375. Ahhhh

“AHHHHHHH!!!” The sound rushes out of me unconsciously on this first warm sun-filled day. I don’t even try to take a deep breath, but I do anyway as I  cross the street with a sudden skip in my stride. Expansive energy, so hard to find all winter as I watched for ice patches and slush pools, rises in my perky legs. The sapphire sky expands above, letting out its belt a comfy notch or two. Winter is all about conserving heat and avoiding wind and rain, looking down, shriveling up. But today I’m wearing my hushpuppy suede shoes, knowing that rain is not forecast; and my eyes seek the happy unhooded horizon.  What the heck!  Ahhh, my body is not cramped from all the chillension that comes with freezing rain and driven snow. Spring is not far off; it can’t be. The birds are swarming over farms again. Squirrels are busily digging up their final acorns buried last fall. I can nearly taste the lilacs of spring as surely as I have smelled snow coming. “Slow down in the sun”, my body whispers to my peppy self. “Soak up that vitamin D and smile back at the strengthening sun.” Good advice, body. ‘Ahhhh, thank you, thank you, very much’, I imagine a relaxed Elvis telling me.

A Southern man awakens in me, urging civility, bourbon, and slow cooked pulled pork with three sides. “Ahhh said, Ahhh said, boy, you gotz to get on yo’ hammock and sway in the gentle Gulf breezes. Bad timez and worries, they’ll wait for ya’ll. Aint no future in hurryin. Soon they’ll be a buryin you. Bourbon refill? They ya go. Life and good bourbon be for sippin’ not gulpin’. Yeah, you know it’s true when the warm starts in yo’ belly an yo legs feel like jelly.”

Ahhh, slipping into a hot bath, I don’t even notice that same utterance leaves my mouth till it bounces back off the tiled wall. My low back is pinched at two points and the hot water is like an old lover who knows just what to say. “Hello, tendon. It’s been a long time, I know.  Babydoll, you remember how to stretch, don’t you? Just call all your jangled dandelion neurons together and blow. Blow them all away. Now hold me like you did when we were both young.”

Or slipping into a swimming pool in Tucson when it’s 100 degrees in the sun, “Ahhh” pours out of every skin pore and a choir of ten toenails shouts “Amen”. Your plump earlobes and even the back of your starched throat relax. The hushing almost sounds like water poured on a campfire but not quite so spitty and sputtery. These ahhhs are not about the sharp end of anything but the smooth start of something soothing… silver butter knives spreading warm cream cheese on a perfectly toasted, honey soaked bagel. Yeah, baby. I am a wearer of my hobbled senses now in the post-Ahhhh era. Oh, and they fit like spankz on a summer night. [Not that I have worn spankz on any night, I’m just free styling here, blogapotomases. Curb your kinky thoughts or I will delete you for ever, ever. Don’t try me.]

The first sip of good coffee early in the chill, misty morning or a sip of cold lemonade on a stagnant summer afternoon elicit the same Ahhhhh. “Yeah, that’s good.” Deep answers deep out in the next orbit beyond the material world. It’s the place where Buddhist monks chant Ummmmmmmmm for centuries. Occasionally we crack open a window, not even thinking but just being random… and we hear the monks’ UMMMMMMMM vibrato massage the marrow of our tired bones. Ahhhh. It is the window of whapportunity, whatever that may be. Leave it open to the saffron sound waves and your soul will merge with your rhythm and blues inside a symphony of sandalwood incense. Trippy, yes?  AHHHHHH. [***This is still a drug free blog workspace, just in case you were wondering. I submit to weekly random drug tests every Tuesday at noon.]

The long yawn after a deep night’s sleep filled with dreams of delight and awe.  Awake without full control of your limbs, ahhhhh. Man, that resets everything, as half tears lubricate the corners of my eyes. It’s all good, Momma. Don’t you worry ’bout a thing. Let Stevie Wonder sing. ’cause I’ll be standing on the side when you check it out.

When you go to your doctor, and the doc wants to look  at your throat, what sound is required? The universal Ahhhh. The sound is part of what is known as the therapeutic response. When your chiropractor adjusts your spine, what do you say?  Ahhhhh. And your masseuse or masseur rubs that coiled snake knot out of your trapezius muscle, what’s the word?  Yeah,  Ahhhhh. It is a gasp of relief and pleasure simultaneously experienced. When a difficult problem is finally solved, Charlie Chan says what?  “Ahhh so”. When a rescued damsel in distress gratefully hugs and kisses John Wayne, what’s he say? “Ahhh shucks ma’am. Tweren’t nothin but a thing.” When Bill Clinton was caught in his spankzy moments, what did he say? “Ahhhh, I feel your pain.”

The first cousin of Ahhhh is Awwwww. It is the irresistible response to cuteness. You see your little grandbaby and up rises the vowel of oy gushed through contented vocal chords. Awwww. Golden retriever puppies nip and play with each other on a blanket across from their reclining mother. You just can’t help it. Awww, so I have noticed, is more often uttered by females than by males. And Ahhhh is more often uttered by males. Why?  It would take several volumes of deep psychobabble to even begin to explain this phenomenon. For now, trust me and enjoy the moment. Awwright?

 

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282. Into the Mystic

[ After visiting Brovania, the ancestral home of apartment gypsies and Ramen noodles, I feel a need to look at life on the coast of consciousness.]
 *****************************
“We were born before the wind
Also younger than the sun
Ere the bonnie boat was won
As we sailed into the mystic
 ====================
Hark, now hear the sailors cry
Smell the sea and feel the sky
Let your soul and spirit fly
Into the mystic
 ====================
And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home, mmm mmm
And when the fog horn blows
I want to hear it
I don’t have to fear it
 ===================
I wanna rock your gypsy soul

Just like way back in the days of old
Then magnificently we will float
Into the mystic

Image result for water gypsies pictures

When that fog horn blows
You know I will be coming home
And when that fog horn whistle blows
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it

And I wanna rock your gypsy soul
Just like way back in the days of old
And together we will float
Into the mystic
Come on girl

Too late to stop now”  Van Morrison, poet

***************************************

Van creates musical atmospheres that are nice to travel through even years after hearing them. Though I’ve never been a sailor or known a gypsy lover, I can taste a bit of both in his song. It’s simple enough: A sailor man has been away from his gypsy lover girl for too long and he can’t wait to hold her again. The foghorn is a welcome sound after being out to sea; it also warns him of potential dangers, even death, as he is getting closer to his loved one. There is both urgency and timelessness in this simple song. Moving “into the mystic” happens in present, past and future time. The mystic is not tied to history or politics, economics or technology. It exists outside of these structures in a billowing silken sail made of love… which I can relate to.

noun: mysticism
  1. 1.
    belief that union with or absorption into the Deity or the absolute, or the spiritual apprehension of knowledge inaccessible to the intellect, may be attained through contemplation and self-surrender.
  2. 2.
    belief characterized by self-delusion or dreamy confusion of thought, especially when based on the assumption of occult qualities or mysterious agencies.
    You know like everything else that’s attractive, mysticism is double-edged. If you go with definition 1, it’s cool. A higher Zen-like knowledge or state of being comes over you like a holy cloud. All religions seem to get to this absorption with the Deity– oneness. It’s a great place to visit but impossible to live there because your desire filled body gets in the way, calling you back to otherness .
    Then there’s the second definition that’s less attractive. It’s syncretic and creepy. Requiring a map and a conspiracy theory in order to figure out the inscrutable mysteries and secret codes. You might have achieved oneness but nobody else is there– no Deity just disembodied delusional voices in your head. Unfortunately for folks who do live in definition 2, they struggle to visit reality on brief occasions as they walk relentlessly around their downtown streets. There goes one now, swatting at gnats that are not present on this cool spring day.

I like to think that I’m in the first level, with a healthy appreciation for intuition, associative thinking, creativity, and yeah,  the mystic. Not the occult version, no. I prefer to believe in an oceanic mystic and osmotic experience that is open to everyman as one praises and meets God. A balance is reached in that ocean just as a balance is reached in the arms of your loved ones.  Separateness and longing surrender to one warm amniotic embrace.

Draw, if thou canst, the mystic line, Severing rightly his from thine, Which is human, which divine.     Ralph Waldo Emerson

I don’t know where to draw this mystic line, maybe in the sand of a Zen garden, with a handmade bamboo rake. Why rake sand? Not because you are OCD and you want all the grains to fall the same way, but to lose your otherness and join that elusive oneness of the mystic mind. The burden of otherness gets to be too much too often.
Lying on your back at the beach with eyes closed breathing in rhythm with the waves breaking at your feet… that’s the mystic too. Life is in you and around you and through you. Your sweat dries and becomes humidity as you breathe air in and hook up oxygen with your blood cells. You realize in the mystic moment that you are the lilting breeze, the falling leaf, and the damp soil on which it lands. What you had for breakfast grew out of that very same soil. One and other and the same.
Image result for leaf falling pictures
Divisions and boundaries dissolve in the mystic just like salt in water. Oh, it’s still there in every sip and will return like dried sweat on your skin. It all makes more sense in dreams, this mystic dimension. Time and space and gravity and form all work differently in the land of dreams. What is another paradox is that our bodies and minds are refreshed when we go there for only a few minutes per sleep cycle. I suspect that dreams are the mystic harbor where our ships of consciousness rest and replenish ever so briefly, weightlessly formlessly mindlessly, slip safely into the arms of God.
“And when that fog horn blows
I will be coming home
I gotta hear it
I don’t have to fear it”
Sail on, Blognauts, Into the mystic.

278. Yoga, Barney Fife, and Robert E. Lee

Never did I imagine that I would go to yoga class. Then again I never imagined going to ballroom dance classes. However, since last week’s neck seizure, I had to do something to prevent a recurrence of neck lock. Simply getting toridol shots, using ibuprofen, flexeril, and naproxen beats up my liver and kidneys. They work but do not appease my loving wife, who promised to hurt me if I did not get an order for physical therapy. Cleverly she made a yoga appointment for both of us at a local yoga parlor. Now stop your filthy imaginings right there!  I did not wear yoga pants or biker shorts.
No, I dressed modestly in nylon sweat pants that left everything to the imagination.
We met the petite instructor, Pat, who is so supple and toned that she does not seem to leave footprints when she walks. I followed my wife’s lead and unrolled my pink mat. I was ready to stretch not only my muscles but my manly comfort zone as well. Two other flexible women joined our little group in the small yoga parlor. Any more participants and it could have been an illegal or immoral gathering. Just as we were getting started, a thin man in a drab khaki uniform appeared.
Image result for barney fife pictures
 Vice Squad Detective Barney:  “What the heck are  you doin’ here, fella? Looks like a harem party. Show me some i.d.”
Yoga Man: “I, uh, don’t have any pockets. My i.d. is in my wallet, which is locked in my car across the street.”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Do I look like a rookie? Turn around and spread’em.”
Yoga Man: “Officer, is this really necessary?  These women can vouch for me, if you’ll just…. OUCH!” [arm twist behind back]
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “I’ll make the suggestions around here, Yoga Boy. There’ll be no vouching either. 219, I need back up at the Yoga Parlor on Main Street. Over. Caught’em in the act. Over. Send a female officer please. 409, over.”
Wife: “Detective, really, he’s my husband and I have an order in my purse for physical therapy but I thought yoga would do the same thing…”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Lemme guess, lady. Your purse is locked in the car across the street. Yeah, nice try. We call that a ruse prior to creating a distraction and an opportunity for escape. Do you know who ya’ll are dealing with? I went to the Mayberry Academy for six months on line.”
Pat: “Detective, you are disrupting a legal gathering of purely innocent activity in which we get in touch with our heart chakras.
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Nip it! Nip it good, little lady. Just keep your chakras in their sheaves please. 219, send the drug dog too. Over.”
Radio Voice: “Now Barn, it’s Andy. Let them people alone. They got a license to do yoga. I got it right here at the station. Now just uncuff whoever you done arrested and come on back for some of Aunt Bee’s brownies. And, uh, let’s get you back on your medication.”
Vice Squad Det. Barney: “Roger that, Sheriff. 409 out.” [walks out backwards and knocks over an aromatic soap display] “You people caught a break today. But I’ll be watching you, so you best be on your P’s and Q’s. And you, Yoga Boy, you are one twisted man.”
Okay, that did not happen. But it could have been an interesting episode from the days of black and white television.
 Image result for yoga instructor pictures
What did happen was 45 minutes of exertion, stretching, sweating and mild bewilderment. Like dance class I have to be at the same orientation as the instructor, i.e., see the move from his/her perspective or else bad things happen. My brain does not reverse mirror well. I lack the protein that makes the neuropeptide responsible for mirror imaging. At least that is what I’m telling you instead of simply stating the obvious:  I am retarded in three dimensional reasoning like Spock was with emotions.
Image result for mirror image pictures“It’s quite logical, Captain. You see left as right and right as left in the mirror. All is merely opposite, causing the right hemisphere of your brain to interpret what the left hemisphere is experiencing while still retaining the essence of its rightness. When the instructor moves forward, you also move forward. When she moves the arm on your left side, you must respond with movement on your right side. Do not allow your human emotions to intervene.”
“Thank you, Mister Spock.”
Image result for hindu goddess pictures
The lights were dimmed, thank Shakragupta, the Vedic goddess of embarrassment. There were no mirrors reflecting our postures. In my case it was a wobble. I pictured John Candy doing yoga and began to laugh at myself, but I caught the giggle before it exited my pursed lips. I shudder to think what would have happened if I’d laughed at my own incompetence while prerecorded monks chanted “Ooooommmmmmm” over and over again just above a percussion instrument that sounded like a hollow log being beaten with two wooden spoons.

“Breath in and reach up! Pull down and exhale.” “Inhale and step forward in warrior pose. Exhale and step back in reposing warrior stance.” Breathing is important in this exercise. You can’t just breath on your own as your reptile brain tells you. No. You must corral your breaths and make them join the harmony of the motion you are doing, while becoming one with the universe’s pulse. So I am lost, but it’s dark and I’m pretty sure Pat is not looking at my form as she tells the group, “Good job.”
beautiful yoga, #yoga, royal dancer, black & white yoga photography
As we finish the torture, Pat compliments the others and then says to me, “You gave it all you had.” Only later do I analyze that “compliment” and associate it with failed attempts at baseball and skiing and carpentry and roofing. I’d heard this before as an acknowledgement of effort in a failed cause. Like when Robert E. Lee surrendered his saber at Appomattox Court house. General Grant said, “Well, Bob, you gave it all you had.”

267. So Long, been good to know you, Eric

Lots of soft hearted, wet eyed folks gathered at King Street Church this past Saturday to say good bye to one of our favorite persons. It dawned on me at church the next day that Eric never preached a sermon or won a theological argument with anyone, but he won over many hearts for Jesus with his unbridled joy. Who plays “Joy to the World” at a funeral?  Eric.

I was asked to speak about Eric. I made the following comments during a celebration of his life.

Eric was a pure gift of love…

from a loving Father to a loving family. He blessed our community.

He was like a shared golden retriever who canoodled his head under your hand.

Before you knew it you were petting him and feeling better.

Eric had that giving spirit and knew where he was loved.

He tenderly blessed us all.

 

That blessed gift returned to the Giver last Saturday

Leaving us bereft:  stuck between breathing deep sighs of sadness

Or not breathing at all.

All good things come at a great cost.

The great pain and deep sadness we all feel today

Are measures of that big hearted guy, we knew as the Sexy Cowboy.

Yeah Buddy!!

 

You know, in Texas they have an expression for fake cowboys–

They say, “He’s all hat and no cattle.”

Well Eric was all HEART and no cattle.

I think he was afraid of cows.

 

Humor me for a moment and close your eyes:

Picture Eric sitting next to you with his crooked grin

With that bird swoop thing he did with his head,

 his bright eyes peering at you through his Harry Potter glasses.

 

Take a long look and smile back at him

And hold to God’s promise that we will meet again

In glorified bodies

Minus the pain,

minus the ills of this world.

 

Give thanks for what Eric’s life was… a loving gift.

 

Take your last hug and exhale.

Eric has a poker game to play with Evie

And everyone knows that she cheats at cards.

 

Well, a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do, pardner.

And this is the hard part:  it’s time to say farewell.

 

God bless you and So long, Sexy Cowboy.

Like the God who made you, You are unforgettable.

I did not realize how important Eric was until he was no more. In the eyes of the world he was in the margins, out on the periphery. However, I believe in God’s eyes he danced at the epicenter of what we call love.

Image result for blackbird in a loaf of bread picture

An odd image kept coming to me when I thought of Eric’s death. I saw a black bird pecking his way out of a loaf of bread.  It had been baked into the dough, I suppose. I knew the black bird was Eric and the bread was God’s word, the  Bread of life. I knew this was a resurrection and not an entombment. Surely, Eric brought God’s word to life for those who knew him. In Isaiah 55 verse 12 Isaiah gives this supernatural vision:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;

the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,

and all the trees of the field will clap their hands.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how I will remember the Sexy Cowboy riding off into the sunset. There’s a party in them thar hills. Eric will save you a table near the dance floor.

 

 

 

244. Breathe

 

In– two, three, four.

When others get tight and breathe like rabbits–fast and short, I have an automatic response that I learned about twenty years ago. I breathe deeply, slowly, and methodically for my benefit and sympathetically for the other person. Maybe I always did it and just came to awareness then. Can’t be absolutely sure. I just know that deep breaths help me reset the tension needle lower on my side of any interpersonal equation. It’s a natural reaction to breathe deeply after one gets out of a messy situation by dodging real or imagined bullets.  “Whew!  The guy with the gun is  your husband? He missed me.” A deep breath reassures one’s body that you are alive and not leaking blood or air or other substances. It’s a systems check.

“The Enterprise is travel worthy. Warp nine, Scotty.”

“Aye, aye. Cap’n. Uh, Cap’n. I think Sulu is gay.”

“Scotty, everyone knows that. Get over it.”

“But I’m a Scotsman, Cap’n. I’ll need a wee bit of Scotch to wet me whistle.”

“Just breathe, Scotty.  And remember, Spock is asexual. And I have an abnormal attraction to Klingons, not the psychobilly  group from the 80’s either.”

Others might not like seeing you breathe this way, especially if they just shot some lead or fazers at you. It may appear to be dismissive or judgmental of the other, as if you are blowing them off, as if they are too high maintenance. Like they are Romulans even. And maybe that’s the fully oxygenated truth. However, what deep breathing actually does on the physiological level is to calm your fight or flight reaction, slow down breathing and pulse, open blood vessels, increase oxygen to your muscles and organs, and reduce sweating and adrenaline production. It’s one conscious act that impacts many unconscious or autonomic reactions.

When I was a teacher, the speech unit was always a challenge for my students. It was not unusual for kids to try to avoid their speech date by being absent. On more than one occasion I had a kid faint in mid speech because he or she  “forgot” to breathe. Actually their fear overrode their ability to think and remain upright. Adrenaline overrode balance, and vertigo kicked in to reset the system.

Episodes of vasovagal response are typically recurrent, and usually occur when the predisposed person is exposed to a specific trigger. Prior to losing consciousness, the individual frequently experiences early signs or symptoms such as lightheadedness, nausea, the feeling of being extremely hot or cold (accompanied by sweating), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), an uncomfortable feeling in the heart, fuzzy thoughts, confusion, a slight inability to speak/form words (sometimes combined with mild stuttering), weakness and visual disturbances such as lights seeming too bright, fuzzy or tunnel vision, black cloud-like spots in vision, and a feeling of nervousness can occur as well. The symptoms last for a few seconds before the loss of consciousness (if it is lost), which typically happens when the person is sitting up or standing. When sufferers pass out, they fall down (unless this is impeded) and, when in this position, effective blood flow to the brain is immediately restored, allowing the person to regain consciousness; if the person does not fall into a fully flat, supine position, and the head remains elevated above the trunk, a seizure may result from the blood’s inability to return quickly to the brain. Fainting occurs with the loss of oxygen to the brain.[4] (Wikipedia)

I wish I’d known all that back then. It could have been an object lesson on the value of oxygen for your brain and balance.

So, breathing deeply is a good insurance policy. It’s a strange thing that in our busy, stressful lives we sometimes “forget” to breathe or we get out of sync with our body’s natural needs. We are complicated creatures indeed. Folks who have panic attacks believe incorrectly that they cannot draw a full, deep breath. They convince themselves that they are having some sort of cardiac episode and head to the local Emergency Room for reassurance. It’s not unusual for the panicked heart to settle down in the hospital parking lot. “Oh thank God, we’re here.” And the symptoms recede.

During a panic attack you tend to over-breathe (hyperventilate). If you over-breathe you blow out too much carbon dioxide which changes the acidity in the blood. This can then cause more symptoms such as confusion and cramps, and make palpitations, dizziness, and pins and needles worse. This can make the attack seem even more frightening, and make you over-breathe even more, and so on. It can sometimes result in a faint. A panic attack usually lasts 5-10 minutes, but sometimes they come in waves for up to two hours. (Patient website.)

Occasionally when I am hunting I’ll hold my breath in order to heighten my hearing. Sitting completely still in a tree stand, I ‘ll hold my breath and strain my eyes and ears for any clue of an approaching deer. That’s a special occasion in a still December morning. Finally the exhale comes in steam. It takes a few more breaths to get the rhythm back to autopilot. It’s truly amazing when you consider how much work your brain does. Like right now it’s tracking an itch in the little toe of your right foot while simultaneously processing the music on your laptop as you read this post. Some actions can be postponed or ignored, but not breathing. It’s non negotiable.

So here are the take away bullet points. 1. Breathe or die. 2. Others may think you are a rude alien when you deep breathe in front of their frothing anxiety. 3. If you forget to breathe, you’ll likely faint and wind up on someone’s Facebook page with a snarky comment under your prostrate body, which could keep you from getting your first job after college. 4. Breathing is better than panic…but so is root canal surgery. 5. Deep breathing is free and easy to do. It’s the first and last thing you do in life.