Friday, October 15, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park Day 6 Oct 14/10

I didn't walk today... I worked and read... I read The Priceless Pearl, written by Bahiyyih Khanum about Shoghi Effendi's life- a critical person in Baha'i history and a writer who I admire more than any other I think... the book brings me to tears regularly and I am in awe at all he accomplished...

I am feeling better... my healthy animal is healthier and I feel energy again in my body and health even! This was the right thing to do- I may not know yet what I am going to do next exactly, but I am clearer and I have one more day of gorgeous desert before heading home where the challenge will be to keep up some kind of healthy physical/prayer practice for myself, as the two are so linked for me now... High park may see a lot of me!

Joshua Tree National Park Day 5 Oct 14/10

I started a longer trail late in the day again and wandered around a few shorter trails earlier in the day... did some easy boulder scrambling... I drove to the Cottonwood side of the park through the largest, most deserted part... very barren and then the vegetation changes dramatically and there are some lovely new kinds of cactus and 'trees' here. I decided to take the trail to the Oasis... a trail they suggest 4-6 hrs for and I started at 3:30, so really I had about 3 hours. I always forget how early the sun goes down here. I decided I would turn around at 5, giving me enough time to get back. I have been walking very slow here, something I consider a triumph, enjoying every moment, not rushing... not just a result of my older aching feet, but that helps slow me down. When I hit the one mile marker, I realize I have done that mile in 20 minutes without trying so I decide maybe I can do the whole trail and I start picking up the speed in case the trail starts getting harder at some point or heads uphill. So now I am cruising, not really looking at anything, end gaining, pleased that I am getting more exercise than I have been walking slow, hooked right back into an older way of doing things. I'm walking really fast for awhile, legs are warm because I have been walking a lot today, so I am moving fast and I almost walk right by a tortoise without noticing and I stop. I have been wanting to see one of these for years, and I almost walk right by. So I hang out for awhile with this guy, he puts his head in before I get the idea to take a picture... I wonder how many things I have missed moving so quickly and I resume walking more slowly again, start feeling my breath again as I walk, laugh at myself and enjoy the scenery for real again- which is stunning. I have lost some time hanging out with the tortoise so I assume I will not be able to make it all the way to the oasis, but then I hit the 2 mile marker and I have made really good time. So once again I think- I can do this, I don't want to come all the way out here and miss the punch line of the trail... supposedly tall palm trees in the middle of the desert... a gorgeous oasis. So I start clipping again. Funny I should be headed for an oasis... I come from water, Nova Scotia and Ontario are full of water. I am not here for the water, I am here for the desert. So I am moving fairly quickly and somewhere between the two mile and three mile marker I suddenly realize the three mile trail BEGINS at the end of another trail that is easily another mile - so I have miscalculated. Now I have to think hard about making it to the oasis, so I pick up my speed more..
I haven't looked around since the tortoise and I glance up and it is gorgeous, but I keep going fast, looking down... and then I round a corner and I can see the trail ahead of me and it is long and no oasis... and I stop. I look down- there is a snake. Now as a lover of snakes I am thrilled. I have seen one other snake in the desert in Utah, a beautiful black and white king snake on red sand... not a poisonous snake. This snake is different, smaller and poisonous, maybe not deadly, but poisonous.

But I have to get a picture, cause of my 10 year old son... cause every time I see something like this I wish he was here and I get my camera and I take a picture, but it is too far away, so I get closer and take another one, and then closer to take another one... and he moves towards me with that sound designed to terrify any living creature and it works... and I do the appropriate thing that my adrenaline tells me to do, I back up really fast. Now I am wondering again if I should proceed or go back, it is 4:45... and I wonder if this snake is a 'sign'. Now I am here looking for 'signs' - big new ideas for my life, but I am very skeptical about the whole nature of external signs, but just as I am thinking about this I see a rabbit… and I think of Harry. Harry was a Mi'kmaq man I knew as a child in Nova Scotia. My mother believed in signs; she did crazy things based on signs… drove me nuts. I am rational person, sure I am a Baha’i, I pray and I believe in the ultimately mystical nature of life and yet I need things to make logical sense, to be scientifically sound. I more and more see this as a limitation, but nonetheless… I still think the mystical stays… mystical and does not move the material world in magical ways, it may move it scientifically… but rocks do not levitate and snakes do not appear for my personal specific spiritual edification.. So then this snake is just a snake, people see animals on trails randomly, or because they go at the right time of day and walk quietly… but them there is Harry and Fred… Harry would appear – at our house – as people often do in the country, unannounced and often when we needed him in some way. He was a healer. Harry always had some odd root of something in his pocket that he would put under your tongue if you were sick or tell you to make a tea with. They often tasted awful and were intended to cure. Later in life I was able to identify one of them he put under my tongue as golden seal…Harry appeared once in my life when my sister and I were staying with friends of family because out mother was ill. I don’t know why he was there, I can’t remember – but remembering the nature of Harry and his heart… I can only assume he was checking in to see how we were doing. Harry did not say much. I think he never said anything unless it was important. He was one of those people who would visit and sit silently in the living room… Harry got up and went outside to see the woods outside this house… there was an island across some water in a lake by this house and it had an inviting path. You could easily walk from the shore through the water to this little and I was maybe 11 and I decided to show this to him. I loved this little island. We went across the water and started walking down the trail. We were both silent. He stopped at one point and listened and gestured me to stop. He said ‘no animals’ and kept walking but listening and looking around. He stopped again and listened carefully…. ‘no animals’ and he gestured that we should go back. He didn’t say anything else, I just knew that this was not good. Fred was another friend of the family from the M’ikmaq reservation near our house in the valley in Nova Scotia. He was a Baha’I and my mother had informal prayer meetings at our house once a week and sometimes he would come. If he came- he would telephone and tell us and this meant that we should start praying while he ran over. His running was his praying. When he arrived we would maybe say one or two more prayers and then we’d have coffee (instant with evaporated milk for Fred) while we had filtered coffee with real milk. Once when he was over, he stayed for the longest time. We quietly wondered if he would ever leave…finally a huge flock of crows landed in the trees around the house… making a racket. Fred said ‘the crows are here’ and he left.

The first day I was here I say so many animals. It felt as if the desert was welcoming me- that the animals had come out to say hello! We are so glad you are here! It was a good day. It made me feel as if I was where I should be. Despite the fact that it was likely totally circumstantial… and yet I knew it was good. So is this snake a sign? Now you’d think the snake would be a sign to GO BACK. Don’t move towards the snake…It’s a poisonous snake after all. But being a woman, the destroyer of the world, I think it means go forward! Eat the apple my dear… but while I am contemplating this and watching the snake move on his way, I decide to go back. It is close to 5 and I do not want to be rushing on the way back and anyway… I can let go of the oasis- I have seen a hawk, a tortoise and a snake! So I go back, I don’t run, like Fred, but I am praying.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park Day 4 Oct 13/10

The more I walk, the less I have to say! I have became obsessed for the first time this trip-with the different kinds of stone... green, sparkling black, red/green mix... kept picking them up- did I think I would find treasure? What am i looking for? a pretty rock? a jewel? It is something materialistic and yet it is not... looking for something to hold in my hand of this place. This time I managed to find four and I made them into a little pretty pile for the next visitor... I walked 4 hours and did not see a single other person... less bliss today and more prayer/thought...
looking for how to transform the dominant purpose of my life to something less self centered than... what I do now? Theatre is a tough art form to believe in when you want to 'serve the world' more concretely... music- well that's like water and air, visual art- everything needs to be more beautiful, no questions, film... dah, everybody is watching film... but theatre???? If I am truly 'anxiously concerned with the needs of the age I live in' and if I truly 'set your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements' (from Baha'u'llah) can I really keep doing theatre??? Keep walking, just keep walking...

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Joshua Tree National Park Day 3 Oct 12/10

Bliss... not much more I can say

all alone in the most gorgeous desert and actually walked slow for a long time

Joshua Tree National Park Day 2 Oct 11/10

Today I hiked for 4 hours

(look carefully here you will see petroglyphs, and you can see them thanks to a movie crew who painted over them to make them visible... vandalism really)

had a great prayer/meditation session way out alone in the desert- probably the main reason I come here... I can cry/pray/move outdoors alone... well, not alone if you count the rocks... and the lizards... they are everywhere

I got quite lost I thought (even though I could hear the road... so I was not worried) and then appeared after an hour of scrambling around in the rocks, in site of my car but nowhere near the trail head... then on another long trail where I was completely alone and could hear nothing but the sound of the crows flying and my own feet crunching the sand... after 1.5 hrs of hiking into this gorgeous site (Pine City), again I was exploring and thought I might be lost... and was scared for a moment then began making arrows with rocks for my self so i could find my way back... once back on the trail, and relieved I wondered if I have outgrown this need to scare myself... I don't think I do it on purpose on these trips... but in the desert here a lot of the trails do feel like... make your own adventure and the washes can look a lot like trails at times... but in any case... somehow this feels like a good thing. Not in the extreme- I did that racing buses in Montreal when I was young on my bike- that was stupid adrenaline addiction... but this? this mild, walking alone in the desert (wisely mostly) this feels like... something healthy, something that allows me to push the boundaries in my head too... I am challenging myself about who I am... sure I am a Baha'i- but how really? and why? and can I deepen that... and sure I am a theatre artist- but I could be anything really... right now specifically a writer, or a mover- which exactly and in what doses? and sure I am a teacher- but do I still want to be training people for this crazy industry that I am less and less interested in? Do I really want to keep doing all the work it takes to keep working in this art form that seems so thankless? What do I really want to be teaching? and it goes on and on- this wash or that trail, stop or keep walking... it is all the same question and the tangible nature of this place makes it easier to focus than the circles I walk in in my head- so instead I am out here walking in circles in the desert... it's just prettier here than in my head!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Tarantula in Joshua Tree National Park Oct 10/10

I saw a tarantula in the park...

Then watched him go home... he is only a bit smaller than my hand- hard to see the size here...
So much nicer to see them in their natural habitat than at the pet store- where I usually see them when I buy food for our snake...
(I also saw tons of quail, rabbits, little lizards and birds - so many animal sightings for the first day!!!)

Joshua Tree National Park Day 1 Oct 10/10

These rocks are gods, I can feel them. I am not one prone to speak of ‘energy’, I like things concrete- but these rocks are more than they appear. Or perhaps they are exactly what they appear and we are blind. On the plane coming in to the desert the woman beside me seemed to refer to the desert disdainfully; warning me…. It is true looking at the desert at times it appears as a wasteland, an ugly unfinished construction site… especially when we attach our industry to it.
It looks deceptively from a distance like something to avoid.
A magnificent disguise.

These rocks are God’s naked bones

Some big arrogant ones propped up precariously high
Miraculously staying there
Supported by the invisible, humble, oppressed community below
And some are Miro clowns
Some elegant rotund Matisse ladies
Some as severe as Noguchi
Most as calm as Moore.

Walking into the desert for me is like walking into some mystical hypnotic trance.
Today was supposed to be just the- get oriented to the park day.
Thanks to the time change I bounded out of bed at 6 and was walking by 6:30
Cool out, and no one there yet. Just a short hike and get the maps, that’s it.
My luggage did not arrive with me, so I walk in long black pants, no hat, no camel,
no water, the wrong shoes… but the morning is coo-l so its fine! so I think… I’ll just go for a short walk/but that is never quite possible for me in the desert!
I keep walking and walking and walking and every now and then I wake up and ‘Oh I should try to remember where I am!’ and I take a look around, looking for markers, hand holds so that I can pull myself up out of this trance and find my way back to reality. Reality?
This temptress the desert pulls me further and further into her bowels.
75 minutes into the walk I realize I have no water with me, it’s starting to get warm and I am doing everything they tell you not to do in the desert; walking with the wrong clothes, not knowing where I am, with no water on my first day! But turning around is like sitting down really hungry in front of the best nachos and not eating.
no that’s not even close
its not physical its mystical
turning around is like… absolute faith that if you keep walking, the answer to all the mystical longing in your heart, that pit at the base of your soul will be, is being filled, walking towards an eternity that is tangible and then… stop to turn around and get water? Are you kidding me?

Clowns, gods, magicians, sorcerers, temptresses, healers, I can feel them, I can feel this place. I am not an ‘energy’ person I tell myself again, I will not become one of those…. You know…. but I can feel this.

I walk up to some of them (ys the rocks) and I hug them… wondering if they can heal me somehow (and wondering if anyone is looking)… I can’t say that in touching a rock, no matter how lovely… feels like anything. It doesn’t. It is the whole gestalt of the thing…
Hugging a rock is cool in the heat at times, relaxing, but mystical for me? No.

There are rooms in the saunas in Korea, fully doomed with crystal or amethyst, it is exquisite, lying down and looking up at the doomed ceiling surrounding you with jeweled rocks- I couldn’t feel that.
But this!

It makes me believe that all those healers with those rocks that they say somehow are healing you just sitting on the windowsill while you are having a massage (and I really just think- well, yea, they are pretty and beauty is comforting…. But come on!) Likely
they are, it’s just too subtle for me to feel through the armor and the mess I am in!

But this I can feel! I need a massive desert to feel what those healers can feel from one chunk of rock.

These rocks can heal me- I do not know how, but how could they not? They have been here for so long!

Sometimes I think that when we are not here they dance


Really they are trying really hard not to laugh… because we cannot be allowed to see them move… when they are alone, they slide out of their sullenness and laugh at us! Or maybe they are angry, angry at our folly, our hubris, our idiocy and arrogance.

They are not dancing, they are angry when they move! And they are laughing!


It couldn’t feel like this here if they were angry.

No, these are gods, they would not laugh, they do not move with anger, they ache for us; they absorb the pain we carry and create, they take the job of footstool for us and with grace- yes! that is a word I can associate with what I feel here. But at the same time I feel… chaos and confusion but not a chaos or confusion that is wrong, it feels like the swirling beginning of things ancient, even more ancient that the word ancient can hold.

It is a chaos of peace and infinitely slow germination. These naked gods are absorbing our pain. They are absorbing my pain

That is why there is so much of this vast desert!
It is the place where our folly is purified…
It cannot be easy to absorb all of this aching and be at peace…
These are gods

Nothing is too much, too dark for these rocks to absorb, nothing. There is nothing these naked gods have not seen, nothing they have not endured and yet they see us, hold us, each of us as we walk amongst them, ON them, they see us as individual as they are, and they continue to suck the poison from each of our wounds whether we know it or not. They drink us, as thirsty as they must be, calling on our blood to move towards them, calling on every fluid, ever part of us married to water, they call this part of us out to them… and as they do this we lose the edges of ourselves and if we are willing we can enter them, with our wetness and they receive us like the rain.

Friday, October 8, 2010

falling while standing

I had another short studio session... I am finding it easier to work standing these last two days- as I can now feel gravity so much more easily than in the past while standing.. the ability to switch my awareness into - while standing - with full breath, into gravity awareness is fast and from there I can follow kinesthetic impulses... today I noticed that the places free of tension are just as rich as the dense ones... the ones free of tension I can use longer, they have more range of impulses and the impulses can travel more easily elsewhere. The dense/tense/painful places are 'thick', rich and allow emotional memory and just 'feeling' that is at times emotion and other times may appear as emotion, but is just tension release/tremoring...

I like this idea of seeing these places as different rather preferring one to the other. As I say to my students- that the dense places are gems, your rich library waiting to be researched, uncovered... rather than things to get down on yourself for... as ou limitations make us unique, our pain allows us to learn compassion...

Thursday, October 7, 2010

holding breath while feeling blood system

I have been having quite a struggle getting in to the studio... teaching the Kinesthetic Transference work, warming up with my students and then never having time to do the work myself. I am more than hungry to do the work- but my job administrating the graduate program at York is quite time consuming. I have found myself quite frustrated- but in a way this again clarifies for me what I long for at this time... to simply be able to practice this work and do more serious embodied research. Today I was able to work for 1.5 hrs- nothing really but still better than nothing! And I am able to land inside the work pretty quickly. My ability to juggle sensation through many of the systems seems to not diminish- in fact seems stronger than ever. I am practicing this while I teach it- and I must learn to separate this work in my mind from being 'fit' in the usual sense... as this is more mind/body fitness. I have been experiencing some pain in my diaphragm/lung area and I was able to use that to feel more of my liver/diaphragm than I have ever been able to feel before. I came to a halt however when I had pain in my right foot. It seemed to require a different kind of attention than the 'sensation' elsewhere in my body. I never quite figured it out and I shifted to more mind directed work. I did some breathing work and was feeling my blood system between inhale and exhale as it speaks about in the 'Centering' section of Zen Flesh, Zen Bones - It is astonishing how long I can... I wouldn't even call it hold my breath... but stop breathing as i focus on my blood system. Feeling the blood seems to distract me- as I have heard that free divers for example will distract themselves from breathing by going slowly through the alphabet and thinking of people they know with names that begin with each letter, or sing a song they know over and over and other tools to distract the brain for the desire to breath... as I was doing this I did not time my breath holding- but at the end of the exhale I would go into quite a deep state and it was only at some point where I thought- gee... is this not healthy? I should breath soon... that I would breath. I suspect that this is not so healthy but I am not sure. The place of feeling the blood with gravity sensation is so peaceful and without the breath it takes on an even deeper calm... I feel I must study this more carefully before I continue to practice... I am sure there must be yoga practitioners/meditators/divers who have addressed this