A snippet from the years with Dr. Holistic Health

July 27, 2014
July 16, 2014
On my second date with Dr. Holistic Health (we’ll call him Ben), I galloped right past every red flag—for the first date had seemed to solidify everything I wanted to see. The first time he came to visit me in my little cabin in Ojai, he brought along his son, Alex, and daughter, Erica, ages ten and eight, which only further endeared him to me. Not only was this alternative doctor rich, successful, and movie-star-handsome, he was a loving, caring dad!
                      They arrived in a white convertible, windblown and laughing, on a warm Saturday afternoon. The kids hopped out and, after some brief introductions while looking dad’s potential new girlfriend up and down, wasted no time in running around the yard, checking out the rope swing, and making a hands-on inspection of my tiny two-room hovel. They noticed the sprouts growing in jars on my kitchen counter, the juicer with scrubbed carrots lined up and ready to go (I knew they’d be sold on me if I let them make fresh carrot and apple juice), my futon bed on the floor, and the green metal freestanding fireplace contraption.”How does the smoke get out?” they wanted to know.Strangest of all to their young eyes accustomed to a world of privilege was my clothesline with a row of yoga shorts, tops, and tights pinned with wooden clothes pins (Alex took one apart to see how it worked).Near the clothesline, they spotted a wooden rack on which some towels were drying. “What’s that, Dad?” they asked. After “Dad” laughingly explained that Suza dried her clothes in the sun, they solemnly asked, “You mean she doesn’t have a dryer?”And, most amazing of all, there was no TV. I later found out that on the drive home the kids had been very concerned. After some discussion between themselves, they cautiously told him, “Dad, we don’t know how to tell you this, but Suza is VERY poor . . . ” Ben joked to me that, to his children, in contrast to their three-story spread with a pool and four cars in the garage, visiting Suza in Ojai was like going to a Third World country. At least I did have a flush toilet and running water . . .

On this foggy morning, I thought about all that while I was shoving a table toward a window and setting up another box fan to blow the cool morning air into the house.

I want to be fully present while I’m straightening up the yoga room, washing last night’s dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning up the dog poop . . . But as the days fly by, I have to ask myself, “Where is this all going? Am I just a bag of bones and memories?”

Maybe this is all whirling in my head even more than usual, as I just finished reading Dying to Be Me, in which the author describes her near-death experience when she all at once saw everything that had ever happened to her. So why not while still alive? Everywhere I look, I see my own past—the stages of life that I’ve moved through—and my own potential future.

For all intents and purposes, I’m now in the nun stage of life. The days of dating doctors who sniff “nose candy” and drop Ecstasy in my orange juice are behind me. It’s my turn to step back and observe, and to learn from those who are still on the sex-and-romance merry-go-round. I joke about donning some kind of maroon robe; it would probably be good for my business. According to the yogic tradition, at this age I’m done with my householder child-raising and wifely duties, and I can now disappear into the forest. If there were a monastery that welcomed dogs, where I could earn my keep teaching yoga and peeling potatoes, I’d gladly move in and take a break from worldly responsibilities.

But I wouldn’t take any vows of poverty or chastity. I always like the option of changing my mind.

* * *
Photo by Ruth Miller: Supported Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani), a gentle inversion that teaches us to let go and also how to revive ourselves. This is sublime yoga medicine for the beginning and end of the day. It aids the return of blood from the legs to the heart and the circulation of lymph fluid throughout the body. It helps relieve stress headaches, stabilizes blood pressure, and feels wonderful for the internal organs. Above all, with steady practice it gives us a taste of divine rest.

Photo: On my second date with Dr. Holistic Health (we'll call him Ben), I galloped right past every red flag—for the first date had seemed to solidify everything I wanted to see. The first time he came to visit me in my little cabin in Ojai, he brought along his son, Alex, and daughter, Erica, ages ten and eight, which only further endeared him to me. Not only was this alternative doctor rich, successful, and movie-star-handsome, he was a loving, caring dad! </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>On a warm Saturday afternoon, they arrived windblown and laughing in a white convertible. The kids hopped out and, after some brief introductions while looking dad's potential new girlfriend up and down, wasted no time in running around the yard, checking out the rope swing, and making a hands-on inspection of my tiny two-room hovel. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>They noticed the sprouts growing in jars on my kitchen counter, the juicer with scrubbed carrots lined up and ready to go (I knew they'd be sold on me if I let them make fresh carrot and apple juice), my futon bed on the floor, and the green metal freestanding fireplace contraption. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>"How does the smoke get out?" they wanted to know. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Strangest of all to their young eyes accustomed to a world of privilege was my clothesline with a row of yoga shorts, tops, and tights pinned with wooden clothes pins (Alex took one apart to see how it worked). </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Near the clothesline, they spotted a wooden rack on which some towels were drying. "What's that, Dad?" they asked. After “Dad" laughingly explained that Suza dried her clothes in the sun, they solemnly asked, "You mean she doesn't have a dryer?” </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>And, most amazing of all, there was no TV. I later found out that on the drive home the kids had been very concerned. After some discussion between themselves, they cautiously told him, "Dad, we don't know how to tell you this, but Suza is VERY poor . . . " Ben joked to me that, to his children, in contrast to their three-story spread with a pool and four cars in the garage, visiting Suza in Ojai was like going to a Third World country. At least I did have a flush toilet and running water . . . </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>On this foggy morning, I thought about all that while I was shoving a table toward a window and setting up another box fan to blow the cool morning air into the house. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>I want to be fully present while I’m straightening up the yoga room, washing last night's dishes, taking out the trash, cleaning up the dog poop . . . But as the days fly by, I have to ask myself, "Where is this all going? Am I just a bag of bones and memories?” </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>Maybe this is all whirling in my head even more than usual, as I just finished reading Dying to Be Me, in which the author describes her near-death experience when she all at once saw everything that had ever happened to her. So why not while still alive? Everywhere I look, I see my own past---the stages of life that I've moved through---and my own potential future.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>For all intents and purposes, I'm now in the nun stage of life. The days of dating doctors who sniff "nose candy" and drop Ecstasy in my orange juice are behind me. It's my turn to step back and observe, and to learn from those who are still on the sex-and-romance merry-go-round. I joke about donning some kind of maroon robe; it would probably be good for my business. According to the yogic tradition, at this age I'm done with my householder child-raising and wifely duties, and I can now disappear into the forest. If there were a monastery that welcomed dogs, where I could earn my keep teaching yoga and peeling potatoes, I’d gladly move in and take a break from worldly responsibilities. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>But I wouldn't take any vows of poverty or chastity. I always like the option of changing my mind.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
<p>* * *<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Photo by Ruth Miller: Supported Legs-Up-the-Wall Pose (Viparita Karani), a gentle inversion that teaches us to let go and also how to revive ourselves. This is sublime yoga medicine for the beginning and end of the day. It aids the return of blood from the legs to the heart and the circulation of lymph fluid throughout the  body. It helps relieve stress headaches, stabilizes blood pressure, and feels wonderful for the internal organs. Above all, with steady practice it gives us a taste of divine rest.

“Great Book, Great Teacher!”

July 27, 2014
1003026_10152018956774703_1937030986_n(1)  July 20, 2014
The New Yoga for People Over 50 continues to soar in the top 100 books on Amazon in both  the Aging and Yoga categories —I’m very grateful!
* * *
May 17, 2014
Like all authors, I click my heels when readers post positive 5 stars reviews! A deep bow of gratitude to these 3 readers:Great Book, Great Teacher!
By Diana Lang(Los Angeles, California)
Suza Francina is a long-time teacher in California, one of the first before yoga became trendy. She is the real thing. A wonderful teacher on structural alignment and changing inefficient life patterns in the body, no matter what your age. As a yoga teacher myself, since 1980, I recommend her book to my students all the time. As the old teachings say, 50 is the perfect age to engage in hatha yoga, and Suza’s book is a perfect way to begin.

* * *
Suza Rocks!,
By Heidi Williams (Ojai, California)
Have had this book for years & always find a jewel of knowledge I didn’t know before or had forgotten.
Happy Birthday Suza! & Thank you!

* * *
Renewed my passion for yoga!,
By Kathy
I am 54 years old, have practiced yoga off and on for a few years. I purchased this book because I wanted to make sure I could truly enjoy my golden years. This book has renewed my passion for yoga, so much so I plan on learning yoga and teach at senior centers. There are amazing stories of people in their seventies and eighties who are more flexible than me! I hope to be that eighty year old who can sit in lotus, can’t do it now but how knows. There are lots of modifications for poses to help you work on your flexibility.

* * *
Sunday, March 16, 2014
Full Moon Blessings on my writing yoga life. This is a time for renewal, reconciliation, integration, and moving both physically and psychologically into the next phase of life.

Only two more weeks till I move to my new digs in the heart of downtown Ojai. Looking back, all the twists and turns these last few months are starting to make more sense!

* * *
Update, January 29, 2014
The writing life can be rough so I’m happy to see that my second book, The New Yoga for People Over 50, has landed on my publisher’s bestseller list. http://www.hcibooks.com/c-83-bestsellers.aspx?pagenum=2

* * *
The New Yoga for People Over 50 is available on amazon.com and other sites, as well as bookstores nationally and internationally. It has been translated in many languages, including German and Russian. And I’m proud to say that it’s on the recommended reading list of yoga teacher training programs around the world.

Photo Credit: Jim Jacobs

— in San Francisco, CA.

“This is a terrible book . . . ”

July 27, 2014
July 10, 2014
298812_10150423623539703_535391470_nA few days ago, after teaching a class of students in the age range of 50 to 80, I noticed a new review on amazon for my book, The New Yoga for People Over 50. A woman in New York wrote:”This is a terrible book. It shows people doing things a beginner cannot do and is very discouraging for a “beginner”! Wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. “By now I should be used to negative reviews sprinkled among the positive ones, but I feel the reader’s exasperation. I’d like to invite her to take classes with me in Ojai —or direct her to a slow-paced, prop-friendly class in New York — so she has the opportunity to experience for herself that the poses taught in this “terrible” Over 50 book can safely be practiced by real-life beginners.For some odd reason, no one balks at installing a flat screen TV or hanging large paintings on the wall, and (from my viewpoint) cluttering up valuable floor space with couches, comfy chairs, and coffee tables. But, as we get older, there are serious choices to be made. The time has come where investing in a yoga chair such as the one shown here, yoga bolsters, wall ropes, and even a backbender (which offers beginners more support than a chair) will pay great healthy aging dividends.

Yesterday one of my students in her mid seventies did a “Rope Headstand” for the first time. After she got over the initial surprise of hanging upside down, she could not stop exclaiming, “Oh, this feels so good!” She didn’t want to come down!!

Reversing gravity by safely turning the body upside down and bending backwards in gentle, supported, step-by-step stages to reverse the stiffening of the spine, are essential moves for healthy aging . . . I hope the reviewer in New York finds a wonderful teacher and that she changes her mind about my terrible book!

And now I’m going to bend backwards, forwards, side ways, and turn my life upside down!
* * *
May 10, 2014
About twenty years ago I recall one of my teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater, reminding us to practice three Urdhva Dhanurasanas (Upward Facing Bow Pose) every day (or maybe it was twice a week). At the time, backbends were easy for me and I took them for granted. Even two years ago I could press up from the floor fairly easily.

Somewhere along the way, this past year (2013), my backbend practice grew increasingly sporadic. I gained weight, and the stiffness of sitting at the computer converged with the stiffness of aging.

Last year and at the beginning of this year, when I tried to press up from the floor, my body felt like dead weight. If I had forced lifting up into the pose I risked injuring my shoulders. But this week, after five weeks of not perfect but fairly steady practice, I was thrilled to find myself lifting up into Upward Facing Bow Pose again—and holding the pose for many breaths—over a minute.

This morning, for the first time in a long time, I pressed up from the floor lying back over two stacked bolsters secured with a strap.

In my classes, students in my age range (65) press up by holding onto my ankles with me giving some support as needed, under their shoulders. But I also want them to practice independent of a teacher. And a yoga chair, a backbender, or stack of bolsters, makes this possible.

The way I’m practicing now is with the chair on a firm, non slippery mat, the seat of the chair facing a wall, about a foot away from the wall, depending on your height and flexibility.

I warm up with the chair backbend shown here, and then (still lying back over the chair seat) I place my feet flat on the floor and extend my arms overhead so that my palms are flattened against the wall behind my head, fingertips touching the floor (or palms higher up the wall).

After I anchor my feet, turning the feet and the thighs inward, and after I stretch my arms to the maximum, opening the shoulders and arm pits, I press my feet into the floor, anchoring the four corners of the feet, and, voila, I lift the spine higher and higher off the chair, chest moving toward the wall . . . until my chin touches the wall.

It’s totally rejuvenating. “You are as young as your spine is flexible!”

Yoga teacher Betsy MacKinnon writes: “I love this supported backbend too and it is still totally accessible at 68. Some people need to support the head though. Mr Iyengar says we need more backbends with long holdings at this time of life and from now on.”

Click here for Yoga with a Chair: http://www.amazon.com/Chair-Yoga-complete-Iyengar-practice/dp/1495296857

* * *
February 17, 2014
First yoga practice inside my new hippie writing yoga pad, which is about the same amount of space as a “Tiny House.” With two dogs, a cat and her deluxe cat carrier, to make space for my yoga mat, I have to get Honey off the floor–she gladly jumps on top of the bed. There’s just enough room to practice all the Standing Poses, including Half Moon Pose and Warrior III–the two Standing Poses that take the most space.

While it’s true that you can practice yoga anywhere, anytime, I have to say again that it makes a huge difference motivating me to practice early in the morning now that I again have a bird’s eye view of the pre dawn sky above the majestic mountains, and, a little later, the blazing bright rising sun.

This morning, after the Standing Poses, I folded up my sticky mat to pad the edge of the seat of the chair, as shown here, and enjoyed a long stay in a Supported Backbend, including the variation shown here.

* * *
January 19, 2014
Time to practice on the great yoga chair. This photo, from my book, Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause, was taken about 15 years ago. I’m no longer this slender, but, thankfully, my spine is still flexible and my mind is in a much better place.

https://www.facebook.com/YogaAndTheWisdomOfMenopause

— in Ojai, CA.

Photo: July 10, 2014<br /><br /><br />
A few days ago, after teaching a class of students in the age range of 50 to 80, I noticed a new review on amazon for my book, The New Yoga for People Over 50. A woman in New York wrote:</p><br /><br />
<p>"This is a terrible book. It shows people doing things a beginner cannot do and is very discouraging for a "beginner"! Wouldn't recommend this to anyone. "</p><br /><br />
<p>By now I should be used to negative reviews sprinkled among the positive ones, but I feel the reader's exasperation. I'd like to invite her to take classes with me in Ojai ---or direct her to a slow-paced, prop-friendly class in New York --- so she has the opportunity to experience for herself that the poses taught in this "terrible" Over 50 book can safely be practiced by real-life beginners.</p><br /><br />
<p>For some odd reason, no one balks at installing a flat screen TV or hanging large paintings on the wall, and (from my viewpoint) cluttering up valuable floor space with couches, comfy chairs, and coffee tables. But, as we get older, there are serious choices to be made. The time has come where investing in a yoga chair such as the one shown here, yoga bolsters, wall ropes, and even a backbender (which offers beginners more support than a chair) will pay great healthy aging dividends. </p><br /><br />
<p>Yesterday one of my students in her mid seventies did a "Rope Headstand" for the first time. After she got over the initial surprise of hanging upside down, she could not stop exclaiming, "Oh, this feels so good!" She didn't want to come down!!</p><br /><br />
<p>Reversing gravity by safely turning the body upside down and bending backwards in gentle, supported, step-by-step stages to reverse the stiffening of the spine, are essential moves for healthy aging .  . .  I hope the reviewer in New York finds a wonderful teacher and that she changes her mind about my terrible book!</p><br /><br />
<p>And now I'm going to bend backwards, forwards, side ways, and turn my life upside down!<br /><br /><br />
* * *<br /><br /><br />
May 10, 2014<br /><br /><br />
About twenty years ago I recall one of my teachers, Judith Hanson Lasater, reminding us to practice three Urdhva Dhanurasanas (Upward Facing Bow Pose) every day (or maybe it was twice a week). At the time, backbends were easy for me and I took them for granted. Even two years ago I could press up from the floor fairly easily. </p><br /><br />
<p>Somewhere along the way, this past year (2013), my backbend practice grew increasingly sporadic. I gained weight, and the stiffness of sitting at the computer converged with the stiffness of aging.</p><br /><br />
<p>Last year and at the beginning of this year, when I tried to press up from the floor, my body felt like dead weight. If I had forced lifting up into the pose I risked injuring my shoulders. But this week, after five weeks of not perfect but fairly steady practice, I was thrilled to find myself  lifting up into Upward Facing Bow Pose again---and holding the pose for many breaths---over a minute.</p><br /><br />
<p>This morning, for the first time in a long time, I pressed up from the floor lying back over two stacked bolsters secured with a strap. </p><br /><br />
<p>In my classes, students in my age range (65) press up by holding onto my ankles with me giving some support as needed, under their shoulders. But I also want them to practice independent of a teacher. And a yoga chair, a backbender, or stack of bolsters, makes this  possible. </p><br /><br />
<p> The way I'm practicing now is with the chair on a firm, non slippery mat, the seat of the chair facing a wall, about a foot away from the wall, depending on your height and flexibility. </p><br /><br />
<p> I warm up with the chair backbend shown here, and then (still lying back over the chair seat) I place my feet flat on the floor and extend my arms overhead so that my palms are flattened against the wall behind my head, fingertips touching the floor (or palms higher up the wall).</p><br /><br />
<p>After I anchor my feet, turning the feet and the thighs inward, and after I stretch my arms to the maximum, opening the shoulders and arm pits, I press my feet into the floor, anchoring the four corners of the feet, and, voila, I lift the spine higher and higher off the chair, chest moving toward the wall . . . until my chin touches the wall.</p><br /><br />
<p>It's totally rejuvenating. "You are as young as your spine is flexible!"</p><br /><br />
<p>Yoga teacher Betsy MacKinnon writes: "I love this supported backbend too and it is still totally accessible at 68. Some people need to support the head though. Mr Iyengar says we need more backbends with long holdings at this time of life and from now on."</p><br /><br />
<p>Click here for Yoga with a Chair: http://www.amazon.com/Chair-Yoga-complete-Iyengar-practice/dp/1495296857</p><br /><br />
<p>* * *<br /><br /><br />
February 17, 2014<br /><br /><br />
First yoga practice inside my new hippie writing yoga pad, which is about the same amount of space as a "Tiny House." With two dogs, a cat and her deluxe cat carrier, to make space for my yoga mat, I have to get Honey off the floor--she gladly jumps on top of the bed. There's  just enough room to practice all the Standing Poses, including Half Moon Pose and Warrior III--the two Standing Poses that take the most space. </p><br /><br />
<p>While it's true that you can practice yoga anywhere, anytime, I have to say again that it makes a huge difference motivating me to practice early in the morning now that I again have a bird's eye view of the pre dawn sky above the majestic  mountains, and, a little later, the blazing bright rising sun. </p><br /><br />
<p>This morning, after the Standing Poses, I folded up my sticky mat to pad the edge of the seat of the chair, as shown here, and enjoyed a long stay in a Supported Backbend, including the variation shown here.</p><br /><br />
<p>* * *<br /><br /><br />
January 19, 2014<br /><br /><br />
Time to practice on the great yoga chair. This photo, from my book, Yoga and the Wisdom of Menopause, was taken about 15 years ago. I'm no longer this slender, but, thankfully, my spine is still flexible and my mind is in a much better place.</p><br /><br />
<p>https://www.facebook.com/YogaAndTheWisdomOfMenopause

 

Life by the Cup

July 27, 2014

10333633_10152584502399703_825554252818511256_oJune 28, 2014

An enchanting Ojai evening with  humanitarian entrepreneur, the totally unique, extraordinary Zhena Muzyka —author of Life by the Cup   looking forward to curling up with her memoir . . . review to follow.
Photo Credit: Sage Tate — with Zhena Muzyka.

June 29, 2014
Deep into Zhena‘s memoir. Set in Ojai, I recognize almost every person and place in the book, which make her broke single mother challenge to succeed as an ethical, humanitarian entrepreneur even more riveting . . .

June 30, 2014
I think I just hit the two chapters in Zhena‘s book that I need the most–chapter 13 on keeping one’s perspective when you find yourself in hot water and chapter 14 on self-validation.

Zhena writes: “The thing I’d been living for–my dad’s approval–was never coming. I vowed to stop calling. It was just too painful to keep reaching for something he couldn’t give me. But not calling didn’t help the hurt.”

Can you relate? I sure can!

And then she says: “A local businessman who mentored me told me what I needed to do. ‘Nothing outside of you can make the inside feel better . . . Self-validating people do not look to others for their worth because they know who they are without external confirmation.'”

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!
* * *

May we live like the lotus, at home in muddy water

July 27, 2014
Smallsuza-francina-042007-02bJune 25, 2014
Yesterday, late afternoon, as often happens when the heat in my house feels oppressive and my 65-year-old adrenal glands feel exhausted from the endless bills and unrelenting chores staring me in the face with no hope for a summer break . . . I felt myself becoming very negative, like I was losing my center, like I might as well go back to dumping bed pans and scrubbing floors because then at least I’d have some steady income. But then I looked down at the three happy faces of the four-leggeds and was reminded that a regular job, with an eight-hour shift, would present it’s own set of problems. Taking them to doggy-day-care would eat up half my income! Somehow, I have to stay the yoga-writing course!

So, as I almost always do when I feel myself sinking to the bottom, I lie down on my yoga bolster in the Goddess Pose, with my knees bent and the soles of my feet together, and take a long yoga rest. With my eyes closed, the movement of my eyes quieted by an eye bag, (which helps to quiet the mind) my gaze inward, looking down into the heart center, slowly the cares of the world fade far away. I remind myself that if I died, life would go on. So why not take time to die to the material world and the manifestations we find ourselves caught up in?

When I rest deeply, I remember that when the mind is muddled, no-action is better than wrong-action.

A little later the canines and I went to the park. They are a handful—but their joy and exuberance is contagious. After the park, without thinking where I was going, for no conscious reason all, pointing toward the east-end of Ojai, I turned left on Orange Road, and a thousand memories —things I’ve long-forgotten—-came tumbling down. I lived two different places on Orange Road—the first time in a house in the orchard, married at 18, with a wee infant, making my husband bell-peppers stuffed with brown rice and hamburger, a recipe I found in the New York Times Natural Food Cookbook—even though I was a strict vegetarian. And while I was cooking away the four or five fruitarians living in the orchard (I had met them in town and gave them permission to camp in the orchard) came knocking on the door to use the bathroom . . . They smelled the meat cooking but I distinctly remember how they smiled at me with their dusty, sun-burned faces and said it was very sweet how I was fixing food that I thought my husband would like . . .


In a few minutes the students are coming. But somehow, sometime soon, by end of summer, all these snippets will metamorphose into a story . . .
* * *
Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

“May we live like the lotus, at home in muddy water.”

A day to commune with nature. Practicing yoga in nature, walking in nature, simply being in nature, brings us in touch with our own nature.

Ojai’s most renowned spiritual teacher and philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, was without a doubt a nature mystic, though he most likely would have shrugged off the label. His writings sparkle with descriptions of nature in the Ojai Valley and beyond.

“Let us be respectfully reminded:
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by, and with it our only chance;
each of us must strive to awaken.
Be aware! Do not squander our life.”

Source: http://community.appamada.org/profiles/blogs/robert-aitken-roshi-death-and
* * *
February 14, 2014
The cycle of the full moon reminds me of the passage of time. Now I’ve flown from the river bottom back to a bird’s eye view of the Valley, at the very top of North Signal . . . to be honest, there are moments where I’m unsure if the daily life logistics with the animals will work out . . . and it takes all my will power and a long stay in the Goddess Pose not to sink into despair. . .

This photo of a lotus pond in Bali reminds me that the lotus rises out of the muddy waters of life . . .

* * *
January 17, 2014
Strange dreams these last nights of the full moon. Once again I’m moving out of my earthly abode to destination unknown. All my stuff is going into storage–and soon all that stuff will be whittled down to the bare bone essentials, writings, and photographs.
“All is impermanent, quickly passing.”

“Great is the matter of birth and death,
All is impermanent, quickly passing.
Awake! Awake!
Don’t waste this life.”

* * *
October 7, 2013
This photo, taken by my father in Bali about twenty years ago, is a constant reminder that nothing is as it seems on the surface, that everything changes, and that I must reach higher and see my life, always, from a global, cosmic perspective. That is the great yogic challenge! So on those days when I feel my raft sinking to the bottom, if I can just rest, breathe, and gather my life force, I (we) too can live like the lotus, at home in the muddy river of life.

When I feel discouraged, I remember my time in Bali, and I remind myself of these wise words, attributed to the Buddha:

“May we live like the lotus, at home in muddy water.”

“May we exist like a lotus, at home in the muddy water. ”

Understanding the meaning of this quote can help us along the way to develop and grow from life’s suffering or “muddiness.”

As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled,
so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.
~Buddha

The lotus plant is a prominent image in Eastern philosophies. In yoga we learn to sit in the Lotus Pose (Padmasana).

In North America, the water lily could be compared to the lotus, offering beautiful flowers rooted in swamp waters.

— in Ubud, Indonesia.

Photo: June 25, 2014
Yesterday, late afternoon, as often happens when the heat in my house feels oppressive and my 65-year-old adrenal glands feel exhausted from the endless bills and unrelenting chores staring me in the face with no hope for a summer break . . . I felt myself becoming very negative, like I was losing my center, like I might as well go back to dumping bed pans and scrubbing floors because then at least I'd have some steady income. But then I looked down at the three happy faces of the four-leggeds and was reminded that a regular job, with an eight-hour shift, would present it's own set of problems.  Taking them to doggy-day-care would eat up half my income! Somehow, I have to stay the yoga-writing course! 

So, as I almost always do when I feel myself sinking to the bottom, I lie down on my yoga bolster in the Goddess Pose, with my knees bent and the soles of my feet together, and take a long yoga rest. With my eyes closed, the movement of my eyes quieted by an eye bag, (which helps to quiet the mind) my gaze inward, looking down into the heart center, slowly the cares of the world fade far away. I remind myself that if I died, life would go on. So why not take time to die to the material world and the manifestations we find ourselves caught up in?  

When I rest deeply, I remember that when the mind is muddled, no-action is better than wrong-action.

A little later the canines and I went to the park. They are a handful---but their joy and exuberance is contagious. After the park, without thinking where I was going, for no conscious reason all, pointing toward the east-end of Ojai, I turned left on Orange Road, and a thousand memories ---things I've long-forgotten----came tumbling down. I lived two different places on Orange Road---the first time in a house in the orchard, married at 18, with a wee infant, making my husband bell-peppers stuffed with brown rice and hamburger, a recipe I found in the New York Times Natural Food Cookbook---even though I was a strict vegetarian. And while I was cooking away the four or five fruitarians living in the orchard (I had met them in town and gave them permission to camp in the orchard) came knocking on the door to use the bathroom . . . They smelled the meat cooking but I distinctly remember how they smiled at me with their dusty, sun-burned faces and said it was very sweet how I was fixing food that I thought my husband would like . . . 
In a few minutes the students are coming. But somehow, sometime soon, by end of summer, all these snippets will metamorphose into a story . . . 
* * * 
Easter Sunday, April 20, 2014

"May we live like the lotus, at home in muddy water."

A day to commune with nature. Practicing yoga in nature, walking in nature, simply being in nature,  brings us in touch with our own nature.

 Ojai's most renowned spiritual teacher and philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti, was without a doubt a nature mystic, though he most likely would have shrugged off the label. His writings sparkle with descriptions of nature in the Ojai Valley and beyond. 

"Let us be respectfully reminded:
Life and death are of supreme importance.
Time swiftly passes by, and with it our only chance;
each of us must strive to awaken.
Be aware! Do not squander our life."

Source: http://community.appamada.org/profiles/blogs/robert-aitken-roshi-death-and
* * * 
February 14, 2014
The cycle of the full moon reminds me of the passage of time. Now I've flown from the river bottom back to a bird's eye view of the Valley, at the very top of North Signal  . . . to be honest, there are moments where I'm unsure if the daily life logistics with the animals will work out . . . and it takes all my will power and a long stay in the Goddess Pose not to sink into despair. . .  

This photo of a lotus pond in Bali reminds me that the lotus rises out of the muddy waters of life . . .

* * *
January 17, 2014
Strange dreams these last nights of the full moon. Once again I'm moving out of my earthly abode to destination unknown. All my stuff is going into storage--and soon all that stuff will be whittled down to the bare bone essentials, writings, and photographs.   
"All is impermanent, quickly passing."

"Great is the matter of birth and death,
All is impermanent, quickly passing.
Awake! Awake!
Don’t waste this life."

* * *
October 7, 2013
This photo, taken by my father in Bali about twenty years ago, is a constant reminder that nothing is as it seems on the surface, that everything changes, and that I must reach higher and see my life, always, from a global, cosmic perspective. That is the great yogic challenge! So on those days when I feel my raft sinking to the bottom, if I can just rest, breathe, and gather my life force, I (we) too can live like the lotus, at home in the muddy river of life. 

When I feel discouraged, I remember my time in Bali, and I remind myself of these wise words, attributed to the Buddha: 

"May we live like the lotus, at home in muddy water."

"May we exist like a lotus, at home in the muddy water. "

Understanding the meaning of this quote can help us along the way to develop and grow from life's suffering or "muddiness."

As a lotus flower is born in water, grows in water and rises out of water to stand above it unsoiled,
so I, born in the world, raised in the world having overcome the world, live unsoiled by the world.
~Buddha

The lotus plant is a prominent image in Eastern philosophies. In yoga we learn to sit in the Lotus Pose (Padmasana). 

In North America, the water lily could be compared to the lotus, offering beautiful flowers rooted in swamp waters.

 

Red alert at midnight

June 14, 2014
Written June 11, 2014
To earn my keep in this merciless world, where the bills flow unrelentingly, one after the other, just as surely as day follows night, I took a little side job house-sitting for a student who lives high in the hills, a twenty-minute drive from downtown Ojai. It’s a big spread on several acres, both wild and cultivated, with a wonderful range of plants, flowers, organic vegetable beds, and all kinds of fruit trees. She left me a long list of pleasant tasks—watering indoor/outdoor plants, care of the cat, getting the mail, etc. Her very old dog had recently passed away, so she assured me that I didn’t have to stay over every night, in case I wanted to be in my own house in town on the days I teach early-morning classes.
Of all the jobs on the list, the one that jumped out at me from the very beginning of my three-week stint was the instruction to check the level of the water in the swimming pool, because, she explained while pointing to the side of the pool, “if the water level drops below this line, the pump will break.”Those words, “the pump will break,” haunted me. So, especially on hot days, I was super-vigilant about checking the water level.If the level looked at all low, I turned on the faucet that sits behind a gate near the pool, then dragged the hose to the pool and dropped it deep into the water so it wouldn’t pop out, exactly as I’d been instructed to do.

Yesterday, after feeding the cat, wandering all over the property with my dogs, checking plants, watering some of the younger trees, and picking zucchinis that were getting too big for their britches, just to be on the safe side, since the mistress of the house is due home in two days, I went over to the pool to get the water level back up.

On hot days in past weeks, I always filled the pool while swimming and sunning. But yesterday, by early evening it was overcast and drizzly, so I simply stuck the hose deep into the water and decided to do a few other chores before heading home. I turned the faucet on more than usual, as I was eager to get home before dark.

Just before midnight back at my own house, while I was washing dishes and winding down from the day, the thought that I had not turned off the water suddenly burst into my consciousness like a bolt of lightning.  A red alert– like the voice of God warning me that I had forgotten to do something very important!

I stopped dead in my tracks and tried to remember whether or not I had turned it off. I stood still and racked my brain, but try as I might there was no recollection of opening the gate near the pool where the faucet was located and turning the faucet off. I did remember being on my way to the faucet–so maybe I was worrying for nothing. By now five hours had passed, so I fervently hoped that I’d turned off the water, but I just couldn’t remember.

But if I had indeed turned the water off, then why suddenly, out of the blue, would the thought have popped into my head that the water was still running?

There was enough doubt in my mind that it was possible the water was still on full blast. Maybe by now the pool was flooding, and I didn’t know what sort of safety mechanism was in place, plus I’d never ever filled up a pool with a hose . . . What if by now the water was seeping toward the house?

So I thought maybe I’d better get dressed and drive back, check everything out, and just spend the night there. I gathered up my purse and a few toiletries. The dogs were sound asleep, but I couldn’t risk leaving them as they would surely wake up and bark. Then I began to feel that it was all too much . . . the house seemed so far away to be driving to so late . . . plus, a good portion of the drive is up a winding hill.

By now it was past midnight. When I threw my stuff in the car, I remembered that I was dangerously low on gas. What if I ran out of gas while driving up that dark, winding road? Then I’d have more problems: a flooding pool plus I’d be stuck in the dark with my dogs . . .

But, worst of all, what if I was just overly tired and imagining all this? What if after all the trouble of packing up the dogs, and the stress of possibly running out of gas, I arrived and discovered that I did turn the water off after all? And so went the workings of my late-night monkey mind.

I sat still and quieted my mind. I asked myself what, besides wasting water, was the worst that could happen if the pool flooded, and decided that my life and sleep were more important. It wasn’t like I’d left the stove on. How much damage could an overflowing pool do? So I slipped under the covers next to a nice warm dog and slept like a baby.

When I woke up at dawn, the possible flooding of the pool no longer seemed like a calamity. After all, the house has tile and brick floors; I’d mop up the water if it did seep under the doors near the pool, and the owner would come home to a nice clean house.

I headed for the gas station as soon as it opened. As I opened the gate to the estate and drove up to the house, I was relieved to see no water seeping down the driveway. But, as the dogs and I headed toward the pool, I could see that the entire cement area in the vicinity of the pool was dark. Wet cement! As we got closer, the dogs refused to walk through the puddles collecting on the path . . .

I don’t recall ever before seeing a swimming pool filled to the brim and spilling onto the patio, like it’s the most natural thing in the world.

To my relief, I could see that the house was fine.

I quickly pulled out the running hose, aimed it toward the plants, and turned off the faucet, hidden behind that gate near the pool. The moment that I stood by the swimming pool in the same spot where I’d headed for the faucet last night, everything that I couldn’t drag out of my memory at midnight came flooding into the front lobes of my brain.

I had indeed been on my way to turn off the water, but just then I’d noticed that the bed of pepper plants near the pool looked dry. So, instead of turning off the water, I was first going to pull the hose out of the pool and water those plants. But just then I’d seen a bug struggling in the water near the hose. The bug was surely about to drown, so I turned around and grabbed the pool-cleaning net. After I saved the bug, I noticed some clumps of leaves floating about, so I started using the net to clean the surface of the pool. A few minutes later, the early-evening drizzle was feeling like it might turn into rain, so I gathered up all the hanging laundry and walked over to a covered area on the other side of the house . . .

Suddenly I remembered that I needed to check to see if any ants had crossed the moat I’d created for the bowl of cat food (a large baking dish filled with water). In the first two weeks, no ants had crossed the moat, but—alas–tonight the cat kibbles were black with ants! I didn’t want my dogs to chase the cat, so before dumping the ants outside and making sure the cat had a fresh batch of ant-free food, I scooted the dogs into the car.

Is it any wonder that it took till almost midnight for my subconscious to penetrate the walls of busyness and project the thought that I needed to go back to the house on the hill and turn off the water?

Had I not listened to that thought, the hose would still be running, and the owner of the house would have come home to find her swimming pool flooding by the light of the full moon . . .

* * *
Photo note: Little did I dream that this pool would soon be overflowing!

— in Ojai, CA.

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A tribute to my dad, René Diets, survivor of the atomic bomb

June 14, 2014

Posted June 14, 2014 —written on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014
A tribute to my dad, René Diets, survivor of the atomic bomb

IMG_0963My father, Rene Diets, is a survivor of the atomic bomb that fell on Nagasaki. That experience affected his entire outlook on life–and possibly mine-– probably more than I even realize. He is featured in the book, Veteran’s Stories of Ventura County. If you click on the icon below and search inside the book, you can see photographs of my dad as a happy, innocent teenager, unaware of the horror around the corner. The chapter titled, Rene Diets, Survivor of the Atomic Bomb, starts on page 15.

I brought my dad a copy of the Friday, May 23rd Ojai Valley News, which features a list of Ojai Valley Veterans. I pointed out his name and also showed the list to my mom. My dad looked at the names and, after a long pause, he remarked, “There are so few of us left, Suzan—there are only a handful of World War II survivors left. One by one we are dying off . . ”

My father was born in Indonesia of Dutch and Indonesian parentage in 1924. He was in his late teens when World War II was brewing in Europe and within the Axis Alliance of Germany and Japan. He was forcefully inducted into the Royal Dutch Navy, and served at a Naval station in Surabaya on the Island of Java. He wasn’t ready for war, and neither was the Dutch Army or Navy. In contrast, the Japanese had modernized, and had marshaled all their resources into creating the largest and most efficient military state in Asia.

Over the years there have been many times when I’ve sat in the backyard with my dad and I’ve tried to sort out the world events he and untold other human beings were swept up in. When I use those words, “swept up in,” I see the war machine as a huge wave sweeping up everything in its path. Perhaps this is why I so strongly question the philosophy that we always have a choice and that our thinking creates our reality. From my perspective, few escape getting swept up in the times and circumstances they live in.

The Dutch were unprepared for the strength of the Japanese forces in the Dutch East Indies. The combined Japanese Navy and Air Force quickly destroyed all resistance. After the disastrous Battle of Java Sea, where a combined Allied fleet was destroyed, the remaining Dutch Navy was divided into two groups. My father was in the group that was heading toward Australia when they were intercepted by Japanese Naval Forces and taken captive. As a prisoner of war, he was taken to the port in Makassar on the Island of the Celebees.

After four months incarcerated with other Allied prisoners, many of whom did not survive, they were herded into a Japanese freighter and forced down into the cargo holds. My father’s description of how they were sealed in for a seemingly interminable time, not knowing where they were going or what fate awaited them, fills me with horror. I’m one of those people who crave open doors and windows–I get claustrophobic very easily. I try to imagine what it must have been like being trapped below, and what must have gone through his mind when the cargo hold cover was removed–still not knowing where they were or what their fate would be.

My dad soon discovered he was in Nagasaki, on the Island of Kyushu in the home islands of the Japanese. He recalls that it was very cold compared to the warm climate of Indonesia.

Every day was a struggle for survival. He recalls how the larger-built Americans, not used to a meager rice diet and lack of calories, were among the first to die. The daily routine was 900 calories of rice divided into three servings a day. Those who survived the lack of food were also faced with surviving cruel and unpredictable punishment from the Japanese soldiers. Sometimes my dad launches into a story of how the guards forced him to fist fight–to box, to beat up the other allied prisoners with his fists until their faces were bloody, as “entertainment.” He is still amazed at how he survived without permanent injury from the beatings of large thick ropes soaked in water to intensify the pain, and the baseball bats used to cripple and deform prisoners.

As my dad approaches the end of his life, he still vividly remembers how one day, as he was working high in the mountains at some distance from the camp, he saw a huge mushroom cloud rising over the city in the distance. He knew nothing about the atomic bomb, and at that moment didn’t realize that Nagasaki had ceased to exist. To this day he thanks God that he was sent to work in the coal mines high in the mountains and that he was not down at the docks where other prisoners of war were still working to load matériel onto Japanese ships.

He still remembers seeing that the Japanese tormentors had disappeared, and how as he wandered around the guard-deserted compound he saw American airplanes coming in low. When he saw the American planes, he knew that he and the other survivors were going to be rescued.

Because of his Dutch ancestry, he was able to settle in Holland. In 1948 he married my mother, a Dutch woman named Maria Vermeer, and in 1957 he realized his dream of immigrating to the United States.

Upon arrival in New York, he received a telegram explaining that plans had changed—he was being sent to Ojai, California. He’d never heard of the place, but, while still in Holland, he’d had a prophetic dream about living in a valley filled with orange orchards. He shared this dream with my mother, who dismissed it as just a dream. Arriving in Ojai, where our sponsor provided us with a house on Thacher Road, and seeing the vast orchards of orange trees, he felt the dream had been a message that Ojai was the place where God had destined him to live out his days.

My dad did not fight in the battles of World War II, but he endured the misery, sorrow, and suffering inflicted on untold numbers of Allied soldiers and sailors–and, I might add, on those caught up on the other side of the fence as well.

On a day like this, one wonders how it will all end. My dad often says “That bomb was like a firecracker compared to the arsenal we have now.”

Veteran’s Stories of Ventura County can be viewed on Amazon, click Look Inside the book.
(The chapter titled, Rene Diets, Survivor of the Atomic Bomb, starts on page 15)
http://www.amazon.com/Veterans-Stories-Ventura-Charles-Bennett/dp/0970932421/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1400255552&sr=1-1&keywords=veterans+stories+of+ventura+county

Facebook is the new Akashic Record

June 14, 2014

Posted June 14, 2014—notes from my Writing Yoga Memoirs Facebook page and my Suza Francina personal Facebook page

Scan_Pic0018June 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
Being 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 post, right above this one.
* * *
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).

Photo Credit: Sholom Joshua
— in Ojai, CA.

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Surprise early 65th birthday cake delight!

June 14, 2014

Written Monday night, May 19, 2014, after vegan dinner with students—
Posted June 14, 2014 (so much has changed since that night!)

Surprise 65th birthday cake delight— raw vegan avocado chocolate coconut raspberry with a soaked almond crust–made by Vegan Chef Sunny Bower!

Here is link to the recipe for Raw Cacao and Avocado Pie–Sunny changed the recipe a bit to make the crust less sweet. She made the crust salty rather than sweet–leaving out the dates and topped the pie with a festive circle of currently delicious raspberries! http://hollyleehealth.com/2013/10/24/recipe-raw-cacao-and-avocado-pie/
— in Ojai, CA.

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For my birthday, I went to yoga heaven

June 14, 2014

Written May 24, 2014—-posted June 14, 2014, 4 a.m. , with the still full moon beaming down

For my birthday, I went to yoga heaven. First, playing on the yoga wall ropes, back and forth, and hanging upside down. Next, I stretched on my backbender (shown below) to open the front of my body and excavate the stiffness out of my shoulder joints. Then, still feeling frisky from the yoga practice a few days ago with my friend and student Sunny Bower, I placed my secure black Manduka mat near the wall and experimented with pushing up into the Upward Facing Bow Pose (Urdhva Dhanurasana) lying over cross-bolsters (instead of two stacked bolsters, the top bolster is positioned horizontal across the center of the bottom bolster).

Whenever my body feels like dead weight, I pause to remind myself that the ability to press up into a weight bearing backbend is not just upper body flexibility and strength, but also leverage and learning to really use the feet and legs.

Every pose after that was icing on the cake: Standing Poses with back heel braced against the wall, the top of the back leg secured in the lower wall ropes, to give my spine traction. . . ending with a long, deep, heavenly rest in the Goddess Pose, Supta Baddha Konasana, the Supported Lying Down (Supine) Bound Angle Pose (shown below).

I consider this pose essential for women in my age range as we move into the crone stage of life. Honestly, the Goddess pose should be taught to all females as a rite of passage. It is a key pose for navigating all the stages of a woman’s life—menstruation, pregnancy, perimenopause, and postmenopause (i.e., Maidenhood, Motherhood, and Cronehood).

Alas, even some of the more enlightened men (and sometimes women) I know tend to cringe when they hear the word crone. The crone represents the third (post menopausal) phase of a women’s life—the wisdom years, the mature years. And, ready or not, chronologically I’m so there!

(The Three Stages of a Woman’s Life: http://www.sandiegotherapists.com/threestages.html)
(5 photos)

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