Starting Again and Other Bedtime Stories

So, here I was – starting again at 30. It isn’t an easy place to start, I was way behind some of my world-wise friends who had began building their empires in the twenties. I had no equity, knew very little about GICs, RRSP, and Mutual Funds. Having spent my twenties on spiritual pursuits of answering existential questions, seeking truth in Churches, Krishna and Dao Temples, Meditation Centres, Meeting Monks, Asking Questions, Looking within, Practicing Yoga, Abstinence and Fasting just to discover this – that thirty may be a difficult place to start building your life, as a female anyway with the biological clock ticking louder every day, but it wasn’t as difficult as lying on your deathbed with any regret or chips on your shoulder.

It isn’t easy to leave the world behind, but it is much easier to walk away from the world than it is to stay in it, without taking it all too seriously.

The fundamental mistake I had made as soon as I began to study yoga is that one must abandon everything, having thrashed myself physically, emotionally and mentally to a place of exhaustion in my early twenties, dropping off a few bags of accumulated stuff at the Salvation Army was no big deal.

It was only years later that I understood that what I really had to leave behind was not the ode to my excessive shopping or artefacts; what clang on to me, and was travelling with me through all these years no matter how humble my clothes or simple my lifestyle was something far deeper inside.

The point is not to lose identity, it is not the issue, the trouble is the distraction of the desire to become attached and lazy.

Our identities become thick, sleepy layers within the depths of which we hibernate perpetually, outside of reach.

To be raw, to be vulnerable, to be in the moment, required more than shedding of clothes, it required surrounding attachment to all of the mental blocks that are preventatives of being better, and doing good.

The most difficult thing, for me, was battling my past, the self that was hurt and had developed a comfortable identity within that pain body, calcified and harsh, coarse like a lemon peel but desperately yearning within to be released from this self-cocooned coffin.

And so, slowly, slowly, the peeling process began, at times reminding more of something of the process of peeling an onion where with each thin layer a stronger, more pungent smell is revealed, crying through it all “I love you”, until it’s finally all ready and sizzling with butter on the hot skillet with some mushrooms – then that onion is suddenly not so bad, you know what I mean if you have ever fried an onion with butter, not even any spices on it yet, but as soon as it starts to brown every person in the house scurries down to the kitchen “Oh, that smells good,” they poke their nose, I swear – every single time, “what are ya’ cooking?” “Uh, just frying up this onion with a bit of butter…” I’d reply, confused. “Wow, smells great, keep going”.

And that’s exactly what this process has been like as well, while I was just this raw, smelly onion, crying, weeping, cutting myself into pieces, falling apart – not that many people were around wanting to land a hand, but it’s not up to them, it’s an individual process.

But as soon as I stoked the fire, and fried that baby up with a bit of butter (because – “Butter makes better!”) everyone and their cousin wanted to come over for dinner.

So, to make all this vegetable allegory clear – the process of purification is experienced, alone; it’s messy, sad and no one is to blame for not wanting to be there (except your mom – she’s gonna stick around, so make do with that if you got her) but the rest of the world – nah ah, they are going to wait until you’re ready to meet them, because each one of us goes through this process. I have seen each one of my friends fall apart into pieces, and there was no way that I could help except at times remind them of a missing piece or two, but it was months and sometimes years later, that I would see them whole again.

And this is beautiful, that we are all like ancient cities, like elaborate buildings which, time to time, wrap themselves in tulles of veil while they rebuild and then reveal themselves again, like the mourning women after they are done their grieving.

And when we come back to shine with the rest, we are ever brighter than before, having endured change and chaos, and having discovered new depths and harnessed the heat of the fires within. Each time we go deeper, and emerge renewed, this is the natural process of everything in Nature, and life.

30 is my year of return, and it feels as almost the eternal return; this year like never before I give gratitude for the teachers which were the life lessons I had endured.

Life is not about winning the race or making it perfect, I know this for certain now. Perfection steals away from life and kills creativity outright. Life is a moment, like a butterfly; to live it artfully, one must always remain the creator, and who is God but a child with a paintbrush?

So, if there is anything I could see as worthwhile is to paint memories on the giant canvasses of our imaginations, using all the tools and the colours, getting our hands dirty and watching them wrinkle, and with these hands hold smaller hands with smooth skin and teach them the beauty of getting their hands dirty, and dancing in circles without their heads spinning, and telling them how we are the shining starts in the sky and other fruitful things like vegetable allegories, cheesy jokes, and simple things.

In the end, no one really knows anything, but everyone has a story to tell. Goodnight.

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Soup for the Female Soul

As cold, rainy Winter months dawn on Vancouver, I find myself wanting to eat more soup every day.

With early onsets of a cold, happily satisfied with a bowl of ramen I stumbled, out of usual curiosity, into a Chinese Herbal and Acupuncture Clinic.

Decisively picking up boxes with ingredients, the shopkeeper observed me before interfering, “It looks like you know everything already and don’t need my help, you must be a TCM doctor?” “Me? No,” I replied “just generally curious.” We began to chat.

“In TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine),” the shop keeper said, “there are three main components: air, water, and blood.”

If you think of it as making soup, water is the broth, the soup base is the blood, and the air is the gas and the fire of the stove. In the morning, you turn the stove on high heat, and in the afternoon you turn it down on low to simmer.

Everything is always in balance.

When something is out of balance, you do not just replace it with the other thing, but rather see where that energy is stagnant and how it can be fixed.”

As an avid believer and lover of soup and a kitchen enthusiast I immediately adopted this analogy as religion. After a brief consultation with their in-house doctor, I began to think of all the ways in which I am cooking my soup in the wrong ways.

The first thing the doctor said is that for optimal female health, adrenal health and the reproductive system 11pm bedtime should be the latest! This is the time when the gallbladder restores and replenishes followed by the liver, lungs, large intestine and stomach. (See the “TCM Meridian Clock diagram)

IMG_3852

What this all means is that if we need an average of 6-8 hours of sleep (2 of which could be used towards meditation) and we need good 6 hours for the body to cleanse (through natural heat, or fire created by burning away of excess fuel) the remaining 10-12 hours are used towards daily activities, with the optimal time for meal intake being between 7am-1pm and latest water intake 5pm to accommodate an 11pm bedtime curfew.

“Your body is designed to heal itself. The ability of a body to maintain its health and overcome illness is, in fact, among nature’s most remarkable feats.” ~ Donna E. (2008) Energy Medicine

A little about Meridian Lines:

Meridians are, essentially, the tangible energy pathways within the body. All 14 of them serving as the connectors to the main point, known in Chinese Medicine as “acupuncture points”, they can stimulated with needles or physical pressure. Each of the 12 Meridian lines corresponds to a major body organ. There are also a Central and a Governing Meridian. Each body system is supported by a Meridian line. The practice of Tracing Meridians and finding “points” which are experiencing tension helps to better understand which organs in the body are experiencing difficulties along with the wisdom of the Meridian Clock which suggests that if a person habitually experiences a certain type of pain, and they observe that it occurs at the same time of each day, it is likely to be related to certain organ and Meridian line and can be regulated with the use of Acupressure Massage, Acupuncture and Exercises.

“What goes up, must come down.”
~ Someone Wise, A Very Long Time Ago

Not only have we these gigantic constellations of body mass to navigate, but we are also in perpetual communication with our environment: seasons, time changes, and Earths rhythms affecting the personal 24-hour-cycles of our meridians.

A Useful Exercise

Is to to keep a journal for a week and observe at which times of the day you get tired and drowsy? Or if there is a time of the day when you get aches? When do you feel most enthusiastic or grumpiest? When do you have cravings? And when is your thinking foggy or slow? Note any condition that you observe.

We have this culture of belief, which I think is bogus, that people are ‘crabby’ in the morning “until they’ve had their coffee”, or that we feel sleepy and not alert upon wracking up, or that the best cure for a 3pm energy crash is to charge up on coffee, carbs and sugar to persevere instead of taking a rest.

I am, personally, so over the 3pm ‘rush hour’. In fact, I am over most ‘rush hours’. I am over rushing, overall. It is just not worth the taxing it causes my adrenals!

Nourishing Herbal Tonics

The Chinese, whom believe in curing the person rather than the disease, call a “Pattern of Disharmony” something that causes a psychological or physiological illness. Seasonal changes can affect our health, and certain tonics can be prepared to help bring balance to the organs, who’s energy systems harmonize with the meridians. Herbal tonics are combined with a balanced diet, exercise and harmonious lifestyle (along with acupuncture and acupressure).

Properly prepared tonics establish a deep connection to one’s vital energy and initiates an appreciation of the anatomy, allowing every part to fulfill its ultimate potential.

“To be successful, we must pay attention to the mundane little things in life.” ~ Judith, G. (2008) Mother Natures Herbal

Female Tonic

This tonic builds vitality, beautiful skin, and regulates the female reproductive system. It is mildly sedative and beneficial for women of all ages.

1 small root (1 ounce) or 1 thin slice tang kuei

2 slices white print root (Pieonia alba)

3 pieces bupleurum

2 jujube red dates

1 piece licorice or ginger root

In 2-3 cups of water, simmer here for one hour. Strain and drink up to one cup daily. (2 cups water produce a stronger estrogenic brew) *Note: Omit tang kuei if estrogen blockers have been prescribed or consult physician first.

Cooking the herbs is important, as compared to consuming them raw, the process nullifies sulphuric dioxide or preservatives and allows for every part to fulfill its ultimate potential.

Congee “The Soup of Longevity

My personal favourite in the wintertime is Congee. Named by some the “Soup of Longevity” and “Eternal Life” even. Not sure if I am into living forever, but I am into this warming, goopy, gluten-free awesomeness.

Warming Winter Congee

In the Orient, this soup would be served to build strength and immunity for the winter. 

2 Tbsp astragalus root

3/4 cup millet, toasted

12 black or red dates, soaked and pitted

2 carrots, cut and peeled (or use sweet potatoes)

1 tsp cardamom seed, powdered

8 cups vegetable stock, or coconut milk

2 Tbsp ghee (or butter, but ghee is better!)

2 teaspoons cinnamon powder or 1 stick cinnamon)

Maple or brown sugar to taste

Tie astragalus root in a muslin bag and simmer with millet, dates, carrots, ginger, and cardamom in 8 cups of stock or coconut milk for 1+1/2 hours. Remove astragalus and season with ghee, cinnamon, maple or brown sugar. Soy sauce and sesame oil may be used for seasoning. Rice (gluten-free) or barley (*contains barley gluten) may be substituted for millet. ~

Judith, G. (2008) Mother Natures Herbal

**I enjoy adding goji or wolfberries to my Congee!

In conclusion

Though it may be incredibly tempting to stay up reading way into the cold winter nights and sleep all day, our bodies require one component which nothing else can give us except our own will – Movement.

Early waking up in the morning, waking up the body with light massage, tracing the Meridian lines, tapping on the body, and pressing the acupuncture points; then stretching and breathing exercises and well-balanced breakfast to start the day.

Take the opportunity of the winter months, which may not call our spirits to do much outside, as the perfect reason to stay indoors and self-nurture.

I will have more gems of wisdom coming soon!

Morning Meditation

There is immense power and pleasure to be found in the harnessing of one’s self-motivation; taming the dragon within, one comes to possess the jewel of wisdom, the power to rule world. Only thing is that when one becomes ruler and master of his own spirit, the desire for control also seizes to exist.

Bearing Witness

“We are all same and different at once. Each hurt, each experiencing loss. Each wanting to be held and too afraid to hug. Each hurting in a way and too afraid to ask: for help, or just for somebody to hear. We’re all afraid to listen, afraid to fail in being present and bear witness to the pain of another without feeling accusation towards our own self. Just to bear witness – to the process of another unraveling the painful history of their ancestors. That is all that I have come here for. For what else can I do to give existence to that which holds all the strength to be without me, but to witness it with my own eye, and allow it, surging through me, to tell me passionate tales and to blossom now in the garden of my life where nothing bloomed before. We are all flowers, in the garden of life, our roots entangled somewhere, holding hands, telling each other tales in the plush darkness of the earth of all the battles and the travels and the soils they’ve endured. But on the surface, solemnly, we bow our heads to history, in honor of a feeling, somewhere within the stems of our being which gently lulls us with the wisdom that every plant of this kingdom has a drum within them, and if one had lost their way and forgotten how to sing with theirs, the ancestors will guide their way to seek help from the older generations. And bowing heads, with little steps, though children, we walk to seek help in asking those we’ve hurt forgiveness. And I as well do so, whilst learning to bear witness to the growth of my own soul.” ~ Yana Tarassova

Art by @RobertBissell

“Death of Romanticism” exc.

excerpt:

“A blue sapphire eye was blinking awake – a joti witnessing the world around unfolding: the glowing green emerald kingdom spread underneath for miles, the golden thread in the distance had stretched out to mark the world’s edge, the white clouds were suspended in the sky though laundry drying on clothing lines, the sun sizzling in the corner.

A squawk came from the nest and a large black shadow materialized into form, vigilantly pushing its way into the space to deliver the catch to her feathered babies. Mashed up worms and seeds were being split among the children this morning, warm pink flesh mashed with soil and reverberated by the mother was the baby crow’s ‘Last Supper’ prior to taking their first flight. Reflected in the blue eye – one by one the dots of black coal dropped into the ocean of emerald green and dissolved in dissolute.

The fire was raising its flame in praise and celebration of the occasion. Two black oxford shoes dangled off the edge of a giant crow’s nest, pale ankles attaching the black weight to the white frame, piercing blue eyes encircled in a wrap of black satin. Alpine breeze smelling of pine pushed a streak of black hair to land atop of the curl of her upper lip, lifting a long white arm gently, the white shirt cuff falling down to her elbow, her fingers unfolded, the index finger slid down towards her cherry blossom mouth to lift the wild streak and place it behind her ear, sliding her arm back down gently to the side she pressed her palms firmly, wrapping the branches of what has been home. Then, with one determined push she dropped through a rock in surrender to gravity.

The woods reverberated the sound of a loud squawk and a pair of black wings cut through the needle covered branches. Propelling through the air, held by nature’s own instrument, though crucified on the cross of faith and mystery, she thought how destiny only holds one course, and only one soul. Thin legs extended out with an agile thump, the black oxfords were standing in the middle of a wild strawberry patch.

Dropping down on her knees, her black hair cloaking around her shoulders and all the way down to the ground where her long fingers were pressing into the earth though on piano keys, playing a familiar tune. Stretching out onto the ground, she placed her porcelain cheek to the earth, though the cup returning to her perfect saucer, she breathed in the scent of berries, earth, and lightly dried grass.

She looked at the light through the weaving crevices of fern leaves, though a hand wrapped in a lacy glove, elegant and acquiring attention. The bottoms of the birches firmly planted in the ground, comfortably housed a community of mushrooms below. The oak tree in the far distance was creating an attraction of squarely animals forming leagues in pursuit of delicious acorns.

Blinking blue eyes scouted with precision the best options of pursuit. Jumping to her feet, she first hopped to the red fruits of the wild strawberry bushes, then swiftly harvested the mushrooms and had started dropping towards the acorn tree, then changing her mind, jumped aside to the bush. The big blue eye blinked as it stared through the opening in the branches.” ~ Yana Tarassova

 

“Turning my Break-up Downside Up”

Breaking up with someone can feel like the worst; it can mean being bed-ridden for days, unable to focus on anything but personal feelings (of mostly — misery), having no desire to listen to condolences of how “Things will get better,” or worse: “You will meet someone new,” and generally feeling like you’re imploding on the inside between each exhausted weep.

Lying on the floor in just such a state, something happened within me, people often describe it as “the voice within”, well as I was lying on the floor, annihilated and ‘ship-wrecked’, this voice suddenly declared: “Not this time around!” Piecing myself together for the moment, I decided that rather than dwelling in the swamps of self-pity and procrastination, I will go out and “get out there” — an insane act of a personal ‘Revolution’ it seemed like and I was one hundred percent on-board.

The following morning, promptly after waking up in the morning to a glorious sun-filled day which I took joy in for the first time that week, I went on a flower-filled walk, and had a coffee date with myself (something I talk about in my other article), I was even able to fully and attentively focus on reading a book, and so I decided to brave the ultimate test — interacting closely with other people.

Most break-ups in the past have always left me wanting to seek out drawn curtains and the company of no one, making an exception for deeply concerned close relatives, but this evening I would change my pattern. No sooner than I began to feel mentally strong about the whole scenario, that I get a phone call about the rest of my ‘belongings’ being delivered back to me or…my friend’s house, rather, because not only was I single again but I was also temporarily homeless (as it often occurs in relationships separating). This hurt, it was the ‘reserve bomb’– when, if by chance the enemy survived the war, this little sucker was sure to wipe out the remaining man standing. And it did, whatever last reserves deep within and beyond my awareness were still thinking: “Maybe we will still be together!” were now dead and it was just me and a pile of shrapnel. So I jumped on my bike and began to pedal towards the glorious, by now — sunset. I figured that if I sink into the failure of this relationship and will allow myself to grow week from not moving, eating, or seeing the light of day, I will — well, first of all I’ll become a zombie, and secondly, when I do start to eat and become human again, I would just be a bad partner, not only to a potential future relationship, but first of all to myself; and so, water bottle in the backpack I was off to brace the world.

I got to the park where the meet-up, which a friend had posted about earlier on ‘Facebook’, was to take place and realized that I had no idea where exactly I should look. I biked around in what felt like the loneliest victory lap of my failed relationship and then — “Alas!” just as I was getting ready to leave I spotted at first three, then two more, then another person cheerfully rolling in towards one another bracing bright yoga mats! “Hallelujah!” I would not jump off of a bridge today; today, I would learn how to be a good partner.

It’s interesting just how much we acquire being a “good partner” to something that is experienced in relationships; whereas, it is really about being good to our own self. Being a good partner means to be emotionally mature, understanding, and respectful. When we are young, we rush through relationships with too much detached lightness, and as we get older we cannot help but sink down with all of our pain from previous experiences. But the thing is — a ‘Relation-Ship’ is about the personal ability to relate to one’s self and then others. Thinking of oneself as the ship helps to bring things in retrospect, when the condition of the person is ‘ship-shape’ and ‘seaworthy’ then — “All aboard! Drop the Sails,” and off you sail, but if there are holes all around than it’s better to take a time out.

Another thing we are taught is that relationships are all about dialogue and problem-solving and compromises. Yes, but the reality is that they are also about the ability to support, communicate, respect, and keep each other safe, and to have fun!

The really fun fact about ‘Acro-Yoga’, and you may know this if you had tried it — is that it has less to do with the weight of the person and a lot to do with the amount of trust between the partners and their ability to navigate, or interact with the momentum of motion. When I first tried it on that day when I turned my ‘break-up’ and ‘break-down’ into a positive lesson, I immediately became inspired to pursue, through self-development, my personal ability to both trust as well as to communicate.

Trust for others is built upon the trust that we cultivate within ourselves. If someone is coming from a place of trauma or wound that has to do with abandonment, it can be difficult to open up and trust that you will be held ever again. By cultivating personal strength — mental, physical, emotional and spiritual, one can begin to feel that trust derives from within the self, which then becomes like a pillar or a sailing match on that ‘love boat’ of the relationship.

Relationships are truly an act and an ‘Art’ of balancing weight (physcial and metaphorical), staying calm, communicating, while remaining focused on the form of one’s own self, navigating each other, and supporting each other all at once– simple, right?

“Don’t worry, you’ve got this!”

“One does not need to hold onto water, just trust that water will hold them up as they let go.”
~ With so much love, fish

Trains

Standing at the rail way station on a warm Sunday evening, I thought that life is very much like a station – arriving, departing; arriving, departing. I like trains; I like boarding them, there is a non-negotiable amount of certainty of what is to happen next and there is no abandoning of the train. The train ticket itself marries the traveler to a certain commitment with her own destiny. Stations are the perfect place to write the stories of lives, in fact if there was “one great god”, I would render “him” as a train station officer. Watching numbers on the timetable flip with a vigor of a hungry diner flipping through a menu which briefed the course of her life, I savored the smell of the summer evening encapsulated and levitating in the cool air: the fragrance of flowers sealing their petals for a night rest, the dirt below the rail tracks, the oil of the bolts holding the rails. It was odd, how the version of ‘nature’ that I know, is half-machine, but I love her just as she is.

The Moon

The full Moon undresses me –

stepping into her light though dropping off the edge of the cliff

into

a luminous grotto,

I fall out of my pink flesh velvet realm and slip into a grey scale gown;

Revolving in circles among the posidonia and the milfoils, propelling deeper

into

the water cosmos of the unknown, waltzing with the dolphins;

meanwhile…

Atop,

the waves are breaking

against

the rocky backdrop, seagulls dropping down in an existential skreigh,

hunting for the silvery flesh

of washed up fish, to regale and satisfy the rage of their hunger on;

the sky beasts praying

on the mermaids sleeping in the nests weaved of the water’s silky branches, blankets of sapphire spread to tuck in the hidden pearls and gems

beneath them;

The sacred contemplating eye

of Grandmother Moon,

observing the the mystery unraveling

in the Nightwalker’s dancing prayer

as he descends from the sky

leaving stardust trails behind;

Down the trail,

sails a vessel of solid oak

enchanted with the spell of oath, champagne gold bubbles foaming below the ribcage of the ship as she slices the silky waves in two

separating

the past from

the future;

The singing of the sailors travels

and narrows to a subtle hum settling

in the underwater realm as a hymn

to the oneness of existence,

a beacon of wisdom within

the miles of dark silent abyss.

Stars

The sky was melting into a giant cauldron of stardust, sizzling into particles, planetary scopes of lonely existences, far away from one another, swooshing in the dark abyss of galactic wastelands. Aren’t we all but poetry painted onto the canvas of nothingness by the stardust covered hands of chaos? I looked at the sky aimlessly, but in search of something: a recognition. The stars are best at speaking in silence, best companions to lonely travelers lost in the travesty of existence amongst the myriad of clusters of what once was one another, silently grieving their unison in blinking knowing of something far deeper than their separation. Perhaps they are far less alone than it seems, and it is only my distance which keeps me from seeing clearly – the luminescent spiderwebs which weave them into a cozy tight-knit blanket; and as I lay down to fall asleep in surrender to the sky, I close my eyes, pulling the blanket of the entire cosmos over me to keep me safe and warm – a cocoon with a baby nebula inside.

@yanatarassova