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When I was in the mental ward for bipolar disorder, age 17, yoga and making paper cranes were two of the things that I did to cope and get out of that hard to be place. That was when I weighed 118 pounds, before the medically induced weight gain took over my body. I had learned the beginnings of yoga from a book a friend of the family gave me. So around age 8 or 10 I taught myself yoga when I didn’t think anyone else knew it or understood it. It was speedy and mostly just to see if I could kink my body into the hard to form poses. I wanted to prove how flexible I was, and that was the main thing I did it for. So maybe it wasn’t really yoga until age 19 when I audited a class with Dolores at Virginia Intermont. That was the introduction to the concepts of yoga, and the idea that concentrating on breathe is important. I was in and out of mental wards 17-21 due to the onset of mental illness. I am sorry that it is true, but the more balanced my moods got, I also got fatter and fatter, until I did not feel comfortable with what body I found myself in. So by 21, the yoga aspect disappeared, and I quit yoga, and barely swam, which is one of my important things that I do for my whole health, mental and physical. Thank God, the illness did not completely take away my body or my mobility and flexibility.

Around age 29 I took a required gym class, Intermediate and Advanced Swimming. It was the course I chose among a nice list of possibilities from Yoga to Camping and Hiking. I am fortunate for the privilege that my education offered me. I had swum now and then between 21 and 29, but at 29 some things occurred to me. Not everybody even knows how to swim, so I am gifted in a way in terms of the fact that my strokes are pretty well formed and my speed could almost meet the average of my female classmates. My friends and classmates told me they were impressed and surprised by my swimming. So at least that semester, I felt stronger and more active in my body. I felt more able and vibrant in my abilities. A couple semesters later, I took walking for fitness the same semester that my old faithful car broke down and I ended up trading the car in for money ultimately because it was a drain on my finances and I knew I could just walk. At that point, I walked an hour in class three days a week, which was a lot for me, a 330 pound woman. Plus now, I was walking to school and sometimes even home, which totaled up to 4 miles each way! My feet were hurting some. I felt I had done something stupid selling the car at first. But by the end of the semester, which was my last semester of college, I did not regret it anymore. I had done it! I was 30, it was 2012. I started college in 2000, then immediately got ill. This was a true accomplishment academically, but also, my body was at a momentous place in life because I was forcing myself to walk so much.

I moved home to Tennessee, and due to the fact I had a family car, I kind of stagnated a little in terms of walking so much. In these 5 years, I have had a lot of time at the pool, thank goodness, and have resumed swimming as a healing important necessary aspect of my life. I still walk, and terrifically I have overcome the back pain I had in college. I attribute that back pain I had to “resistance.” I also feel emotionally complete and utter joyfulness. I don’t mean I don’t have passing emotions or that I don’t suffer grief, but my general temperament is just so happy. A big part of that is I have let go of trying to be attached to anything. I am aware my happiness is fleeting. That is the wonderful paradox I know.

Yoga in my present life has not been happening much. I took a few classes with Heather, and I adore her patient approach that she offers students who need not to rush their yoga, who need to work on building strength and resistance. That is where I feel I am at in my yoga. Except for one stumbling block. I can’t afford to pay for yoga. People say yoga is pretty cheap in Bristol, and I agree the people involved try to make it very affordable. Community yoga is only 5 dollars, classes are 10, and due to Heather’s great benevolence, meditation is always free. Still, it is nearly impossible for me to raise 5 dollars a week or even per month to pay for that yoga. I tried the ten dollar class, but due to my low income status from my disability I had to set a limit and not pay that anymore even though I so craved the yoga, and got so much out of the classes.

Now it happens that I am reading a wonderful book called Swimming with Elephants that deals with the fact that mentally ill people are healers the fact that it can be a very dangerous approach to ask people money for their healing. Also, recently, I saw a documentary, The Last Shaman, that covered a similar subject. How rare it is to find a shaman who is not trying to make money off of their gift. And some of the shamans and healers and yoga instructors are just doing their best. Many of them are. They are doing everything in their power to spread their love of yoga while somehow making ends meet for themselves. Plus some people are super glad to give their money for a yoga class, for some people, because they do have a little extra money, they are happy to share their wealth and think yoga classes are the absolute best thing they can give their money to.

Also, right now, due to my joy, and my current state of being so well, it happens that I recognize in myself that I am “having an opening.” My response to that is I have to change something. It started where I thought I might get a job. Then I firmly decreed not to just get some job. Then I found a very idyllic Quaker role in Boston that made me turn around and apply to the Quaker job, despite my decree, or rather, due to the fact that this was not just “some job” but a wonderful job in the case that they want me. I have yet to know whether they do or not.

Meanwhile, I was sitting on the front porch reflecting and I pretty much had a clearness committee for myself. I came to a very deep honest place and made a decision, recognizing that if I do not get the job, I will still be in a personal place of OPENING. So if I don’t get the job, I want to have a plan to really do something to use my gifts and talents and strengths to make the world better in some way. That is the goal for the opening. Then I looked at my yoga mat which was sharing the porch there with me waiting for mobility and sun salutations. My yoga mat has a personality and it was talking to me. And it said, “why don’t you get up and do sun salutations by yourself, regardless of all of this money talk? You apparently have all your needs met, so now would be a great time for you to practice your yoga.”

And I want to and will and am excited to listen to the advice of my yoga mat. But first I wanted to write this, because I think the answer for my OPENING has come to me. I want to do the 2020 yoga teacher training at Bristol Yoga if I don’t get the idyllic Boston Quaker job. I think I have a lot to offer as a yoga teacher, that many other people here don’t. For two big examples, I am a large figured woman who could inspire others like me to strengthen, and I am low income and willing to teach for free. Being willing to work for free, I think, is a sign of a truly interested person.

So as I wait to hear back from Boston, I can’t help but to think, what if I took the opening part of my soul and life course and build around myself in Tennessee something as idyllic and helping others as that which I hope to do in Boston. So I could go either way. I don’t know if Boston wants me, and I don’t know if I can raise over 2,000 dollars by 2020 for the yoga teacher training. But I know I am one of these people who commits myself to what I do, and I know I made it through college walking sometimes 12 miles in some days just to make the finish line. And I am pretty sure I can do anything I set my mind to.

Posted Tue Jun 19 14:10:31 2018

I AM MAGGIE SHAMAN GIRL HEAR ME NOW I AM HEALED TODAY IT HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN THIS WAY ... i want to shout to the world i am not sick anymore but pharmaceuticals still lock my door PART OF MY LIFE HAS BEEN REELING DOCTORS WHO DON'T REALLY UNDERSTAND HEALING WHO DON'T COMPREHEND HOW THE BRAIN EVEN WORKS AND JUST TRY TO PACIFY ME FROM BEING BERSERKS maybe i need ayahuasca or to drink lithium water what is wrong with me i asked the catalpa tree NOTHING IS WRONG MY GIRL SANG THE CATALPA BURL HUG YOURSELF AND KNOW YOUR START HEAR YOUR ROOTS AND LEAFY PARTS maybe my catalpa tree was right my path to peace was still going i wondered as i walked upon the path that night in tennessee where it was snowing TIME PASSED ON I FOUND SUCH PEACE AND HAPPINESS NO MORE TROUBLED BY MENTAL DISEASE or so i thought but i could not help but wonder if the stillness would also pass like thunder THINGS HAPPENED TO UPSET MY DAYS MY DOG GOT BIT ANOTHER PERSON WAS A JERK YET I RETAINED A PEACEFULNESS i can wonder what is the source of my inner calm is it these medicines i take either way it is not fake ... WHEN I REALIZE ALL THE CRAZIES COULD BE SHAMANS THEN I FEEL A LITTLE LAZY slowly my family members ask for ears i listen hard to them talking about their lives FIRST MY MOTHER TELLING ME ABOUT HER TROUBLES THEN MY SISTER, AND MY OWN PAPA now i know that healing others can be ask simple as what i already offer

Posted Mon Jun 18 19:18:36 2018

Just before going to the wonderful viewing of "Walk with Me" at Bristol Yoga (because of the wonderful Heather) I realized that my current totem animal is a firefly (or lightening bug which is the same thing.)

I invited Mom and was so glad that she enjoyed the film so much, remarking "that is the most interesting thing that's ever happened in Bristol" and "isn't Heather lovely?!" Yes! Indeed!

I was feeling deep emotions off and on through the movie. They made me periodically well up with tears. Not that they were always correlating to what happened on the screen, though sometimes.

In an opening scene, the monks are walking through the woods, and before I see the monks contemplatively walking there, I notice the noises of the forest. Birds are singing loudly and melodiously.

When the monks enter, their walking seems to bring this real peace to everything, lowering the noise of the forest by degrees. Not in terms of scaring away wildlife, but stilling all of the bustle by magic.

The film follows a year of the life of the people at Plum Village in France, where Thich Nhat Hanh has spent much time since his initial political exile from Vietnam in 1966 for peace raising.

Though there is narration by Benedict Cumberbatch, it is like a guided meditation in itself, in that you get lots of time to think your own ideas and draw your own conclusions, or just be silent.

Even during the movie, I am thinking of myself as a firefly. We all have a brightness of eyes that comes and goes, and I think my firefly spirit is connected with my feeling of hopefulness.

I am having a great joyfulness, like Thich experienced, as he wrote in his journal in 1966, as Cumberbatch narrated. My joy too comes with awareness that suffering and change are inevitable.

We do not fight them. There is this beautiful moment when a little girl asks Thich how to overcome the death of her best friend, her dog. His answer, about the cloud, holds the greatest truth I have heard.

I'll let you check it out for yourself though.

Posted Sun Jun 17 10:57:53 2018

You can leave yourself behind

bleak in the hands of a stranger

stuck without an exit

in a bus stop, isolated, Maine.

I know

I have swum in the rip tide there

where the sharks circle in pods

along the shoreline, only way the land.

But this is the whisper

of a different man who helped me

another stranger on the train I took

who sat there with me about one hour.

Then the stranger on the train

got up and left me there

just to sit a while with myself

and remember I am strong.

I can push myself through the sharks

I'll disguise myself, a fin

I'll kick the tide with all my might

till I'm safe on the sand again.

The whisper of that friend

who helped me find my fight

is what I hope that I can spread

in the night, a firefly.

Posted Sun Jun 17 01:46:23 2018

I read a lot of self help books, and they are a jumble in my minds sometimes. So I can't tell you with certainty which one it was that said to me that resistance is the main source of back pain. Resistance, huh? I heard it, and I immediately recognized a truth in the blaming resistance, but it seemed like somebody who just has it easy telling me I would be pain free if I just had it easy. How am I supposed to alleviate the resistance? I wondered. And largely, I went ahead with my life, not changing the resistance directly or knowingly because I didn't know or understand what it was, where it was located, or how I could change it.

Needless to say, back then, my back pain was pretty awful. It was dull and I could still do things, but it just hurt so bad to climb a hill or go on a hike. I felt miserable thinking that if I felt this bad at 33 I had only negative times ahead. But there were a lot of positive things I was involving myself with over these couple years of healing. And though correlation is hard to prove causation, and I was regularly swimming and walking dogs, I am certain the reason my back pain disappeared almost instantly, was due to the self help books I was reading. (Kelly McGonigal, Brene Brown, Tara Brach, so on)

When I look at the disappearance of my back pain, I realize what really was going on was quite psychological, though not entirely. The pain was real. But why did I have pain? I really think I had pain largely due to the fact I felt a lack of self worth and guilt around my declining mobility of my early adulthood, as opposed to my late adolescence. So I found that I was not able to do much like I used to do, my capabilities had so dropped and I felt guilt because I was no longer doing as many useful things, like serious exercise for example. But with the self help books, somehow, I realized the way out of guilt is miraculously to let in to the very thing that makes you guilty. Hear that again. If overeating is your thing that troubles you, over eat a little more, but drop the self hate around the eating. If porn is your passion. Surf that porn thing, but do it without shame. So I started passionately being lazy. My new "thing" became relaxing on the front porch and watching the world change.

And then the worry that I was insufficient, and the fear that I might be lazy, and the guilt that nothing I did was constructive faded in a flash. Like a dramatic shift between night and day, my back stopped hurting. And then, ironically, yes indeed, I stopped sitting so often. And I got up a little more. And I became a little more active. And all the while, my back still felt so good.

Posted Fri Jun 15 18:50:32 2018

Everyone seems to have an opinion lately on suicide. As a friend pointed out, many of these people look away on a daily basis regarding mental illness. Personally I think we all struggle these days, but it definitely is more extreme for some of us, like me. But it is so layered and complicated, even that statement, because I am not just an ill person, I am someone who meditates regularly, complies with treatment protocol, and quite often am happy. I am no one thing, happy or sat, sick or well. I am all of these things. And in that is the human condition. It is all of us. I happen to speak out regularly about my illness, but I firmly am convinced I will never kill myself. I think the ones who are most vulnerable of that are the ones who never admit mental illness or reach for help.

Posted Fri Jun 15 02:24:03 2018

It was 2006 when I last went with my family to the beach. Since then I spent a couple moments on Ocracoke on a solo trip in 2012, I think. My family goes every year and it can be a really sore subject for all of us. I hope I can get to the ocean this year. My fingers are crossed.

Posted Mon Jun 11 19:33:39 2018

My dog is a gardener, a cleaner, industrious licker, a nuzzler, healer. My dog is a runner, a skipper, little hole burrower, nester, nestler. My dog is the size of a football, and easily punted. She comes when I call her, except when she doesn't want to.

Posted Mon Jun 11 19:29:38 2018

First it takes an a woman on the front lines, an activist in the Dakota Access Pipeline defending sacred Indian land and water itself. She comes into my mental view and I like what I see, a mixture of a courageous international traveler vagabond chick from college I know, myself, and every woman who has ever had to lift her voice up above what limits she knew she had to say something important, because somebody's life depends on it. Shailene is an incredible person because she is a climate activist. Maybe feminism is a word too old for her, and that's okay, because Shailene has something about her that is special and worth listening to. It is why I went into that giant thunderstorm with her on a big scary boat (on the big screen) because I respect and admire this actress more than any I have ever seen. I have a weird feeling I might meet her someday. I guess that is one good motivation or incentive to be or become a climate activist ASAP. I can't say much more because I don't want to possibly give anything away. But in Adrift, Shailene's acting makes the story completely believable. I hope all of my readers get to see it too.

Posted Sat Jun 2 22:03:31 2018

Yesterday I wrote 10 friends asking them for insights on my current question. "...I am realizing that starting and keeping a new job is a major life transition for me. I want to make sure I am equipped because starting a job just to quit it is a bummer to experience. It is really easy to talk myself out of working because I am super happy not working." The rising need for discernment came from recently hearing I am probably hired for a great sounding job where I would mentor children part time in the city where I live.

At the end of my time in Berea I was given this beautiful pot (artist Jeff Inge) which I immediately dropped. I took a photo to capture the beauty it still had, which I was desperate to commemorate. At that time Roger made the amazing offer to me to glue the pieces together, a rare custom with some Japanese word to refer to it. But I declined because that beauty in that photo meant so much to me, and in my eyes the pot was better somehow in this new form, a new art, not an attempt of catching what was inevitably impermanent.

This morning I got a response from my grown nephew with this beautiful question: "What does it mean, why is it important to find the power within to commit to an action?" My sister, the mother of the nephew who said that, also said something that hit to the heart of the matter: "Maybe having a job is overrated? What's wrong with being super happy?" Once I had read both advices, I started to formulate my own decision. I still am not done yet though because I need to factor in the realistic issue of money and financial needs that is a hard question to figure out. Do I need to make my own economic safety net like everyone else or will it all continue just falling into place like magic?

I Don't Know!! But I do know I AM BROKEN like this beautiful pot. I am disabled in a way that my working escalates my nervous issues and deteriorates my mental health. I am a work of art. But I am NOT Kintsugi, this Japanese piece of brilliance, I am Maggie Hess, poet and muse instead. What I need to do right now, I think, is to turn down yet another job, to invest more focused effort and COMMITMENT into my goal: to create a children's book of Hojoki (see blog post 1 in January.) My commitment doesn't have to start tomorrow on some job, no matter how good. It can still be to follow my dream!

<3 <3 <3 <3

Thank you for reading! Comments viewed with adoration!

Posted Sat Jun 2 00:20:42 2018