Satya–Do I Really Need to Be More Honest?

My yoga teacher says that whatever issues you have will show up on the mat when you do postures.  It is partly for this reason that I frequently want to kill her.  (Of course, I want to kill EVERYONE because I am reactive, unenlightened, have an aversive personality–according to the Buddhists–and am basically a dramatic artist who enjoys swooning over every emotion I feel.)  (I long to swoon in yoga teacher training, but then I might fail and yoga teacher training is EXPENSIVE.)

Here’s what shows up on my mat:  AVERSION!  INNER CONFLICT!  And F*&(ING TMS SYNDROME!

Yoga is so peaceful, truly.

(When I do it at home it’s peaceful because I lie on a bolster in several different positions not moving and usually falling asleep.  I have become a yoga slacker.  This is the result of yoga teacher training, for some reason.)

Anyhow, if I’m talking about satya, or honesty, the second of the yoga yamas (the first is ahimsa, non-violence, and I’ve already written about that, ad infinitum) then I really have an excuse to say that TMS Syndrome is kicking my butt on the mat.  (TMS Syndrome’s other name is mindbody syndrome, a term coined by John Sarno.  Basically, TMS people like me have no severe anatomical abnormalities, but still experience chronic pain, usually in their backs.  I have it in my back, but sometimes also knees, and occasionally shoulders.  (You know, I don’t do things in half measures.  Probably I have pain in the guy down the street.) Anyhow, the pain, Sarno says, comes from an unconscious process that denies some amount of oxygen to areas of the body to cause physical pain as a distraction from emotional pain like, for example, homicidal rage.  (It’s because of Sarno I talk about how homicidal I am all the time.)  (Look at me!  I’m blaming someone I’ve never even met!)

Anyway, as I practice self-study (also a part of yoga, but really just an excuse to be fascinated with myself), I can’t help but notice how it goes on the mat in yoga teacher training.  Here’s how:

It’s Saturday.  Usually we do 3-4 hours of yoga in the Saturday practice.  So, 2 hours in I start to want it to be over.  By 2.5 hours in I REALLY want it to be over.  I mean, I start to feel like I’m being tortured.  I’m getting angry.  But I’ve always been athletic, and as you know if you’ve read my other blogs, I had a football player father who taught me to never be a quitter.  Plus, I want to prove I can do anything anyone else can do.  (Both of these things are insane, so it’s a good thing I’ve never claimed to be, you know, sane.)  At the same time, I want to practice ahimsa, not only because that’s what yoga is REALLY about, but because it’s the kind thing to do for myself, and though I am insane, I hate being unkind to myself.  So basically, during yoga teacher training, the inside of my head is like World War 3.  Right around the 2.5 hour mark, as we approach inversions (which I love because going upside down is really fun), and I realize I’m too blasted tired and whacked to do inversions, the inner conflict reaches its zenith and WHAM!  BACK PAIN!

It’s only because you’re not allowed to talk during yoga practice that I’m arguing with myself and noticing all this stuff.  And it has become glaringly obvious that when I want to be kind to myself and there’s pressure to do something else (perceived or real pressure, mind you), all this tension builds inside of me and then it goes into my back.

And get this:  when I figured all this out and really took breaks and gave up being Ms. Middle Aged Cool Yoga Girl, I didn’t have any back pain AT ALL.

I guess John Sarno is right.

So in my fascination with myself, I’m now on the hunt for my moments of intense inner conflict and tension, trying to notice them, trying to just stop, breathe, sense into my body.  Yoga teacher training is prime fodder for this practice.  As is any time I’m trying to act like a mature adult and not jump on my partner’s lap (a struggle I always lose, but here’s hoping).

Anyhow, crazy or not, my need for gentleness and kindness, from myself, first and above all, would be legend if anyone knew about it.

Oh, I guess you now do.

Send flowers.

Though money would be better.

Yoga, Yoga, Yoga and the Truth about Yoga

Well, first of all, yoga is a way of life.  It’s part of the Hindu religion, and the Sutras spell out a path to nirvana and peace (since the Sutras were written about 500 years after the Buddha lived, some scholars claim they would not have been possible without Buddhism and are heavily influenced by Buddhist philosophy as well as the atheistic Hindu system of dualism).

Of course, here in the West, yoga’s rep for sweaty hot rooms and twisty bendy postures has caused us to forget that it’s part of Hinduism at all.

And face it, I love the twisty bendy everything.  I have recently fallen in love with the investigation of the philosophy (just as I fell in love with Buddhism last year), but the twisty bend everything still claims me, tests me, makes me face so many things.  And not the ones you would expect–not aging, stiffness, the limits of my body.  But who I truly am.

I go to the mat.  And wherever I go, there I am.

I’ve written that my worst case scenario was to have an eruption of back pain while doing yoga teacher training, and that, of course, the worst case scenario happened.  And here’s the thing–I get kind of sick of turning worst case scenarios into AFGO’s (another f&*#ing growth opportunity), but what else is a girl to do?  I’m not allowed to lie down, wail and writhe in yoga teacher training.  So, AFGO.

I might add that the AFGO keeps honking its horn because I’ve had flare ups in three separate weekends.  I went back to the lovely Dr. Martinez to re-charge my John Sarno-I-am-insanely-homicidal-and-don’t-want-to-know-it approach to back pain.  I went to Thai massage and shiatsu, even though what I’m really supposed to do is examine my unconscious rage (and other feelings).

And I’ve returned to the mat.  If I wasn’t in teacher training, I might not have.  Weight lifting significantly changes the pain equation (when paired with examination of homicidal tendencies) in a way yoga does not.

Anyway, so I’m on the mat this Saturday, sweating my brains out after 2+ hours of incredibly strenuous yoga.  And satya (truth, a yoga yama): I’m getting angry.  I’m starting to have intense inner conflict, because even though I can continue to do the asanas (postures), I know from the other weekends that when I do, I reach over-exertion, my mind fogs out, I get triggered and unhappy and overwhelmed and I really just want to cry.  I mean, past two hours it’s just not fun at all.

At the same time, I have my lovely conditioning from my Irish father, a stellar athlete who was offered football scholarships to a million colleges and played halfback for Notre Dame.  We played sports all the time growing up, and he admired only fight, only never giving up, only trying no matter how much it hurt.  So I’m on the friggin’ yoga mat, knowing that yoga is a way of life and starts with ahimsa (non-violence, with self as well as everyone else), with this never-say-die tape running in my head, and the really great teacher, who I genuinely like, giving us instructions and assists, and it’s like a pressure cooker, because I’m totally overwhelmed and I really, really, really want to just stop.

On top of that, Saturday was an introduction to inversions, so I was excited to do headstand, handstand and stand on the forearms because they are really fun.

I didn’t stop.  And by the time we got to the inversions, I was in a black mood, and unable to concentrate, knowing if I did go upside down I’d likely have back pain because the point in every training where the back pain descends is just then–the overwhelmed, over-exerted point.  The point of intense inner conflict.

Though I didn’t do much with the inversions–I went up in handstand once, knew it was enough, and stopped.  But then I got triggered and tried again…and the back pain descended with FEROCITY.

I lay in savasana (corpse pose) crying a little, because I was so frustrated and disappointed.  I mean, I am often a 5 year old and not getting to go upside down was a big let down.  I decided, while lying there, that when everyone else went to lunch, I’d just hang upside down on the rope wall in 3 or 4 different ways to make myself feel better.  Which I did.  And it kind of worked.  The black mood lightened a lot.

Then, AH-HAH!  The light bulb, the explosion, the-I-did-notice-but-was-too-embarrassed-to-admit-it moment.  The back pain descends when I’m overwhelmed.  When I have internal conflict.

Earlier Saturday morning, I’d been struggling with wanting to go to Pride.  I’d been talking about it with my partner all week–our 25th anniversary on Pride weekend, Obama coming out for gay marriage (I’m back in love with him, which he no doubt intended)–I mean, it was too much to miss.  But a make-up for a day of yoga training is like $200-$300.  And I’m not teaching.  So, INTERNAL CONFLICT.  I woke up with back pain, and then did my Sarno writing (and some meditation) and decided to do one Pride event–not the parade, which I’d have preferred–on Saturday.  And the pain went….whoosh!  Gone.

Of course it came back at the overwhelm point in the training.  But I’m starting to get that these intense moments of internal conflict can be addressed or avoided and then NO BACK PAIN.  It’s more than my lovely homicidality (give me a break, anyone who meditates gets to find out they resent everything).  It’s when I go to war with myself and my conditioning and the pressure builds and I don’t know how to resolve it that I get back pain.

Yesterday, (Sunday) more intense yoga.  I sat out for part of it.  I didn’t get overwhelmed.  Though I’d walked in to class with a ton of pain, I was down to minor twinges after an hour.  AND, I went up in both handstand and headstand (I’ve always been able to do shoulder stand with no problem).

The truth about yoga is wherever I go, there I am.  And meditation teaches me to focus on myself.  It doesn’t matter whether anyone else is overwhelmed.  What matters is that I am, and managing my internal world in a kind and skillful way brings me peace.  I get to decide how much physical yoga is too much–that is something I have the power to do.

On the mat, it’s not about back pain.  Back pain is the teacher.  It’s about admitting I get overwhelmed, that lots of instruction can be hard for me to process, that whether the over-exertion is physical or mental (holding concentration for so long), doesn’t matter.  I get to say die.  I get to just stop.  And be with what is.  Until being with what is becomes peace.

Once a woman I had trained on a job I used to have told me the first time she saw me, she immediately felt intense resentment.  She said I seemed so confident, and she thought, “Nothing bad has ever happened to that woman in her life.”

Then she became my poetry editor.  So she read about my family.  She actually apologized for completely misjudging me.

Satya is finding a way to honor the poetry.  The truth and the beauty, the dirge and the psalm.  And really, who wouldn’t want to do that?

The Queen of Polish OR “I” Statements and Going Easy on the Stork’s Swan Song

I am suave, smooth.  I communicate elegantly.  In other words, our breakup with the Stork couples therapist (ongoing) started last night with a bit of, well, ahimsa.  And panache.  And f*&(ing “I” statements.

We started the conversation like this:

Me:  (To my partner.)  You’re on.

My partner:  Uh.

Me:  Uh?

My partner: Um.

Me:  (Pause, looking at her.)

My partner:  (Pause, looking at me.)

Me:  I guess I’ll go.

Then I proceeded to communicate my experience, including my doubts, questions, mistrust, self-questioning, without once blaming the Stork for being an insane person.  I periodically turned the topic over to my partner:

Me:  So it’s your turn.

My partner:  Uh.

Me:  Are you stuck?

My partner:  (To the Stork.)  I just want to blame it all on you.

Stork:  I can take it.

Me (thinking silently):  That is one big fat lie.

My partner:  Uh.  Um.  (She looks at me.)

Me:  Still stuck?

My partner:  Uh-huh.

Me:  Allow me.

Then I again talked about my own experience in a very moderate and adult way while steering the conversation to solutions without directly suggesting any.  We ended with the Stork encouraging us to interview other therapists while still seeing him, so we weren’t left in the lurch (read:  homicidal and very anti-ahimsa with each other) in the meantime.  Which was pretty much my goal, and I do usually get what I want when I’m all elegant, polished, kind and focused on ahimsa.  (Is it really ahimsa?  If I’m getting what I want?)

Of course, now that I’m back to doing the John Sarno investigation of my unconscious and apparently limitless homicidality, clearly such elegance also results in BACK PAIN, which is not ahimsa at all, since I end up suffering.

And there you have it.  The bind of all existence.

I have said this before:  The shadow must have its day.

I’ve been having epiphany moments about my new life–you know, the one I’m fantasizing about in between doing 7 million hours of yoga and reading the Yoga Sutras of Patajali as well as texts on Buddhism.  And it all comes down to this–yoga, religion, meditation…isn’t it all about turning us into good little boys and girls?  I mean, really, all that higher self and elegance is just so….boring.

Mind you, lock me in a room with someone possessed by criticism and blame and I’ll get on my ahimsa high horse in a flat second.  It’s more the impossibility of eradicating sin, or the animal part of our natures, our primal emotions, that concerns me.

I think of the Meisner technique at its most advanced best, when the humanity of two actors collides without barriers–and there is love, joy, sexuality, rage, pain, hurt, flirting.  People have said things to me in the repetition exercise that brought me to the point of shaking with fear or angry enough to hit, and then afterward I felt so close to them.  If it had been life, I’d probably have made sure I never saw the person again.  It’s the safe container of the creative world and the exercise itself that allows all parts of the self–dark and light–full expression.   That’s where the creative closeness comes from.  Especially if you’re in the service of story, expression, meaning.

We just don’t seem to be able to allow for that full expression anywhere else.  There’s such danger of really damaging each other.  So it’s all about controlling, containing and civilizing.  The problem is that while those things are important–who wants violence or verbal abuse in their life?–there’s a tendency for them to actually feed the rage and pain that lies underneath bad behavior.  The standards expressed by religion, or therapy–speak only in “I” statements (therapy), be only peaceful, follow these rules, calm the mind…can’t undo our inherent messiness, and when these rules are imposed with rigidity, the shadow grows stronger and in need of expression.

I’m mostly messy with my partner.  Sometimes I say, “I just really need to be bad right now.”  Then I jump on her and tickle her and she makes jokes about how long this particular fit will last and will she survive it.

Sometimes I come home from a day of successfully practicing ahimsa and I say, “Oh my God, I’ve been so mature today I think I’m going to die.”  Then I throw myself down on the yoga mat and writhe for a while.

I frequently announce that I need attention or that I’m about to show off or that I’d like to kill x, y, or z.

I do not say these things as examples anyone should follow.  It’s just that balance, moment to moment messiness, is a goal for me.  I’m either a paragon or a very very bad, rebellious teenager trapped in a much older body.  (My partner would say that I am vastly over-estimating my age.  She’d vote for 5 years old trapped in a much larger body.)

Spirituality, calm and beauty are things I love, but I know, truly, madly, deeply, that the shadow, the unhealed, the unexpressed, must rise up, and it’s better if I find a place of welcome for it than if I try to make it go away or pretend it never existed in the first place.

Think of Right Wing Christians, so invested in their own goodness that hatred and intolerance dominate their lives.

Being human is tricky.

This morning I helped my partner write an email about a conflict she’d had with some people.  Her first draft was stilted–non-blaming, but disorganized and hard to understand.  We had this conversation about how when she doesn’t criticize other people, she gets blocked on what to say.  So I helped her with the email (a little overbearingly…and yes, that is an invented word) and we looked at it.  The paragraph I’d written as an example was very polished.  You’d never know how devastated and triggered she was.  And indeed, polish is a mask for hurt feelings, for feeling less than, a way to hide when you’re afraid other people will use your own vulnerability against you.  We were like, “Wow, we are such opposites!”  (We realize this about every other hour or so.)  I keep people at a distance when I’m all elegant and “I” statements or when I’m too reactive/rebellious for life.  My partner keeps people at a distance by being too messy  or being silent because she’s afraid of being messy.

And so I wonder–what is the true path to awakening?  It cannot only be meditating and being oh-so-perfect.  And then I remember my Western meditation teachers warning that meditating your feelings away is called repression, not awakening.  Meditation is about knowing, investigating and holding all the feelings while recognizing that they are not you.  It’s a way to get bigger than your own experience, and so to have more choices.

In Internal Family Systems (my partner’s obsession) this would be about being able to tell the difference between an internal Manager (like the Queen of Polish) and Self (the true compassionate center that can communicate honestly about all other parts and all feelings).

I can deconstruct anything, so let me say that trying to be in Self all the time then becomes the perfection to avoid.*

But.  But.  The Queen of Polish manages the world of communication with skill and panache.  Self, the true heart, the bigger, meditated Lyralen is actually more vulnerable.  And much more accessible to other people and the world.

And therefore to be avoided at all costs.

Just kidding.

I think.

*To give Dick Schwartz his due, he does say that healthy couples live in a state of play in which different parts of who they are come and go without fear.

More YOGA: Ahimsa or At Least I Crack Myself Up

Ahimsa, is the first of the yamas of yoga and Hinduism (rules for ethical conduct) and it means non-violence.

I took my first yoga class with Patricia Walden in Cambridge a couple weeks ago, and she was leading off the class with a discussion of the yamas.  The class was on satya, the second yama (truth or honesty), but she mentioned ahimsa and off I went.

Ahimsa is the building block for all ethics, of course, and perhaps because of that the most difficult to practice.  Oh, I know, it’s easy to have some basic level of decency and then not question.  Or at least, it must be easy for someone, somewhere, as long as that person isn’t me.  On one hand, no one will ever accuse me of not examining my life.  On the other, on the list of the 5 hindrances to enlightenment in Buddhism is doubt, and questioning too far, too much, too often, questioning everything, all the time, does add up to doubt.

And, on the 7 deadly sin list is pride, which I use to counter doubt, telling myself, and everyone who will listen, how I’m smarter than pretty much anyone.

Religion.  Gets you whether you’re coming or going.  Or even just standing still.

Anyhow, ahimsa.  And, watch me, here I go with the pride thing.  I am going to marry yogic principles, Buddhism and couples therapy.  Let’s see if I can do it in one sentence.

I’ve been thinking about ahimsa because in couples therapy my partner and I complain about each other’s angry energy, showing (yogic principles) that we are both sitting somewhere between the 3rd (dvesa: aversion to old bad experiences) and 4th (abhinivesa: fear) branches of avidya (bad perception) and that we possess no real equanimity (upekkha–Buddhism).

A long sentence, but there you have it.

In therapy terms, we have intimacy and attachment issues with some boundary problems thrown in.

Or, in Lyralen language, we are just gloriously f%$#ed up like the rest of the human race, scared of each other on a good day, and likely to blame each other because that’s what people do and also because growing up just isn’t on the agenda.

AHIMSA.  Really, I should just start this topic with how hard it is to treat myself really well.  I run into it on the mat all the time, as I push to do perfect asanas, and then catch myself and slow it down.  “Forget all the skinny bendy young things,” I tell myself.  “Never been there, never done that.  Think acceptance for tight hamstrings and an athletic competitive family and think of the joy of this tense, stretching, living body.  Think peace.”

For me, non-violence starts with letting go of ambition, competition, striving, stress.  I have this secret joke with myself that I get up to lie down.  Many mornings I get up and then do restorative yoga, which is basically lying down in different positions.  I often fall asleep again.

I do not think of my German mother or competitive athletic Irish father.  Well, maybe I do.  Because there is no rebellion like lying down as soon as you get up.  I mean, who does that?  I’m not even trying to meditate.  I’m not trying to do anything.

I could go on…the tiny violent things, like do you tear a brush through your hair or do it gently?  The antidote comes down to Buddhist mindfulness, but frankly, trying to be perfectly mindful is another trap for doing violence to yourself and I should know.  (Plus, you should watch all the people mindfully eating breakfast in slow motion at the Buddhist 10 day silent meditation retreats.  It’s enough to drive you out of your mind.  Permanently.)

Anyhow, I figure going around saying that I’m f$%#ed up and so is everyone else is a pretty good practice of acceptance and imperfection.  You know, like I’ll be mindful, but in a relaxed way, when it’s not too much trouble.

I would be a bad Buddhist if in fact I had signed on, which, of course, I haven’t, because I am too much of a nonconformist to even sign on for nonconformist Buddhism.

Anyhow, the point of this blog, now 649 words in, is the whole couples therapy ahimsa thing.  I have worked hard, all my life, to be contained and dignified.  I know, reading this thing, you won’t believe me, but it’s true.  I have rules for my behavior off the page (and even on the page…notice, I don’t say my partner’s name or tell any of the personal details of our fights or blame her on the world wide web even though she drives me crazy and everything is her fault) (okay, I don’t blame her by building a case with details).  I try very hard not to lose my temper or be disrespectful of other people, and, as you’ve no doubt noticed, since I can be a bit of a hothead when I’m not meditating and doing yoga, this is no small feat.

But in the last theatre production, I was so angry when people didn’t do their jobs, and so stressed with picking up slack everywhere, I know I exuded misery and anger and stress.  And here is where ahimsa becomes so difficult to practice.  I don’t yell, or swear or name call, but I know from my own relationships that sometimes that almost doesn’t matter.  You can’t claim virtue because you don’t speak when your energy speaks for you.  People know when someone is unhappy, or judging, or criticizing silently.

This is what both my partner and I find so troublesome in each other.  Plus, we’ve known each other for 29 years now (our 25th anniversary is in June), so it’s not like there are any secrets.

When I was going on and on about keeping my mouth shut the first week of yoga teacher training, what I was really, on a serious level, worried about, was ahimsa.  I was worried about containing my energy, because, let me belabor the point again, I am grieving, and grief is painful and dark, and it feels isolating, so spending 14 hours with a group of people I didn’t know scared me.  I was afraid of not being able to be centered; I was afraid of going somewhere dark in my own energy and being energetically incapable of practicing ahimsa.

Pia Melody (who I often hate and am embarrassed to admit I have read) says that energetic boundaries are a key area of safety in a marriage.  If you get really angry, you have to first put physical distance between yourself and your partner, and then you need to contain the energy itself.  This isn’t because we might hit each other, it’s because the energy feels very threatening, and you have to indicate you’re in control enough to practice love.

This makes me wonder if getting angry is seen as one of the 7 deadly sins of psychotherapeutic culture.  It’s definitely listed as one of the 5 hindrances.  But get this–swallowing anger, taking it into your body, repressing it, leads to self-violence, or, as John Sarno would say, lots of back pain.


I don’t know the answer to these questions, but I know that anger is a force that can be used for good, and I know I don’t want to scare my partner with my critical or angry energy, and I also know that with a German mother (repress everything) and an impulse-driven Irish father (why bother), I can only look at all the craziness and say, well, I definitely do know we’re all crazy.


I love the word, I have to say.  I’ve been a pacifist my whole life, but I do hate mosquitoes and kill them with relish.

In other words, as I said in the title, at least I crack myself up.  As I try to understand the nature of existence, as I tell the truth about some things if not everything, as I come back, over and over again, to the existence of human insanity, I find that humor is often the only answer.

That or homicide.  But, since I am contemplating and trying to practice ahimsa, I guess homicide is pretty much off the table.

Yoga, Yoga, Yoga and More Yoga or What Am I Doing?

I think it was in 1988 that I decided to listen to my gut.  Not for the first time, but I had a therapist, who was, get this, a yoga instructor, and all I did in therapy with her was learn how my intuition revealed itself and then how to listen to it instead of all the other thoughts/voices whatever.  (This was, by the way, the only therapy I’ve ever really liked.)  It seemed since I spent a year learning this thing, I might as well use it.  So I replaced my five and ten year plans with intuition.  (I was in my twenties at the time.  Are only 20 somethings dumb enough to have five and ten year plans?)

Anyhow, I’d lived in Spain and Japan by then, so being un-American enough to give up the relentless goals of those plans was almost perfectly fine with me.

Thing is, living by intuition means that I know I have no f&*#ing clue what I’m doing.  I just get an intuitive feeling about something, I do it, and then hopefully I figure out later why I did it.  (Or I invent something to make myself feel better.)

It’s a more interesting way to live, a more adventurous way, unless it’s totally insane, which is always possible.  I mean, think of the Buddhist construct theory.  Was it even an intuition?  Does intuition exist?  Is my insane mind even capable of discerning intuition from, say, compulsion or addiction? Probably not.

But, I figure, who else gets a solid year of training in intuition?  So, insane or not, whether intuition or me or anything exists or not, I spent all that money, back in 1988, so I’m going to listen to my intuition and see what happens.

So I intuitively decided to do the latest endeavor, yoga teacher training.  I’d been studying yoga with the teacher for maybe a month, so it wasn’t like I didn’t know what I was getting into (it does not take me a month to figure out another teacher’s style, talents and weak points…more like an hour, if that, because I am intuitive).  At the same time, I can’t really see myself teaching yoga.  I LOVE doing yoga, and I like making it part of acting classes because opening up the body for actors is invaluable, but just teaching asanas (postures) doesn’t feel like something I would ever want to do.

And the training is expensive, so doing it for the hell of it, or simply for self-improvement, considering my income, seems…well, insane.

Living the intuitive life.  Having no idea what I’m doing.  Humility, anyone?

So, my worst case scenario for this class is that I would re-activate an area of pain (I can’t say injury, in spite of being in 4 car accidents, because I’m still on the John Sarno back-pain-is-caused-by-unconscious-rage plan) and wouldn’t be able to do the very strenuous physical part of the training.  And it is STRENUOUS.  The teacher is brilliant, she has good time management, great classroom management, incredible skill in teaching alignment and the correct way to do postures.  But we also hold Plank for about 3 millenium, not to mention Up Dog.  It’s harder than any normal flow you could ever do.

Of course, my life has been on a worst case scenario track for some time now, so it should come as no surprise that I re-activated my lower right back issue on the first weekend.  Because of John Sarno, I have had to examine my unconscious rage.  The interesting thing is that of course there was some–this is ME, remember?  I am homicidal on my best days.  But the new thing from my more recent Sarno readings is that there’s an extra step.  You don’t have to just examine your unconscious rage you have to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.  Like, change your life.

I have been thinking about ahimsa.  It’s the ethical foundation of yogic philosophy, and it means non-harming.  In other words, don’t do the strenuous yoga class like a big go-getter raised by a competitive Irish father (who was offered a football scholarship to Notre Dame and played halfback until he blew out his knee).  Don’t keep putting tension into your body to “get it right.”  In other words, yoga is about ahimsa, starting with self.

Today I was thinking about a very simple thing–do people who are not f-ed up investigate yoga, Eastern philosophy, meditation, Joseph Campbell, couples therapy (ala Christopher Durang or not, with a Stork or not), etc.  It’s not like I’m uncomfortable saying that I’m screwed up.  I am gloriously screwed up, fascinatingly screwed up (at least to myself), charismatically screwed up.  And it’s not really a question of whether there exist people who are less screwed up than I am.  I have a friend who has many of my personal strengths–compassion, commitment to social justice, integrity, decency, kindness, honesty (those are for you, Karen…see, I can say my good points!), but who significantly lacks my capacity for drama and taking things personally.  She’s not an artist, so I can love her even while she holds up this mirror of good points minus worst flaws, because I get to add unbridled creativity to my side of the scale.

Anyhow, the point of this is that clearly there are less screwed up people.  But my friend is screwed up.  This makes me happy.  Because I can live in world of less screwed up people, but not in a world in which there are people who aren’t screwed up at all.  Which is good, because I haven’t met any of those people and I’m sure my capacity for drama would amplify around them.

Anyhow.  Ahimsa.  Non-harming.  Even though I’m still grieving, I have been working with my worst case scenario.  For one thing, we had endless anatomy this weekend in the training (I remain the typical gifted child, who only wants to learn what interests her, which has never included science), and we went around and looked at injuries and how to modify yoga to practice ahimsa.

Here’s my thing–I can’t do Virabadrasana I (warrior 1) without weeks of pain.  I’ve asked teachers I really respect to modify the pose to no avail.  It might seem like common sense to just not do Vira I, but I have never claimed to have common sense and I’m not starting now.  But, when 20 other yoga teachers in training answer the question, “What would you tell a student with this problem?” with a simple, “I’d tell her not to do the pose,” even I have to wake up to the great need for ahimsa in my life.

Good-bye lessons of the ex-halfback of Notre Dame.  It becomes clearer by the moment that my Irish father’s lessons were no better than my German mother’s.

Maybe I am taking the yoga teacher training to learn ahimsa.  Because the fact is, while I love yoga, I can’t do it as my solo exercise because when I do I’m always in pain.  I have to mix it up with weight-lifting, which is terribly non-yogic.

And I find, that while I still don’t know why I’m doing this thing, I’m getting super interested in the differences between people’s bodies.  For example, I realize that I know exactly which poses really help my body, in alignment, in stability, in strength, in opening.  And I also know that there are some poses that just suck for me.  I am getting interested in doing only the poses that I know make me feel great and seeing what happens.  Like, healing, I bet.  And what if I could do this for other people?  The great yogis did this–individual prescriptions, sometimes asanas, sometimes meditation, sometimes ayurveda.

I’m interested.  I’m curious.  In the middle of grief.  Something to be grateful for.  Something to recognize as grace.

Plus, I went to an easier class today, which was AWESOME and made me very happy because I can now do handstand against the wall.  Which is very cool.  I can almost do headstand.  These asanas don’t hurt me, and they’re fun, and I get to show off to my non-yogic friends which is very unenlightened of me.  The showing off.

The great thing about being screwed up?  Getting to enjoy things like showing off.  And as long as I’m going around telling everyone how screwed up I am, I can keep right on showing off.

I am too cool for words.  And smart, too.

If not very yogic.

Letting Go of Fear, OR, I Really Am Crazier than the Average Yogi

First, I have to say that up until yesterday I really did consider myself to be the most self-aware person on the planet.


Seriously.  The need for me to get over myself is really just astounding.

So then I go to the Letting Go of Fear workshop at the Cambridge Meditation Center.  We do a meditation, and then we go around and say who we are and why we’re there.  I’m the second person and I’m like, “I’m Lyralen, and I had a gut feeling I was supposed to come to this, and then everything got cancelled without me doing anything, so I thought I’d come.”

Everyone else talks about anxiety and fear in their lives, and how there’s a legacy of these things in their families, illustrating clearly why they are drawn to this topic.

I’m sitting there, listening with interest, thinking, “Really?  I don’t think anxiety is in my family.”

Did I mention I have a German mother?  This becomes more relevant every minute.

Then there’s a lecture about fear and how it works and how we are aware of it and I am struck with profound narcolepsy so I surreptitiously lie down on the floor and go to sleep.  And wake up.  And go to sleep again.

When we do our second meditation I choose a position that’s usually kind of painful because I figure at least the pain will keep me awake.  Which it does.

Michael Liebenson Grady talks about the attachment to self and how in the Western world, fear is always MY fear, or MY anxiety or I am a fearful person.  In Buddhism it’s all, fear exists, it’s an energy, it’s here, it will pass.  No ownership.  No ego attachment.

I’m up for that.  I like Michael a lot, by the way, though I am not in love with him as I am with the lovely Dr. Martinez, who I talked to on the phone on Friday.

Anyhow, so in the afternoon we go from doing calming meditation practices to doing investigative practices, which are the ones I truly love best.  We put our awareness on physical sensations or emotions appearing as physical sensation in the body (which they always do, as far as I’m concerned).  I had this huge point penetrating my heart with an anvil on top that spread through my chest and shoulders with pressure in my head.

Never let it be said that my inner experience is less than dramatic.

So, I sensed into it, and it was gloriously painful, and then it made me cry really hard for the requisite 2 minutes.  First the point disappeared, then the anvil, and I was left with brain pressure, and then that went, too.  I felt relief and utter, complete peace.

Of course, the back pain thing had been building all day, but according to Sarno I’m not supposed to sense into that, so I didn’t.  Showing that I can be obedient, but only if the reward is very great and somewhat proven.

Anyhow, then we did another discussion, and Michael talked about how sensing into the physical sensation or emotion doesn’t necessarily or usually change them.  And I’m like, “What?”

So I raise my hand and say, “I was really grateful when everyone was talking about their fear and the legacy of fear because it was new.  I mean, well, in my family we don’t feel fear.  We have back pain.  We have chronic fatigue.  But no fear.”

Of course, everyone is laughing.  One woman is like, “I want to be part of your family.”  (Which, if she had any idea, she would shoot herself before saying.)

I’m like, “Chronic back pain for ten years, yeah.”  Then I told how it feels really good to go inside the pain and how it goes away.  And Michael says, “I can see if you’ve been conditioned to always being in denial it would be a huge relief to feel the pain because then at least you’re not in denial any more.”

Me?  In denial?


There goes the most self-aware woman on the planet image, sucked right out the window which I have conveniently opened right behind where I’m sitting.

And the back pain is getting really bad.

I am somehow self-aware enough to know that now not only do I have to become aware of unconscious rage, I also have to do fear, terror, anxiety and worry.

How nice.

That makes me feel…like killing someone!

But, the back pain drives me through the rest of yesterday and I get up this morning and do an hour of work on the Sarno material, including writing about fear and PRESTO-CHANGEO, no more pain.

Really, when I think about my German mother, I don’t know what emotions she felt.  Anger.  But mostly she was tense.  Really tense.  Super anal and tense.  Perfectionist and tense.  The Irish side of the family had anger, humor and laughter, but then they drank a lot more.

How could I possibly think I had escaped all that repression?  Why did I become an actor in the first place?  Or a writer?  I mean, really.

I am, apparently, not the most self-aware person on the planet.

Writing this blog is an exercise in humility.

Which, in between self-deprecating jokes and immense ego inflation, I probably need.

Metta for me.  And for everyone else.  Because truly, no one is that self-aware.  We have un-evolved brains, remember?  We are always constructing reality and not knowing it’s all just construction.

I am tempted to blow it all off and just go have a good time.  Which might be the point.


PS-I think my German mother was terrified down to her very German toes.  And my Irish father was probably worse.

New York Synchronicity

I am making up for too little social life, sitting here in an apartment on 145th street in Harlem, about to go to the gym, then out to lunch, then out to dinner, then to a movie because theatre takes the day off on Mondays.

New York rocks!

There’s nothing so sweet as returning to a place you used to live and having friends lined up to see you.  I know, of course, that if I moved back I’d see them as infrequently as I did when I lived here, but I’m still enjoying being this popular. 

AND, yesterday I was at a wedding shower that didn’t suck.  I mean, I hate those things, and the last one I went to, in Maine, seemed like a competition for who was more important to the bride and I said to my partner, “I am so glad I am queer.”  Our wedding shower had men and women of all varieties, one of whom is a comic writer and did a roast of us in screenplay form with everyone reading parts.  Our wedding shower also did not suck.

But yesterday was AMAZING.  We actually went around the room and talked about our marriages and how we deal with our differences, how we keep it alive, interesting, sexy.  I avoided the sexy question because I was raised Catholic.  But some people got pretty detailed, which I have to admit was kind of cool.  It was like a slumber party with all these cool upscale New York women, 2 gay men and me.  I felt very queer in comparison, but I also felt like these were the REAL cool kids.  Not the cool mean girls, but the women who want everything life has to offer and are willing to deepen and even suffer to define what that is and then go for it.

Of course, straight women, gay men and me, all too relationship-focused, probably.  We’d all rather be close to our partners and experience love and nurturing than go to the mountaintop, meditate and reach nirvana.  Maybe that’s normal.

No, I can’t be normal.  There absolutely can’t be any way that I am even a little bit normal.

But I would like to crawl off the mountaintop meditation shelf, make a really inappropriate joke, burp, and then burrow into my partner until she squeals and tells  me to stop it.

Ask me if I stop it when she says stop it.

I hope telling the truth about that doesn’t get me into another discussion about my boundaries or lack thereof, and when no means no, and how joking around and being really cute doesn’t cut it when no means no.

I do not claim to be very mature.

I do not claim to be a paragon of mental health.

What a relief that is!

But, I do claim to have a sense of humor about pretty much everything and to tell the truth in ways people can hear at least some of the time.

At the shower, when we went around, I said, “When my partner and I got married the first time, I said to her, ‘You’re a kvetching, passive-aggressive, controlling jerk; and I’m going to marry you anyway,'” She got all teary and said, “That’s the most loving thing anyone has ever said to me.” 

That’s what passes for romance around here.

But, I don’t pretend she’s my knight, my savior, my ideal fantasy prince and I don’t try to make her be that most of the time.  She’s my neurotic, insanity-inducing, sensitive, immature, funny, loving, sincere, passive-aggressive, insanity-producing (did I mention that already?) intelligent boy-girl companion and often friend.  I love her most when she’s in a neurotic fit with a hat pulled down over her eyes ranting about some thing or the other.

How we kill our possibilities of connection with illusion.  How we miss the truth of ourselves and each other.

Our poor unevolved brains, our poor seeking spirits, our poor broken and loving hearts.

“I’m so bloated from that trip to New York,” I imagine telling her.

“Do I really have to come watch them screw something into your jaw?” she might ask.

And if I stop, if I take a moment, I will notice that this is marriage.

She’s still the person I want to talk to about every homicidal impulse I have on the mindbody program. 

I still hate red roses and love playing video games.

At the shower, one of the guys said, “In order to love who you’re with, you have to grieve who that person is not.  Every fantasy and hope you didn’t get…you have to grieve those, let them go, to really love.”

I grieve that my partner isn’t so rich that I never have to work again except when I want to which is probably a lot of the time anyhow.

That’s my start.

Metta for all of us as we try to figure out how to love and partner each other in all our neurotic, messy, imperfect truth.

PS-There was mention of imago couples therapy in the how to handle your differences.  My partner and I went to a weekend imago workshop 15 years ago.  Do we have to go again?

PPS–Some of my NY friends are therapists.  They believe the Sheepdog is a Sheepdog and I should fire her.  I love them and love them more and more and more for this!

PPPS-The woman I spent the longest time talking to at the shower has done Sarno’s mindbody program successfully for years.  What are the chances?  Inspired!