Friday, February 10, 2017

Beautiful Christmas, Phana, days into days, a day on Mount Tamalpais, Esalen couples massage, How to Survive a Plague, Book About Love, Massage class notes

Jean on Mount Tamalpais
It was a beautiful Christmas with Jean, David, and Charles, despite a death in the family. This Christmas was a time to enjoy and to savor vs. endure as in the previous year (and previous six for Jean). Jean gave me an art coat and a book on love and I gave her a lithograph and a book. A time to be born. I flew to Dallas Christmas afternoon (see below) and Jean flew in a few days later and we celebrated the New Year together. Though we were a little under the weather it was a good time.  

Amidst the joy, sadness. I got the call two days before Christmas that Phana had passed away. We spent a lot of time together over the past one and a half years – long, long days of chemotherapy, hospitals and doctor’s offices in Houston and Dallas, endless hours in the car. Phana was young and in some ways, unfulfilled, yet she went through illness and death with bravery and equanimity – and so fulfilled that last thing: an honorable death.
David and Jake, CK, Phana - Ocean Beach, August 2015

David and I flew to Dallas on Christmas day for the funeral the next day. He spoke at the service. A sad day.

Back in Berkeley, back home, we were in a time of transition, which can be difficult. But that’s the nature of things – changes, changes. (Looking out of the bus window going past the Berkeley Art Museum I see a young man holding an older man sagging in his arms.)

Days rolling into days. These are the days… of the endless summer… days upon days in Paradise. Magical mornings – waking sometime between 6 and 7, coffee in bed, watching the astounding changes of colors and clouds in the sky through the double doors with the Bay below and Mt. Tamalpais in the distance, and out of bed around the crack of 9. A bowl of fruit and yogurt with toast and almond butter for breakfast.

Grateful Dead Night at Ashkanaz - where we go dancing
Most days I go into the City to see David: Number 7 bus to downtown Berkeley, BART to Embarcadero, MUNI to Castro, walking the stairs of Harvey Milk Plaza past the rainbow escalator to the corner of Market and Castro. Walking down the avenue to meet David for lunch (Starbelly, Harvey’s, the Vietnamese place, Kasa, the usual places). Life unfolding – ahhhh – so beautiful!

Today coming up out of the subway with Bombay Calling (It’s a Beautiful Day) on my headphones flashing back to being in a little room in the Bombay airport with Leslie very sick and there was nothing to do but give her water and watch the cockroaches crawling on the wall… when you’re in a dream, time passes so slowly, time passes so slowly, open up your heart…


Back to MUNI, BART, Berkeley bus, home to Jean's house hanging high above the San Francisco Bay.
Sunset over the Golden Gate (from deck)

(In the past months I’ve spent more time looking at the sky than ever before in my life.)

In the evening, sunset, a glass of wine before dinner, and after dinner, tea and a bowl. Last night we “made hand love” – just hand to hand – for an hour or more. These are the days!!!

Two-three times/week we have dinner or otherwise meet up with some of Jean’s group (tribe?) of friends.

Mt. Tam., Pacific Ocean
On a beautiful January day (1/31) we drove to the Pacific side of Mount Tamalpais. We walked along the Bolinas Ridge Trail, then on unnamed trails along the sensuous rounded hills rolling off the mountain to a place in the sun and trees overlooking the sea on one side and the hills on the other side. In the sun, in the wind, in the golden afternoon, on the soft hilltop talking of love, of people we love, of regrets, now dancing in the sun, embracing. Oh! As the sun began to set and the cool rolled in we walked – a long walk – back to the car. San Francisco rising like Atlantis in the far distance. Hail Atlantis! It was an epic drive home. Neither of us felt like eating, so we took a long deep bath together in the warm candle-lit bathroom.
Charles and Jean 

“The best days are the ones when I look around at all these people in my life, these people in my heart, and I think, This is it.” 

We got a massage table for Christmas and have each been getting a long massage at least once every week. We spent last weekend (2/4-5) in little hippie town in Marin County at a Esalen couples massage workshop. There were two other couples signed up, but both cancelled, so it was just Jean and me with the instructor, Nora. Somewhere along the line we both realized Nora is a master teacher. We had a beautiful and very valuable experience, learning and practicing some basics of Esalen massage.

Saturday night (after the first day of class), we went to a dinner party at Linda and Frank’s art house. To me, the dinner/gathering was an installation within an installation. Someone at the party asked why we took the course/what is this massage about (those were more or less the questions). Good question:

San Francisco in the far distance from Mt. Tam
  • Esalen massage is about the connection between the person giving and the person getting the massage… loving, expressing love, receiving love, uniting.
  • It’s about feeling good deep inside, a sense of well-being.
  • Relaxing.
  • Esalen massage is about opening to self, connecting, experiencing one’s own (and another’s) body and mind.


Notes from the class are at the end of this post.

I’ve read two books in the past month. How to Survive a Plague by David France is an account of the AIDS epidemic and the appalling lack of response on the part of the government, healthcare system, and society to the suffering and death of gay men – and the magnificent efforts of AIDS activists such as the ACT-UP group to force a response.

The book is a triumph of love and strength.

I lived in the Castro for about two years, first with Leslie and then alone. I loved it. I was surrounded by people hated and attacked for being – and their individual and community response? They take the word “gay” to describe themselves and their culture. They dance. They hold together. They create. They BE. We be. 
The Castro

Michael Callen (one of the early AIDS activists), on Christmas day, 1993:

“… just repeats like a mantra: life is good. Life is good.”

“I realize some people could look at my life and say, ‘Oh it was so sad. He died of AIDS and isn’t that tragic.’ But what I want to come through is that even after all the pain and all the torture, and even having AIDS, I can honestly say that being gay is the greatest gift I was ever given. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

When all his friends had spoken their farewells that afternoon, Callen signed his last will and testament and then turned up the dial on his morphine drip, sliding into a deep and lasting sleep.

The other book is A Book About Love by Jonah Lehrer, given to me by Jean. It started out as kind of a feel-good book, then turned into something deeper. Ultimately it was an extravagant affirmation of living life and loving to the fullest. Loving in the face of joy, suffering, work, getting tired of it all, in the face of death, in need, in strength and weakness, for better, for worse, in life.

Meeting of minds: Marcia and Jean in Marcia's garden
“The best days are the ones when I look around at all these people in my life, these people in my heart, and I think, This is it.”  





Esalen couples massage notes, taken at Nora Matten’s class, 2/4-5/2017 
(website: http://www.noramatten.com/)

Have supplies ready, warm room, music, lighting.

Begin with talking about intentions, connecting with the other person, dancing each part of the body, mindfulness meditation.

Start – back

Bolster under ankles.

From beginning, work to relax the person.

LEs and UEs, use deeper strokes except with varicosities, injuries, etc.

Up-strokes are more invigorating (increased force) and down-strokes are more calming (decreased force).

Avoid surprises, be intentional re everything. Commit to the stroke.

Work with one foot back (sometimes), heart open, 

Come into myself, including awareness of pain, discomfort…

3-fold towel under shoulders diagonally

Introducing myself… Slowly lower hands to lower back and behind the heart. Not doing, just being. Breathe. Breathe with the person.

There is a beginning (pause, rocking, long strokes), middle (detail work), end (long strokes, pause).

Jean: Push - rocking.

Now “long, flowing strokes… signature of Esalen massage” – entire body, including head. SLOW. Always come back to this – integrating.

Pause, still integrating.

Stay comfortable.

After long and slow, pull sheet partially down, then fold to center of body.

Oil hands and arms – will use both.

Start shoulders, back… three dimensional, circular… follow the 3-D landscape. Reach over and pull up on side. Commit to the stroke – complete, e.g., off toes and fingers. Go slow. Use forearms – for increased weight.

Sit with sheet over leg to work on shoulder.

Hands, inclu ROM

Then bring arm forward to rest on stool.
Photo from the showers at Esalen, beside massage rooms

Always come back to the long strokes.

Head now or after pulling sheet up.

LEs, inclu toes. ROM.

Draw sheet slowly up. Stroke on top of sheet.

Come to child’s pose. Lift sheet so can turn over.

Face up

Adjust bolster to under knees, towel under head.

Long and slow.

Work on shoulder and chest.

Pause

Go under shoulder, embracing.

Arms, hands (interlock fingers), rotate wrist.

Long and slow

Pause

Legs

Finish long and slow all the way off feet

Head last

Roll with hands

Face, brows, easy on temple, ears, occiput, scalp

Use towel to roll head side to side – towel over eyes.

Finish long and slow all the way off feet.




Friday, December 16, 2016

Love and magic, the sadness, Star of David, I care about/don't care about, courage, post-election

Love and magic
Reading each word, each phrase, each one slowly with reflection. What’s left out?

💕 Love is a feeling, where everything is right – open hearts and minds and communication and synchronicity and commitment and seeing all the beauty and hope and fragility of one another and caring for each other (caring more about the other than self) and the tenderness and discovery and sex and romance and sensuality and acceptance and clear, open communication and depending on one another and softness around one another and around the love and around this life …
💕 Magic – the love is ramped up, intensified (Sometimes talking of love for hours and hours makes sense – what else is there?), kissing caressing making love for hours and hours, intoxicated with one another, pretty much completely in synch, taking the utmost care of one another, it’s the greatest thing
💕 How? Surrender, pay attention to one another, look for all the magic and beauty in one another, believe that magic is real and possible, put selves into magical places and activities, magical music, accept times of less magic, wide-open communication …
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Talking with a little 5 year old mermaid named Beatrice, who asked, "Do you have kissy love in your heart?" "Oh yes!"
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Getting ready to decorate Jean’s and my Christmas tree I got out my small collection of San Francisco Christmas ornaments. Opening the box/the Christmas season triggered a flood of emotion and I cried as I did in the first months after Leslie passed. It’s a hard, consuming crying that goes on and on and leaves me exhausted and sore all through my body. Jean helped me through part of it and left me alone at a good time.
Sunset from the deck
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One of the decorations we put on the tree is a Star of David (for Jean’s husband, David, who was Jewish). Jean wondered aloud about putting a Jewish symbol on a Christian symbol. I quoted from John 14: In my Father’s house are many rooms… Later these lyrics came through the speakers: In my Father’s house are many rooms.
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I care about:
Being a good person.
Feeling good given/within whatever circumstances.
Loving you, Jean; being loved cared about.
Loving David.
In Vancouver
How you’re doing.
Being close/connected/making you happy.
Being beautiful – being beautiful for you.
Just being with you.
I don’t know how to say this, but I care about your vision, your expression, your art (not only what you produce). I’m digging your wisdom, too.
Experiencing nature/natural beauty.
Having beautiful, loving sex – pleasing you sexually – exploring one another’s sexuality.
Suffering in the world.
Justice.
John.
Friends and men in bible study group.
Who wins the election.
La Honda - before a magic night
People being nice to one another, especially parents being nice to children.
Growing, becoming, reaching toward my potential.
Being healthy.
Having or having had meaning – as in a life pattern.
Getting high, especially with you.
Being strong.
Having peak experiences.
Having enough money.
Being respected by people I respect.
Looking good.
Low stress, no conflict.
Being around kind people.
Living life effortlessly. 
Baking and things like that – I care but not all that much about these things.
I don’t care about:
What we eat, when we eat, where we eat.
Where, when, how we go, except that want to go with you.
Under the same sky, the same moon
Where we sit, when we go to sleep/awaken.
What I wear, except that I want to look good for you.
Manifesting much of anything other than decency and safety (Haha – actually, I want to manifest cool).
Who wins the football game.
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In November
Falling in love in these days/this age takes courage. One will pass, one will grieve (though surely not as long, nor as terribly as before). Eyes wide open.
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Political/cultural comment
We came so close, and then we lost it. The reasons are complex, I guess. Someone else can figure it all out.
My friend, Janet said, ”…everything we worked so hard for…” And for so long. Ah, what a beautiful vision we had.
I think we may be on the threshold of a time of tribulation. I have no idea what form(s) it might take.
What to do after Trump election? (Answers evolving)
Live our normal lives, working on love and acceptance and meaning and growth… manifest these things.
Indian Path 
Now, more than ever, be a living mudra (symbolic gesture) of the potentials in life. Lift up (with energy, with money) positive forces, in my case World One Radio (http://worldoneradio.org/), my son’s high school, hospice – especially the Presbyterian hospice in Dallas, Atrium Obscurum, other entities. Be kind to others, friends and strangers.
I need to remember that long-ago boddhisatva vow: to liberate all sentient beings. It ain’t easy lol. I’m not done with myself.

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Lay it all on the line at the right time. No need for fear… we’ve all faced at least this much before.
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And the bodies move and we sweat
And we have our being
Van Morrison, Daring Night

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Light in the Grove, Esalen magic, Nouwen quote, magic, my last patients, beautiful night

Esalen campus
It’s been awhile since I posted – much of my writing has been personal.
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We went to Light in the Grove, the 25th anniversary benefit for the National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park. http://www.aidsmemorial.org/ We got there early and sat in the car talking – a sweet time.
Light in the Grove
We made the most beautiful entrance I’ve ever made – when people arrived they were each given a glass of champagne and a candle in a glass vase and then walked down the switchback path to the Circle of Friends area – like an endless line of people, of lights. The path was lined with lights and every 20-30 feet there was a person standing greeting everyone warmly. The redwood grove below was beautifully lighted and there dancers in the glade (I think on this night the faeries were on the side of the hill). At the Circle of Friends everyone placed a candle in memory of someone (for me, Rueben). Then down a path at the edge of the glade where names of people who died projected in a moving, never-ending list on the trunks of the redwoods.
It was all deeply moving.
Esalen campus - class 
At the end of the path was a huge tent where there was a nice buffet, wine, drinks, etc. David and Charles got there a little later and sat with us for a bit and then they were off to connect with friends. We left not too long afterward. We sat on a bench beside the path – what a night!
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The next day we drove south on Highway 1 along the magnificent coast into Big Sur and to Esalen (http://www.esalen.org/). Here, hidden from the world, giants of the counter-culture had walked, studied, meditated, taught, opened… Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Fritz Perls, Allen Ginsberg, Virginia Satir, Joseph Campbell, and countless more.
Esalen showers
Our room opened onto the headlands above the Pacific rolling, crashing against the rocks below. We unloaded the car and headed for the hot springs baths, where we watched the sun set over the Pacific, blue water, white foam, crashing strong.
We talked about a time six years before when Jean had scattered her husband’s ashes by “David’s tree” beside the path to the springs. We talked about how the night before, less than 24 hours before, we had been at the place where my son and I had scattered my wife’s ashes less than a year before. What a life we lead!
Room at Esalen
In the morning we made love (“Open your eyes. See the sky! See the ocean!”) and later went for a massage. Like everything else, the massage rooms hang above the Pacific. A timeless massage with the waves rolling and crashing below… and then to the baths, where we made love (not physically) for three hours with the waves crashing below. Late lunch, nap on the lawn, drive to Carmel Valley for a glass of wine with Steve and Susan, then the long drive home.
I’ve dreamed of Esalen for half my life. Although there was a little weirdness in this trip with the presence of too many web developer millennials (a little too much loud talking, some even wearing swim suits in the baths - eww), still, the magic and beauty were there. We just created a cocoon around ourselves and opened to the magic, the love, the beauty, dreaming our dreams.
Esalen baths
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When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. Henri Nouwen
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Last patients, last day of work
These kind of things keep happening. I need to remember to record them. Jean texted that she was on the way home. I texted back that I would put a candle in the window. Less than an hour later this song came on the radio: Put a Candle in the Window. Home to this warm home, to this temple, the walls, the walls, the…
walls with hangings rich,
of many strange designs
(Robin Williamson).
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Listening to U2’s New Years Day live, thinking of my work, about how I was there deep, deep in the richness and difficulties of the flow until the very end. I wondered what was the last photo of me at work? I looked and here it is – on my last day, my last patients. Taking the photo was the Mom’s idea.
Thanksgiving 2016
I met the woman on the left years before, very shortly after she got here from Mexico. We were in an apartment (a typical refugee/immigrant apartment) with some people, maybe her husband and someone else and two students, and somehow it happened that there was a modesty issue and I looked away without lingering. I always had the sense that she appreciated that. I took care of her and her daughter (in pink) for years. When I saw them that last time (photo) her daughter was about 13 or 14, wearing a shirt that said, Why Not?
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Esalen!
On a rainy day we went to visit a friend who lives in some mountains not far from San Francisco. The plan was to have dinner, have a sauna, and spend the night. He wasn’t home when we got there, so we got around the gate to the road to his wife’s studio (she is Jean’s good friend, traveling ATM) and walked down the road to the studio. The door was open and we went in and built a fire in the wood-burning stove (first photo) and put our feet up. Our friend came home a few hours later and we went to the house.
Nice dinner, great company, good sauna, back to the studio. It was cold and rained all night long. We set up the wood for the night, got the big air mattress set up on the concrete floor, then our new two-person sleeping bag, a bowl, a glass of wine, up every two hours to add wood to the fire, lot of bathroom runs, re-inflate the mattress a few times. One of the best nights of my life.
With John Kemp at Indian Rock
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Walls with hangings rich,
Lisa's studio - cold, rainy day
of many strange designs


Sunday, September 25, 2016

Just the facts, Yosemite, an ancient forest, illness, twilight, the way it is

Above the fog, above Golden Gate
There is zero embellishment, exaggeration, or anything else other than reporting the facts here. Driving across GG Bridge in the fog and then up into the Marin Headlands and when we were close to the end of the Headlands, parking and walking a short trail to where we sat/lay on a sarong in the scent of chaparral, in the place where fog and sun meet, at the edge of the world, around the bend from Shangri-La, and across the bridge from paradise – going home in paradise with the moon floating in misty beauty above. Paradise, where yesterday we lay naked and beautiful in the warm afternoon sun streaming through the temple door.

At the edge of the world
Yosemite: Beneath the Royal Arches, Washington Column, and Half Dome we lay cozy and comfortable beneath the trees, by the river and then walked quietly on soft pine needles in ancient forest with mossy rocks in faery circles and playgrounds in soft mist in these sacred groves, this “Sanctum Sanctorum” (John Muir).
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She said, “I honor you.”
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Three basic questions about serious illness:
What is it?
What does it mean to me (e.g., treatment, suffering, disability, dying)?
Can I do this?

Things that add up in the time of dying: First and always, good control of symptoms such as pain. Sharing heart space, all. Sacred meals shared, even if less than a bite. Drinking from a sacred vessel. Sleeping together. Opening a window. Music. Reading the old prayers. Whatever is possible…
Mystic forest
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From a slow train Moulmein to Rangoon, 2007
Mountains above,
Padi fields below,
Andaman Sea in the distance!
In mystic light.

Through a village in a forest,
A beautiful, graceful girl,
With thanaka on her cheeks,
And a basket on her head,
Walks out of a dark path among the trees.
Then another!
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Yosemite Valley, rainy day. Left to right:
Royal Arches, North Dome, Washington Column, and Half Dome
The night before I left Berkeley we had dinner on the deck – the Turkish entry in our ongoing ‘round the world salad challenge – and watched the sun go down behind Mount Tamalpais across the Bay and The City beginning to sparkle and we can still see GG Bridge and Alcatraz. Then Indian Rock at twilight – twilight, the mystic time of day in the mystic days we share. There were maybe 20 other people on the rock, their murmuring voices around, behind us and we’re sharing the cherry cherry wine, drinking from the bottle. These are the days!
El Capitan
“It’s getting dark – maybe we should go down.” We laughed at the unintended double entendre. Awhile later we decided to go down and whoa, it was really dark! We got down fine (slow) and sat close and warm on a park bench in the darkness…
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More facts (the bottom line):
Walking down by the river over the bridge through the trees and meadows and mountains and the soft forest floor with faery rings mossy boulders everything felt so right and so good walking along the street in markets in coffee shops in stores a café and a band playing dancing in a meadow so high in the sunrise in the eternal moment on the beach in the sand saying all the ways of loving and being talking of myth of art of mourning of euphoria of dancing of our generation of truth laughing in the golden light in the mist in the wind sea breeze in the fog in the sunlight making love in the forest in the temple fixing coffee breakfast dinner listening to WorldOneRadio wine on Indian Rock in the park in the dark on the San Francisco Bay kites flying dogs a man performing ritual a man playing a trombone on the highway telling the stories of our lives I feel ancient beautiful reborn prayer ceremony bliss love living a blessing crying dancing laughing serious happy sexy goofy singing loving …
Jean - Washington Column to left, Half Dome on right