Friday, February 25, 2011

spiritual experience through a beautiful bargain

i go to nordstrom rack for rain boots and i get a super-duper bargain thrill. here's how it goes down. i try this and that. i can't decide whether size seven is right or size eight is the right one, given the difference between thick socks and thicker socks and thin socks. oy. so i get both. i walk around in the hotel room with my socks and/or hwubby's socks. in the end i discover i don't quite the color so much. with hwubby's encouragement i decide to return them both. i brave myself through the unseasonable snow, walk through the door, go up to the customer service counter, only to realize i don't have the receipt. the guy is so nice. he takes a glance at my wallet and says, did you use this credit card? well, i only have one credit card. so he takes care of it. i'm already a happy person when he points to my guru's picture in the wallet, is this you? i almost say, i wish, before i chuckle and say, it's my meditation teacher. now i feel i want to take a look around. i immediately get the message. clearance. so i take a bee line, head straight to the clearance racks. guess what i find? eileen fisher slacks at seventy-five percent off the last marked price. i like their things. they have nice cuts and fabrics but they are so expensive. initially i think this is not going to work because it is extra small. i try it anyway. hey. it works beautifully. i walk out of the store, filled with this triumphant feeling that i get this great thing at less than one tenth of the marked price. in yoga terms i would say this. a desire is satisfied. the mind goes quiet. in the brief while before the next desire or mental ripple arises, the light of the innermost self shines forth. the sublime feeling i experience is not because of the pants though it is beautiful and beautifully priced. i feel this sublime contentment because this is my own true nature, unobstructed by mental chatter.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

pain and pleasure

it's snowing beautifully. late february in portland, oregon. at the same time hwubby is sick. all night he vacillates between feverish and chills. he feels achy all over, particularly in the bones and heaviness in the chest. given he has broken ribs this is a cause for concern. he sips rice porridge, honey lemon. by the way, i have a big bag of meyer lemons, that are from karuna's orchard, sitting at home in oakland. but i have to buy lemon here at ninty-nine cents each. ridiculous. anyhow, anyhoo, the doctor says his chest is clear - very fortunate - and he has some sort of virus that will take seven to ten days to clear, and if it is not by then, back to the doctor. so what's my point here? my hunch is this drastic change in weather is hard on his body that is going through a huge healing process. this snow is pleasing to the eyes but it is causing pains. and that is how it goes in this physical world. a pleasurable thing has a dark streak. always. the law of duality rules here.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

i am too healthy

my nine year old niece agnes says this, after her mom says she is glad the kids are healthy. too healthy. her two little words strike a deep chord within me. i say, with simple curiosity, what do you mean by that? agnes says, hmmmm. i say, when i was little, i would wish that i would be sick, just sick enough to not go to school. as a matter of fact, the best seven days of my childhood were in the hospital. it was a serious ear infection which the doctor said it looked like poisoning from centipede bites. it wasn't a surprise to anyone since the family slept on a damp, rough concrete floor over a leaking corrugated roof. we cohabited with cockroaches, rodents and centipedes. as far as i am concerned, the pains are nothing compared to the luxurious comforts of sleeping in a clean bed. and my own bed, no less. i didn't have a proper bed, let alone my own bed, until my twenties. that's another story. anyway from my eye as a nine year old, hospital is heaven. i don't have to go to school. i can read the adventures of monkey king and other chinese immortals all day long. grandma makes little clay pots of rice and chicken for me. there are milk and cookies at night. so yes, i was really frustrated that i was so healthy that i didn't get sick more often.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

pork belly. sea cucumber. joy of a chin-jew

pork is big in chinese eating. and there's one pork dish that stands a notch above others for a whole host of reasons. first of all it is allegedly created by a top-notch ancient chinese scholar/poet, su tung poh. secondly it is an extremely labor intensive and time consuming in preparation. check this out for main ingredients. pork belly. sea cucumber. either one of them demands masterly skills and meticulous handling. and then there are the vegetables. mui choy (preserved bok choy.), lettuce. without them this rich food is just one dimensional. now here is the kicker. this is, in the word of my cousin tommy, a risky dish to order. if it is a hair less than great it will ruin the whole meal because one bite of oily pork, or rubbery, oddly-smelled sea cucumber, or thinly-taste mui choy,  or just a hint of greasiness anywhere, can really spoil your appetite.

so you can imagine my heart skips a beat when my cousin daisy decides to go for it. i'm like, okay, we're all in and let's pray. when the steaming dish arrives, it looks like a mound of dark brown earth. but there is something about it. it shines and it looks light. my cousins take one bite and i can see their eyes brighten up instantly. i dig in. and i am in heavens. where there is supposed to be fat there is only lightness in the like of being wrapped in a comforter. the taste profile is rich and clean all at once. the meat that has been slow cooked for hours is buttery, flavorful, with an ethereal taste that i have no word for it but 'pork fat magic.' this place really knows what it is doing. it uses the part of the belly that chinese calls 'five flower belly.' strips of fat and flesh alternate, thus making sure every meat fiber is moist while the texture is protected. the smokiness from browning the blanched and washed pork belly brings in that pleasing odor that only browning can offer.

yet, in my taste, the best of the best of this dish is the mui choy. first of all, this place uses high quality material. this mui choy is preserved from nice and plumb bok choy, not wilting leftovers. they soak up the essence of the entire creation, freshens it up and infuses the whole thing with an exquisite, flowery scent. now the luscious pig dances as an airborne ballerina. i brown bag every last bit of it. this on top of rice is a great lunch for the day after.

lucky me. i can enjoy pork and something from the ocean that has no scales while receiving the wisdom of torah. the joy of a chin-jew:)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

me and the golden calf

i'm not an intellectual. i am not a political activist. i am not a thinker. i am a simple yogi. that's why i am irresistibly drawn to the chassidic way of receiving the torah. i look at the tale of the golden calf and i see myself in the israelites. not moses. i wish. true that moses can't control his anger and in that i can claim some resemblance. but moses has this unwavering faith in yhvh and strong detachment to wealth and all things material. think about it. first he abandons his life as the prince of egypt. then, upon hearing a call from a burning bush, he walk away from a stable and wealthy life complete with wife and kids. for what? to lead a stiffnecked people through a whole host of trials and tribulations, and then to be told in his face that he would never live to step foot on the promised land. still his faith remains intact and radiant. i wish i had moses' kind of faith.

anyhow, anyhoo, i'm more of the israelites. how so. i tend to forget just as they forget that it's yhvh who leads them, empowers them to walk out of the narrow land of slavery. i doubt easily just as the israelites. and this is why i love the torah so much. it's authentic. it gives me hope. rabbi lerner says, this is the second revelation. yhvh sees that he can take the slaves out of egypt but he can't take the narrow consciousness out of slaves. they can't hold the sublime truth. kind of like looking straight into the blazing sun. they slip right back into the grip of fear. and here comes compassion. really, without compassion i would have been obliterated all ago.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

suk gan. korean food. who knew?!

here's a yummy surprise. hwubby and i have lived in this temescal neighborhood for twelve years. i see korean food places here and there. somehow it never occurs to me to go into any one of them. until now. when friends are giving rides to hwubby for doc visits. and it's been one more delicious than the last. yesterday we go to this casserole house. and the whole experience is like eating in the home of a kind, loving, generous, fantastic home cook. suk gan is her name. she goes by suki. i say, i am a suk too, suk wah. i sip her tea. a sense of lovely brightness pops in me. i ask suk gan, what is this tea? she patiently explains, my grandma would make this, i drink it, i feel good, so i think, i should do this for my customers. of course i have to ask her what's in it? she is so generous that as i type this i am looking at a plastic bag of ingredients: korean date, roasted corn and barley, licorice, goji berries and aged tangerine peel. and lots of fresh ginger, suk gan says.

it's a relatively small space because suk gan says, animatedly with a smile, i can't handle bigger than this. she goes to buy fresh vegetables every morning. she makes all the kimchee and snacks. and talk about snacks. whatever dish you order, you get a grand spread of small, white dishes each filled with beautiful, vibrant, yummy bite-size things. they are all so good. what pops in mind right now is seasoned sweet potatoes. a hint of citrus brightens the starch that is lightly coated with a sauce that probably has soy sauce, roasted sesame oil. all come together in a fine balance. there are a couple of tofu delicacies. one looks deep-fried but not greasy at all. another is like you freeze the tofu block, then squeeze all water out after thawing and then marinate in a sauce that, again, is a careful balance of a rich flavor profile.

did i mention the korean pancake that comes before the snacks? fresh, crsipy, not oily and bright with vegetable bits. i can tell this is not done in old oil.

her kimcheee radishes makes me think new about radish. it is perfectly cured. just enough spices, heat and astringency to keep one's mind up and strong.

if i go on and on about each and every one of the snacks this posting is becoming a novella.

then i take a spoonful of the broth of what hwubby ordered. a beef noodle dish. my eyes open wide. what a spectacular broth. suk gan says, i make my own stock, i use bones, only knee bones. this is so nourishing.

my simple soft tofu casserole soup is spotlessly fine. i have to pack half of it because i am already full after all the snacks and pancakes.

hwubby leaves some of his broth for me to take home. i cook cabbage in it. i eat a whole head of it. that's my supper. that's how yummy that broth is.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

disrupted sleep. beautiful dream.

don't sleep well these days. takes a while to fall asleep and keeps coming in and out of it. anyhow last night i dream in one of these short sleeps. beautiful and bright dream. a huge crowd gathers in front of the room hwubby and i live in for a spiritual event. our room is one of several in the back of this space. a huge space. so crowded i have to crawl my way through rows and stacks of people. at one point i have to snake around and under a grand piano. once the event is over people flow out in all directions. i look up and see a splendid vista behind the crowd. i am gazing into spectacular gorge just before sunrise. the top slightly flat-bottomed v is filled with misty, lovely, exquisite pre-dawn lights. the bottom inverted flat-bottomed v is shimmering, midnight blue water. two vast triangular pitch-black masses form the awe-inspiring gorge. then the next scene is this bustling eating scenario after the event. people sit around little tables nibbling. i see this swami, an elegant beloved woman in her seventies. she is beaming. she says to me, in her lyrical voice and kind tone, kind of hungry, need some food. i scurry around very concerned i will not be able to find food good enough for her. i find this old woman selling dollops of chapati dough. i get some only to realize i don't have a rolling pin. anxiety is building up fast. just before i awake it comes to me. toast and tea. i feel this relief. of course. toast and tea are enough and good enough.

aaaah. the remnants of unworthiness, inadequacy.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

exhaustion and fatigue roar in

hwubby is coming along in a long rehab process. and i find my body speaking up. tidal waves of exhaustion and fatigue quietly roar in. i take a look at the piles of tasks that are backed up. i know i have to start somewhere. yet i don't even have the will to pick up one receipt that awaits to be examined as part of the tax return preparation. i let the phones ring and ring. all i want is to sleep and go into solitude for, say, three months. then i can see a bunch of thoughts, feelings and emotions blurp around, all about, i thought i have done pretty good in terms of keeping the mind and body in a good state.

my cousin says, given what you have been going through, you are adrenaline short. that feels so right. and the msg resonates in meditation today. true that i have done a lot of work to clean out the old tendency to live on survival mode. but the severity and pace of the episodes in the last few months have stirred up entrenched residuals. there is a part of me that immediately switch to high anxiety mode without me conscious about it. okay, now that i see it i am ready to let it go. what does that mean? i'll find out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

women torah study is gems and jewels

haven't been to women torah study for quite a while. almost didn't go to this one as well since i am feeling the body saying, i want to sleep some more. after tugging and pulling for a bit i yield to the pull of torah. on my way to catch the arranged ride i run into a neighbor, ms williams. she is dressed to the nines all ready for church. ms williams is sort of the grande darme of the block, keeping the pulse on everything. i tell her hwubby is recuperating from a taxi hit. she immediately says, what can i do? i say, yeah, if you know anybody who can give him rides for doc appts. she says, i can do it. i say, hallelujah. i take it as the sign that getting the relationship with yhvh right then all other relationships will be right.

anyway, it turns out this parasha is all about how to make the priest's garment. torah is always spare on details, particularly when it comes to what people wear. but here no detail is spared. when it comes to the twelve gemstones on the breastplate i learn that different translations have different takes on it. some may say this causes confusion, like what should be the right stone to use? i take it as the evidence that the divine radiance of yhvh covers an infinite array of frequencies. every gem and jewel is but one ray in the wide and vast spectrum.

at one point the subject of miracle comes up. i say, huwbby and i now realize just to be able to walk on the pavement one step at a time is a miracle occurring moment to moment. deborah says, yes, walking is losing and regaining balance in every step. what a beautiful gem.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

the hand of benevolence gently puts him down

hwubby says, as soon as i realize the taxi is going to slam right into me i am just filled with this sense, to let go, do not resist. so he goes limb. two thousand tons of moving steel hit his right. like a rag doll he is thrown into the night new york city air, dents the hood, cracks the windshield before spinning into the icy cold air and dropping onto the freezing ground on his left. i am not making light of all the broken ribs, clavicle, multiple pelvic fractures, and so on and so forth. in the ensuing days and nights he keeps seeing the car ram into him. o, yes, he stays conscious the whole time. they put him on morphine and he still goes through spasms which, on a pain scale of one to ten, are off the charts. having said all that, he is very, very lucky, in the words of the attending trauma physician in bellevue. mr bernstein, he says, you are very very lucky. indeed. they find no spinal injury, brain damage, no surgery necessary. everything is healable. if that is not grace, i don't know what is. the hand of benevolence holds him up and gently puts him down.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

great to be back with the yogis

walking across the threshold to shivaa's divine dwelling i feel i have never left after being away from our sadhana circle for a month. i have this refreshed connection with rudram, a major portion of the vedas. it's so direct, so naked. my voice simply swims along with the ups and downs of the sacred melody, effortlessly blended into the one bright and steady voice created by the ten of us. by the time we sing om, this river of reverberation flows out of my vocal cord, merges with the sacred sound rivers pouring out of nine yogis. a magical river comes into being. the sublime syllable fills me up. my entire universe pulsates. i realize my universe includes all the universes and all the universes are within my awareness.

as i savor the food prepared by shivaa, i am also eating up the divine adventures of arielle. her strong connection with the guru within is so inspiring. shivaa's soup is fantastic companion to go with contemplation. dal with barley, mushroom and coconut milk. i slurp down two big bowls.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

worry is toxic. inner sky is ever bright.

so-and-so says, please call this person, she is worried. honestly i have no problem calling anybody. but the energy of 'worry' is dark and toxic. it is fear-based. not only that it doesn't help anything and goes nowhere it actually pulls you down, drains you and veils your vision so you don't see what you ought to see. it really makes things worse. hwubby is on a long road to recovery. my back is hurting. i have to conserve and protect whatever energy i have to make sure he is on an irreversible path to full recovery and i am taking as much care as i can of myself. truly, the only unfailing source of comfort comes from meditation. there is this wave upon wave of comfort gently arising from deep within permeating everywhere, washing over the exhausted body, going right into the bones and beyond. i eat it everyday. never tire of it. this is what truly nourishes me. this is what keeps me going. this is what holds me in proper perspective of things. nothing diminishes or adds to my inner self. clouds of worry may bring about a downcast. but it's an illusion. my inner sky is ever bright.

have i mentioned worry blocks grace? if i have, this is to remind myself that it does. big time.

Monday, February 7, 2011

i stick to the schedule. i need it.

i am taking a quick scan of the arc of events in the last month.  right away one thing is clear. regardless of the roller coaster developments of circumstances i want to stick to my schedule of meditation, spiritual practices and torah study. having said that i am perfectly willing to stay with what's unfolding and do what's necessary to make sure hwubby is on a path to full and irreversible recovery. guess what happens? i have to fly across country two times in less than a week, commute between vallejo and oakland and i have not missed a torah study and i meditate every morning. as a matter of fact i chant guru gita every morning during my stay in vallejo, as well as shiva arati. without a doubt i need the schedule, i need the practices to hold me firm in the place of the inner self. from here i am happy no matter what goes up and comes down outside of me, i don't care who thinks what about me, i feel fortunate, abundant and soooo grateful. hwubby feels the same too.

Friday, February 4, 2011

am i complaining? absolutely not.

here i am watching this pain in the lower back. what a great opportunity to cultivate witness consciousness. i take care of it. make no mistake. i am not pollyannish about it. yet, i am not the pain. i am pure consciousness. my torah study buddy says, how are you doing, suk wah? i say, i'm striving to keep my head above water. and i burst into laughter. he says, doesn't sound like you are complaining. i say, absolutely not, i am alive, hwubby's healing is on the way, the things that matter are in place and there's torah study tomorrow. i am happy.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

hand-wrapped dumplings

there i am doing stretches to ease the discomforts in the lower back while waiting for my hair cut when all of a sudden i smell some spectacular noodle aroma. i look up and see an asian guy pouring some dark brown sauce into a container of noodle. i say, that smells really good. a beaming smile shines through what until now is a solemn face. he says, it's from that place down the street. i say, is it korean? he says, yeah. i say, where? he says, that little mall. i right away know where he means. i have passed by that spot many times, but never thought of going in. so after our haircuts i wheelchair hwubby all the way, making our way through the uneven pavement. the early afternoon sun is warm and nice. the first thing that catches my eye once we walk through the threshold is something i haven't seen in years, probably the first since i have been in america. a guy sitting at an empty table wrapping dumplings. i order a plate of those, poached. they are as good as can be. light, fresh, well seasoned. the kind that a big dude from northeast china can down two hundred in one sitting. one bite and you don't want to have frozen dumplings ever again. they are dead. this is alive.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

we almost can't make it

should have listened to that inner voice. case in point. no sooner than i begin to lift the wheelchair in preparation of taking hwubby to a haircut i feel a little something in the lower back. i go ahead with lifting the wheelchair out of the door and carry it through the front porch and walkway navigating the seven and two steps on a slope and place the wheelchair on the sidewalk. at that point i feel discomforts in the lower back. i can't tell whether it's pain or because it's the usual tightness in the mornings. i have never had back problem before. and so i get on with it while being careful about my postures. between the wheelchair, walker and cane a walk to the hair cut place that normally would take a few minutes end up...forty-five minutes. every move is super slow. never before are hwubby and i so keenly aware of the unevenness in the pavement. all in all, it takes half a day to get our hair cut. and my back is officially hurting. there are moments when i see the thought, i don't know if we are going to make it to the haircut. and now i must listen to this inner message. take care of it before it gets worse.

off to the chiropractor we go tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

i don't meditate and torah study to gain benefits and yet...

i don't go to torah study because i want to get benefits in anyway from anybody. i simply love the sweetness of torah. i don't do spiritual study groups regularly because i want somebody to do something for me. i just enjoy the holy company of fellow yogis who love immersing in the lights of the scriptures. i couldn't have schemed or engineered or fantasized the scope and breadth of good fortunes that have been falling into my lap one after another at super-duper speed.

first case in point. i'm in bellevue trauma ward after a sleepless night. i'm allowed to stay there twenty-four hours, but not to sleep. i put together two chairs, doze off, feel someone tapping my shoulder. it's the night nurse whispering, my supervisor says you can't sleep here. the chinese in me who is scared of authority jolts me up. i'm in that enforced state of sleeplessness for goodness how long when someone says, are you suk wah? i say, yes. the person says, there's a call for you at the nurse station. my heart jumps and skips. i blankly say into the phone, hull-ooo? a guy's voice says from the other end of the line, suk wah, this is so-and-so. my mind stays blank. i could not recognize this name. after an awkward pause, he begins to speak. i cannot make any meaning out of the words until these two. torah study. suddenly i remember like seeing the sun popping above the horizon. yes. i know who he is. he sometimes goes to torah study in the rabbi's house. we rarely speak to each other except greeting each other shabbat shalom. i blurt out, yes, yes, ben-ji. this is the name i know him by. he goes straight to the point. suk wah, i know you need a place to stay, you can stay in my apartment. just like that. no questions asked. no conditions. a couple of weeks later i find out what transpires. judy, the point contact person in the shul, emails the entire shul population about my need to find a place to stay in the city. ben-ji's boyfriend, steve, gets it while in an airport somewhere in the world. he knows this apartment fits my needs. the trick is there is another person staying there but about to leave. so there's only a tiny window of time to get me the key to the apartment. meanwhile judy, under my strict instruction, would not give out my cell to anyone. so steve, whom i sometimes like to joke around with, says, call bellevue. as it turns out, i have a two bedroom garden level apartment all to myself. i can have a meditation room. i can chant facing a snow-covered garden. i can take a bus from around the corner and get off at the entrance to bellevue. to top it off, it's a beautifully done place. elegantly simple. chic with a lot of character.

second case in point. at the last minute i need a ride on a monday afternoon to drop off an envelope to the lawyer in new york. the first name that pops up is claire. she is my spiritual study buddy. i know she is off on mondays because we have to periodically adjust our weekly study schedule. i call her. she just comes. again. no question asked.

my guru says, again and again, to the effect, get the relationship with your inner self right and everything will be all right. well, it's more than all right. it's infinitely more spectacular than i could have imagined. but then, all this and all this are not why i meditate, chant and study and do the practices. it's because i love it. i can't stop doing them.