relaxation shows in a person’s bodily tissues, in the personality, and in how she relates with time and with the earth. It is the foundation of Jedi mind training.”

I’ve never had too much trouble waking up early. From the age of seven, the hands of my Mickey Mouse watch directed an extensive routine that involved walking the dog, practicing the violin and writing eloquent letters to my grandparents in Manitoba. These letters came out every single day. With my smelly Mr. Sketch markers, I lovingly decorated the envelopes. Over the years, the morning routine evolved and devolved to encompass grueling swim team workouts, and icy runs with ankle and wrist weights.  
As for sleeping, typically I am not terrible. Early into my Ashtanga days, I stopped consuming caffeine around noon, if not much earlier. Like clockwork, a chai at 12:30 results in mild reverberations extending past midnight. If someone needed a sleep coach, stopping caffeine at lunchtime would be my first piece of advice. Alcohol at any time, and Netflix past 8 p.m., these are also risky gambles. Maybe it is worth it sometimes, especially during family visits. You’ll have to figure this out for yourself.

Many Ashtangis go through a stage of being obsessed with food. Little to no dinner seems to be a trend, the ostensible key to a light and energized practice. I’ve tried this a few times, in Mysore and at Vipassana. Most often it ends with me sitting in the dark, quite hungry.  My body has pretty clear needs, and pretty clear signals. This, I have come to appreciate. Keeps the Divorce Diet in check. The Vipassana People eventually took pity on me. By Day 3, they permitted evening peanut butter sandwiches. By Day 7, they granted me a dinner tray with my name on it, plus after hours fridge access. Everyone is different.
Let’s talk about imbalances in the nervous system. During my seven and a half years of unfailingly waking up for yoga, utter exhaustion definitely came up. In January of 2013, I started a job speaking French to (mostly) three, four and five year olds at a Montessori School. It entailed that I rush out of the house to catch the bus at 7:30 a.m. One hour commute, followed by 8 to 9 hours uttering futile sentences to erratic tiny humans. Before embarking on this high-intensity process, I considered it essential that I crank myself through second series, which meant waking up at 4 or 4:30 a.m. It never occurred to me that maybe I could take it down a notch, in the service of early childhood education. Oh no. Didn’t want to “lose” my practice. Within three months, my coping skills had deteriorated to verge on clinical insanity. My body developed an awkward series of involuntary twitches, replicating a bus driver in anticipation of a head-on collision. My mind became flooded with traumatic memories from the eighth grade. Each night I would wail to the Boatman about some traumatic 12-year-old injustice. Particularly raw was the time everyone on the swim team was invited to Kayla Clark’s fourteenth birthday party. Everyone except for me. After five months at the Montessori School, the left bottom half of my body went out of commission. I cut my practice down to fifteen minutes. The twitches and traumatic memories dwindled almost immediately.

Rest is important. I often wonder to what extent hauling dogged ass at non-negotiable hours in the morning has impeded my long-term healing. So many of my Ashtanga years were spent in a state of mild to severe emotional catastrophe, not to mention unambiguous joint pain. To the emotional catastrophe, my fellow practitioners and various teachers would reply, “Oh, the practice is bringing stuff up. You’re getting into the good stuff. It’s working.” They made it sound as though clarity and peace were just around the corner. Although it was pleasant to believe that my suffering stemmed from an important and profound spiritual cause, I now believe that a component of my spiritually “good stuff” was nothing but simple, inconsolable fatigue.
An essential, and often neglected ingredient: Take Rest Posture. Lying Down Club. Sharath insists that it isn’t savasana. Call it what you like, it has never been my specialty. Too hungry, too horny, too caffeinated, whatever the reason, my lying down efforts joined the miserably pathetic four years ago when I moved to Halifax. Ten seconds, ten breaths. I became terrified of lying down. Sometimes a song would help, as long as pressing play didn’t coincide with examining the interwebs and all that Wifi and cellular data had to offer.

Mr. Iyengar recommended that for every 30 minutes of asana, the yoga practitioner should take five minutes of rest. In Mysore, after approximately thirty seconds, Sharath would send us on our way. “Thank you very much. Take rest at home.”  The committed amongst us wouldn’t stop for a coconut. The rest of us would, and maybe that was that.  
Lie down, take rest. Practice dying. Such a difficult posture. Most of the other asanas, I’ve traded in for this. Give the earth your cells. I got this phrase from a contact improv teacher in Halifax. I went to her class the day I decided to leave. In the end, you can’t keep anything.

I lie down to practice dying, and give my cells to the earth. It feels like everything’s unravelling.
Here are some things I think about when I’m trying to relax:

-Metta: "May all be safe, may all be happy, may all be healthy, may all live with ease."
Funnily enough, I learned this from an elephant journal article. While you’re thinking it, you can pay attention to how your heart feels. I used to do this in front of the yoga shala in Mysore, as I waited for the gates to open.

-Another phrase:
"I’m sorry, I forgive you, I love you, I thank you."

I learned this from Simon, my ex-ex-boyfriend who jumped off a building in January. Simon said that you’re supposed to repeat this phrase, both to your ego, and to the world.  The practice cured Simon in three and a half days. It will take me longer than this.
-The Buddha’s last words to Ananda, who served by the Buddha’s side for fifty years or more. As the Buddha lay dying, he said this to Ananda. It makes me wish my name was Ananda:

“Ananda,” said the Buddha,
“Everything breaks down.
Tread the path with care.
Nothing is certain.
Trust yourself.”

Big love to Angela Jamison. Deep rest for all.
The End.

By Angela at AY:A2

How to Get Up for Yoga Again

Baby Jedi