Monday, December 13, 2010

I'd like a pony and some GI Joes.

As we draw closer to Christmas and the closing of the year I find myself in a contemplative state, deep in inner questioning about how we choose to celebrate and why, doing my best not to let the pressures and stress of this month weigh me down. As an adult without children and no firm roots in religious belief i move through these days with cautious care, breathing in my truth and trying to remain open to some of this holiday magic and cheer. 
It's not always easy.
Perhaps it was the build up of a few childhood Christmases gone weird due to family bullshit drama that didn't necessarily touch me directly but was absorbed nonetheless or maybe it's about not having children with whom to share in these seasonal times. Whatever the case may be, i am aware that December has always been a month where i feel like I'm wearing a suit of armor and my heart feels like it's wrapped in thick saran.
I'm no Grinch and i won't poo-poo on other peoples joy and fun but it's hard for me not to sink just a little bit and I'm at the point in my life where I'd like to know why. I'd like to truly feel this time of year and for it not to be at all forced.
I suppose living in a climate that offers only a cock-tease of a Winter for all of five minutes isn't helping a whole lot. 8 months of rain and gray will take the wind out of most sun and snow worshipers sails. Living in a very young city that isn't famously known for it's overly friendly and open inhabitants could factor in as well. We're not horrible to each other, but if I'm out of my own cozy neighborhood then chances are that i am virtually a stranger who's forced to keep to himself for fear of being judged as weird or whatever. Eye contact and friendly hello's to strangers? Yyyyeah, not so much.
And I'd rather take a white hot needle to the eye than brave the fucking madness that is shopping. I find it hard to feel jolly when throngs of people around me are so lost in the fervor of 'getting stuff' that they can't see their heart for the green in their wallet, encouraged by the constant barrage and pressure from every angle to shop here and buy more. In many ways the spirit seems to have been lost and in fact, i wonder how many people really even know WHY they're celebrating besides it being the 'thing that we do' come December. I'm sure many have their reasons and i don't want to accuse people of being thoughtless soulless lemmings, although looking from outside the ultra-consumerist box it's hard not to fall into that role of judgement. It's hard not to feel just a little inadequate. It's hard not to feel like an outsider and to react by resenting the whole thing. Especially when I'm not pulling in the kind of money I'd like to be or to have a huge family 'back home' who i can spend this time with. Having those things might make it feel different, but i shouldn't have to want anything more than i have in order to make this a meaningful and truly magical time. Don't get me wrong, i love what and who i have in my life and wouldn't trade a shred of it for all the tea Chinatown, but i have to wonder sometimes about the lingering hints of sadness i feel when i hear about the massive family gatherings or how my heart drops a little when i see the inside of a home fully decked out, tree pregnant with ornaments and gifts. In a way....some small way, i kind of wish i had that, even once.

Okay, so it's not all horrible. Maybe I'm being too hard on people and myself, allowing my 'stuff' to color in how i feel around this time of year. It's not like I've had a string of terribly sad Christmases and i can definitely feel a shift in energy that is positive and nice to be around at the best of times. I love the freshness in the air and cheeks that have been dyed red by the temperature drop. I love the bit of snow that we do get and i love seeing my folks and overeating at Christmas supper. I love the stupid holiday movies and the classics and i love having someone to share them with. I love that my Britt appreciates this time of year so much and is totally shameless in her excitement over it. I love that some of my friends are celebrating their first with children who are old/young enough to believe in the magic. And yes, i even love the magic and mythological story of Santa and the "true meaning of Christmas".
In the end, for me i think it's about intention. I think it's about taking hold of what feels right and true in the heart and making it my own. I think it's about leaving the consumer pressure and all the bullshit at the door and getting to the heart of matters, which is love, respect, unity and leaving people to their own stories and stress. For too long now i have taken on too much and for too long now i have held the idea that this whole business is simply that, too much. 
My life is what it is and as stated in a previous post i have so very much to be thankful for, and that grows with each passing year. I have more love and patience than i believe i have ever had and I have no business sinking into a selfish depression just because I'm not living some "ideal" that the Province newspaper said i should be living. Fuck that. I don't need a new Sony Google TV and i certainly don't need thirty extra loved ones to think about when gifting. My simple and humble life is beautiful and from this moment on i intend to make the best of this season, carrying it on into the next. That's all i want, is an easy heart and love based words to be falling from my tongue and in my thoughts. The rest is cream and i will remain appreciative to the end like this kid.

Thank you i love you, and merry whatever to all.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The chicken coop

Down on intersecting streets just off Hastings there is a humble little home where my heart rests firmly. This home where i lay my head and meager possessions is a gift that gives daily. It may not look like much, but it is my home and has been for almost 10 years.
I had no inkling when i moved in on June 1 2001 that this creaky old building would enrich the lives of so many. Literally hundreds of bodies have moved between these walls in the time i have been here and not once do i remember a single person feeling uncomfortable within, a typical reaction being an intake of the breath followed by a sigh and a smile. Entering through the kitchen you are taken by a spell that hangs in the air, or perhaps it is the home-made food being cooked on the regular. Those that enter are suddenly transported to a home-like place and chances are they will be back for more, so potent is the energy that has soaked into the inner workings of this inanimate yet living breathing structure called a house. This is my home and i love it. 
But this home would be nothing if it weren't for the inhabitants that have passed through it over the years. Be it the nocturnal pothead couple i originally moved in with or the hip-hop crew and graffiti artist collective who took their place. Then there were the alterna-hippy idealists and gentle anarchists as well as every freak and geek in between leading to the colorful group i live with now, So many personalities and so many memories held here. 
The massive block rockin' house parties that stretched until dawn, the dinner gatherings, the movie nights, the new girlfriends brought home who became a regular fixture and sometimes part of the family, the bands in back yards and living rooms, the laughter (SO much laughter!), the array of music streaming from bedrooms, the thousands of hours worth of yoga practiced in big well lit rooms, the visitors from out of town, 1 very special very crazy week culminating in the marriage of roomies Tim and Lucia, the growth, the heartache, the healing......This is my home and i love it. I love the people who made it this way.
She may not look like much, this creaky old former printing press/office space. The paint may be hanging from the ceiling in strips the size of bedsheets and the downstairs bathroom may be molding like month old bread but the soil in the backyard is rich and fertile and makes an excellent garden. My bedroom windows might be thin with the odd crack, letting the Winter chills in that much easier but my floors are wooden and my stretching space is ample. We may have the chicken rendering plant a block away and the prostitutes selling their wares right under our noses but inside it is warm and if you're lucky you might just get to share in a meal or drink with any one of the 7 amazing people who live here with the promise that you'll always be welcomed back. She may have her blemishes and unhealed war wounds, but she is my home.
She is my castle.
She is where i rest my head. 
She is where my heart is, and i love her.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Spiritual alchemy

I remember the first week I took to a daily yoga practice. Purely physical and pure fucking torture to this unconditioned overweight body, oddly within a couple of days i was hooked on it. I was studying from this cryptic old manual called "Richard Hittleman's Yoga: 28-day Exercise Plan". As dated as it was, this manual helped to create the foundation on which i practice some 14 years later. 
There was never really this huge shining moment or grand realization that a daily yoga practice was what i needed for myself. There was never a teacher that suggested i try this stuff out, and in fact there was really very little in the way of prompts that steered me in this direction. It just sort of happened organically.
I was always of a "spiritual" mind, meaning that i intrinsically felt that there was much more beyond skin and bones, birth and death. I never took to the notion that i should fear any sort of wrathful God or that there was even this all encompassing God entity that gave us life and could snuff it out in a heartbeat. There was something at work that moved through us but i didn't have a clue what it looked like. Living in the question always seemed to be the road i traveled down and when something made sense to me or fit in with the ever malleable ideas i already held i would take it in and look at it and apply as needed. So when yoga came my way i was open and ready for it. My first introduction to the word "yoga" and the surrounding branches, meanings, bits and pieces etc was in the form of the book "Autobiography Of A Yogi" by Paramhansa Yogananda. It told the fantastic tale of an Indian mystic and the various signposts and teachers that brought him to enlightenment. This story was so incredible, his experiences so out of this world and beyond my imagining that i couldn't put the book down for months. Once i had finished i went right back to the beginning and started again. I must have read that book four times over in half a year and it never got tired. This amazing story resonated with me on so many levels, as unbelievable as entire chapters might have been i knew in my heart that i had stumbled upon something big, and that something big opened my heart just enough for me to stumble upon something bigger. As little as i knew about the meaning of yoga, i knew without a doubt that i was on my way home and that the path was slowly being etched before me.

Yes, that first week was pretty rough. I remember clearly how racked with pain my body was as i tried to take a seated forward fold(Paschimotanasana). Tears flooded my eyes as i huffed my way through series of twists and stretches and weird breathing exercises, cursing myself for committing to a month of this shit. Then that first week turned into the second, and then the third. Almost every day i took a half an hour to an hour and did my exercises, marveling afterward about how calm i felt. Suddenly i was sleeping better, smiling more often and not getting so worked up over the small stuff. My relationship to the breath started changing and my lungs began to take a more healthy shape. Most importantly i began to not only see my own potential and power, i reclaimed that shit for my own! 
Weeks turned into a few months and as my life changed drastically i rode the crest of this new found love through some tough terrain. Taking my power back the whole way. Making it mine again.
Months turned into a few years and still i took to a yoga practice every day. I knew not why, i just did it. It felt right for my body to be taking these movements, it felt right for my lungs to be breathing and expanding and being utilized fully. It felt right in my mind to be embracing the beginning of each day with a an hour or more of this stuff, the result being a calmer, fitter and happier Nathan.
Years turned into more years and eventually practice became prayer. The right teachers showed up at the right times and with them i was guided into deeper levels of being. Along the line this "exercise plan" became the most potent thing in my life. 
14 years and i can count the number of days i have missed on less than five fingers. That to me is incredible. I still don't understand it fully, and i doubt i ever will. All i know is that it makes me a more effective human being. It makes me a better lover(in all respects). It keeps me present and ever in the question. It has made me stronger of mind, body and soul. And it's just plain fun. 
To think that i can roll out my stinky little yoga mat, feeling like a bag of shit, full of chunky icy gross behind the eyes feelings, and within 10 minutes it's as if i have been dipped in liquid silver....that to me is a huge reason as to why i keep coming back to it, every day. Day after day.
It's amazing to me.
Those that know me know that i am probably not your typical yogi. I like to swear and say gross inappropriate things. I'm a bit of a violence enthusiast and hardcore music is flowers to my ears. I get angry at people and when not in my heart i can be quite hard on them when i want to be. I've stolen things in my day, I like to eat meat and I'm not ashamed to admit that I have had my fun with drugs and alcohol. By all accounts I am probably not the living model for yogis everywhere. 
But i do my best. And i am humble. And i am real. I am truthful and loyal as all hell. I have a lot of love to give and apparently i make people happy. I must be doing something right. 
I will keep on trying for the sake of my fellow human and for the health of my being. It feels absolutely excellent to have an open heart. To love without condition. To be getting older while feeling years younger. 
I may be far from perfect and honestly i never want to be, but i am happy and have tasted joy.
Every day i taste joy and give thanks.
That is one of the greatest gifts this practice has offered me.
14 years. Here's to many more.

Thank you i love you.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Reflections on a life better lived

2 years ago i had too much hair on my head, too much snow on the ground and way too much pain in my heart. 2 years ago i was waking up most mornings with a sigh, heaving myself through the day with the faint glimmer of relief knowing that whenever i got finished with my work day that I'd be able to park myself in front of the computer and smoke myself to sleep. 
 I don't mean to paint a picture of desperation and hopelessness here. I was far from suicidal or clinically depressed, but i think it was the closest i ever got to experiencing a bottoming out. Fresh from a year of heartbreak, insomnia, and the fallout from a brazened and random physical attack by a couple of drunk thugs i was moving through some dark days. That Winter we got snow-dumped and what i had hoped to be an adventurous week off of work turned into my being stuck inside waiting for the big melt. It had its moments....but man.....i think to back then and look at my heart now. 
I am so grateful!
For health.
For fine friends.
For a love supreme.
For those shining moments......
Like when i see my friend Vanessa and we share boundless love.
Like whenever my friend Audrey smiles with her heart.
Like when i wake after a sound sleep with my lover.
Like getting excited over buying a treat for a loved one.
Like being 36 and still being able to rock out and fully enjoy music.
Like pictures that make me feel "holiday-like"
Like the smell of this particular Christmas tree in her apartment, and how she will get up in the morning with the purpose in mind to "go check out the tree".

Point being, I feel like i have a lot to be thankful for. More than i can express in one stupid blog post. There are a myriad of ways every day and I'm not going to bore you with it.
Point being, I am happy to be here right now. Life feels rich and full and interesting and full of flavor.
There's no more time for this frowny shit.
So, as i am fond of saying....thank you, i love you!