Samskara: Round and Round and Round We Go


You can’t cure the mind with the mind.

In other words, thinking is useless.

Okay, it’s not useless.  You need it to bake bread, till the earth, work at the corporation.

But here I am, back investigating the nature of the world ala Buddhism.

So…you can’t think your way out of a paper bag.  Or a pattern of bad relationships.  Or an inability to tolerate ticking clocks (yes, of course that one is me!).

I am enraptured by thinking about samskara, knowing it won’t do any good.  But still, I have to find some way to spend my time.

Seriously, we’re all in the business of repeating–in relationships, in work, in decisions.  Somehow, we make the same mistakes again and again.  Somehow, we keep walking down the same street.  The utter powerlessness and frustration, the inability to change at will, the way the flaws in our own characters persist and persist.

When I stop fighting it, it’s just samskara.   The Jungian complex.  The human condition.  The very thing that puts money in therapists pockets.

I like to image it like wood-burning kits you get when you’re a kid.  A metaphor:  etching lines into the wood, making patterns, labyrinths.  You can’t erase them.  Life burns them into your brain–what they call neural pathways–and they become your fate as much as anything else.  The first relationships, the first losses, the way we say, “Never again,” and yet when relationships and losses come, they are eerily similar, always.

Why, you might ask, would anyone be enjoying thinking about such things?  Maybe because I’m starting to see that there is only surrender, and surrender is such a relief.  All my life, I keep trying to wrestle my samskara to the earth with will and force, with the hatred of the repetition, and now I’ve just let go and it’s suddenly okay.  I’ll relive it or I won’t.  I don’t have to know how it’s going to turn out.  I can just wait and see, and trust that in the moment, I will know.

Of course, there must be effort, at times.  There must be an attempt at something.  But if I wait until I know, then perhaps that will be right effort.

There may be such a thing as right effort, instead of effort flung around at everything, diligently working every moment, trying, trying to get it right, make it right, prove some thing that no one wants you to prove anyhow.

This is my brain on meditation.

This is my remembering Don, and his last two phone calls to me, and the feel of his hand, swollen, as he lay in his hospital bed.  This is my gratitude for no samskara with Don, for the newness of knowing him, for how honest we both were.

The terrible letting go of loss, the necessity, the continuing to love.

The letting go of who we once were, not knowing who we will be.  The enough of that, the relief, the moment rising up and filling everything.

Good-bye Don, again and again.  May you be free from all samskara, well-loved and loving.  May you be free.  May you be welcoming, as I am, the unknown into your heart, curious, if nothing else, at how it might change your fate.

Post-Cleanse, Day 2


It’s over, it’s over, lalala, it’s over, it’s over, it’s over, lalalalalalalalalaa!

I just ate a cheese sandwich.

That would be half a rice tortilla, about 1 oz. of almond cheese and 1/2 teaspoon of earth balance.

Compare it to…Beef Wellington, say, or Filet Mignon with Hollandaise, both of which would probably kill me.  But on this diet, ambrosia.

Today I also ate 2 eggs and 1/2 a cup of goat yogurt.

My partner drank water from rice that had been boiled for a long time.

I hope to be able to do yoga without falling over tomorrow.  It’s a big wish, I know, but I have hope.

I hope to drive up to Endicott without spending an extra half hour in traffic on Wed.  We’re at blocking-and-rehearsing-and-hoping-we -can-get-it-all-in-and-make-it-great time.

I will meditate tomorrow.  Maybe all day.

Obviously my brain has been destroyed by kichari and ayurvedic herbs.  I suppose a cleanse lobotomy could be a reason for nothing every bothering me again.

We’ll see.  How long it takes to find another rant.  There’s always Mitt Romney, but really, why bother?  He’s doing a good job of destroying himself without my attention.  I think I’ll leave him to it.

Good night, one and all.  Much metta.  Or something.  I have forgotten the meanings of many words on this lobotomy, so perhaps something makes sense somewhere on some planet in some language.  Perhaps.  Spahrep?

Ayurvedic Cleanse, Day 5: No Really! I Surrender!


After a decent morning yesterday, I ended up with a migraine and nausea that lasted all the way through today.  I have now admitted that my low blood sugar issues, kept at bay for approximately twenty years, are pretty serious.  Migraines, nausea, dizziness, shaking, waves and hot and cold and above all, extreme homicidal mood swings add up to serious.  My brain doesn’t work well without protein.  And fat.  In some amount or another.

So, I’m doing the purgatory today, but nothing much is happening except that I keep talking about wanting a cheese sandwich (almond cheese on gluten free bread on my diet) and my partner keeps calling and asking if I’ve purged the purgatory yet and telling me a cheese sandwich of any kind would make me unbearably sick.

OKAY!  She might occasionally know what she’s talking about!  I surrender!  Beam me up Dorothy!  I mean Scotty!

Plus, I am so sick of being reduced to the world of bodily functions.

Probably, in the world of ayurveda, I should be examining these problems with some degree of mindfulness but I JUST CAN’T TAKE IT!  It’s bad enough drinking prune juice (I couldn’t face the castor oil) and feeling crappy.  (Ha-ha, get it.)

I should also mention that I went to therapy yesterday and apologized to the woman for asking her about her interpretative dancer wardrobe.  It was unnecessary.  She is a human being even if she is a therapist who acts like a therapist and wants to talk to me like I’m a patient.  I plan to fire her at the first available opportunity.  Of course, we all know how my plans go.  Up in smoke, half the time.  I am clearly not in control.

However, on a positive note, I started writing a new book today, one I’ve wanted to write since 2010.  Here’s the title:

The Ex-Catholic, Sort of Unitarian, Anti-Therapy, Pseudo-Buddhist, At –Least-a-Little Bi-sexual , Kind of Feminist, Pro-Male, WHAT?

It’s a memoir, in case you haven’t figured that out yet.

I’m a little written-out, so I’m going to crap out (ha-ha).

This cleanse really needs to end.  Now.

Ayurvedic Cleanse, Day 4: Surrender and…Being Female


I felt my body give in.  Just a noticeable shift…I will stop fighting you.  And then the intuition that instead of ending the cleanse early tonight, I’ll extend and do the purgation on Sunday night and end on Monday when I have a day off.  Meaning, on Monday I’ll eat rice, and then on Tuesday I start reintegrating foods.

So, I’m sitting here burping rice bran oil with a sense of serenity.

Hey, if it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone.  (Of course, the day is just starting and it has therapy in it, yuck, but probably good, because the anniversary of Don’s death is approaching and I miss him so much.)

Anyhow, with surrender comes a question–who taught me to be a woman?  I mean, I’m working with men and have asked them who taught them to be a man, and what that lesson was…with surprising results, I might add; and I’ve read this new book about it, that adds to my collection of men’s movement literature.

In the men’s movement, the premise is that only a man can initiate another man into manhood.  The unhappiness of so many men, they say, is the absence of a connection to their fathers.  To make happier men, we must make better, more loving, more available and connected fathers.

I get that.

But what about women?

I find that many of the women of my generation did not admire their mothers, did not feel positively connected, and did not want to follow their mothers’ paths into womanhood.  Low end jobs, being a housewife, lacking power in the world, dependence on a husband–the women of my generation sought a different life, including equal partnerships with men, whether or not they were able to find them.  And for those of us who are queer, the path was unbroken–not that there weren’t brave people forging the way ahead of us, but that being fully out was rare.  Just being out and being with another woman started us into the garden…

I always crack jokes about my German mother.  When I’m not cracking jokes about my inappropriate Irish father.  And while I don’t want to do a stroll down childhood lane, with all its monsters and heroes, it seems important to look at who taught me to be a woman, and what it means to be a female.

I love being a woman.  People perceive me as powerful, and I have all this experience of being with men, and disliking my own vulnerability, and hating to process (I mean, I HATE to process), which is hardly typical.  But for me being female is about getting to love beauty without hiding, being intuitive, and inward, and into flow, listening to the world, loving with sensitivity, being utterly receptive, easily moved by what’s around me…it’s about getting to embody the feminine principle without shame.  I may not like to be openly vulnerable with many people, but I love the tides of emotions, and how they rise, fall, open you to newness, to landing in right now.  I love getting to change my mind, and how I am, truly, in my essential nature, endlessly fluid, airy and mutable.

I also love the little give in my body when my partner, who nurtures me in a very masculine way, opens my car door, or takes my hand, or looks into my face with a very particular strength–it’s a sexual thing, responding naturally to masculinity–I mean, I am so very yin, when you uncover me.  And there is power in that…I love the power in femininity.  The confidence of being a strong, intelligent woman, who no one better f&*k with.  I love friendships with other women, the kind of friendship in which nothing is hidden…I’ve gotten to have that, over and over, in my nomadic life.

But I don’t know who taught me to love being a woman.  My father contradicted himself constantly–sometimes treating me like a boy/tomboy as we hung out with his friends–in those moments, he told me the world was mine to claim.  But if I crossed some invisible line, suddenly I was a girl and not equal any more.  My mother believed that women should never compete with men, should shore up men’s egos, hide their intelligence.  She also thought that women were catty and untrustworthy and didn’t have close female friends.  My mother didn’t join the women’s movement when it came along, and never moved beyond a secretarial position though she was noticeably intelligent and had a college degree.  I’m not sure what she felt to be her life’s purpose, or that she would have told me if she knew.  We just didn’t get along most of the time; and she wasn’t much for confidences of that nature, period.

I had female advocates and mentors outside the family right along–teachers, mostly.  I saw women who were strong, who did what they believed in…and those who didn’t.  But if I think of who taught me how to be a woman, I go to Maria Dolores Garcia Fraile in Sevilla, Spain.  Maria Dolores had left her husband in Catholic Spain in the late 1970’s/early 1980’s, after Franco.  He was cheating on her; she thought she deserved better, so she kicked him out and began to take in American students for income.  She had dark hair with dark gold highlights dyed in, stood as tall as me (I’m 5’8″), with olive skin, and green eyes blurred by the beginning of cataracts.  She taught me to dance Sevillana in her kitchen, and I’ll never forget that–the turn of our hands in the air, the challenge and sexuality of the dance, of her, but no attraction, just a woman who owned her power, her selfhood, her life force and sexuality, effortlessly, with pleasure.  She had courage, Maria Dolores.  From the beginning, I bonded to her as I never had with my own mother, and if there was a rite of passage to be had, she led me through.  She never said these words to me overtly, though we talked about our lives in great detail once my Spanish improved, but this is the message I received:  Make your own life.  Leave who you have to leave, bear what you have to bear, but bear it with pride, with the pride of knowing who you are, with your passions and your ability to love intact because you have not betrayed yourself and in some way you never will.  Love being a woman for its richness, for being able to ground down into feeling, for being able to create life, and a life, in whatever way you do so.  Go.  Go find out what the world has for you.

It was quite a send-off, when my year with her ended.  She didn’t want me to return to my family because she knew my parents were bad for me, but she didn’t hold me, either.  I was 23.

I remember her lesson because it was the one I chose, because I wanted someone to believe in me who knew me intimately, like a mother, and she was that person.  Metta for you, Maria Dolores.  In this moment of remembering.  On this day.  For all you gave me.  You were an emotionally generous woman, and there is nothing better that a woman can be.

Metta.

Ayurvedic Cleanse, Day 3: Down and Up and Down


So, I signed up for an audition at the BPT, because I love Marc and Kate, and I like black comedy and there were a couple parts in my age range.  I dragged myself off the floor on Friday, assisted a yoga class, and made it to the BPT to read the script.  Then, today, day of the audition, I got up and drank oil.  Then I felt sick.  Then I did work I had to do for Endicott rehearsal tonight.  Then I tried not to throw up.  Then I meditated.  Then I ate and my stomach blew up like a basketball.  All I could think about was whether I would ever take a shit again (sorry).  Then I took a shower.  Then I drank hot water and took some Triphala in the hopes of taking said shit.  Then I did 10 minutes of yoga.  Then I did my hair, make-up and clothes.  Two pairs of my pants are now tighter than I like, so I think I’ve gained weight on this cleanse in spite of all the hunger and suffering.  Then wished I hadn’t given up dyeing my hair so I could look younger.  I also began to wonder whether the pain and bloating would resolve itself before the audition.  I had the thought that with my luck, on this cleanse, it would all move, resolve, whatever, 2 minutes before I had to audition.

Which is exactly what happened.  I got to the BPT, sat down, and then had to run for the bathroom (or walk, acting all cool).  And get this, I was so relieved to be relieved that I didn’t care that I felt light-headed and out of it.  The world has narrowed considerably.

I came out of the bathroom at the BPT and after about 1 minute, the lovely and generous Kate Snodgrass called me in to the audition.  But, first she hugged me.  I’m pretty sure she was hoping I’d do well.  Meanwhile, I was wondering if she could smell the sesame oil from the self-massage last night.  I thought I might smell like Chinese takeout.

We went into the theatre.  I thought maybe I’d left myself in the bathroom.  The completely distant energy-less feeling of the cleanse made the whole thing seem like a vaguely bad dream.  Someone else’s bad dream, since I wasn’t quite there.  I read the side once.  The director very generously laughed on the laugh lines, even though I wasn’t funny.  Then Kate and I switched parts and she was really funny–just the right touch of bitter sarcasm.  I did better as the insane Christian, which is probably no surprise to anyone.  My energy was just about coming out of the bathroom and making its way down the hall to my body when the audition ended.

Oh, well.  All my auditions lately have been great, so I guess I was due.  And there is this–I am no longer 100% constipated.  But I will go lie down on the floor again.  Then I will consider entropy, and how it’s a new thing in my life.

I wonder if I will recognize myself when the cleanse is over.  Today Superwoman is in remission.  It’s all entropy here.  And lying on the floor.  And waiting for bodily functions to occur.  And wishing I’d gotten to audition sans cleanse, because the BPT is a great theatre doing important work and whoever did that audition was the Cleanse Queen of Entropy, a non-event all to herself.

So basically, the morning sucked.

After lying on the floor and talking to two friends to whom I can say anything at all (how rare and wonderful that is…though I wish they were local), I picked up enough to drive to Endicott College.  Traffic was horrible–I left at 5:45 and got there at 7:10.  Yuck.  But the guys!  This used to happen when I was teaching, after Don died, sometimes a class would pull my best out of me against all odds and these guys are like that.  They are so invested.  We did script analysis and their answers rocked my world–smart, insightful…they did my work for me.  Then we read the play again and a ton of notes I would have given weren’t needed.  Love, love and love again.  We started blocking.  It made me so happy.

I am now home, and my partner had set up abhyanga, the oil massage, so we could do it together as soon as I came in the door.  I tore off my clothes and went at the exfoliation, then got in the tub with her to do the oil down.  She finished first, and for some reason–mental absence, exhaustion–I put the glass bowl on my head like a hat because I couldn’t figure out what else to do with it.  It promptly slid off the oil slick called my hair and burst into a thousand pieces all over the tub and my feet.  Ouch!  Typing, I think I found another sliver in my thumb.

So, the oil down ended quickly for me, though my partner meditated naked for a while and is now in the shower.

A day.  In the life.  Of an insane person.

I am now admitting that I don’t like being on a cleanse.  I don’t like not being able to think clearly and being weak as a kitten.  But I love the men at Endicott, so that’s something.  They deserve better of me, to quote Reverend Alex, which is really quoting myself, since I created her.

I hope that this cleanse provides me with a new digestive system, because frankly, I deserve it.

Ayurvedic Cleanse, Day 2: Getting Honest about Gender and Sexuality


Yesterday my partner threw up.  It was right after couples therapy, so an appropriate response, in my opinion.  However, she liked the couples therapist, so it might have been the cleanse, or the IFS talking to the headache exercise.  I don’t suppose we’ll ever know.

Before the couples therapy, in the early evening, my stomach inflated with gas like a beach ball and I also felt nauseated (partly from listening outside the bathroom at the therapist’s as my partner blew kitchari chunks over and over).

Lesson learned:  don’t say that day 1 of the cleanse is great until the day is over.

I’m still nauseated today and to distract myself I set aside the reading about Buddhism and read Self-Made Man by Norah Vincent. I devoured the book, last night and then this morning.  The book is about a lesbian who lives as a man for 18 months in order to learn about maleness.  She is full of preconceptions, and most of them get pounded into dust, where preconceptions belong (believe me, I know about this).

But, more importantly, at least for me, the book made my deep love for men and maleness resurface at a time when it was on the way up anyhow, because the devised theatre piece I’m working on at Endicott College this fall is about exactly that–maleness, gender, how men feel about women and each other.  It’s a very light comedy, which in some ways makes me sad because I have felt so deeply moved by the men in my life, and what they’ve shared with me about their struggles to be men and to feel connected to other men, that I want to put it into words, into story.  Norah Vincent put on a disguise to enter the world of men, but I have always entered as myself, as a woman who has similar emotional patterns to men (as in, a certain allergy to feeling and showing emotional vulnerability and a need to seem strong at all costs).  I have been accepted, loved, criticized, feared and admired.  But most of all, I have been trusted; and there is nothing in the world like that, like being let in to someone else’s sacred space because you are you, and that’s enough.

Anyhow, to get to the beginning of the story.  Which is my own gender, or gender preference, both of which are relatively complicated.  Gender, at least in its obvious form, is simple.  I am a woman.  In some ways I embody the feminine principle–artistic, creative, attracted to all that is liminal and emphemeral, sensitive, dreamy, spiritual.  But I am the oldest daughter, and oldest children are often identified with their fathers–I certainly was.  I learned about a man’s world from my father–when he took me to ball games, on sales calls, to dinners, company parties, to theatre, bars, you name it. I was his little girl tomboy, and I imitated the men–I swore like they did, I cheered like they did.  I learned about being tough and one of the guys; much better than being the bullied girl I was at school, utterly vulnerable.  I mean, I am a woman who understands men and I grew up that way–comfortable with men and their world–not boys, men.

Gender preference is another story.  I became openly bi-sexual when I had my first relationship with a woman at 19.  Then I dated men, then I dated women, then I had another relationship with a woman, then I dated men, and then I got with my now partner, gender queer, somewhere in between male and female, which I am grateful for and have been for the 25 years we’ve been together, since she ended my struggle to choose.  Because I am not a 50/50 bi-sexual.  I am bi-sexual in that I fall for the person, not the gender.  BUT, my need for men is different than my need for women–I don’t experience my relationships to gender as equal and the same…more like equal and different.

For example, up through age 27, as I dated men and women and had longer relationships with women (3 years and 2 years respectively, prior to this 25 year marriage), feelings started to surface.  Sexual feelings for both men and women.  But I felt off with my long-term girlfriends, both of whom were femme and extremely pretty (I still get a little male surge of pride at this, like, hey, I can get the really good-looking ones–my brother was jealous).  I didn’t fit with them, gender-wise or even sexually.  I felt the same way with the more masculine men I dated.  It was very confusing.

Now some women resolve this conflict by saying that they are lesbians because they fall in love with women (I’ve never been deeply and lastingly in love with a man, for example, except for my partner, who is a woman, but male).  I couldn’t say that.  I didn’t want to, for one thing, though I received so much pressure in the late 80’s from the lesbians in my life to declare, once and for all, that I was gay, lesbian, into women, swearing off men (I knew some separatists), that I just hung out with straight women to get some space from the judgment.

Of course, I hadn’t had the experiences that I would later have, of being allowed into the sanctuary of male vulnerability, particularly straight male vulnerability, so though I loved my male friends, many of whom were gay, I hadn’t ever been as close, as intimate, as I would later become.

And, face it, I am not a woman who wants to close off the exits, the opportunities, sign on for a single choice in any area of life.  I’m bi-sexual because I’m open to possibility and because I live a bi-sexual life style…meaning, a life with both gay and straight people, with intimate friendships with straight men (more these days than with gay men, which is surprising).  I walk in more than one world.  This is almost common now, but I lived this way, well, always.

But, it should be said that my German mother is also a closeted lesbian, and watching her life made me ambivalent about so many things–not wanting to be like her (lesbian, uptight, secretive, closed), not wanting to be closeted, afraid of the shame lesbians could face (I saw her duck it…which is about being consumed by it).  So.  Life is complicated, and so am I, and so, obviously, was she.

So, Self-Made Man.  I have had the rather unusual experience of being the only woman in support groups for men, the most unusual of the unusual being me and 60 men.  Some of this was during the men’s movement, when I offered a creative writing class for men (encouraged by many of the men’s wives, who were my students in all-women classes).  But it continued, as if fate drew me back again and again into the world of maleness.  I entered with comfort…not something anyone understood at the time, even me.  And with curiosity, interest, attention…the characteristics of love, really, wanting to just know.  No other agenda.  In the largest group, there were men who didn’t want me there, who consciously or unconsciously did and said things to make me uncomfortable, but there was a much larger contingent of men who circled round to protect me, who were made uncomfortable by any word or gesture of hostility toward me.  I was their sister, their mascot, the accepting female heart, hand, eye.  I didn’t flinch when they told me what they felt ashamed of.  And, because I was female, when I did get vulnerable I sometimes led the way into new territory, and they needed that…to be opened, to be given permission.

I was in love with all of them.

So now, working at Endicott, I have this deep longing to say that love, and to say what it’s like to work with men again, to be the woman in the room, to hear the stories, to ask for them, to listen, to see how some of these men truly love each other, and to understand that need that men have, to love each other openly, and how rarely they can.

I am in love, again, with maleness, with the struggle men have in this culture, to define goodness within the role they are handed, that asks them to shed deeply human parts of themselves, both their sometimes fierce sexuality, and their need to not be strong, not always.

I’m on a cleanse.  What I say is reflective of that, perhaps, and what I write here is so that I can let the play at Endicott be light, funny, as it wants to be.  I can love, love, love the men I have known–Steve and Jon and John and Pete and Joel and Chris and Todd–as well as the ones I know now.  I can be glad that the ways that I am off-limits gives me access.  Purely straight women envy this–at least my friends do.  I would say this–enter any world without judgment, seeking only to know and be known, and watch what happens.  That is so rare between straight men and women.  And the men know that, keenly.

Of course, earlier in my life, when men opened the door to being known, I entered with fear, but I let the fear go, and the men watched me do it, because I was honest, and that changed everything.

May I enter every moment of this day without judgment, wanting only to know. May we all learn that, how to just be, listening with our souls to the individual life, and how it beats its own rhythm, different from all others.

Ayurvedic Cleanse: Day 1, No Drama. What?


I am not homicidal.

Neither am I hungry.

Of course, I’m mostly asleep, so that’s not particularly difficult.

I like the gruel.

I like my partner.

I like my devised theatre project.

I have micro-waveable Buckies to put on my stomach and a choice of three eye pillows.

I have already meditated once today and may do so again.

But for right now, it’s all about sleep.

I realize without something to complain about, I’m pretty boring, but I could complain about becoming boring for a while.

Nah.  Sleep it is.