Learning to Breathe...

After the tearing open of my chest in my last post, it feels necessary to update sooner, rather than later...but I've been staring at this screen for far too long, unsure where to begin. Much has shifted in me...deep changes that had been cresting for months...years... lifetimes, perhaps. How does one compress such learning into the space of a few paragraphs? I haven't figured that one out yet. Increasingly, I find it simplest to just copy entries from my journal into this space as I have already expressed everything within the confines of those pages. I tried to narrow it down into one or two of those excerpts...to extract only the pertinent bits...but they all seem relevant, so...read on if you're so inclined. I'll make no apology for my verbosity...

1 Feb 2010: ...slow from fever...quiet...little in my head and nothing on my tongue. Shifting gently...sounds muffled, then crisp as the waters of surrender lap at my ears...circling my face in a continuously expanding and contracting ring. Breathing in...breathing out...inhaling and exhaling silence. Aware of a subtle throbbing at the front of my skull...I'm not bothered by it...the fever in my body reflects the changes that are broiling within. I am an apparition...floating rather than walking...see through...transparent in my emptiness. No resistance...no searching for someone or something to fill me up. Just...here...and not here. Observing these letters as they spill from the pen with as much attachment as I feel towards the flies that now feast upon my meal's remains...witnessing the hand that writes with the strangest sense of detachment. Moments rising...passing...rising. Breathe in...breathe out....loosening...softening...letting life be...letting go...

3 Feb 2010: Moving now...Maharashtra unfolding beneath us...rails carrying us...Kerala bound. We're presently 4.5 hours behind schedule, but I really don't mind. 53 hours isn't so different from 49...but even 49 doesn't feel daunting. Whether on or off a train, these hours will pass. Regardless of where I am, my body still behaves the same. Heart beat steady...lungs pulling in and pushing out breath. No matter where I am or how surrounded I am by fellow humans, I'm still alone. Experimenting with that truth...trying it on like a new skin...a new dress...realizing the beauty of it...understanding that I have never really allowed myself to fully occupy my own space. I've never really known what it feels like to spend time with 'me'...to get to know myself intimately. Perhaps I was too afraid of what I would, or would NOT, find. It's strange, but I really am no longer scared. I want to know now...all those shadowy places inside. I'm sure I'll discover much that will make me cringe, but perhaps I'll also find some surprising, unexpected treasures. Either way...I feel ready. I'm pulling up my sleeves, dressing in my grubbiest clothes, pulling back my imaginary hair and getting to work...cleaning out the attic of my soul...moving in and making it my home....finally....

4 Feb 2010: Momentary stillness...a pause in the hum and clack...letting off and getting on...a vein, filling and emptying. Moving ever closer...only a few stops left now. Already, the changes I've seen in landscape echo a change I feel manifesting in me. Warmth...vibrance...healthy green. Southern India is truly beautiful. I feel renewed already...refreshed... surprised to discover that leaving the heaviness of Varanasi really has made me feel lighter somehow. I feel very alive...present....suddenly incredibly grateful and aware of the blessing this trip has been. Excited to be entering into new territory, in so many more ways than one.... *Arrived in Palakkad without incident...was met at the station by the immediately lovely and lovable Tara...an hour drive brought us to Kotha Kurssi, where she and her parents live. It's incredibly peaceful here...warm and quiet, save the croaking of frogs and chirping of crickets. I feel like I've stumbled into some lovely fairytale...like the train delivered me into some alternate universe. My room feels palatial compared to those I've grown accustomed to. Clean bathroom...clean floors...clean sheets! I am so blessed and grateful to be here. I'll sleep well this night...to be sure!

5 Feb 2010: Super shanti...spent this day mostly on my own...playing guitar...drawing...marveling at the softly swaying banana leaves and soaring, coconut-bearing palms. Curiously observing the frog that lives in my bathroom and contemplating the friendliness of a spider the size of my palm that, I'm told, is actually quite small! *Thinking of my Mum today, on the day of her birth...loving her dearly from afar...hoping she feels as held and loved as she's always made me feel. *Writing a new song...feels different this time, like it's coming from an entirely new place. Feels good...effortless. Connecting to something deeper...inside of...beneath the emptiness. Something soft and intangible...*life*...

7 Feb 2010: Feeling quiet today...absorbing the sounds of Kerala...swaying banana leaves...whispering palms...countless unique bird calls...passing cars and buses and trucks and motorbikes...distant hammering...and always...always... beeping, both near and far. I'm sitting on the front porch, sipping surprisingly tasty instant coffee, enjoying my presently favorite past-time...conversing with the 200 year-old Banyan tree that lives across the street, standing guard. It's tendril-like roots stretch ever downward, dancing gracefully in the warm breeze. I'm told it used to be one of many. Sadly, all but this one were cut down to make room for houses and roads. Though it has lost its family, it doesn't seem to mind. There it remains...silently observing all that surrounds it...breathing in and out...so steady and strong...never lamenting the changes it bears witness to. Quietly accepting impermanence...a perfect example of equanimity...peaceful and unassuming. I am learning much from this tree...

10 Feb 2010: Misty this morning...pleasantly cool. Aware of a subtle unsettling...some sort of rippling through the stillness. Just observing it. Or, doing my best to simply be...allowing whatever it is to bubble up, expand and then dissipate. Staying present with it...bringing myself back to breath...always breath....steady and reliable...softening... comforting...anchoring me...

11 Feb 2010: Precarious...this balancing. Equanimity takes work. Allowing not the scales to tip takes an immense awareness...strong presence...of mind...of heart. Holding space for oneself isn't easy...akin to floating about a rose garden hoping your bubble will not pop upon meeting a thorn...but, of course, it will. Thorns are penetrating. The trick lays in not allowing yourself to collapse...to somehow absorb the puncture without falling apart because of it...to brush up against the pressure of it...let it define your edge...then simply smooth yourself back out and move along, knowing full well another and another and another barb will surely cross your path. Gifts, they will become...helping you to know and understand where your shape is vulnerable....allowing you to reinforce your boundaries...showing how simultaneously permeable and impenetrable you can be....*these roses smell so sweet*...

12 Feb 2010: Warm...sticky and clammy from sweat. Enjoying space as I ready myself and my things to go. I leave tomorrow, headed to Gokarna. From village in Kerala to beach in Karnataka. *My time here has been wonderful, though tricky in its own right, Much has taken root in me over the last week. Feels like lifetimes have unfolded within me. Many sketches...many solitary hours...two new songs...and quite considerable lessons tucked in between. I think I understand the challenge now. Most notable...my stay here, with Tara and her parents, has helped me to confront my difficulty with receiving . I think it's related to the part of me that has somehow been giving with latent, skewed intentions of taking. I'm beginning to see that I've had some deeply ingrained idea that generosity is one half of a transaction...that to get, one must give, which isn't entirely untrue. It's the other side of that exchange that is so backwards and self-serving. It's the expectation of also 'getting' when you think you are 'giving'. So...here I have found myself...not knowing how to respond to an incredible generosity that expects no return. It has made me squeamish...uneasy...unsure ....until today. Something became clear...that, for me to understand what it means to truly GIVE, I had to experience what it feels like to simply RECEIVE. No...it hasn't been easy. I try to help with dishes...I am waved away. I ask if there is anything I can do around the house...of course not! I mumble feeble sounding 'Thank Yous' that make no sense to them. Incidentally, in their language, Malayalam (the only language that is a palindrome) there is no translation for 'thank you'...nor is there a reply. Gratitude is spoken and returned through smiles......wow. All this polite banter that spills so flatly from our lips....it's all so unnecessary. Which brings me to the other substantial learning I am taking from this week...a deeper settling into silence. Fewer words...more meaning. Communicating through other means...allowing spaciousness to expand...in myself...between myself and others...within and without. Speaking less...breathing more...becoming Banyan-like...