In Memory of Tanza, Dance!

The morning is cold, windy, gray.  It is June, and I still wait for summer to arrive here.  Not that there hasn’t been sun – there have been some incredibly beautiful (albeit cold) days.  Just this past Saturday, however the day was warm AND sunny. What a gift! A proper send off, I think, for my sister Tanza.   She and I share the love of warm and sun, and often we laughingly wondered what the heck we were doing here in gray, rainy Washington.purple wildflower

Even with all the rain, we did enjoy the spring here.  Tanza delighted in seeing different flowers and birds than what she’d known in Florida, and for me – well, I’ve lived in the desert so long I’d forgotten how many colors of flowers there can be.  I am continually astonished at the beauty around me – flowering trees and tulips and rhododendrons and bleeding hearts and lilacs and flowers I have no names for – an abundance of color and fragrance!

flyingTanza left here on Thursday.  I wish she could have stayed to feel the warmth of the sun on Saturday, but it was not to be. Instead, she flew free, dancing I believe with the lightness that can only come from leaving your body behind.  She once told me that the thing she loved most about dancing (her training was in classical ballet) were the high leaps. The sense of flying, stretching out her arms to the sky, leaving the ground, being free.  Living Large.

For all of her love of flying, she also loved the earth.  She helped our niece design her garden, and taught her how to plant so as to attract birds and butterflies.  She loved the trees, guardians of the land, and knew the devas that inhabit the growing things.  From ocean to ocean, she loved the water.   Atlantic ocean,  Pacific ocean, the Baltic Sea and more – in all her travels she found the water to be her home, and it fed her spirit.

I can’t imagine anyone living with more grace and beauty and love than my sister Tanza.  She was a dancer, an artist, always willing to step out on a new adventure, someone who cared deeply.  Even in her pain, she saw beauty, thought of others, cared for life.   She understood more than many that life is sacred, that life is love, that life should be lived, fully.  She lived her life in such a way that all who came in contact with her felt something special, and she leaves behind a legacy of love among many, many people.

DanceThese are her words:  “We are creative beings, so in memory of me… do not send flowers, but contribute to your favorite charity, or call your mom, or plant a garden.  In memory of me, I request that you light a candle to the angels, dance to your favorite song, write a poem, in short, be creative!  Plant a garden,  turn a pot,  do something you’ve always wanted to do.”

Today, in memory of Tanza, in memory of all those who have gone before us, in honor of all those you love, in honor of your life – Dance.  Do something you have always wanted to do.  Don’t put it off.  Live your life with full attention.  Love the sacredness in this life!  It is a gift to be here – honor that, and celebrate your very molecular existence.  We are, each of us, a miracle of Love.

~om shanti~

Lori Ruth Smith

Tanza Lorraine, aka Lori Ruth Smith
October 18, 1955 – June 2, 2011

Advertisements

Small Spaces, Large Living

I’d forgotten how the wind can blow here in the Carson Valley. Hard and strong, whipping between the hills, whirling with yellow gold maple leaves. They dance together across the roof of my tiny trailer as I awaken, making me believe it must be raining. It’s not. The clouds, tossed about by the winds, are at first dark and stormy, then momentarily relenting, they reveal bright morning sun.

We arrived here on Monday, nearly a week ago, greeted by warm sun and cold uncertainties. Our little caravan consisted of a Penske rental truck (driven by the amazing JB) pulling our small 21 ft Komfort trailer that (yes, really) would soon be home; followed by me, four cats and a dog in the Honda Odyssey, pulling our vintage tent trailer (that might soon be up for sale – it IS a collector’s item – interested?) Everything we owned was there on the road… Maybe like a turtle we are learning to carry home on our backs. Learning, I say, because even this trip we carry too much. Let go of much of what remains in the rental truck – next trip, we carry only what fits in our home.

Downsizing. We’ve been downsized, people say sadly, yet here we are downsized, and gladly. It feels good to get small, to release the extraneous, to let go of the irrelevant baggage. Really, how little we need in order to live! Some things are admittedly hard to let go of… this must be my third full library that I’ve gathered, then sold or given away. Books are good friends, and while sad to see them go, I imagine their lives expanding into other people’s lives, sharing good words, good stories, good times. In letting go, we expand.

So what’s left in that Penske truck that would require temporary storage? JB’s tools, for which I will never begrudge him. They have saved us too many times to count, fixing what needs fixing, making life simpler, and most recently – keeping us on the road, and safe. And my tools – those implements I keep for work: massage tables and accessories, Thai mats and yoga mats, and books relevant to my learning.

And kitchen things. I said to jb, as he was selling and getting rid of our many household goods – if its in the kitchen keep it and pack it – but I hadn’t realize how many kitchen toys we have! I love the kitchen – want to someday grow my garden, to be able to can, freeze, and store food; cook, bake, and play. I love good food, nutritious, home made, organic. For now, though, in the simplicity of a small space, I will keep only those things that are currently relevant, so some sorting and selling and giving away will make our stuff even smaller.

(btw, here’s a great video animation about Stuff that’s been around for some time – if you haven’t seen it, take a look.)

We don’t need much stuff to live, and live well. While life circumstances necessitate change, it is also an opportunity to be really conscious about our lives. What is our impact on our Earth, our environment? Lessening our footprint, living sustainably, supporting life, living compassionately – these are issues that matter to us, and are informing our choices as we take new directions in our life. Living in a tiny space is certain to make us more conscious about resources – how we use what we use, and what the impact is on our immediate environment, and on Earth herself.

I love this Earth. Driving, traveling, exploring – there is so much beauty. How do you ever choose one place to live? The ocean, the mountains, the desert hills ~ from desert sagebrush to open sea ~ there is beauty in every landscape. Everyone should travel, at least a bit, even if its only around their own backyard. We need to see, feel, experience the beauty of this Earth in order to come back to our true responsibility of stewardship.

JB and I, and our country dog, are living in a city now (small, granted, by city standards, but large when compared to outskirts of La Pine) – we are re-adjusting to traffic noise, occasional sirens, an overwhelming number of people and dogs, lights that prevent us from seeing the stars at night. And yet, even here, we can see the sky, the sunrise over the mountains, the cloud patterns above us, the leaves falling to compost on the earth below us, the bits of green tenacity that rise up through (creating even) cracks in the concrete city. Earth: she is determined to Live, with us or without us.

I’d like it to be with us. Our lives are intricately connected with every other life on and including this planet. So how do we begin to align ourselves with the Earth, our Home, in such a way that we all survive? How do we come to realize that our health is intricately connected with the health of the earth, that the health of our planet is intricately connected with ours? (more on that later!)  How do we come to know that we need each other, in community, for health to be realized?

It’s all grass roots. Remember that famous quote from Margaret Meade: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Living sustainably, being good stewards of our home, is a choice we each can make, individually and in community. Maybe we don’t make changes all at once, but simply becoming aware of our impact on the earth is enough to allow the changes to begin to unfold… once you know, once you really see, changes begin to happen. How can they not?

So here we are, JB and I ~ living small in order to live large. We are making decisions with a new level of integrity, being aware of our every choice. Yes, we still have a car – we had to use oil and gas to get to where we are, and will again, as this is a temporary location. But we also now live where our bicycles and feet can become primary modes of transportation, saving the car for only occasional use. We are conscious of where our food comes from, what we eat, how much stuff we use and how much garbage we produce. Living in a small space will help increase that awareness. Our goal is to live lightly, to be more compassionate, to love the earth, and the people on it, and to live with the integrity that love requires.

~~~~

It’s late in the day now. The winds have gone, leaving rain clouds settling in the valley and snow dusting the higher mountains, and I am remembering that there are hot springs right here in Carson City…. mmmm, cold weather, hot springs…. Oh yes. Off we go to soak our tired, sore bodies in healing waters ~ a gift from the earth for which we are indeed grateful.   🙂

Published in: on November 7, 2010 at 18:14  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , ,

Blessings

Feels like winter arrived in Humlebaek while we were down in Copenhagen.  Most definitely Autumn, anyway.  This morning, early, I could see my breath.  The sun is out now, and it has warmed up some, but the air still carries the promise of a cold winter.

tanza and the water devasIt’s not home, and it is not a perfect place to be, yet I am grateful for this clinic, for the sea, for the opportunities that continue to come our way.  Blessings abound, and it is important to be aware of them.

A dear friend recently shared some words about the nature of blessings, and how offering a blessing can create an opening for feelings to shift. It is good to recognize the blessings that are bestowed upon us, but maybe it is just as important to be the bestower of blessings.  Life is full of situations that we think of as “good” and “bad” – what if we can let go of the judgement, let go of the definition, and simply recognize “What Is” and in that recognition, offer a blessing?  Could that blessing, offered in purity, create an opening to shift from pain into freedom?

Bless this moment, bless this pain, bless these people who are witness to the pain… and suddenly I can more easily drop in to gratitude, and feel the bigness of All That Is.  Within a blessing, there is an element of surrender, of letting go.  Surrender does not mean giving up, or denying pain.  It simply means that we can recognize this moment as it is.  To be in resistance to the moment creates an incredible amount of “stuck-ness” and resistance in the body.  We cannot see clearly when we resist what is.

Maybe a  blessing momentarily frees up energy, lifts us out of the details, so that we can see more clearly the choreographed dance that is life.   It is hard to see the big picture when we get stuck in the details.

“The pain,  the illness in the body is the healing,”  I heard someone say, and perhaps he is right. Perhaps pain is the gift that can crack us wide open, the process that allows us to see that healing already Is.  If we bless every moment, and open to gratitude for life, then maybe we can see that we are already whole, that healing has already happened, does in fact, happen in an instant.

And maybe too, these are just words, spoken by a witness to pain.  In the dark depths of agony, none of these words matter, they are just philosophy, just ideas.   In the depths of pain, we can’t know anything for sure.

Which is why we all need a witness to our pain, someone who can step back and bless the moment, feel the gratitude, be there.

We need each other to heal.  In the presence of suffering, in the presence of pain, we want to fix it, to make it all better, easier.  When that is not possible, the best we can do for each other is to stay present. Be willing to stay, be the witness, allow the pain to crack us open.

All that is necessary is our presence.

~~

I am grateful today for the blessing of friends, for the love of family, for the generosity of people I have never met. I am grateful for the doors that open, and for those that close; for the obstacles that rise up guiding us in different directions, and for the unexpected removal of obstacles that allow us to see more clearly.

Today, I am grateful for this Life.


~~
May the long time sun shine upon you
All love surround you
and may the pure light within you
guide your way on.

~

Sat Nam
light

Published in: on August 30, 2010 at 01:35  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Happy Is

August 19, 2010

It is cold this morning, and Autumn is in the air here.  The sky is clouding over, and it will rain again today, like it does in this part of the world: Rain, unrelenting.  You have to wonder about the weather in a place where “wellies” are part of the fashion statement.  Yesterday, at the train station, a woman wore wellies with her mini-skirt, making my birkenstock clad feet feel woefully under shod.  It was a fore-warning: at the other end of the journey, stepping off the train in Osende, my body was completely drenched within 2 minutes, and my feet had the long forgotten experience of wading in puddles.  I really felt as if I should have a yellow raincoat, rubber boots, and matching umbrella, just like the pictures in children’s books.

Early this morning tho, back here in Humlegaarden, birds were chirping, chattering, lively.  Someone mowed the grass yesterday (there is nothing they don’t do in the rain here!) and so the birds were in fresh grass heaven.  Lying in bed, I heard the birds, and imagined a warm summer day….

Well, it’s not quite warm, but the sun was out for a bit, and before the clouds returned, we walked down to the sea and soaked up the bright blue sky and drenched ourselves in sun and sand.  By the time we walked back for breakfast the clouds were already returning, the wind picking up, the chill in the air.

What makes you happy? What makes your heart sing? she asked.

Lots of things…

The sun, after days of rain.
Good conversation, easy company.
Yoga.          Breathing.
Teaching.  Yes, teaching.         Sharing with an open heart.
My cats.  and Kona.
Seeing new things,    learning new things.
Places i’ve never been before.
Writing, sometimes.          Morning coffee.
Sharing a laugh with jb.

Simple things.

I’m a simple person, really.

But here’s a truth.  None of those things make me happy.  I mean, sometimes I can do or be all of that and not be happy.  In fact, I can be unhappy, and do any one of those things and not come out the other side happy.

Here’s what I know: the happy comes first, and only then I can rest in the joy of the simple things.  The magnificence of morning sun only stirs the joy in my heart when I am willing to be present to it.

So what is it that makes me happy?  Being present?   Being open?   Where does happy come from?

I want you to be happy (she says, I say, you say) and I recognize that when we want others to be happy around us, it is really our own deep longing to feel our own state of natural happiness.

surise after a stormIt is true that when the sun shines, it is easier for me to tap in to joy.  And yet, even in the midst of deep fatigue, even in the presence of pain, even in constant rain, and with a gray day headache, or a migraine  –  I can stop for a moment, just stop, and breathe, and drop in to my center.  I can notice the beauty around me, notice the magic of a moment, and touch in to a place of “being happy” deep within my soul.

With that knowing, I can be happy anywhere, even in a clinic with crazy doctors, and radiology departments in hospitals where I don’t speak the language. I can be happy in the presence of pain, and suffering.  It does not minimize the pain, nor does it necessarily take away the pain, or the sadness, or the helplessness of any moment.  Maybe though, happy can exist along side the pain, along with the suffering.  Happy is a deeper state, a place of wellness beyond the sick, a place of joy beyond the pain.

We all have happy in us, somewhere.  Even in the depths of depression, happiness exists.  It has to.  Otherwise, what’s the point?  At our core, at our very essence, is laughter, and joy, and real love.  It is not based on anything outside of us… it is who we are.

How do we get there? How do we access that, and remember that truth?   When pain is unrelenting, when suffering seems the state of the world, when all it ever does is rain, rain, rain….  how do we drop in, and know that behind the clouds the sun is still shining?

Sometimes, we just forget, and that’s ok.  Somewhere, somehow, sometimes, we remember. In a moment, we see differently, suddenly present to the beauty around us, to the life that exists beyond stories, beyond pain, beyond identity…. and we remember, we awaken.

We are the Life that we live, we are the Love that rises up within us, unexpectedly. We are the beauty in a sunrise, the magic in a forest, the song in a heart.  We are here, having this experience called Life, with all its ups and downs, highs and lows, joys and pains… And we are the Joy that exists always beneath it… the pure joy of experience in this human body….

What makes me happy?

Laughing. Suddenly, for no reason.

Who knows, maybe pure, honest laughter is the cure for everything.

Published in: on August 20, 2010 at 04:30  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Near the Baltic Sea

Sunday, August 8th, 1:30pm Denmark time ~

The rain came today.  Dark gray skies offer up a steady downpour, much like the rains in the Pacific Northwest. The past few days were beautiful, warm days, intermittently overcast with delicious breaks of sun.  The quality of light here is different…. perhaps because we are so far north? Or just different than what I am used to… I have been searching for a word to describe it, but have not been able to settle on one.  “Soft” is a word that comes to mind, and I realize that maybe the quality of light is more a feeling than a visual.  I did try to capture it in photos, to no avail.

The Baltic Sea is a 5 minute walk from the clinic here, and looking out The Baltic Seafrom the beach you can see Sweden, and the ferries and sailing boats that traverse the waters from here to there and in between.  The water is fairly warm; someone mentioned it was 18 or 19 degrees celsius (around 66 degrees F).  Many local people jump in for a swim early in the morning, and again in the evening. I haven’t been in yet, but it occurs to me a rainy day would be a good day to test it out.

Summer House with Thatched RoofThis morning, before the rain, we walked down a road that runs along the coast, lined with what must be summer cottages. They are so sweet, with windows that open wide to the sea air, and thatched roofs where birds peck around, presumably for morning insects.  Joggers and bicyclists passed by us, as we walked slowly and meditatively.

The days since we arrived here have been very full, and it is easy to lose track of the perspective of time. We’ve only been here 4 days, and already it feels much longer. There is a sense that time might pass too quickly here, and yet at the same time, the moments are so full that there can be no thought of the future, and what will happen next.  Those decisions will come when it is time…. my mantra since all of this began is ‘one day at a time’, and often I find myself shifting the focus to living even one moment, one breath at a time….

I want to write, to tell a story here.  Not Tanza’s story, for that is hers to tell, but a story of my experience here: what i am coming to know in the presence of this healing place, in the role of caregiver, in the connection to source and family and life…

The words, though, are not here yet. Perhaps I am still too close to the experience. I remember some writer somewhere, sometime, saying that you must have distance to write truly about a place, and maybe that is true for experience as well.

For now, I will keep it simple, share what there is to share in the moment.

I do know this – it is good to be in a nourishing and nurturing healing environment.  Imagine if hospitals routinely put more emphasis on treating the person rather than the disease: on helping a patient understand their treatments and meds, and giving them more personal responsibility for their own healing, on offering high quality food and conversation and connection, and allowing them to move and walk and participate in their own healing rather than confining them to a bed with wires and tubes and distracted personel who forget to take the time to listen.

Is it such a novel concept to care for the whole person?

It is a gift to be here, in so many ways, and I know without question that this is a healing space for Tanza, and for me, and for all who are connected to her, no matter what may come of it.  It is good to wake every morning, here, and alive.  It is good to feel the power and preciousness of life, and to take joy in the little things, and celebrate the beauty of each day…

Here is my wish for you, and for everyone: That you celebrate each moment, knowing that you yourself are a gift to this world. You (and that is every single “you”!) bring something to this world that no other person can bring…. celebrate that gift, whatever it is! Know your beauty, feel your connection to the earth, to this life, to our source, and remember, whatever you do….

Laugh, and feel the Joy!

That, my friends, is Real Yoga.

🙂

More Baltic Sea photos are here

Published in: on August 8, 2010 at 12:54  Comments (1)  
Tags: , , , , , ,