Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, Part Six

July 9, 2016

Link to Part One through Five
“She put down in writing what was in her mind” –Bob Dylan, It’s Not Dark Yet

The story so far:  After six months of virtual communication with no face-to-face cues or physical contact, Billy, the musician I’d befriended on Facebook, leaped out of cyberspace and landed on my doorstep. By the time he materialized in the flesh, it felt as if we were old friends, with none of the awkwardness one sometimes feels on a “first date.” After a pleasant evening where I welcomed him into my yoga room and fed him a nourishing vegan dinner, Billy headed off to a local retreat center where he had arranged to stay for four nights.
Part Four and Five describe his first five days in Ojai, during which he gives my elderly bedridden parents two spectacular piano concerts and, after his other possibilities for affordable accommodations fell through, I invite him to stay at my house.

Saturday, Day Six (Full Moon, Summer Solstice Weekend)

I was both relieved and disappointed that Billy didn’t try to kiss me as we relaxed under the stars and almost full moon on my cement table, his first night at my house. I fell asleep in my own bed, with Billy’s enchanting flute compositions floating out of the CD player on my dresser, just as I’d done many nights before when he was thousands of miles away, a virtual fantasy, and not a real life flesh-and-blood giant, gently snoring a few feet away.

I rose at dawn, tiptoed around the house quiet as a mouse, ate a chunk of watermelon, and brewed triple the amount of coffee I usually make so it would be ready for Billy when he woke up.

I should explain that there is only a half wall between the kitchen and where Billy slept so I refrained from running the orange juicer. And, since I didn’t want to disturb him by doing my yoga practice a few feet from his bed, I left the house early to practice at the studio before my 8 a.m. class.

When I came home midmorning, the first thing that hit me was the smell of incense. Fortunately, it was a scent I liked-–not the kind that gives me a headache or makes my eyes burn. Of course I noticed right away that he’d perched the incense sticks on top of my best Manduka cork yoga block in such a way that the incense ash was falling on the block. I feared the pile of hot ash might scorch the block so I nicely said that it would be better for the ash to fall on a saucer. Since he was occupied on his laptop, I handed him a saucer. To his credit, he moved the burning incense, now perched on a saucer, on top of a yoga chair, which I also didn’t like but decided not to make an issue of it.

When I went into the kitchen, I right away noticed he’d washed the dishes from the night before—so that scored points. And I noticed he’d filled up the water dispenser—more points. But then I noticed that the top to the three-gallon water bottle was missing. After checking all the usual places —kitchen counter, dish drainer, drawers, cupboards—all the places he might have set it, I asked him, (trying not to sound like a nag), “What did you do with the top to the water bottle?” He looked up from his laptop unconcerned and said something like, “Oh, it’ll turn up.”

After looking again in all the usual places, I grew suspicious and started rummaging through the overflowing trash and recycling cans that sit near the sink. I then inquired, “Do you think maybe you threw the top in the trash?” Again he glanced up and I think he said, “I doubt it.” So I took matters in my own hands and dug around in the trash. No luck. Then I had the bright idea to take the recycle can outside to the large bin that I share with my neighbors and toss each item, one or two at a time, so as not to risk dumping the water bottle top into the big bin where it would be lost forever. Sure enough, when I finished that process, there was the missing water bottle top. I went jubilant back in the house. “I found the lid,” I shouted. “I just saved $6. That’s what these bottles cost.”

When I went back into the kitchen, he said something about the coffee being bitter. I was a little bit taken aback and I might have sounded just slightly defensive and said something like, “I made the coffee early—maybe it was bitter by the time you drank it after sitting in the pot.”

A little later, Billy left to play the piano at the home of a musician he’d befriended (also on Facebook, I later found out), a widow I hadn’t met yet. Shortly thereafter, when I went to clean the coffee maker, I noticed that the filter was filled to the brim, practically exploding with coffee grounds. I also noticed that my Altura organic coffee stash was almost gone. He’d brewed a second batch of coffee while I was teaching and used up what for me is a week’s worth of coffee in one gulp! I couldn’t even remove the filter without coffee grounds spilling out–I had to unplug the coffee maker and turn it upside down over the open trash can.

I thought to myself, “No wonder he said the coffee was bitter. The pot I left him was probably perfect but the batch he made was ten times as strong as I usually make it.” I felt exonerated! Vindicated!

It was only the first day of his stay at my house and I was aware that it hadn’t even been 24 hours but already little annoyances were popping up. But I was committed to making him comfortable and feeling as at-home in my humble abode as possible.

That day the temperature soared—it would be a week before the weather cooled off again. I noticed he’d hung a red yoga blanket in the doorless doorway between the kitchen and the back of the house, where I slept. At first I liked that he’d taken the initiative to do that. His explanation that this barrier would help contain the cold air coming from the air conditioner, made sense. I also liked all the other things he described that he could do to keep the house cool.

But later in the day, as my uninsulated block house grew hotter, I realized that the hanging door blanket that helped contain the cool air in the yoga room also kept the cool air from circulating in the back of the house, where I slept. Plus, without air flow, the kitchen seemed more stiffling. So I kept flinging the yoga blanket curtain open, and, of course, he kept flinging it back down.

Speaking of flinging, I’d be amiss if I didn’t mention that I’d begun to notice that Billy never flung the toilet seat back down. This puzzled me as he’d been married or had lived with several women before. I decided early on that if the women he’d lived with couldn’t train him all those years, my chances of that changing now that he was almost seventy, were very slim.

When Billy returned a couple of hours later, fortified from his piano playing, he was in good spirits. I decided not to mention the coffee—at least not right then.

I forgot to mention that Billy had been invited to a fancy fundraiser that night. Knowing he’d be leaving the house again in a few hours made it easier for me to feel relaxed about having his large presence suddenly taking over my small space.

I turned up the air conditioner (my first summer with the newly installed unit) and rested with Billy on the yoga bolsters. Aside from the aforementioned slightly annoying annoyances, the energy between us felt harmonious.

As I write this, I realize that I forgot to mention that during the week, when Billy slept at the retreat center, we practiced Restorative Yoga several times and, on a few occasions, I massaged his feet, especially after he told me more about how his diabetic condition affected his feet.

I joked to my close women friends, who naturally wondered what was going on between us, that we were practicing “safe sex”: yoga and foot massage.

Over the past six months of our Facebook chats and phone conversations, Billy often expressed his respect and admiration for how long I’d been practicing and teaching yoga.

He seemed impressed that I’d studied the same subject for such a long length of time—almost 50 years—if you count the first books on yoga philosophy that I read at the Krotona Library as a teenager.

Since we were the same age (67 and 68) we had a lot of history in common. He told me how he first heard Krishnamurti speak in the 1980s—and I shared with him my anecdotes about first hearing K speak in the Oak Grove in 1965 (while I was a student at Happy Valley School), and a few years later in Saanen, Switzerland.

In retrospect, the conversations about yoga and Krishnamurti also helped cultivate a friendly bond between us and, if I cut myself some slack, helps to explain why I felt comfortable to invite him into my home, even though I’d only known him in person for five days.

Billy was familiar with the yoga of BKS Iyengar and his classic treatise, Light On Yoga. Since he was planning to come to my group classes the following week, and since he’d expressed interest in taking lessons for the past six months, plus the revelations about his health issues, that Saturday afternoon I thought I better teach him some Iyengar Yoga Basics and introduce him to the wall ropes, before he had to leave again for his evening shindig.

He seemed eager to have his first lesson with me so I placed his yoga mat along the wall that has three sets of wall ropes. I explained that we’d be doing Standing Poses at the wall. I showed him how to stand near the wall, with his feet about four feet apart, and placed a chair and block nearby. I then proceeded to demonstrate how to use the wall for alignment and support.

I noticed that the moment I put on my teacher hat, there was a shift in the dynamics between us. I was the teacher telling Billy, the student, what to do. He willingly cooperated, wanting to show me he was in good shape. He followed my instructions, turning the right foot out and left foot in, reaching his top arm up to the upper ropes to help open his chest and shoulders, keeping his back near the wall as he stretched into the classic Triangle Pose, first to the right and then to the left. But about fifteen minutes into the lesson, after the challenging weight bearing Warrior II Pose and Extended Lateral Angle Pose, he admitted, “This isn’t easy for me. I don’t like taking orders.“

I laughingly told him that there’s no competition in yoga. That he needed to listen to the feedback his body was constantly giving him and not worry about impressing me with how well he could do the poses.

I take initiating people into yoga very seriously—yet it’s my nature to be playful and lighthearted. Laughter releases tension, helps us to let go of our defenses, and open up.

Even prior to this first formal lesson, I‘d become aware that Billy was a man of many faces, many masks. As I write this, I remember now that he’d joked about being like a gangster —I’d glimpsed that there was a rough edge, a volatile temper, a rascal, lurking inside this master musician/ composer. He would pick up the flute and play haunting, mystical, meditation music but in the next breath he seemed to enjoy berating anyone who did not live up to his high standards. He often referred to the people who paraded through his life as an “asshole.” I’d even joked on occasion that his description of the human race was “a bunch of assholes” or better yet, “a bunch of assholes full of shit.” Like most human beings, as you get to know them behind their public persona, he was full of contradictions. He claimed to come from a refined, cultured background (his mother was also an accomplished pianist) but he could be vulgar and crude—from my perspective he seemed almost like a musician with mafia roots.

All this was swirling beneath the surface of my consciousness as I observed Billy’s physical expression in the Standing Poses —the expression and response of his whole overweight but still fairly strong body, and also his facial features.

His years at the piano had made him aware of posture and he brought to yoga a high level of body awareness. I told him how many talented musicians, notably the violinist Yehudi Menuhin (who wrote the foreword to Light On Yoga) had turned to yoga for health issues like insomnia. During the lesson we spoke of the connections between yoga and music.

After the Standing Poses and Hanging Downward Dog Pose, Billy wanted to hang completely upside down again—like we had briefly done his second day in Ojai. This time, we were both much more prepared, and he hung himself upside down almost like a pro. Again, his response to reversing the downward flow of gravity was positive. As he inverted, I became aware that he had become very still. He hung quietly for several minutes. A few times I heard him say, “Thank you . . . thank you . . . “ When he indicated it felt long enough, I guided his hands to climb up the upper ropes, hoist himself upright, and step back down to the ground.

To be on the safe side, I instructed him to rest in Child’s Pose, as I always do with students unaccustomed to inverting for long periods of time. After several minutes in Child’s Pose (a position similar to prostration and surrender) I then suggested a long stay in Downward Facing Dog Pose to round out the lesson.

I could see he was getting tired and even with the air conditioner the room was getting warm. So then I put him in Supported Legs Up the Wall Pose, Viparita Karani, with his bottom and rib cage supported by a big bolster—a powerful combination backbend (heart opener) and inverted pose.

Something happened between us as he deeply relaxed in Viparita Karani that I may not have the words to describe. While I was the teacher and he the student, whether he felt it or not, among all the other things going on beneath the surface, there was a play of masculine and feminine energy.

I was the teacher but also a woman. I have not been in intimate contact with any man for many years. I felt a powerful force—some might call this the Kundalini energy or shakti. I could feel his cells, his nervous system relax. His face grew softer and softer and his masks fell away—as our faces do in death when the ego dissolves and everything we identify with falls away.

I felt his vulnerability. The tough guy gangster act was gone. For just a fleeting moment, I felt I had a glimpse into his soul.

I sat kneeling behind his head, (as I often do with students) and placed my hands on the back of his neck, near the base of his skull, ever so gently lengthening his neck. I saw tears seeping out of the corner of his eyes, down his cheeks. Then I instinctively placed my fingertips on his forehead, near the center of his brow, the space some refer to as the third eye. I heard him murmur, “Yes, yes. . . that’s it. Yes . . . “ So I kept my fingertips gently on his forehead, feeling the energy flow, the current between us . . .

I then removed my hands and moved out of his aura, to another part of the room, giving him time to just be.
After awhile, I think he fell asleep and I relaxed on the backbender, absorbing the magnitude and mystery of it all.

Soon it was time to get back to earth and “reality.” When he left in the late afternoon for his party, the dogs and I went to the river bottom.

To be continued, Part Seven

Link to Part One through Five


Life in Ojai: A year ago today

July 7, 2016

July 7, 2015 ·
After only two or three sips of Natural White organic wine (no added sulfites), a different persona emerges. My Gemini Twin? Whoever she is, she’s not my yoga teacher self. Although she embraces the yogini aspect of the Goddess, she is far beyond all that.
She is the persona who wonders, who remembers, who questions everything. She is the artist who painted all night long in that rented room in the Haight Ashbury during the 1967 Summer of Love. She is the persona that existed long before I identified myself as a yoga teacher, as a girlfriend, as a wife, as a mother, as a grandmother, as an author, as a mayor, as an animal advocate. She is beyond all the hats I’ve worn in this lifetime.
Every night, when the sky turns dark, when the merciful coolness descends on this dry, hot valley, my dogs force me out of my house, out of my home office. They demand that I step out of my small world where my sole goal is survival: paying the relentless rent, month after month, for this safe, celibate, utterly hopeless, unsustainable nunnery I’ve trapped myself in for so long now . . .
Every night I put on the same white cotton India shirt so the occasional driver can better see me, and the dogs and I wander the neighborhood, invisible. Even without the occasional sips of wine, it’s pure magic. Along with the nighttime coolness, a deep, mystical silence descends on the Ojai Valley–on this Valley of the Moon. This magic hour enables me to sustain my unsustainable Life.
Tonight I let the dogs lead—let them sniff every bush to their hearts’ content. We sat for a while on our favorite thick lawn in front of a church. They rolled on the sacred grass while I sat still to absorb the ambiance and bask in their innate doggie happiness. After a while, I saw someone approaching from a distance with a high-powered flashlight—maybe a nighttime jogger with a dog. I decided to avoid a close encounter and we hoofed it toward Ojai Avenue.
There, after the dark quiet of the downtown side streets, two speeding police cars with blaring sirens and red light flashing, one right after the other, seemed intense—very intense! They were followed by an endless river of speeding, brightly lit cars. I felt like a Neanderthal woman stepping into the 21st century.
The dogs loved all the excitement on Ojai Avenue, but still I ducked into the sanctuary of the Ojai Museum courtyard. There I sat on a sculpted stone bench. I looked up at the Madonna and Child mosaic window, and was reminded of how, decades ago when I was a child, this museum was a bona fide Catholic church. My next-door-neighbor friends, Kate and Heather, went to mass here while I was indoctrinated in the Pentecostal Church. In our teen years we tried to rebel, we tried to leave it all behind—but it was too late. That childhood religious conditioning was branded into our consciousness.
Sitting on that bench in the Ojai Museum courtyard, with the dogs quiet and content, one thought led to another until I finally had to put a stop to it, had to get up from that bench and walk past the MOB Shop, past the Oaks health spa, past the World University, and back into the present, into the reality/unreality, the transiency, of the ever-changing present moment—back into my writing-yoga-doga-grandma life.

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Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, Part Five

July 6, 2016

“She put down in writing what was in her mind” –Bob Dylan, It’s Not Dark Yet

Where we left off: After six months of communication with no face-to-face cues or physical contact, Billy, the musician I’d never met in person, virtually leaped out of cyberspace and landed on my doorstep. By the time he materialized in the flesh, it felt as if we were old friends, with none of the awkwardness one sometimes feels on a “first date.” After a pleasant evening where I welcomed him into my yoga room and fed him a nourishing vegan dinner, Billy headed off to a local retreat center where he had arranged to stay for four nights.

Part Four described the second day (Tuesday) of Billy’s visit with me in Ojai.  After breakfast at Cafe Emporium, and a walk in Libbey Park, that afternoon, he gave my elderly parents a spectacular piano concert. Part Five continues with Billy’s second day in Ojai . . . and on to Friday, Day Five.

Billy’s piano playing transported my 95-year-0ld mother to a higher realm. She could not believe that “a man of his high status” (as she later described him) was actually in our humble home. She had fallen that morning and bruised her knees, and was lying in  bed, so she could not see him play. But her bedroom is only a few feet away from the piano so she could hear the music perfectly.

After I convinced my mother that the tall man standing by her bed really was the pianist pulling the beautiful music out of her piano, I escorted Billy to meet my father in the back bedroom where he rests most of the day in a hospital bed.

After my father expressed his gratitude for the live music and for making my mother so happy, Billy left the room. Then my dad asked, “How did this big man get here?”

There was no easy way to explain that I’d met Billy on something known as Facebook—a concept virtually unfathomable for my father’s pre-Internet mind to comprehend. He’s never looked at a computer and basically thinks they’re the work of the devil. So I kept it simple and told him that Billy was a professional musician, visiting old friends in Ojai, and that he enjoyed playing music for elderly people.

After promising we’d be back later that week for another performance, I loaded Billy and the dogs back in my van and returned to my house. While Billy took a nap on the floor of the yoga room, I hoofed it over to Rainbow Bridge deli to fetch us a healthy dinner.

It gave me great pleasure to see Billy diving into the baked yellow acorn squash (cut in half and stuffed with walnuts, celery, and cranberries) with a side of brussel sprouts and kale salad. Even if he wasn’t a bonafide vegan, I could see that he enjoyed vegan food (although  I later noticed he got into the cheese that I save for my dogs).

While I cleared the table and washed a few dishes, Billy sat outside on the front porch, in the cool twilight, playing his magical flute—just like I had envisioned during the months of phone conversations. A little later, as the sky grew darker, he came back inside the yoga room. I again showed him how to relax with a bolster under his back to open the chest and heart center, a folded blanket under his head, like a nest for his skull.

Before heading back to his second night at the retreat center, Billy sat in Virasana (Hero Pose) and played another enchanting tune on his flute. He sat very straight and yogic. I was impressed with the prowess of his lungs. It was as if the energy of the God Pan had entered the yoga room, adding magic and merriment to the atmosphere.

I needed to go to bed early as I had to teach the next day.  I again walked him to his car and we hugged good night. He gave me a quick platonic kiss on the lips. We agreed to meet again for breakfast before my mid morning private lesson.

Day Three (Wednesday)

The next morning, Billy’s third day in Ojai, he arrived early to pick me up for breakfast at Farmer & the Cook in Meiners Oaks, a ten-minute drive from my house in downtown Ojai. I suggested that we take two cars because my mid morning private lesson was near Farmer & the Cook. “That way,” I reasoned, “we don’t have to drive back to my house and we’ll have more time to eat and visit.”

“No way, “ he said, “If we run out of time, I’ll take you to your student’s house.”

That sounded like a good idea so I hopped in his car. As I buckled the seatbelt and leaned back in the seat, a funny thing happened. I felt a deep well of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I have no recollection if it was triggered by anything Billy said or did. But it was a familiar anxious feeling —one that I’ve felt many times over the years in the course of romantic relationships.

As he drove, it gradually dawned on me that my uneasiness had something to do with losing control. This was the first time I rode in his car. And, as he himself  pointed out when I told him how I felt, “when you get in someone else’s car you are on their turf, in their space, and at their mercy.”

As he drove through the winding, narrow streets of the park-like neighborhood we Ojaians call the Arbolada, (the scenic backway to Meiners Oaks), the tension I felt increased from his curt response to my driving directions.

When I tried to indicate where to turn, he barked, “Just say left, or say right, or say go straight ahead at the next stop—don’t say anything else.“

In my hyper-sensitive state, his voice sounded authoritative and patronizing. In my eagerness to tell him about my Ojai life, I might have said something like, “Oh, there’s my old high school. We were the last class to graduate before they switched and made this campus the Junior High . . . After that building, turn right.”

Even though it was a short drive, there were moments that I got distracted and forgot that he didn’t know the route. I’d get flustered when I accidentally waited till we got too close to the intersection to say, “Turn  right. “

Or maybe I felt compelled to say something like, “I love how the Arbolada is covered by a canopy of Oaks. . . Oh, now turn right at the next Stop sign.”

You know, the way we women tend to talk to our own kind!

In any case, the whole short drive I felt a familiar tension, one that I’ve experienced with certain men (not all) many times in the distant past.

I was aware of how easily my feelings were hurt and that it had been a very long time since a man had chastised or reprimanded me. I wasn’t used to it anymore!

On the surface,  things were going  well— and I so much wanted them to go well! I tried to release the churning in my guts and relegate it to my own neurosis.

Some readers may think that I’m making much ado about nothing but if you’ve ever lived with a controlling, domineering man, you’ll empathize with my gut reaction.

After we arrived at the Farmer & Cook, and I was back on friendly, familiar ground, I felt my good spirits returning.

As we sat across from each other, talking, sipping organic coffee, eating the very tasty breakfast burrito, absorbing the good Farmer & Cook vibes, I was aware that in spite of the bossiness I felt in the car, I still enjoyed male companionship and said as much. He responded in kind.

When it came time for me to go teach my private lesson, I cleared the table (on week days customers bus their own tables here) and promptly splashed left-over salsa all over my white yoga shirt. My instinct was to run cold water over the orange splotches but Billy instructed with great authority, “run hot water.” So hot water it was–but later, when I got home, I soaked and washed my shirt in cold water and the stains disappeared.

This time when Billy drove there was no tension as I gave directions to my student’s house—maybe a full stomach soothed us both.

When we pulled up into my student’s driveway, she right away noticed the strange man driving the unknown car and stepped out of the house to greet us. I had confided the week before that a man I had befriended on Facebook was coming to Ojai to visit me. She invited him to come out for a few minutes and see her newly landscaped garden. As we admired the lovely design, the bright flowers, as well as  the grand views with an Oak grove below, she plied Billy with friendly questions about his background.

Billy  thoughtfully said he’d pick me up when the lesson was over, even though I’d assured him that my student wouldn’t mind driving me back to town.

Later that week, on several occasions, Billy expressed that he felt that my friends were scrutinizing him. He called one in particular a “sly fox.” I defended my friends’ “snoopiness,” and told him, “Well, I’m sorry if you feel a lack of privacy in this small town but what did you expect? I’m a public person! I’ve lived here sixty years. People know me from yoga, politics, my books . . . and I have a large extended family. The people you’re meeting are my tribe and they’re looking out for me.”

And I also told him, “If I visited you in your hometown, I’d expect your friends to scrutinize me too. And I wouldn’t mind. I have nothing to hide.”

And I thought to myself, “For crying out loud. I’m a woman living alone. Naturally they wonder who is this strange man visiting me. They don’t care if you’re the reincarnation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or Ludwig van Beethoven himself. They’re interested in your character and whether or not you care about me . . . ”

That same day, I had another private lesson in the afternoon. By the time I got home, Billy had gone off to meet a friend for dinner. While he was thus occupied, I followed my normal evening routine of roaming the riverbottom with my dogs and eighteen month old granddaughter. It felt good to go about my regular life––I was glad Billy was occupied so I wouldn’t have to concern myself with dinner.

I should add here that earlier Billy had mentioned that the friend he was meeting for dinner was leaving town for a week. He’d mentioned that maybe there was a possibility that when his stay at the retreat center ran out he could stay at his friend’s house while everyone was gone. That would be the perfect solution to the “where will he stay after Thursday” dilemma I saw on the horizon. I crossed my fingers that free accommodations at his friend’s house was how things would play out.

Later that evening, while I did my yoga practice, Billy again played his flute. At that point, it started to feel very relaxed and comfortable having him around. As he was leaving, since he didn’t volunteer any information, I asked, “Will you be staying with your friend who is going on vacation tomorrow?”

“No, “ he replied. “That didn’t work out.”

I recall remembering how prior to coming to Ojai, when we were discussing affordable places where he might stay, he had mentioned that he was willing to sleep in his car.

That was the moment that I weakened and heard myself say that if he hadn’t found another affordable place to stay by Friday that he could stay at my house. As I said this, I set no time limit—the thought didn’t didn’t even cross my mind.

This is what my therapist friend meant when she said in Part One, “Your biggest fear is what you’ll do . . . the anxiety you feel is about YOU . . . that you will act inappropriately . . . ”

I really didn’t even have time to think it through because I was sub teaching early in the morning in addition to  my own classes for the next three days straight. I even told myself that since I wouldn’t be home that much, Billy might as well make use of my house while he explored Ojai and connected with other musicians.

I planned to move my computer and desk work into the yoga room. Then Billy could help me set up the futon frame I stored on my back patio. The guest mattress that I store against a wall fits on the frame—–with his help we’d turn my office into a guest room in an hour.

That was the plan—the flirt in me figured it would kind of be like a long date—I imagined that we’d give each other plenty of space since most mornings I’d be gone by the time he got out of bed.

I also felt confident that I wouldn’t do anything I’d regret.  I didn’t feel any kind of sexual vibe from him. However, at the same time, I enjoyed the close proximity of his male energy—so long as he wasn’t telling me what to do or mansplaining.

Also, I neglected to mention that the second day of his visit he promised to help me fix things—there were loose door hinges, the back gate latch was broken, and he was full of ideas to fix the place up.

Thursday, Day Four

The next day, Thursday, Billy’s fourth day in Ojai, I had to teach back-to-back morning classes so we planned to meet for lunch at Rainbow Bridge around noon. Two of my students, Marie and Jim, both also close friends, joined us. That gave me a chance to sit back and observe their interactions.

Marie and I had to get back to work so we left Billy and Jim bonding over baseball and rock ‘n roll.

When I was free again, I continued with my normal routine of taking my dogs over to my parent’s house. The canines romp in the yard while I babysit the elders and give my younger sister a break.

Upon arriving,  I saw that my mom had risen from her deathbed of two days ago. She was sitting alert in an easy-chair near the piano, wearing one of her colorful sundresses, her white hair neatly combed.

Her oldest great granddaughter, seven-year-old Grace, was drawing on the nearby dining table. Grace takes piano lessons.

When I saw my mom sitting alert near the piano, it came to me in a flash that I should call Billy and see if he would be willing to give another in-house concert. He didn’t take the call but I left a detailed message, explaining the situation.

I called again five minutes later. Still no answer. I tried a third time and this time he picked up.

“You answered!” I said.

“That’s what people usually do,” said Mr. Smarty Pants, oblivious that this was my third try. To his credit, he agreed to come right over and play.

I called my daughter who lives nearby and invited her and my granddaughter to come to the concert. My youngest sister, who sings and plays piano and guitar, was also at the house. So we had a nice audience waiting when Billy arrived.

When I explained to my mother what was about to take place, she looked dubious, like I was pulling her leg. But when Billie planted himself on the piano bench and his amazing fingers sprang into action, once again my mother’s whole demeanor changed. Her posture improved; she sat taller and straighter, her face became animated.

At first she closed her eyes, clasping her hands reverently to her chest. But moments later, as the music grew louder and livelier, she stretched her arms up in the air, high above her head and shouted in Dutch, “Ik will hem trouwen! Ik will hem trouwen!” (I want to marry him! I want to marry him!)

Grace stood close to the piano, watching in awe as Billy’s fingers touched the keyboard. For a long time she stood still, taking it all in. Maggie was swaying on her mother’s lap. She’s naturally cautious and tentative around strange men but after awhile she slid to the floor and began dancing.

I wish we’d videotaped the whole scene!

While the Piano Man played on, I checked on my father and told him how happy my mom was. That gave him peace of mind as he sank back in his hospital bed and enjoyed this second concert.

Billy continued playing. Toward the end he played some dance music and we all danced free style while my mom clapped her hands and looked adoringly at this amazing pianist who dropped out of the sky.

After this stellar performance, we drove our individual cars back to my house. I only spoke with Billy briefly as he had arranged to spend his last evening  at the retreat center  with another friend. I told him that I would be leaving the house early to teach and to be sure to keep the back gate and front door shut tight so the dogs don’t escape. I told him to make himself at home if he arrived before I returned.

Friday, Day Five

The following day, Friday, (Billy’s fifth day in Ojai), when  I came home after yoga, Billy and his car where nowhere in sight but his suitcase, a pair of socks,  a bag of flutes, and various personal items were scattered on the yoga room floor.

I saw that he’d put some dirty clothes in the laundry basket like I had instructed him to do—he didn’t ask me to do his laundry—I offered. It gave me a warm feeling, a feeling of familiarity, to see his T shirt in the basket.

When he returned home he told me about another Ojai musician he befriended who had a good piano he was welcome to use. And that she was introducing him to other musicians. That all sounded good to my ears.

I then started to explain that I wanted to move the futon frame into the house  if he could carry one end. I began to say that I would clear most of my stuff out of the office —but he immediately and forcefully dismissed that idea .

“No way,” he said. I’m not sleeping in there. I’m staying in this room.”

In fairness that might have been because one of my little male dogs had “marked” the rug, but if that was the problem I would have had the carpet shampood or spot cleaned it myself.

Maybe I’m prejudiced but if a woman friend had preferred to sleep in the more spacious yoga room, I’m certain we would have at least discussed it first.  The occasional  overnight guests I’ve had all prefer being able to close the door–there’s mutual understanding that  both host and guest need privacy, especially in close quarters like my small house. Plus, I need my quiet yoga room to practice and fortify myself for teaching.

But the way Billy announced it was like, “I’m sleeping here. End of story.”

There went my peace and quiet and privacy. Only it would take three days to fully grasp this. At the time I offered no resistance. I went right along with the new program.

Minutes after establishing his territory, Billy put a bolster under his head and fell asleep in the middle of the room. To his credit, he had no problem sleeping soundly on the hard floor.

When he woke up, I said he couldn’t just keep all his stuff on the floor—Chico or Benji might pee on it. I cleared three  prop shelves  to stash his stuff. And then, out of some deeply ingrained ancient mothering habit, picked his stuff off the floor and put everything neatly on the shelves. I stopped short of picking up the socks he’d thrown in the corner the night before—I pointed to the socks and joked that he’d failed my first “test.”  He right away picked them up, but, a day later, I noticed another pair on the floor—the “training” didn’t stick.

I cleared a towel rack for his towel. I explained it was best not to leave shoes outside at night or one of the black widows living in the cracks of the wall and under the window sills might take up residence. I reminded him that if he stepped outside at night to be sure to wear shoes and to be careful where he sat in the dark.

A little later, we moved the mattress up against the yoga room wall where it would be easy to flip it on the floor.

At this point in the story the weather was still relatively cool and we were both still on our best behavior.

It’s my nightly routine to do yoga and meditate on the sturdy large cement table built into my back patio. It’s big enough to comfortably hold two people lying side by side with arms spread, and one or two dogs. On hot summer nights, I often sleep there half the night, till the house cools off. This was the Friday night before the Summer Solstice and full moon—an auspicious time to my magical way of thinking. My head was full of hope and curiosity to see how things would unfold. Some things felt a  bit awkward, like to suddenly be sharing a bathroom, but I felt at ease enough to invite Billy outside to relax with me on the table and look up at the stars.

It felt comforting to lie beside him  in the crook of his warm arm, my little dog Benjie nestled beside us, Honey snoozing in the cave like space underneath the stone table.  He identified some of the constellations, and soon we could see the coming full moon peeking bright above the black outline of the branches of the nearby trees. After all those months of listening to Billy’s voice on the phone, somehow this felt right—although it still wasn’t clear to me, or to any of my friends who spoke with him, what his plans or motivations were.

To be continued, Part Six 






Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, Part Four

July 4, 2016

“She put down in writing what was in her mind” –Bob Dylan, It’s Not Dark Yet

Where we left off:  After six months of virtual communication, Billy, the musician I’d never met in person, suddenly announced he’d be in Ojai within a week. And sure enough, early Monday morning in the middle of June, a week before the Full Moon and Summer Solstice, he called to say he’d be in Ojai that evening. By that time I’d made it clear, both in writing and over the phone, that he could not stay at my house and that he’d have to be responsible for finding his own accommodations. It still wasn’t clear to me whether he was seeking housing for the summer, possibly with plans to move here, or just coming for a short visit. When he told me that he had a place to stay at one of Ojai’s retreat centers for four days during the week (it was not available on the weekend), I let this slide and didn’t ask, “Where will you stay after that?” I shrugged it off and figured we’d cross that bridge when we came to it.

After teaching my morning yoga class, I put on my domestic goddess apron and went to work cleaning my small abode—I vacuumed all Honey’s dog hairs, no easy task as they kept clogging the promising new Dyson animal vacuum I purchased a few months ago—mopped, scrubbed the toilet, tub, and sink, and threw piles of clutter and paperwork that could easily wait into boxes and stashed everything into the garage. Out of sight. Out of mind. I waltzed over to Rainbow Bridge and bought a beautiful bouquet of flowers to help  make a good first impression, assorted cold drinks, raw vegan “Back to Life” humus, cucumbers, avocados, pixie tangerines, watermelon, coffee,  and a large container of vegetable coconut curry from the deli. I cooked a pot of sprouted organic brown rice, filled up the bird bath, watered the front yard, took a shower, rested in the Goddess Pose, and walked my dogs early in the evening so I’d be free by the time the mystery man arrived.

Three of my closest women friends knew this unknown quantity was coming. They were ready to greet him with one hand on their hip and a pitchfork in the other. “Yes,” one said, “he looks very good on paper. Impressive credentials. Nice public persona. But, until you can smell him in real life, you have no idea what he’s really like.”  Another one said, “Sure, his meditation music is beautiful. That’s why we buy CD’s. You don’t have to get involved with him in order to listen to his music!” 

I assured them I had the situation under control. They recommended I not see him till the next morning and just meet him for coffee, like I would anyone else I’d never met in person before. “You don’t owe him anything, Suza,” one of them said. But, in my mind, having him go straight to his sleeping quarters seemed so unfriendly. I wanted him to feel welcomed. Besides, after six months of virtual communication, I was dying of curiosity.

I didn’t feel the least bit anxious or nervous like I might have been if he had not already told me the story of his life. Plus, the issue of where he would be sleeping that night was settled —so I had no worries about anything awkward, uncomfortable, or inappropriate happening. I basically tried to put myself in the same frame of mind  I would be in if he was an out-of-town yoga student. And he wanted to do yoga so that wasn’t that far-fetched. I felt very much in charge of the situation as he was coming to visit me, on my turf, and, I thought, on my terms.

At 8:30 p.m. my cell phone rang. The screen showed his number so I picked it up. “I’m sitting on your front porch,” announced his familiar booming voice. And sure enough, there he was, as if he’d leaped out of cyberspace and suddenly manifested. My dogs were going nuts, barking like crazy, jumping up against the door. I flung open the entrance to the nunnery, smiled, and welcomed him inside. We gave each other a warm, friendly hug. He was taller and wider than I expected —his presence filled my small, low ceiling yoga room. While he’d metamorphosed a long way from the handsome days of his youth,  by the soft evening light I found his features pleasant. I served him a cold sparkling drink and asked he wanted something to eat—he said he wasn’t hungry yet. So then I did what comes naturally to me. I had him lie down on the floor of my yoga room and showed him how to relax lying back on a yoga bolster. I was thrilled that he willingly took off his shoes and easily sat on the floor in various yoga positions. I saw that he had very flexible legs and hips for a big guy—so the stories he’d told me about doing yoga over the years appeared to be true.

After about twenty minutes of stretching and relaxing together, he fell asleep on the floor—not surprising after driving all day. When he woke up about ten minutes later, I asked if he wanted to have some rice and curry before heading off to the retreat center. This time he said he was hungry—I enjoyed warming up the food, playing hostess,  and serving him. He asked for chop sticks and said the curry was delicious. “This is going great,” I thought to myself.

After he ate, I hinted that it was getting late and time for him to get going. We hugged goodnight and agreed to meet for breakfast. I remember feeling hopeful and happy that this talented, accomplished being had finally come to Ojai to explore our connection in real life.

* * *

The next morning he called to say that he’d be at my house in an hour. Perfect—that gave me time to do yoga and a few morning chores. When he arrived, he wanted to drive to the Cafe Emporium, a 15-minute walk from my house. I was kind of taken aback.  One of the perks of living in the heart of town is leaving the car at home and walking or bicycling everywhere.“No,” I said, “I’m walking. Drive if you like —by the time you park I’ll be there.” That’s when the first conflict and concern reared its head. He explained he had trouble walking . . . of course in my book that’s a sure sign you need to walk more—not less! But, being on his best behavior, he gamely followed me down to the end of the arcade and across the street to the Cafe Emporium. Usually I speed walk but, being also on my best behavior, I politely slowed my stride to a level comfortable for him.

It was very pleasant to be finally sitting face-to-face across the table from the man I’d been virtually communicating with all winter, all spring. Here we were in real life, sipping coffee like normal people, eating a tofu scramble with a side of fruit. Being on his best behavior, he refrained from ordering eggs and bacon. (I used to take for granted that spiritual types are vegetarian but I’ve had to face that for many the definition of “vegetarian” is fuzzy and apparently includes chicken salads, fish, crab, shrimp, and bacon. Some even think that giving up beef loosely qualifies them as “vegetarian.”) I try not to make an issue of eating animals, but, sometimes I tell men that if you want to pour a bucket of cold water on my romantic interest, just order veal or bacon on the menu.

After breakfast we strolled across the street to the Ojai Art Center —he wondered where there might be a good piano he could play, so I suggested that later we’d go over to my parent’s house to the piano my mother has played for decades. We slow walked the back way behind the Art Center over the bridge, into Libbey Park.

That first week Billy was in Ojai, the weather was still cool, adding to the feeling of compatibility between us.  As we wandered under the oaks, I thought to myself, “Well here we are. Two old people meandering through the park, wondering what this is all about—not just our potential relationship but Life in general.”

We sat down on the long cement bench in front of the fountain. I’m used to doing yoga everywhere I go, or at least sitting yoga style. And I always take off my shoes at the first opportunity. So I sat across from Billy —my bare feet near his lap. I thought it was a sweet gesture when he gave me a nice foot massage.

After soaking up the ambience of a cool summer morning in Libbey Park, we slow walked back to my house and relaxed for a few minutes in Legs Up the Wall Pose, just as I normally do throughout the day. In spite of his girth, he seemed to take to yoga like a duck to water. We relaxed together and he reached over and held my hand. I thought to myself, “It’s been five years since a man has held my hand.” It felt like a warm, friendly, affectionate gesture —not prematurely sexual but entirely respectful.

He’d seen photos on Facebook of my students hanging upside down, and over the past months, he’d written, “I can’t wait to be in your torture chamber and hang from the ropes.” Now that moment had come. He asked if he could hang upside down.

“Well,” I said, “I don’t usually hang new students completely upside down. I have them get used to being half way upside down first.” So I had him do Downward Facing Dog Pose. I continued to marvel that a guy as big as him had the strength and flexibility to stay awhile in Dog Pose —I remembered how he often called me on the way to working out at the gym.

To be on the safe side, I questioned him about any medications he was taking, as I do with all my students. I forget at what point I found out he has type II diabetes —a serious health condition that can usually be handled with proper diet. I was somewhat hesitant to hang this big older dude on two medications I was unfamiliar with, completely upside down, but I was so thrilled by his eagerness and willingness to try it that I decided to  seize the moment. “Besides,” the comedienne in me thought, “this will be a good way to test if the eye hooks can withstand 200 plus pounds pulling on the ropes . . .”

I secured my sturdiest yoga strap between the two ropes and proceeded to demonstrate the proper way to safely get in and out of the rope sling. I made sure the length of the sling between the ropes was high enough so that his head would clear the floor . . . I tried to support his weight as he lowered his six foot two frame upside down; at one point, he started to slide his legs outside the ropes, which might have resulted in a concussion. The comedienne in me so wished I’d videotaped the whole scene. After nearly falling out, he hung for several minutes, smiling and making all sorts of happy sounds of relief. I was thrilled by how much he enjoyed it. His face remained a normal color—it didn’t turn beet red and he assured me he felt no unusual pressure in his head. When he said he was ready to come down, I helped him extricate himself safely out of the ropes and he obediently rested in Child’s Pose. Naturally, I was already making plans in my head to put him on a diet and turn his health around.

By then it was noon and I suggested we take my dogs on an outing to my parent’s house. While the dogs played in the yard, he could play my mother’s piano—something I had imagined many times during those six months that we spoke on the phone and communicated virtually. I had rescheduled my Tuesday afternoon private lesson for Wednesday as I thought I should at least clear my schedule his first day in Ojai. On the way to my parent’s house he asked if we could stop at the bank. As I drove, he held Chico, my elder Chihuahua on his lap and massaged his dear little doggie head—scoring more points. (I forgot to mention he was great with the dogs—another hopeful sign.) He proceeded to tell me about his finances —I was pleased to learn he was more financially stable than I thought.

During the months that we communicated on the phone and Facebook, Billy had learned all about my parents, that my dad had been in the ER twice, and that both my parents had at-home hospice care. When I explained early in our virtual relationship that I thought my dad was dying, he’d told me how he helped take care of his mother at the end of her life, and also about other deaths in his family. This all added to the emotional closeness I felt —even from a long distance.

When we arrived at my parent’s house, I found out from my youngest sister, Paula, that my mother had fallen early that morning. Thankfully, no bones were broken but her knee was bruised. My dad is usually in bed most of the day, although he still occasionally sits outside in the morning sun.  My mom normally  sits in her favorite easy chair by the window where she can see the mountains, the birds taking a bath, and the grandchildren and great grandchildren playing in the front yard when they come to visit. Even though she has short term memory loss, occasionally she still plays the piano, and she listens to classical music all day long. But today, due to her fall, her fragile skeletal figure was in bed in a fetal like position, looking barely here. I sat on the bed and said, “Mom, I ‘ve brought you a real concert pianist. He’s going to give a live concert on your piano.”

I pointed to Billy, standing in the doorway. He’d told me he was very good with old people and children—and he was. My mom was too weak to fully take in what I was saying, but when Billy started playing the piano the whole expression on her face changed. She closed her eyes and looked on the verge of rapture. I saw her clasp her hands over her heart and I could see that her consciousness was completely focused on the music spilling forth from the piano. It was unbelievably beautiful. For the first few minutes, I continued to sit on my mom’s bed, just watching the expressions on her face. Her sensitivity and appreciation of Beethoven, Mozart, and other masters is much greater than mine, but hearing the sonatas and symphonies “live,” played with such mastery and skill, I too felt myself swooning. Her piano was only about ten feet away from my mom’s bed so the sound was truly magnificent—like we were in the front row of a great concert hall.


As soon as he finished one piece, even as my mom and I were loudly clapping like kids to express our appreciation, Billy floated seamlessly into the next composition. When I went into the living room to watch him play, it was all I could do not to nuzzle the back of his beautiful neck. But I remembered how in our virtual conversations he’d mentioned many times that women would often hang around the piano while he played and leave him notes and the key to their hotel room and how he didn’t like that. He wanted to be taken seriously. I didn’t want to be put in the same category as those kind of women so, I wisely resisted the urge to nibble his neck. But I did look longingly at his beautiful hands as they drew centuries of music out of the piano . . .


Dear reader, keep in mind that this is just Day One of Billy’s visit to Ojai. I feel the need to describe these moments so you better understand that in spite of all the wise counsel from my friends, all the hours listening to the world’s top 25 relationship experts, all the books and resources listed in the beginning of this story, how it came to pass that as the moon grew fuller and the issue of where he would stay when his time at the retreat center ran out, why I weakened and invited him to stay at my house . . .


To be continued, Part Five




Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships , Part One, Two, and Three

July 2, 2016

Click the Archives for Virtually Attached: Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships to view all Parts (Chapters) Posted So Far 

This was originally a three-part series,  entitled, Full Moon Musings on Romantic Relationships, mostly written in real-time haste before running off to teach, and posted on my Facebook Writing Yoga Memoirs page. I’ve now had  time to edit this first part of the story (it still needs some links and formatting) and am eager to pull together the draft of the rest of this memoir. Part Four, where the leading man jumps out of cyberspace and lands on my front porch,  is really the heart of the story. Part One, Two and Three (posted here) is background reading so you don’t judge me too harshly or think I’m hopeless (like I sometimes do). I’m eager to finish Part Four—I’ve reached the point where tears have turned to laughter. I hope you enjoy the reading as much as I enjoy the writing. Namaste

Part One: Virtually Attached

“She put down in writing what was in her mind” –Bob Dylan, It’s Not Dark Yet

May 21, 2016 (full moon, three days before my 67th birthday).

There must be millions of older single women like me. We are busy from dawn to dusk, holding down the fort, caring for elder parents, grandchildren, rescue animals, or others in need. At night or weekends we go grocery shopping, pay our bills, and tidy up our humble abode. With rare exceptions, we don’t have the energy for a social life—most days we’d rather collapse in bed with a good memoir and suffer vicariously than go on and face 70 coffee dates in order to find “The One.”

I laugh now when I look back on these last six months, but getting to this place beyond tears was a lot of painful, hard work. And on the way to getting my head on straight by writing this story, I consoled several crying women friends who, like me, had let down their guard and fell into a hormonal coma.  My heart ached for them as they described a familiar story of high hopes, attraction, sex, betrayal, and disappointment. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the child bearing years or post menopause–apparently the swooning girl that lives inside us doesn’t care how old we are—when my 95-year-old Dutch mother heard the leading man in this story playing the piano in her living room, she rose from her death bed, waved her hands excitedly up in the air, and shouted, “Ik will hem trouwen! Ik will hem trouwen!” (I want to marry him! I want to marry him!)

Over the years I’ve watched several of my women friends fall for men they’ve never met in person. They chat on Facebook, on the phone,  and Skype. Evidently, occasionally it works out.

Two months ago, when I told my hairdresser about a man I’d met online who seemed much more conscious than the Adam character in my dating memoir, Fishing on Facebook: A Writing Yoga Memoir, she got all excited and told me to call a mutual friend of ours who met a man on who lived in Europe. After three months of long phone conversations and online communications, he flew to Ojai, stayed at her house, met her kids—and last she heard everything was going hunky-dory. (My hairdresser thought I might find it helpful to talk to another woman who had experienced  the virtual bonding I was going through.)

But, I also have an undaunted friend who went to pick up her virtual romance at the airport and confided that she knew immediately it wasn’t going to work in real life. He was good-natured about it, but, after flying so far, he wanted to visit Ojai, and she was stuck with a houseguest for a month.

The truth is that I’ve never before in my life had long Facebook and phone conversations with a man I’ve not first met in real-life. As with Adam, with Billy (not his real name), I let down my guard because we had mutual friends and common spiritual-psychological-nature-loving interests. And, like Adam, he talked about moving to Ojai. (“Ojai is my spiritual home.”) By the time I woke up to how seductive listening to his voice could be—plus, in this case, also his haunting, mystical yoga and meditation music — it was too late. I was hooked.

These last six months many nights I’m back in my childhood home, helping to take care of my elderly parents who come and go from the brink of death. After changing my mom’s diapers, helping her into her pajamas, soaking her dentures, massaging my dad’s feet, assuring him that I’m “saved,” I’m too tired to go out and have a social life. The online flirting and soul bearing phone calls added a little spark to my life that my feminine spirit craves–plus, I could relax on my yoga bolsters in the Goddess Pose or lie down outside under the moon and stars.  I liked Billy’s strong voice and, in the course of time,  found him to be a fabulous, colorful, soulful story-teller. The more he confided in me, sharing snippets of his childhood, all the family triumphs and tragedies, his past relationships, his hopes, his dreams . . . the closer I felt to him. If I didn’t know how common this phenomenon is, even among savvy women, I’d be embarrassed to admit the romantic plans I was making in my head. The highly imaginative writer and vulnerable, love-hungry woman in me was smitten.

(As I write this I still can’t believe I allowed this to happen before I ever got close enough to smell him in real-life.)

Apparently, I had to learn the lesson that one can be bathed in oxytocin—the love-bonding hormone– even without ever touching the person. Billy’s deep male voice, punctuated by rascally laughter, lulled me to sleep—literally and figuratively.

I knew I was in trouble when I began having anxiety attacks. I hadn’t felt those painful pangs in my gut for six years—I thought I’d slayed those dragons. But this time I knew enough to reach out for help. I knew these were old, deeply embedded patterns—that I needed to get at the root of this anxiety once and for all!

His calls were not consistent. He made up excuses for not calling as promised—and when I tried in my pitiful fashion to stand on my own two feet and explain how his erratic pattern of calling and not calling for days at a time made me feel anxious and disrespected, he brushed it off as inconsequential. As if it was MY problem! (Red flag, right there!)

In short, I represented what is known as “anxious attachment style.” I’m a classic case! I only learned this a few days ago from reading the book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love. And although he would no doubt deny it, I would characterize my virtual friend as your classic, “avoidance attachment style” kind of guy.

We were most definitely not the “secure attachment” types!

Seeing that I was in psychological and emotional trouble, I arranged to have dinner with a therapist friend at Farmer & the Cook. She told me to take notes and I have them right here.

I ordered a delicious raw vegan taco — purple cabbage leaves filled with walnut and sun dried tomato croquettes topped with cashew -cilantro “cream,” mixed greens, pico de gallo & carrots. Delicious and nourishing, but I hardly touched it. Eating was secondary to talking!

After I described the situation in confidence, in much greater detail than here, she said: “Your biggest fear is what you’ll do . . . the anxiety you feel is about YOU . . . that you will act inappropriately . . . ”

She was right. I was afraid I might invite him to Ojai to visit and stay at my house. If I had my head on straight that thought would not even enter my head!

It sounds so obvious in retrospect, but at the time of our conversation I was in emotional turmoil. I knew intellectually that being in this relationship—even though it was just a virtual relationship, and that’s all it is at the time of this writing six months later—it triggered deep insecurity and anxiety in me. This was my golden opportunity to set boundaries, to stop fantasizing, to “strengthen my core,” as my friend reminded me several times during dinner.

I put the left over raw taco in a take-home box. When I got home, my appetite kicked in and I devoured it!  Then I went straight to my computer.

* * *

A few days later, I had the most vivid, symbolic dream. When I woke up I scribbled it in my journal, almost exactly as I type it here:

 I can’t get over this dream—the road to the wedding is covered in shit. I stopped my car in front of a big house (I knew people were waiting for me inside) —I kept stepping in piles of dog poop —the funny thing was that each pile was identical and I knew someone had thrown it there on purpose, like a prank.

It was impossible to cross the road without stepping in shit but I tried to dodge it anyway. You could not move without stepping in it.

When I got inside the house I saw a gathering of sorts and gradually realized it was a gathering for my upcoming wedding.

There was a man who I knew to be the man I was talking with on the phone, even though I hadn’t met him yet, and a woman who was his mother. I realized that not only had he come to Ojai—everything was all set for us to get married—there was a whole crowd of his and my relatives. I recognized my middle sister— the others I didn’t seem to know.

His mother stepped out of the crowd and came up to me. I was surprised how friendly and young she was, as I had thought she was old or dead by now. She hugged me and took my hands warmly and said her son had been talking to her about me and that getting married was so good for him.

Even in the dream I wondered how all this had taken place behind my back!

I kept trying to get a good look at the man I was to marry (he did not approach me). I thought I should at least SEE him before we get married.

I could get fleeting glimpses of him at this gathering but I just could not see him! I’d get an image and then he would disappear. I just could not get a good look at him except I saw that he was tall.

In the dream I realized that the fact that he liked me made him attractive—that was the only basis I could come up with for this hasty wedding!

I went off to have a private chat with his mother—I followed her off to another room—I continued being amazed how much she already liked me!

And then I woke up—literally and figuratively!


* * * *

Part Two: Virtually Attached

Full Moon musings on my 67th birthday, May 24, 2016

Last night, as I wandered the river bottom with my dogs on the evening before my birthday, I felt a great healing deep inside. I arrived late, after 7:00 p.m., and I stepped into that magical moment just after sunset with gold light illuminating the landscape, where you can see the shift from day to night happening before your eyes. The mountains toward Matilija Canyon were dark purple and blue, and as I walked alone, I felt a blessed silence descending on the land—a living silence where you can hear the sounds of nature like a celestial song of creation.

That feeling of anxiety triggered by my attraction to someone I’ve never even met in person, that feeling of a knife churning in my gut, was completely gone. I felt whole and free again, like I did before I began these phone conversations that inadvertently led to a way-too-hasty attachment on my part.

If you’ve read the book, Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment And How It Can Help You Find—And Keep—Love, you’ll recognize from my writings that I’m a classic anxiety driven attachment case.

Why didn’t I grasp this years ago?

In the past, my modus operandi would have been to blame the man as the trigger for the pain I was in. And certainly, in this long distance situation, his motivation for contacting me, his mixed messages (he knows I’m a writer and I told him that I take notes on what he says), his sporadic, unreliable phone calls—plus his talk about coming to Ojai but never giving a time-frame, and also his request for helping him find a place to stay—-all gave me cause (in my anxious mind) to cut the cord between us.

Six-months into this online/phone relationship, the shadow side inevitably made its grand appearance. On both ends of the line.

Having been through this many times before, I wanted to find out once and for all why any man should have this kind of power to disturb my equilibrium. I hadn’t even allowed him into the nunnery yet, though at the height of spring, especially while listening to his music, I was tempted!

The truth is, I want to remain friends with this man. My goal in getting to the root of my pain is being in right relationship. Whatever his initial motivation in suggesting we move from Facebook chats to talking on the phone, he has stories, musical talents, and insights that I appreciate and enjoy. No need to burn my bridges if my head is on straight!

* * *

A few days after the Farmer & Cook dinner meeting with my therapist friend (described in Part One), where she reminded me that the only thing I had to fear was myself, I kept seeing an ad on Facebook for a 10-Day online audio series proclaiming “Attract Your Soulmate: 5 Keys for Smart, Conscious, Successful Women to Attract the Right Partner and Create Lifelong Love.”

Normally, these types of events are no longer on my radar—I haven’t opened a book on relationships since I recovered from the Adam episode six-years ago. I spent endless hours in my childbearing years working on relationships and when the pain was bad, going for counseling. This time too, it was the emotional pain that motivated me to scroll through the list of 25 world-renown relationship experts.

At first it looked like a lot of fluff, but, since it was free for 10 days only (I ended up buying the series for my birthday), I thought I better humble myself and give it a shot.

I had to ask myself, at this late hour in my life, “What’s the point of doing yoga if I’m walking around with a knot in my stomach?” I can get a reprieve in the Goddess Pose, but then, a few days later, if things don’t go as I think they should, the anxiety pangs return.

So, therefore, three weeks ago, I humbled myself, opened my mind, and joined in with over 200,000 women from around the globe to listen to a panel of 25 relationship experts. In spite of multiple marriages, starting at age 18—almost 50 years ago—I felt I had to go back to the drawing board and look at my emotional pain from a different perspective.

By the time I tuned in it was the 8th day of the 10-day live audio-interview series so I had a lot of catching up to do before the free access ended.

I was my usual skeptical self during the first presentation with Marianne Williamson, entitled “Invoking Aphrodite: Aligning Power and Vulnerability.”

I’m sure she’s right that my chances of attracting romance would move up a notch if my bedroom, shared with my canine companions, didn’t look like the inside of the Humane Society!

For my birthday, I hired a housepainter to paint my prison grey bedroom walls soft alabaster white. However, it’s telling that when it came time to move my bed back into the now beautiful bedroom, I saw a golden opportunity to create a sacred writing space. The writer in me is laughingly thinking that maybe once the spring season passes, with the possible exception of the days around the full moon, maybe sacred sex is not so important to me after all.

I love my new alabaster white writing room! My journals are spread out on a long folding table, eager to see the light of day. I’m sitting at an oak desk my father bought for $20 when I first started writing 50 years ago, in a house on Thacher Road—back when the rent was $150 a month. The room is filled with natural light, a cool breeze blowing through the window, chimes ringing, Honey snoozing at my feet

It feels like a clean slate—the past is simply grist for the writing mill.

I’m confident the right man will understand my priorities! 

Part Three: Virtually Attached

More Full Moon musings on my 67th birthday, May 24, 2016

I skipped the audio interview on Embracing and Exuding your Feminine Sensuality and went straight to the interview with Dr. John Gray, with the enticing title, Attracting a Conscious Man: What to Look for in a Life-Partner.

Dr. Gray explained the qualities that conscious men bring to the table. This consciousness is not “perfection” or “the finished product,” but is the foundation for transformation. How staying rooted in authentic femininity (not playing the seductress) is the key to attracting the right partner. And if the woman feels she has to be the one to make it happen, it’s probably best to let this train go by.

I then skipped forward to the interview with Dr. Amir Levine, author of the previously mentioned book, Attached, where I learned for the first time about the three attachment types: anxious, secure, and avoidant. This is when I decided I had to buy the book and the audio series so I could listen to the interviews anytime the need arose.

At risk of sounding dramatic, at age 67, I feel my personal life depends on understanding my unconscious anxiety driven attachment patterns and how to detach them—patterns that us anxious types too often mistake for love.

A reader, Jessica Jyotika, left this Comment on Facebook in response to my Post about Attached:

Attached is revolutionary, a game-changer, mind-blowing . . . and should absolutely be required reading for all humans! I tell everyone I care about it. It’s that important. Liberating!”

She adds,”Anxious/ambivalents CAN be in healthy relationships, with a secure partner, which also brings out the secure in them. But, avoidants? Run like the dickens!”

Of course, if I understand these three types correctly, my virtual friend Billy is your classic Mr. Avoidant. And, we are both playing all the games described in Attached–in fact–I learned that these games are common dating advice and promoted in popular relationship books to help us “land” life’s greatest prize: a mate.

For example:

“Don’t make yourself too available, say you’re busy even when you’re not, don’t call him —-wait for him to call you, don’t appear to care too much . . . Presumably, you preserve your dignity and independence in this way and gain your partners respect. But in fact, what you are doing is behaving in a way that is not true to your genuine needs and feelings. You wave these aside to appear strong and self-sufficient. And indeed these books and the advice they give ARE right; these behaviors may indeed make you seem more attractive. What they don’t mention, because they are unaware of attachment science, is that they will make you seem more attractive to a particular kind of partner—an avoidant one. Why? Because, in essence, what they are advocating is that you ignore your needs and let the other person determine the amount of closeness/distance in the relationship . . . “

* * *

Maybe I’ve just been living in the nunnery too long but I find this stuff utterly fascinating!

I not only purchased the Attract Your Soulmate interviews and listened to some of them several times, I also got the revised, hefty, 450 page hardcover edition of Anatomy of Love: A Natural History of Mating, Marriage, and Why We Stray, by  biological anthropologist Helen E. Fisher.

According to Dr. Fisher, the go-to-authority on love and heartache and chief advisor to, “Online dating is much more natural than walking up to a stranger in a bar.”

And, on the urging of a friend, I also threw Why Does He Do That: Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men, by Lundy Bancroft, into my amazon shopping cart. I didn’t think I really needed that one, but turns out that’s the one I needed the most!

Did any of this do me any good? That remains to be seen.

Three weeks after I wrote this, Billy jumped out of cyberspace and landed on my front porch.

To be continued. (Part Four) 

* * *

Link to the book, Attached:

Some Cosmic Trivia

July 2, 2016
May 15, 2014
Some cosmic trivia: The model for my first book, Marcia Moore, was featured in the 1965 bestseller, YOGA, YOUTH, AND REINCARNATION, by Jess Stearn. I still have a copy of the paperback that I most likely found at Bart’s Books.
* * *February 25, 2014
Feeling destiny unfolding . . . every experience adds fuel to the writing fire . . .
* * *
My first yoga teacher, Sarah Kirton, whose story appears in my first book, “Yoga for People Over Fifty: Exercise Without Exhaustion,” published in 1977. (Written under the name Suza Norton.)This photo was taken in the early 1970s, Upper Ojai, at High Winds, near the Beatrice Wood/Happy Valley Land.
(more to come)

Below is a link to the first yoga book I wrote in 1977. The model for this book was the renown yoga teacher/author of that era, Marcia Moore. By some cosmic synchronicity Marcia was staying in the east end of Ojai, near where I lived on McAndrew Road. — in Ojai, CA.


Winter Solstice Liberation: Mahasamadhi, the Last Asana

January 18, 2015


December, 1987
In the end—and it will end—your life will seem to have sped by like a fleeting dream.
—Doris “Granny D” Haddock
(Author’s note: Doris Haddock was a political activist, who, between the ages of 88 and 90, starting on January 1, 1999, and culminating on February 29, 2000, walked over 3,200 miles  across the  United States to advocate for campaign finance reform.)
It took seventeen days without food, and almost no water, for my friend Ruth to leave her body. She died on the morning of the Winter Solstice. That was the choice she made, rather than risk having another stroke and ending up in a nursing home.
Day One 
The Winter Solstice is upon us. It was at this time of year, many years ago, that  I rode my bicycle over to Eucalyptus Street to see my old friend Ruth. It was a crisp, sunny day after a long rain, and I was not really in the mood to be stuck indoors, but Ruth had called to say she had something important to tell me.
The moment I stepped inside, I could sense that something unusual was up. Shirley, the next-door neighbor who checked on Ruth twice a day, was in the kitchen dumping oatmeal into the garbage disposal. She didn’t waste any words telling me what was going on. 
“Ruth says she’s going to starve herself to death. But I’ll save these oranges just in case she changes her mind.”
“What? What are you talking about?”
“She messed all over herself again this morning. It’s the third time this week. After I cleaned everything up, she got back into bed, and now she says she’s not going to eat or drink another thing.
“I think she had another stroke,” Shirley went on. “I’m not sure. She’s having memory lapses, but I know she’s serious about this. And she says if she waits much longer she might not have enough sense to make this decision.”
My mind flashed back to the many times Ruth and I had talked about death and ways of dying. But even last month she had—except for her fading eyesight—appeared so alert and vital. It was a challenge to keep up with her long, strong legs when I accompanied her on her daily walk to the top of Signal Street. We had gossiped like two teenagers about the lighter side of my love life. Her advice to me had been, “Forget about sex and get on with your life. You’ll feel so free!”
I could barely comprehend the gravity of what Shirley was saying. “The problem is,” she added, “she tries starving herself every time she feels like she can’t take care of herself anymore. This is the third or fourth time she’s threatened to do this.”
“She’s never told me this. How long does she go without food?”
“About three or four days, and then she feels better and starts eating again. But this time I have a feeling she’ll go through with it.”
Ruth had always done things her own way. Most of her friends would have checked into a nursing home by now, but I knew that Ruth would never give up her independence. Unmarried and with no children, she had supported herself as a PE teacher before retiring in Ojai. A Theosophist and lifelong student of esoteric and Eastern thought, she relished her autonomy and privacy.
I walked into Ruth’s bedroom. Her head was perfectly centered on the pillow, and the covers were pulled up to her chin.
“Hi, Ruth. It’s me, Suza.”
“Has Shirley told you about the trouble I’m making?”
“She didn’t put it like that.”
“You know how I feel. I want you to make everybody else understand. I don’t want to live like this!”
I bent down to give her a hug, but she pushed me away. “I want you to help make the others understand. Tell them to leave me alone!”
Ruth was dead serious, and her courage was contagious. “Okay, Ruth. I’ll help you, I promise.”
Coaxing someone as strong-willed as Ruth to eat was out of the question, and I’m not a fan of force-feeding. There were no nearby relatives to help out. Plus, after years of giving end-of-life care, I saw what was ahead. I didn’t want to sentence myself or Ruth to endless days of catheter draining, adult diaper changing, and the spoon-feeding of someone who might eventually no longer recognize me.
The last person I had taken care of, Ada, had been a close friend of Ruth. We had both known Ada when she was still a vibrant, artistic person. But at some point in her late eighties we began to see her slowly deteriorate. Ada didn’t want to live in a nursing home, and she hired me to care for her at home. The day came when her body was nothing more than a bag of bones. She didn’t want to eat. It hurt to breathe. She wanted to die in her own bed. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the energy or mental capacity to resist when well-meaning relatives checked her into the hospital. There, she was somewhat revived. From there, she was transferred to a nursing home where she spent three years strapped into a wheelchair before the end. Ruth and I both visited her regularly, but she no longer knew who she was or where she was.
While visiting Ada, I had seen dying people force-fed chunks of steak and potatoes. Ruth was still sane enough to know that, in a nursing home, the social norms of dying would be imposed on her. It would be almost impossible for her to choose her own way of death.
As if reading my thoughts, Ruth repeated, “Be sure, be darned sure, that everybody knows exactly how I feel.” As if to emphasize her point, she took out her dentures and plopped them into the glass of water on her nightstand. “I won’t be needing these.”
Her face shrank. Without the dentures she looked much older, but it didn’t matter to her how she looked anymore.
“Can you still understand what I’m saying without my teeth in?”
“Yes, it’s just fine,” I replied. “Please just take it day by day. Do what you feel like doing.”
“Ha!” she interrupted. “If I do what I feel like doing, I’ll eat like a glutton.”
Not knowing what else to do, I sat quietly by her bed. Ruth’s room, where she had slept for more than twenty years, felt warm, pleasant, and familiar. There were no offensive smells of  urine and other people’s poop. After a while, I absorbed what Ruth intended to do and it started to feel natural. I recovered from the shock of it all. I held her hand, and it felt like holding the hand of a sick person that you want to encourage to recover. Only we both understood that this would be a different kind of recovery. Our hands were warm and relaxed. We had begun the process of letting go.


Day Four
Three days had gone by before I’d had time to visit Ruth again. She was already so thin from a lifetime of careful vegetarian living, and her spirit so stoic and serene, that I entertained the romantic notion that she would take pleasant leave of her body in just a few days. I envisioned myself holding her hand, just like in the movies. She would give me one last smile, then exhale and enter the great beyond.
When I arrived, a well-fed, oblivious attendant was sitting guard in the living room, engrossed in the TV and a pile of knitting. Shirley had posted a sign on the refrigerator saying, “Ms. Doak does not wish to be disturbed. Do not offer food or water. Only if she asks for it.”
Ruth was flat on her back in exactly the same position, the white sheets pulled tightly up to her chin. Her eyes were closed, but I could tell she wasn’t asleep.
“Ruth, it’s me, Suza.”
“Oh, good, I’m glad you’ve come.”
She opened her eyes and pulled down the covers. Already her face and arms were visibly thinner. We chatted about everything under the sun, just like old times. Eventually the subject came around to her “fast.” I circled her wrist with my thumb and index finger. “Ruth, you’re definitely thinner.”
“Are you comfortable?”
“I’m very comfortable.”
Her sole request was that I wipe the dried skin from her parched lips. The water by her bedside stood untouched.
“Well, what do you think of my little project?” she asked, flashing a toothless grin.
“You mean dying?”
What could I say? That she was brave, sensible, courageous? Crazy?
“Ruth, have you read about other people who’ve done this?”
We discussed certain Zen monks and other people who reportedly refuse all food, water, and medical attention when they feel ready to leave this world. “Most people don’t realize they have that option,” I commented. “Some spiritual teachers gather their family and disciples around them and just leave. Some even predict their exact moment of departure.”
Neither of us had the faintest idea how long the process would take. “Just make sure those attendants Shirley has hired know not to feed me,” Ruth instructed.
I looked at the calendar and counted 18 more days till Christmas. I promised Ruth that I would take time off from work so that I could be with her full-time the whole week before Christmas. Yet, even as I promised this, I doubted that she would survive until then. I also assured her that in a few more days I’d start spending the night and that she could call me at any time.
“This is a good time of year to die,” she said softly. “It’s winter. I’m glad we’ll be together for Christmas. Christmas would be a good day to die.”
“What if you change your mind?”
She shook her grey head and looked at me like I was five years old. “Why would I change my mind? Why would I want to live like this?”
Day Five
I visited Ruth again on her fifth day without food or water. The scene was exactly the same. She was perfectly still in her bed, with the covers pulled up to her chin. Shirley was changing the sheets as often as necessary, and helping her to shower before putting a clean T-shirt and diaper on her. The room was immaculate, with freshly cut roses on the dresser.
Ruth consistently assured us that she was very comfortable and there was nothing she wanted. She had called up the few friends that would understand and told them goodbye. She was leaving it up to Shirley to deal with the few out-of-state relatives who hadn’t visited her in years.
“What shall we talk about, Ruth?” I asked.
“It’s such a long wait . . . Reading would help pass the time. Could you read to me from Kim?”
As I read, she occasionally interrupted to correct my pronunciation. It was during this hour that she lost her voice. By the time I left, she could barely whisper her request to have the dried skin wiped from her lips.
The warm winter sunlight felt good as I headed for home. It was a relief to step out of Ruth’s house and back into the stream of life. This was only the fifth day, and already I was weary of my friend’s dying process.
Day Seven
 A whole week had gone by. As I entered her room, Ruth lay motionless like an empty shell. I took her bony hand. “How do you feel, Ruth?” I asked.
For several minutes there was silence, and I thought she hadn’t heard me. Then, with great effort, she whispered, “I’ve looked forward to this for years.” I sat on her bed with my eyes closed and allowed myself to relax.
Shirley interrupted our reverie. I offered to take Ruth to the shower while Shirley changed the sheets. Ruth clutched my arms and strained to a sitting position. It took a while for her to swing her legs over the side of the bed. I helped her remove her T-shirt and diaper, trying not to stare at her emaciated body.
“These disposable diapers are great,” she whispered as she grasped the portable potty at her bedside to raise herself to an upright position. I put my arm around her and supported her down the hallway to the bathroom.
While Ruth lathered her lower body, I washed her hair and armpits. She liked the water full blast, and very hot. “Oh, the water feels so good. It feels so good to be clean . . .” It occurred to me that perhaps she’d been drinking water in the shower all this time, and that was why she hadn’t yet died of thirst. But I never saw her swallow a single drop. I dried her with her favorite pink towel and eased her skeleton back into a clean T-shirt and diapers.
The shower had completely exhausted her. She thanked Shirley for the crisp feel of the clean sheets. Even with my ear right up to her lips, I could barely hear her.
“I’m so lucky to have friends like you.” She asked us to pull the covers right up to her chin, then added, “You can leave any time you want.”
We kissed several times. “Goodbye, Ruth. I love you very much.”
“And I love you.”
Days Eight and Nine
I returned late the next night and slept in Ruth’s living room. When I checked her in the morning, she was in an unusually happy mood. Perhaps she felt that her “little project” was nearly over. Yet I still had doubts that she could see it through to the end. I worried about her becoming disoriented. In a moment of weakness and hunger, she might ask an attendant for breakfast.
“What day is it now?” she whispered.
“It’s Friday.”
She looked puzzled. “It’s Friday morning,” I repeated. “It’s the beginning of your eighth day without food.”
It seemed to take her a few minutes to understand, or was she finally feeling the full impact of her intent? “Oh, the waiting takes such a long time . . . I can live a long time without fat on my body . . .” she finally whispered.
I took a deep breath. “How much longer do you think it will take till you’re dead?”
“I don’t know. I try not to think about it. If I say four more days I might be wrong and still find myself here talking to you!”
Shirley rarely hired strangers for the night vigil, but several different women “babysat” during daytime hours when she or I couldn’t be there. The note forbidding any food or drinks remained posted on the refrigerator. Since Ruth slept most of the time, I don’t think any of the attendants actually realized she was starving herself to death.
On Friday night my boyfriend, Paul, came over. Ruth’s emaciated form didn’t faze him. Ruth was pleased to see him, and motioned for him to put his ear by her lips.
“Aren’t you a chiropractor?” she whispered.
“Yes,” he replied, unsuspecting.
“Well, then,” she responded with a naughty look, “isn’t there something you can do to my neck to hurry things along?”
“I can’t do that!”
“Sure you can! I won’t tell!”
“That’s easy for you to say! You’ll be free and happy. I’ll be in jail!”
Days Ten and Eleven
I always knew Ruth had the option of changing her mind. Yet I was shocked when she confided on the tenth morning, “Shirley and I talked about my fast again yesterday. Tomorrow I’m going to make a decision.” Then she added wearily, “I’ve come this far. Maybe I can see it through . . .”
Part of me resented that I might be going through this whole ordeal for nothing. Not that I wanted her to die, but if she began eating, and then changed her mind about living a month from now, I knew that Shirley and I would have a hard time finding the patience to help her again.
When I returned the next day, the look on Shirley’s face startled me. She informed me that the night nurse had never told the daytime attendant that Ruth didn’t want any phone calls. Two out-of-state relatives had called, and had begged Ruth to “eat a little something—sip some tea and try to hang on till Christmas so we can see you.”
Shirley was furious. She had consulted Ruth’s lawyer, who said that as long as Ruth was of sound mind she had the right to stop eating. “These relatives haven’t visited her in years!” she fumed. “I told them that if they talk Ruth into eating, we’ll put her in a rest home and they can just come and get her and take care of her themselves!”
Following the call, Ruth had drunk half a cup of chamomile tea. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise. That night, her urine smelled of strong chamomile tea, and she expelled foul-smelling gas into the toilet. When I thought she was finished, I half-carried her back to bed. As we sat talking, I could hear her insides rumble. That should have warned me to grab a diaper.
Suddenly she whispered, “I think I have to go!” I pulled back the covers and frantically grabbed bunches of paper towels to clean her. Then I opened every door and window to air out the house. As I washed her and changed the bedding, I thought, “If Ruth keeps on living, someone else will have to do this job on a regular basis.”
Just as I was about to put another diaper on her, it started again. I grabbed more towels and buried everything, sheets and all, in a double garbage bag. Cleaning her up the second time, I felt more convinced than ever that Shirley and I should encourage her to see this through to the end.
Day Twelve
Ruth’s mind is definitely still intact. On the twelfth day she whispers, “Have you heard about the commotion my fast caused on Sunday?”
“Yes, I did!”
“Well, everything is all right now. At first my niece didn’t understand, but now there’s peace in the family.”
That answered my next question. Ruth had taken in nothing but half a cup of chamomile tea in twelve days. Her withered face was serene as she whispered, “I’m so glad everyone understands.”
There was a full moon that night. We held hands for a long time. Again, there was that feeling of letting go—a long unspoken goodbye. Late that night, with the full moon shining on her shrunken face, she whispered clearly, “I feel the change is coming.”
About midnight she asked, “What day is it now?”
“It’s Tuesday . . . it’s been twelve days.”
“That’s a long time. I think it’s coming soon.”
I prayed that she would die this night.
Day Thirteen
I was feeling utterly naïve. I told myself to stop anticipating that Ruth was going to die soon. This morning both her regular doctor and her osteopath were coming to see her. They had both known Ruth for years, and Shirley and I had great hope that they could give us some idea as to how much longer she would live.
“How’d you sleep, Ruth?” I asked.
“I sleep the sleep of the dead.” She laughed at her own joke, and appeared incredibly alert.
The osteopath, a tall, solemn-looking fellow, arrived first. I assumed that Shirley had informed him of Ruth’s condition. After the long days of silence, his loud voice seemed to echo in the room. Maybe he thought she was hard of hearing.
“How’s your appetite, Ruth?”
You stupid fool, I thought. He’s probably asked that same question for the last ten years.
I took him aside. “Hasn’t Shirley told you that Ruth hasn’t eaten for two weeks?”
He shrugged and automatically continued his exam. He listened to her heart, took her blood pressure, and pronounced that everything was normal. I felt relieved when he finally took her hand and sat briefly by her bedside.
The doctor’s presence felt somewhat like the long-awaited arrival of the midwife at a home birth. “How much longer do you think Ruth will last?” I asked.
“It’s impossible to say. All her vital signs are normal. It could be tonight or it could be a long time still.”
The MD arrived just as the DO was leaving. He was well acquainted with Ruth’s philosophy and, in prior discussions concerning death, had agreed never to do anything to prolong her life against her wishes. His main concern was that she be kept comfortable. “I won’t order any life-saving measures,” he assured me. “Ruth and I discussed this a long time ago. If you have any problems with friends or relatives, have them speak to me. Our aim is to keep her comfortable. Give her chipped ice or water if she wants it.”
He, too, checked her vital signs and confirmed that there was nothing unusual.
“Do you want water?” he asked her.
“Do you feel hungry?”
“Are you comfortable?”
“Yes. Very comfortable.”
Shirley was in the kitchen baking Christmas cookies. It didn’t seem quite right to be baking goodies with someone starving to death in the next room! I worried that the sweet, spicy aromas would arouse Ruth’s appetite.
A neighbor knocked on the door and asked if she could visit. She’d heard that Ruth was ill and might be dying. I went into the bedroom and asked Ruth if Mrs. Perry could come in.
She motioned for me to wipe her lips, which are now completely shrunken inside her mouth. “Tell her she can come in.”
Like the doctor, this neighbor assumed that Ruth was hard of hearing. As soon as she shouted, “I came to say goodbye,” I regretted allowing her to invade Ruth’s sanctuary. But Ruth whispered back, with all the spunk she could muster, “I may be here a long time yet!”
The neighbor burst into sobs. “You’ve known happier times, haven’t you?”
Mortified, I pulled her aside and told her not to say things like that. No wonder Ruth didn’t want visitors! I escorted Mrs. Perry back into the kitchen and left it up to Shirley to get rid of her.
Closing my eyes, I waited for the room to feel peaceful again. “Ruth, I think we’d better post a sign over your bed that says I CAN HEAR YOU PERFECTLY. I AM NOT DEAF.”
“They mean well.”
Day Fourteen
Like a midwife checking on a laboring mother long overdue, I peeked in on Ruth briefly the evening of the fourteenth day. She lay so still, and the spark of life in her dehydrated body seemed so faint that I placed my face close to hers to be sure she was still breathing. She was deep asleep, and I left the room without disturbing her.
A new attendant was watching TV. “How has Ruth been today?” I asked.
“Oh, she just sleeps all the time. She never wants to eat.”
None of the attendants seemed to notice how close to death Ruth was.
When I returned later that night, Ruth was still sleeping. I really believed that tonight she would die. The house was deathly still, and for the first time I started to get the creeps. Shirley had decorated a Christmas tree, but even the blinking lights failed to dispel my sense of foreboding.
When it was close to midnight, Ruth woke briefly. I reassured her that I was spending the night. She clutched my hand and then sank back into her deathlike state. But sleep eluded me. I could hear Ruth fidgeting.
At around 2 a.m., she struggled to get out of bed to use the potty chair. I lifted her skeleton into an upright position. She moved so slowly, I feared she would collapse. She slumped over on the potty, but insisted on waiting there until a bit of urine finally dribbled out. I couldn’t comprehend how her kidneys continued to function.
Now I was really getting the creeps. Ruth’s eyes were glassy and unfocused. Her body continued to endure, but her spirit seemed to be ebbing in and out. It was 3 a.m. before I got her bones settled back under the sheets. Finally I, too, lost consciousness.
Day Fifteen
Christmas was only six days away. We had all grown weary of waiting for Ruth to die—especially Ruth herself. Her body was unusually restless this night, and I wished we’d rented a hospital bed with rails. Instead, we barricaded her into the bed with six chairs.
Again at midnight, she began to fidget as if her spirit were fighting to fly out of her body. I checked on her frequently. Fear gripped me. Why couldn’t her flesh release her spirit? Why couldn’t she relax and let go?
The house felt cold and eerie, and was filled with a foul, musty odor. We had invited death, but my instinct was to let life flow into the house. I opened all the windows and let the fresh air in. Ruth didn’t care how cold it was. I buried my own body deeper under the blankets.
At almost the exact moment as the previous night, I heard her struggling to get out of bed. The sight of her skin dangling off her bones was unnerving. She no longer had the strength to sit upright, and doubled over on the potty chair.
As I helped her to lie down, I prayed over and over, “Release this woman from her body.” But Ruth’s body continued its inherent task of surviving. Even her hair and nails were continuing to grow. Her heart continued its ceaseless repetitions—the senseless task of pumping life force through her dying body. I felt that the time had come to give Ruth a merciful injection, but had no idea what that would be or how to get it.
I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just die in her sleep. Was there something worrying her, something unsaid? Several times I asked her, “Is there anything else you want to tell me?” She always shook her head, murmuring, “No. No. No.” She seemed as perplexed to find herself still living as I was.
Day Sixteen
It had now been sixteen days. On this night I was so exhausted that I napped at home before going over for the night shift. Shirley had called earlier to say she had to leave by 9:00 p.m. When I woke up it was already past 9:00, and by the time Paul drove me over I was half an hour late and still half asleep.
As I walked in the door, I tried to assure myself that Ruth was asleep as usual and probably hadn’t even noticed that no one had been at home with her. When I entered her room, her bed was empty. My mind went blank. In panic, I quickly searched the bathroom. Had my worst fears of someone “rescuing” Ruth and rushing her to the emergency room come true? As I yelled for Paul, I saw that Ruth had fallen off the far side of her bed and was hanging face down, half-on-half-off the floor. She was tangled up in her bedding and it looked as if she had bumped her forehead on the nightstand.
Shaken, we maneuvered her back onto the mattress. Paul checked her pulse. Ruth was still in this world. I placed a cold compress on her head while Paul rearranged the covers. We had no way of knowing whether she’d fallen just after Shirley left or soon before we’d arrived. She could have been hanging off the bed like that for more than half an hour!
Ruth began to fidget in a state of frustrated agitation. She coughed and spat, then motioned frantically for a Kleenex. She spat up globs of mucous several times, being very careful to spit only in the Kleenex and not make any mess. I didn’t know if she was coughing and spitting because she had been lying face down or if this was the death rattle I had heard about. Then she wet her diaper. I thought, If she’s dying, why change it? Why disturb her? But, being uncertain, I asked her to lift her bottom while I arrange a new diaper underneath. She seemed to understand everything. I hoped she wasn’t angry that no one was here when she fell out of bed.
She remained restless. I felt how sick and tired she was of still being alive, and cursed myself for not getting rails as we made another barricade of chairs around her bed. We had to keep moving her back to the center of the bed. Later on I realized that we were witnessing the final moments of her spirit wrestling with her body for release.
Then Paul took charge. Like a labor coach, he held her hand. “Let go,” he whispered. “Let go.”
Ruth pursed her lips and motioned for the Vaseline. I asked if she wanted me to clean her mouth with a wet cloth. She shook her head vigorously. Absolutely not. For the last time, I wiped her lips. I had done all I could. Once more I said goodbye, and then left her alone with Paul. I could hear him softly talking: “Be at peace, Ruth. You’re going somewhere
beautiful . . .”
Later he told me that she had stared intently at him for a long time. She had squeezed his hand as much as she had strength to and then turned her head away. He’d had the strong impression that she wanted him to leave, that she wanted to die alone.
Winter Solstice Liberation: The Last Asana, Mahasamadhi*
When I woke up it was Sunday at 4 a.m., the morning of the Winter Solstice. Ruth must be dead, I thought. But then I had thought that so many times before. I examined her closely in the dim light of her night light. Still unsure, I woke up Paul. He turned on the overhead light. Ruth’s head was perfectly centered on the pillow. Already she was turning yellow. Paul checked her pulse. He closed her eyes and covered her face with the sheet. Ruth was gone. This time she was really dead.
I called Shirley. Upon hearing the news, she told me that Ruth had been unusually alert and talkative the previous afternoon, and that they’d had a wonderful, warm final visit.
Ruth’s doctor arrived to sign the death certificate. [When did Paul leave?] An ambulance arrived to take the body to be cremated. Ruth hadn’t wanted a funeral.
I walked up Signal Street in time to see the sun rising above the snowcapped Topa Topas. It was an incredible relief to be alive and out in the open air.
Now, years later, I think about everything that I experienced in helping Ruth to leave her body while awake, aware, and alert. I close my eyes and clearly see Ruth’s image. I can still see her striding vigorously up North Signal Street with her long, strong, independent legs, a smile on her face. Looking back, I see that spiritually I was just a child. I didn’t fully grasp the great gift Ruth was giving me by asking me to be her guardian through her last days on Earth.
* * *
I don’t know if I believe this, but I’m open to the possibility. [This shouldn’t be in italics, but I can’t get it out.]
Mahasamadhi (the great and final Samadhi) is the act of consciously and intentionally leaving one’s body at the time of death. [1][2] A realized yogi (male) or yogini (female) who has attained the state of Nirvikalpa Samadhi (enlightenment) will, at an appropriate time, consciously exit from the body and cease to live. This is known as Mahasamadhi. Each one prepares for and enters Mahasamadhi in a unique fashion.
* * *
Adapted from Suza’s forthcoming memoir, Ojai Stories. A version of this story appears in the book,Sixty Seconds: One Moment Changes Everything, a collection of stories by Phil Bolsta. Foreword by Caroline Myss. Atria Books, 2008.

In honor of B.K.S. Iyengar–Yoga photos from 1976

August 26, 2014
Updated 2 seconds ago · Taken at Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute (RIMYI)

Obituary B.K.S. Iyengar, December 14, 1918–August 19, 20141451438_557937824334001_1218713336513292048_n

10606042_557938071000643_8301832556128267614_nFrancinaThese photographs were given to me by a friend, Francis McCann, who came to Ojai many years ago to attend the annual talks by the renowned philosopher and spiritual teacher Jiddu Krishnamurti. Krishnamurti was also one of Iyengar’s early students. Shortly after my friend passed away, I received a message saying that she wanted me to have these photographs.

10639684_557938164333967_9205590222223664134_nFrancina2Photo4Over the years I’ve discovered many interesting connections between Iyengar, Krishnamurti, and Ojai, where I’ve lived since 1957. Vanda Scaravelli’s daughter attended Happy Valley School, the Ojai 994476_10152707603254703_3010795279446099754_n327587_10150522163364703_1781816245_oschool that Krishnamurti founded with Aldous Huxley and others. The Krishnamurti Talks were held in the Oak Grove adjacent to the school. Many of Iyengar’s early students–Ramanand Patel, Larry Hattlet, and others–attended the K Talks in Ojai, and they would sometimes spontaneously come to my Ojai Yoga Center and teach my classes. (Hundreds of people sat on the ground during these outdoor K talks, and I could 10620594_557938251000625_4796661570750476985_noften guess who the yoga teachers were by how straight they sat!)

I have an original edition of Light on Yoga, signed by B.K.S. Iyengar in Gstaad, Switzerland, dated “20 August 1966,” that I “borrowed” while attending the Krishnamurti Talks in Saanen, Switzerland in the summer of 1968. Iyengar was teaching in Saanen and Gstaad during the month-long series of Krishnamurti talks, attended by more than a thousand people from all over the world.

10626598_10152707616174703_4103257516029297398_n(1)During that summer in Saanen, I heard Iyengar’s students talking about yoga, but I was a 19-year-old single mom with a nursing baby, and going to yoga classes was out of my reach. I studied the photographs in the back of that stolen copy of Light on Yoga for many years. Only later did it dawn on me that I, too, was destined to become a yoga teacher . . .

Photo7RIMYI (Ramamani Iyengar Memorial Yoga Institute), Pune, 10308717_10152708917004703_4409452416345866967_nIndiaPhoto1

Several of my  teachers at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco are in this photograph, including Judith Hanson Lasater, Melinda Perlee, and Toni Montez.

Several of my teachers at the Iyengar Yoga Institute in San Francisco are in this photograph, including Judith Hanson Lasater, Melinda Perlee, and Toni Montez.


Savasana–the Death Pose

August 20, 2014

August 8, 2014

If someone asked me about the defining moment of my training to be a yoga teacher, I would probably say it was those moments spent observing people during the dying process—both at home and in various end-of-life care settings.

So far this morning, my yoga practice has mainly been to lie still in Savasana, the Corpse Pose. “Shava” or “Sava” means corpse. In the book Hatha Yoga: The Hidden Language, author Swami Sivananda Radha cut to the chase and called Savasana the death pose. She said that, if we don’t want to be a living corpse, then the purpose of life has to be established: “If you want to be an active participant in your life and not a parasite, then the dynamic interdependence between life and death has to be recognized, and the two have to meet in directed and concentrated interaction.”


I don’t usually do Savasana first thing in the morning, but I woke up feeling tired and out of sorts. My usual quick cure for feeling overwhelmed is to hang upside down in my wall ropes, lie back over my extra-high backbender, or relax on a bolster in the Goddess Pose (Supported Bound Angle Pose). Or take a walk with my dogs. Or go back to bed! But this morning the peace and quiet of Savasana called me. I did just enough Downward Facing Dog Pose, gentle twists, and leg stretches to get the kinks out of my body so that I could lie still without fidgeting.

In Savasana, the body lies perfectly aligned on the floor, face-up and completely relaxed. The mind is alert and aware, observing the river of the breath and consciously feeling the bones—the skeletal frame of the body—lying heavy on the floor and the muscles letting go. The eyes are closed, sinking in their sockets; the gaze is inward; the tongue and jaw are loose; the arms rest at the sides of the body, palms up; the extended legs lie slightly apart. The body remains as motionless as a corpse.

Savasana gives us the experience of symbolic death—death to everything we identify with—and allows us to satisfy, while still alive, the deep need to be reborn fresh and new.

In the deeper levels of Savasana, we feel the body as a shell—the temple of the spirit, or whatever words resonate to that effect—as we experience the pleasant feeling of letting go. As the mind follows the peaceful flow of the breath, its usual busy activity slowly subsides. The senses gradually withdraw and become still. Our earthly concerns are, at least for the moment, put to rest.

As B.K.S. Iyengar states, “The best sign of a good Savasana is a feeling of deep peace and pure bliss. Savasana is a watchful surrendering of the ego. Forgetting oneself, one discovers oneself.”

To this I humbly add: Another sign of a good Savasana is that one feels one’s sense of humor returning.

And that is why I practiced Savasana so early this morning. 8170003

* * *
A note about the photo:
A bolster or folded cotton blanket under the legs, a ten-pound sandbag (or other weight) across the pelvis, and an eye pillow to quiet the movement of the eyes help the body to relax.

Photo Credit: Ruth Miller

This photo is from my book, Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause. The model is my longtime student, Catherine Meek.
— in Ojai, CA

Unrelenting message from the Universe: You have the right to write

July 27, 2014
“There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one’s means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for people who despise money. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off . . . You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh . . . ” 

—Of Human Bondage

Snippets from my writing yoga journal, January, 2013 to August 9, 2014


August 9, 2014, Full Moon
Just for a moment, as I drove around the bend and caught my first glimpse of the fullness of the white moon, I felt that familiar, involuntary pang of loneliness in my solar plexus. I’ve come to realize that as much as one may revel in solitude, there will always be these moments when one longs for romantic companionship. But now is the time to explore the whole psychological and spiritual state of being alone—unexplored territory that I ran from in my younger years. It’s time for me to give being alone a chance.

* * *
August 3, 2014
Sunday, a day of rest. Walked the dogs this morning in the warm, drizzly rain. Now feeling lazy; just want to read, eat, sleep, dream, escape . . . Feeling the pleasure, this evening, of letting the world shrink . . . of cocooning with the canines in our cozy den. This pleasant feeling of hibernating must be how my old parents feel every day.

No sooner had I written the above words than I heard the creaky back gate unlatch.There stood an old friend who lives around the corner, in summer shorts and sandals, peering in the window through his glasses and asking, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

Of course I do! My inner sloth just needed a little nudge. The sleeping dogs were already jumping up and down, yapping and raring to go, their earlier walk long forgotten.

We walked at top speed up North Canada, toward the basin, with spectacular views of the purple sunset sky and gold-pink light reflected on the mountains.

On Sunday evenings here in Ojai, the residential streets close to the downtown core are virtually car-free. We can enjoy the urban forest–our majestic old oaks, growing dark at twilight, with their branches spreading outward, the pine and eucalyptus trees, reaching for the sky, and the pepper trees carrying the warm scent of summer. We can delight in the park-like, friendly village atmosphere, and count our blessings.
* * *

July 26, 2014
I woke up in time to catch the first glimmer of dawn and hear the pure song of the neighborhood birds heralding the new day. Every morning the blessed coolness that descends on this valley during the night belies the heat to come.It’s the perfect temperature to practice yoga outdoors. Since moving to this new house a few months ago, I’ve started a ritual where I lie on my back on the large, unusual, eight-by-four-foot, three-inch-thick cement table that someone built on the patio behind this 1948 house.One wonders what this slab of concrete was originally used for . . . one friend wants to turn it into a ping pong table! There’s a brick barbeque pit nearby. This table easily seats ten people, with ample space in the center for food, flowers, drinks, and baskets of fruit—or a roasted pig.

I’m sure that whoever built it never imagined that, some day in the future, some vegan woman would unfurl her purple yoga mat in the center of this cement slab and lie on her back, grasp her big toe, and move her leg in all directions while looking up at the brightening morning sky.

It took me a while to trust that this table wouldn’t break—at first I stored unpacked boxes of books and papers underneath, just in case it crashed. Now the space in between the two brick pillars that hold up the heavy slab serves as a cool cave for Honey, my loyal Aussie.

The table itself makes a fabulous yoga prop—holding on to the edge of the table when lying on the back and opening ones leg out to the side, helps anchor the whole body and keep the pelvis level . . . it’s the perfect height for support in the Standing Poses . . . and there’s ample space on top of the table for all the Seated Poses . . . I even practice the Goddess Pose–Supported Lying Down Bound Angle Pose (Supta Baddha Konasana) on the table at night, looking up at the starry sky . . .

Ojai being the small town it is, after I moved here I found out that the elderly lady who originally owned the house went to my dad’s church. In fact, they were close friends—she knew my whole family, and I met her when I was a young girl going to Sunday School . . .

* * *
July 14, 2014
My writer self can’t bear the unfinished business of my Life. The outraged child, the unfazed, undaunted woman is bursting to come forth. I must write the things I can never say to my father as the hours of his life wind down. His dark brown skeletal figure lies sprawled on the bed—he grow weaker and sleeps more and more—but as I putter in my childhood kitchen, fixing my mom a grilled cheese that we end up feeding to the dogs, I feel all the old fears. As so many other memoir writers reveal as they lay their soul bare, we can never get our parent’s approval . . . but the child within hungers for it and when my father suddenly rises from his almost death bed (one never knows) and tells me I still don’t know which pan and which burner to use (and asks me if I washed my hands—I’m the dirty daughter with the dogs) it cuts me even as I laugh at the ludicrousness and unfairness of it all.

I think what burns me up the most about my own father is his lifelong insistence that “I treat all my daughters equally,” when nothing could be further from the truth!

It’s all so ironic!
* * *
* * *
Facebook is the new Akashic Record
June 14, 2014
Woke up at 4 a.m. —stepped outside into the cool night air to sit under the still full moon. The urge to write is stronger than my need for sleep–to have even a three-hour block of time to write has been a luxury these past few months with teaching six group yoga classes a week plus private lessons, a house-sitting gig, helping a friend with his new four-legged . . . trying to sell my car, doing bare minimum book promotion, and on and on . . .

Now it’s 5:30 a.m., the sky grows light . . . a little while ago, while it was still dark, I heard the first bird herald the dawn . . . the most beautiful, pure sound . . . until just now it sounded like a solo song . . . so loud and strong. . . except for the occasional roar of an early morning car, all is quiet here on this friendly little side street in downtown Ojai . . .
* * *

May 29, 2014
Unrelenting message from the Universe: You have the right to write.
A long time ago when I lived out in the boonies on Thacher Road and pecked away on a manual typewriter to write my first newspaper columns, in between raising my three-year-old son, doing daycare for a handful of kids barely out of diapers, plus working as a night janitor cleaning offices, and doing other housecleaning gigs, an older neighbor woman, hearing of my aspirations to write, gave me the sage advice to “Write about what you know.”

At the time she told me this, I thought “Write about what you know” meant that I should write about what I knew about cooking with tofu instead of turkey, growing squash and tomatos with mulch and no pesticides, raising kids naturally without sugar or meds, and all the other stuff I was into as a young, idealistic, hippy mom.

Only in recent years have I come to realize that “Write about what you know” also means all the other life stuff that I mainly relegated to the pages of my journal . . .

* * *
May 23, 2014
Scan_Pic0018Being a Gemini (May 24), I changed my mind a dozen times picking out the birthday photo that most reflects the inner me. It’s not the baby pictures, the public persona/political campaign/author head shots, nor the hundreds of yoga photos . . . it’s this one. The writer self, sitting on the floor in Upavistha Konasana, Seated Wide Angle Pose, proofreading.

This photo was taken during a happy moment where I felt confident about the direction of my life—a nice change from the many moments when I wonder how much longer I can keep the wolf at bay. I had just landed another yoga book contract, and felt like I was swimming in money—which reality quickly snatched out of my hands. Truth be told, not a day goes by that I don’t question the sanity of juggling two careers with sporadic spurts of income: writing and teaching yoga. Even now, at age 65, I think about dropping one of them. But, for my dual Gemini nature, that would be like asking me to choose between my two children.

* * *
May 4, 2014
I finally finished reading Of Human Bondage. I confess that as I arrived at page 605 I could not hold back the tears of relief, and I wanted to kiss the author’s feet when I realized that after all the misery there was going to be a satisfying happy ending.

There were so many parts I connected with: the heavy religious indoctrination, the realization of the absolute futility of life, the obsessive love affair, his awakening to the beauty of nature, his awareness of the great gift of being amused at one’s own absurdity, and his constant struggles with poverty.

“There is nothing so degrading as the constant anxiety about one’s means of livelihood. I have nothing but contempt for people who despise money. Money is like a sixth sense without which you cannot make a complete use of the other five. Without adequate income half the possibilities of life are shut off . . . You will hear people say that poverty is the best spur to the artist. They have never felt the iron of it in their flesh . . . “
* * *
Wednesday, April 16, 2014
1 a.m.
The hour is late, but the cool night air, the stillness that descends on the valley, is irresistible. The cricket that lives in the cement wall outside my window is wide awake, chirping its heart out. A few hours ago I jumped off the treadmill and started reading “Of Human Bondage” by W. Somerset Maugham. My education on Planet Earth wouldn’t be complete without my absorbing this autobiographical masterpiece. I’m in the habit of writing on a book’s opening page the date that I start to read it, and this one says “December, 1990.” Evidently it was too much for me back then, but now I’m ready.
* * *
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
The overcast sky, with layers of light-blue fog hanging over the mountains, adds to the mystique of the intensely green valley below. As I drink in the panoramic view of meadows and still-open spaces, the orange groves and the oak, pepper, pine, and eucalyptus trees—our dense urban forest, the lungs of the earth—my imagination can easily take flight and transport me to Shangri-La. From the top of North Signal, one sees only a scattering of lights . . . most of the inhabitants are hidden under a canopy of trees.

* * *
Monday, March 24, 2014
All is quiet here in the tiny cabin at the top of North Signal Street. Chico wrapped up in a yoga blanket, Priscilla cozy on the small bed, Honey stretched out on the floor so that I have to be careful not to step on her. A cold, dark, foggy night—not a star in sight . . .
* * *
Sunday, March 2, 2014
Still no internet–but after days of feeling lost at sea, I totally see the irony and humor of the situation!
* * *
February 28, 2014
Still no internet. Am on friend’s computer for half hour about once or twice a day. Please leave time sensitive messages on my cell: 805-603-8635.
* * *
February 27, 2014
It finally rained and rained —real rain drops, all night long. Everywhere I look, I can feel the earth’s delight! Walked the dogs to my favorite yoga-in-nature spot at the top of the basin, near Pratt trail, where you can drink in the beauty of the ever-changing clouds moving above the mountains . . . already the early morning sun shone with intensity but you can see signs of more rain headed our way.

Still no internet–trying to keep my perspective and sense of humor as the property owner works on running a 170 foot long DSL line in this Wi-Fi Free Zone. Every era has it’s health hazards (predator animals, war, plague, starvation, forced labor, etc.) and, while I’m all for minimizing ones exposure to modern era wireless frequencies, I’m at the point where I feel like throwing in the towel and seeing all the things that could do me in long before all these unknown exposures take their toll . . . but, for now, I’m stuck. My friend who owns the property doesn’t see it that way, and I must respect that.
* * *
February 11, 2014
If I don’t start writing about this latest move to my new hippie writing pad on the hill, I might lose it. Last few days had several near meltdowns where I buried my head on the steering wheel and felt like crying and giving up. But then I looked up into the always optimistic, eager-for-the-next- adventure faces of Honey and Chico, and, you know what, I just gotta keep it together, somehow.

Plus, there’s my wonderful, loyal, loving, appreciative yoga students to consider. When I walk into Sacred Space Studio they catapult me into the present moment and the 90-minute class goes by in the twinkling of an eye. As I remind them to anchor the soles of their feet to the earth, and to “stand on your own two feet,” I do the same. I feel strength and steadiness return.

I don’t ask much of Life but where I draw the line is that I refuse to get rid of my animals. The biggest stress of this entire move has been leaving my three cats behind in the river bottom, in the care of my daughter. Two of the cats immediately adjusted–Ginger, the oldest one, is happy to sleep all day on the special cat cold-weather heating pad that one of my students gave me last year. Leo the Lion likes hanging out with the other cats on this property. But Priscilla did not adjust to being left behind. She taught me the best lesson of this entire moving saga, which I’ll describe on my next break, later today.
(To be continued)
NOTE: Posted the rest of the story about Priscilla under a new poste.
* * *
January 9, 2014
Time to let go of the never ending earthly concerns and rest my weary mortal body on the yoga mat.
* * *
December 31, 2013
New Year’s Resolution
Memo to self (again!):
Make a writing schedule and stick to it!
Let the unexpected, spontaneous windows of writing time be a bonus in addition to your regular schedule!
December 11, 2013
Memo to self (again!):
Make a writing schedule and stick to it!
* * *
November 16, 2013
5:30 a.m. Stepped outside to see the full moon that shone overhead earlier, but she seems to have disappeared. And it’s still too dark to try to find her. Hoping the black sky and cold wind means it will rain.
* * *
November 6, 2013
Time to put my writing hat back on! All the other hats can wait . . .
* * *
October 17, 2013
The full moon rises–no matter what, she stays on track. She’s my lifeline as my own boat drifts at a low ebb, lost at sea here in the Valley of the Moon . . .
* * *
September 1, 2013
I have only four months left to get the first draft of my next Writing Yoga Memoir done. If I could lock myself up in my writing hut and do nothing but write, and if someone delivered fresh vegan meals to my doorstep and a mysterious benefactor channelled a river of funds into my bank account—if all I had to do was walk my dogs at sunrise and sunset—that would give me ample time. For nothing has gone as planned. Real life hits me in the face the moment I wake up. I’m always scrambling to be somewhere on time and running out of cat food and clean towels. So I tell myself that these thousand excuses for why this book almost didn’t get written will only make the story more exciting. Imagine what a disappointment Cheryl Strayed’s memoir WILD would have been if her solo hike on the Pacific Crest Trail had been just a fun walk in the park!
* * *
August 9, 2013
The wheel of life keeps turning. There’s nothing I can do to stop it, but I’d like to jump off, disappear, take a nature writing break, and then jump back on . . . without dying.

I don’t feel right unless I write. How many more days will it take before I fully admit this?
* * *
July 18, 2013
As life gets more expensive, it gets harder and harder to find time to write. Old cats cost more than young ones. Houses with yards for dogs cost more . . . everything costs more. But once I find a free morning, the writing gets easier and easier. . .
* * *
July 4, 2013
Writing is the road to independence–a long, strange, and bumpy road. I see myself still going ’round in circles and taking side trips. I’m tired. I want to lie down by the side of the road and rest. But then I pick myself up to clear away all the obstacles, all the road blocks — and set my writing spirit free!
* * *
May 14, 2013
Ten days till my 64th birthday. All I want for my birthday are free days to finish the first draft of my second Writing Yoga Memoir. So right now I’m setting the intention that May 20th is my last teaching day, and May 21, 22, 23, 24 (the full moon), 25 and 26 are all mine. . . .
* * *
January, 2013: The Year of Writing Yoga Memoir

On this cold tenth day of January, 2013, I am setting my intention to make this the year of Writing Yoga Memoirs.

I woke up at 3 a.m. and started writing about how sweet my life is now, and how in January, 1967, I was living in the Haight Ashbury. It was the winter before the Summer of Love, I was totally naive, and I had my whole life ahead of me. I had no idea there would be only four short seasons with only myself to take care of. I could not foresee the lessons Life had in store for me.

It’s a curious thing to sit very still, to meditate and watch how the mind works. The brain and all the cells of the body are like a computer that stores everything. You can try to delete and let it all go, but you cannot will yourself to have a clean slate, as it was on the day you were born. (Some people speculate it is not a clean slate even at birth.) Our memories travel with us until the physical body dissolves — and possibly beyond.

At 7 a.m. it is barely light out here in the river bottom. The sky is foggy white. The tall pine trees outside my window look black. It is a stark, cold winter landscape.

I don’t feel right unless I write. How many more years will it take before I fully admit this? The more I try to focus on work that pays and push aside the urge to write, the more the muse pesters me and pulls me by the hair out of bed. If I don’t grab an hour during the day, I lie awake at 2 a.m. and wonder if I should risk the lack of sleep to write. If I try to deny it and bury myself under the covers, sleep eludes me. I have no choice. I must surrender to my fate.

My favorite Writing Yoga Pose: Seated Wide Angle Pose (Upavistha Konasana).Scan_Pic0018

Photo Credit: Sholom Joshua


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