April 21, 2010

Deming-Young Farm

So, Elo the dog and your faithful blogger have discovered the Deming-Young Farm, on Church Street, in Newington. Two miles from the house, 5 minutes by car. And although this 1784 farmhouse is an historic structure, it's primary purpose these days seems to be a de facto dog park and town garden.

The town mows a path through and around the field (left long to abet the nesting of birds) and a loop around the main field is a bit over a mile. Add a jaunt through the woods that end up at John Wallace Middle School, and it's a nice little walk. We end up there 3-4 times a week, depending on weather, other adventures, etc.

Depending on the day and time, I can let Elo off the leash and work on training....although the field is well used by other dog owners and Elo is way too interested in other dogs (and not quite predictable as a friendly dog, his alpha nature makes him a bit of a jerk). I picked up a 30' training leash (a nice compromise between letting him run and keeping him on a short leash, he does not pull on the longer leash the way he does on a shorter one) and also one of these plastic Chuck-It handles that allow me to toss the tennis ball without aggravating my shoulder crankiness.

We've had some lovely times...met some nice people and nice dogs (and some that just let their dogs run up to us, Elo predictably gets aggressive when he is on the leash....). People mostly pick up the poop (not all, though.....). Last night, as I walked in the late afternoon, the bird population active in an adjacent swamp, the trees budding and flowering, the sun dropping to the west and making the clouds pop....it was just amazing. I had an awareness of being blessed for having been born into this life, into this creation.

A lovely little find in my new neighborhood....

April 19, 2010


Mom sent an email last night. "APRIL 19 IS DAD'S ANNIVERSARY. PLEASE SAY A PRAYER! LOVE, MOM" - I so often forget, although I often hit a bit of a sad spot this time of year.

April 19, 1979, my father, William Joseph Russell, passed away. He was at (then named) Framingham Union Hospital, in the midst of an angioplasty attempting to repair a heart damaged by a series of heart attacks. He was not yet 45; missing his birthday by a few days - I'm older now than he ever was; if one were to believe in a corporal afterlife where one retained ones age at death, my dad would be my junior when next we met....

It is perhaps indicative of where we were at the time that none of us were at the hospital - Dad had been in and out of the hospital repeatedly over the past year or so; my sister and I had grown used to stopping by to see him after high school (right now the block from the hospital) and later finding him puttering around the house as he recovered. On some level, his infirmity had become an annoyance; we wanted to ignore it and hope it would clear up, and let us get back to our lives. So on some level, this procedure and his passing were just one more thing in a slow but seemingly inevitable slide that we had grown accustomed to.

I remember driving the family in his 1973 AMC Hornet to the hospital to see him - as the eldest child who had just turned 18 myself, I suddenly assumed a heavy mantle of family responsibility; Mom seemed in no condition to drive. At the hospital, I went in to see him; not sure if they kept him alive via machines until we got there or not, but it was clear that he was gone. I had learned well his lessons regarding torquing down on my emotions, and I did not cry even as I stood over my father's lifeless body.

I don't remember a whole lot about the next few days. I remember a little black humor with my family at the funeral home regarding caskets (Dad wouldn't want something too ostentatious, dad won't care, that sort of thing); I remember tucking a guitar pick into Dad's suit pocket; thanking him for my music. I remember a reception following the funeral at the house; not quite an irish wake but with some lightness and spirit. At my graduation a month or so later, mom presented me with a typewriter that she and dad had picked out together.

Not too long afterwards, I left for college, beginning the slow pulling away from family. My brother took over my bedroom soon thereafter and I slept on the couch or an empty bunk bed when I came home for vacations and summer. I kind of missed the mourning and getting used to a house with one less person in it. My family got a dog soon thereafter - Kyla was a mix of Coyote, Labrador, and Samoyed, she was a companion, protector, and friend - and came to live with me in CT in her dotage. I was with her when she died....

Dad has been in my mind to a greater and lesser extent over the years. I think we miss him most at those times of ceremony and ritual - holidays, graduations, weddings, births. Mom has watched over us kids in the years since - at this point she has lived as a single mother and widow much longer than she lived with her husband.

I certainly I have danced with his ghost in my therapy, on the mat, at various retreats, workshops, and ceremonies. I have moved from numbness to anger to grief; from resentment to pity. For many years I assumed I might follow his lead and expected an early death; my various transformations and personal growth has effaced that surety; I feel like I have a lot of life ahead of me. Death has not touched me much in the years since; having taken Dad, the reaper has been mostly silent these many years save for grandparents and an aunt.

Rest in peace, Dad. Miss you and love you. Not sure I have a prayer today, but you remain in memory; tears have been shed.

April 12, 2010

Tell Me What Another Is

Back from the Intensive. It was NOT exactly a gentle re-integration day. I did spend an extra night up at Kripalu - which helped a lot. But after five go-rounds with these amazing weekends, one sort of gets accustomed to the spaciness and just rides the re-entry.....

In terms of mechanics, I hit a 6:30 am "Moderate Yoga" class up at Kripalu - very sweet to be back on the mat and just right. For those calibrating their Yoga, Moderate Yoga up at Kripalu is about the same intensity (maybe a wee bit up-level) as Gentle Yoga by Jude. After that, breakfast with Intensive friends, a bull session in the lounge, and back to the dyad room for a few hours of sharing circle. From there, headed home. Picked up Elo the dog, did a few hours of work, and then off to Bristol to teach yoga. Finally chilling out....looking forward to my own bed tonight.

Working on "another" was both a wonderful treat and incredibly challenging.

Wonderful: each dyad provided a different participant seated before me for contemplation. As opposed to contemplation "who I am" or "what I am" (where the object of contemplation is oneself, and where one falls tends to fall into some ruts or runs out of things coming up) "another" was always new and fresh (at least during a three day intensive with a lot of participants, assuming one used a dyad partner as an object of contemplation). I commented to one of the staff - "it's like I am at a buffet, always something new to explore".

Challenging: Another is difficult because it is wholly outside of oneself. Not as many hooks, at least in my experience.

On the other hand, I quickly latched onto the fact that during a series of dyads, I could continue to contemplate "another" during my time as listening partner. And some of my partners picked up on the fact that as I contemplated them during my turn, they could as well. So I got a lot of really wonderful work done.

I comented afterwards that I did not really dredge up a lot of my stuff - which was different. But that did not stop me from dropping into some pretty deep tears at times - but these were not unassuaged grief or bringing up old wounds - but rather tears of joy at the realization of my love for many of the "anothers" in my life, mingled with some sadness for those places of loneliness and lack of a relationship.

No Direct Experience (not a surprise) but amazing work nonetheless, and a few dyads as the weekend wore down that were among the most precious of my weekends to date. I'm really coming to a good understanding of the technique, and I spent the weekend working on staying out of the easy fix of an emotional release (I love my emotions during EIs), staying out of stories, staying out of attachment to the direct experience, and sticking to the technique.

So a very difficult weekend (they all are) and a lot of good work. Someday I will have that direct experience during an EI.....

Back to life. A life filled with "anothers" that I love just a bit more deeply and openly.

April 06, 2010

Enlightenment Intensive VI

Off to Kripalu this weekend for another go round with....myself! I'm participating in another Enlightenment Intensive

Regular blog readers may notice that this is not my first Intensive - it will be in fact, my 6th. I have come to cherish this opportunity to work on "me" - with no distractions from work, television, radio, computers, blogs (gasp!), tweets, facebook, etc.

The weekends can be grinding and grueling - early mornings, late evenings, with a rigorous and full schedule of dyads, interspersed with periods of walking meditation, seated meditation, meals, and resting periods. And yet, I have no doubt that I will drop right in to the rhythm of the weekend, and get down to the hard work of finding myself, another, or life. And maybe just maybe, stumble upon a piece of truth.....

"Well, you mend your clothes and patch your roof
And slivers of God's shattered truth
Grow tender as the grass in clean-swept yards
But a savior came and told us how
The truth was all around us now
Abandon house and field and gather up the shards"

- And A God Descended / Dar Williams

April 03, 2010

Off Shore Drilling

Lot's of discussion surrounding President Obama's decision to open up certain areas to off-shore oil exploration. Drill baby, drill, and all that....

My thoughts. In the grand scheme of things, the concerns about off shore drilling are dwarfed by the magnitude of issues surrounding global warming and climate change*. So if President Obama is using off shore drilling as a carrot to pull some republicans on board towards passing some carbon footprint legislation, good for him. Because if we do not get our carbon footprint under control soon, the shorelines won't stay where they are anyway, they will be miles inland. And if the Republicans do not step across the aisle to deal, Obama has justification to just do a climate change bill without bipartisan support, a la health care.

President Obama is, IMHO, a smart, pragmatic leader, a chess player and long term thinker. Sometimes one has to sacrifice a piece to win a bigger piece, or to win the match. I have no doubt that this is a small piece of a bigger plan, and I trust him on it.....

* Do I think that this winter's massive snowstorms in the mid-atlantic, and the recent New England record spring floods, are related to an energized global weather pattern driven by warming. Yes, I do. Get used to it......

Suicide by Death Penalty

Steven Hayes, 1/2 of the criminal duo who are alleged to have killed the Petit family, wants to change his plea to guilty, and to follow the inevitable legal process towards life imprisonment or death. This change of plea seems to have thrown all involved into chaos - with defense attorneys (anti-death penalty zealots) vowing to fight his plea, the prosecution, gearing up for a court fight suddenly left hanging. Dr. Petit has noted this as "...a moment of honesty..."

Coming on the heels of a prison suicide attempt, perhaps Hayes simply wants to end the torment of a sad and misspent life. Not sure there is repentence here, it seems more a "sick and tired" response. And to some extent, those involved seem steeled to take this legal battle to the end, and having the accused turn around and surrender to a guilty plea seems unsatisfying.

I dunno how I feel about this. In some ways, no legal process, no verdict, no punishment will ever provide healing. But I suppose there is something satisfying of the pursuit, of chasing a protesting criminal to the end of the legal process and depriving another human being of life against his will - an eye for an eye. But to have the criminal let go and surrender, to giv eup on life willingly - a lot different energy there, and perhaps ironically a way that will leave wounds open and festering in a way that a protracted court battle would not.

Steven Hayes - a twisted, evil, damaged soul who just wants to get off the planet and end this misery? An individual who has come to realize the scope of his deeds and feels remorse? Or a truly evil SOB who has found one last way to torment Dr. Petit, by taking away his enemy?