A Time of Letting Go

As I mentioned in my posts from India, I have been having trouble with balance. It started about two years ago but has been getting worse. With my doctor’s support, I had dealt with it by working with a personal trainer at a gym and doing physical therapy. Both have been valuable, but it was while I was coping with uneven ground in India that I realized how much worse my balance had gotten in the last year. And I also noticed that the balance problem was often accompanied by a sense of wooziness and exhaustion. The India heat and jet lag made those symptoms even worse. It was towards the end of the trip that it first occurred to me that I should stop leading work parties in the Greenbelt. I let that thought percolate in the back of my mind.

Seeing that the symptoms were getting worse, and that strength building at the gym and physical therapy weren’t sufficient for dealing with the physical problems, once I returned to Seattle, I started getting medical tests to rule out underlying causes. (Some of those tests have been delayed because of the pandemic.)

Around the same time, it occurred to me that my physical problems might also be due to overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed. After all, from the time I started working in the Greenbelt, I had thought and even dreamed about the restoration work incessantly.

Overthinking, overdoing and letting myself get overly stressed and exhausted have been life patterns for me. There were times in my life when I felt as if my mind was like a computer that was about to explode. My present-day physical symptoms were eerily similar to those experiences. My old pattern was to keep doing all of those behaviors until I got so sick that I couldn’t do the work anymore. I believe that was why I got Chronic Fatigue Syndrome in the mid 80’s and in the 2000’s developed high blood pressure.

Having these insights felt very helpful, but what was to be done with them? Since August of 2016, my life had been primarily focused on the Greenbelt restoration project. I had loved working on the land as well as working with the team leaders and the many hundreds of volunteers who had helped. I had treasured watching the land transform from space overrun with blackberries, ivy and bindweed to land filled with native trees, shrubs and ground covers. But the joy had been accompanied by hardship. The ground is sloped and uneven and I had tripped and fallen many times, once even breaking my wrist. It had taken a tremendous amount of effort to find volunteers to help with the work parties. All of the planning and administrative work had practically turned into a full- time job.  And everything had gotten more difficult for me to do as the balance problems and wooziness worsened.

I realized that almost all of my overthinking, overdoing and stress was related to my Greenbelt restoration work. I knew myself well enough to know that cutting back was not an option; I wouldn’t be able to stop the overthinking with that approach. I knew I needed to stop doing the restoration work as soon as possible. In addition, I needed to accept the fact that I am 71 years old now and have limitations that go with aging.

But I would not make the change immediately. If at all possible, it was important to me to finish Winter Quarter activities since I had University of Washington Service-Learning students as well as Capstone interns from the UW School of the Environment. Even though it was difficult, I was able to complete that commitment!

I have never questioned my decision to stop my involvement in the restoration project, but I knew that I would feel devastated if the land reverted to its 2016 state. I felt relieved when the Green Seattle Partnership staff told me that they were committed to finding another Forest Steward to continue the project.

Several friends and family members told me that my replacement would be revealed. One day, our newest team leader came into my mind. She knows so much and has so much energy. And she had participated in almost all of the student work parties this quarter. I contacted her and asked if she had ever thought about becoming a Forest Steward. I was astounded when she told me she already was one, she had taken the Forest Steward training in 2014. And she was interested in the position!

She prefers to work in a team, so hopefully one or more of our other team leaders will take the training when it is offered in October. But the fact that she is already a Forest Steward means the project can continue now. The saying “what you need will be provided” has certainly come true.

I will miss leading the project but know that I can potentially help in the future. And since the site borders my property, I can still watch the new plants grow and take nature photos. What I am primarily experiencing is a sense of relief.

Just before I sat down to write this post, the title of a book I used to recommend came to mind.

Life is Goodbye,
Life is Hello
Grieving Well Through All Kinds of Loss

I know I am saying both goodbye and hello in my life and realize that I may experience a myriad of feelings as I continue this process of living, learning and letting go.

***

I’m not the only one letting go. While I am feeling a lot of relief about my decision about my own life, I’m much more excited about another person’s transformation. Have any of you wondered why you no longer can find my son’s blog, The Seeker’s Dungeon?

Sreejit deleted The Seeker’s Dungeon when he found out he was going to receive the yellow robes of a brahmachari. (To learn more about brahmacharis and brahmacharya click here.)

The decision to delete his blog was part of letting go of his Sreejit identity as he moves into the next stage of his life.

His name is now Brahmachari (Br.) Sattvamrita Chaitanya. Chaitanya is like a last name for all brahmacharis so would only be said in a formal setting. Most of the time he will be called Sattvamrita. The phonetic spelling is sut VAAM ri tu.  The u’s are like the short u in hut, the aa is long like the a in psalm or alms, and the i is like the i in knit. The capitalized letters are for the syllable that is emphasized. 

I have loved seeing him so excited and happy.

Here are a few photos of Sattvamrita. Cutting off his hair and beard was part of the initiation process.

His sister is so happy for him too. (BTW The sleeves on Sattvamrita’s shirt will be hemmed at a later time! 😁)

A person standing in front of a store

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Question to Readers: What Makes You “Duck” Unnecessarily? (Also… A Guest Post Opportunity)

There is a corridor in Amritapuri that can be taken as a shortcut between the auditorium and the north part of the ashram. That slightly sloped corridor has a low ceiling.

A tall person would have to duck their head to get through any of that area, but for many people bending down isn’t necessary. I have tested it out many times and there is no need for me to duck when I walk through the lower part of the walkway… but I do. For me, there is at least an inch of free space over my head, but I’ve noticed that many people duck even if there is more than a foot of space between their head and the ceiling.

Since I’ve become clear that there is no need for me to duck my head, I have tried to walk through the area standing straight. So far I seem incapable of doing that. In the past two weeks, the closest I have come to my goal is to walk through with my hand on the top of my head or to scrunch my neck as much as I can, as if my neck was a spring. I am hoping to be able to walk through the area without any kind of ducking by the time I leave India.

After I observed my own and others behavior, it occurred to me that the situation could be seen as a metaphor. There must be many times in my life, when I have metaphorically ducked. Then it occurred to me that there might be a wide variety of metaphors or stories that could result from this observation. I decided to find out if readers relate to my experience, as well as to offer a potential guest post opportunity.

I believe one of the times I metaphorically duck is when I worry about what other people think about me. What situations in your life cause you to duck unnecessarily? I would love it if you would share your answer to that question in the comments below.

Or … use your creativity to develop a different metaphor. Or … write a short story, poem, fable, parable, or any other modality, on a topic inspired by my post. Perhaps you will even see something to photograph that you think relates.

Consider coming back to this post later to see the ways other readers responded to my question. And if you decide to accept my challenge to write a story, poem, fable, parable, or any other piece, and want it to be considered for a guest post, sent it to me at livinglearningandlettinggo@gmail.com.

Atlanta International Pop Festival 1970

Photo attribution: Brendanghs – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

Earlier this week, when I was watching a program about Woodstock, I started thinking about my experience at the 1970 Atlanta International Pop Festival. I decided to re-post a slightly edited version of a post I wrote about that experience. Most of the words in the post come from the scrapbook I made at the end of that experience.

***

In 1970, three friends and I spent the summer traveling throughout the U.S. doing migrant farm labor. Our first job was in Florida, not far from my parents’ home in West Palm Beach. When we left that area, we headed for Byron, Georgia. We were excited to attend the upcoming Atlanta International Pop Festival prior to looking for more work.

To get to the event, we had to park about three miles away and walk in. We decided to camp outside the festival grounds on our first night. We had left our hot canvas tent in Florida, so ended up sharing a tarp with some people we met.

Pop festival

We spent the next day at the festival roasting in the sun. The temperature was about 104 degrees. There was no shade and no breeze. There wasn’t enough water and ice was considered a luxury. Five pounds of ice cost $1 and we paid 25 cents for a popsicle. The event staff passed out salt tablets, hats and suntan lotion.

I enjoyed the music despite the physical discomfort. We were about 30 feet from the stage!

Pop festival 3
Pop festival 4
Pop festival 5
Pop festival 2

I had mixed feelings/thoughts about being there. I was super, super uptight during a lot of it. The heat as well as the lack of water and food was unbearable and I didn’t like being around so many people who were stoned.

Our skin was blistered and swollen from sunburn when we left. However listening to musicians such as Jimi Hendrix, Richie Havens,  the Chambers Brothers and the Memphis cast for Hair as well as getting to know some of the people who were there made it worth it. My favorite memory of the event was waking up the last morning to Richie Havens singing “Here Comes the Sun!”

My final conclusion was that I was glad we had gone, but didn’t think I would ever want to do it again.

Pop festival 6

The festival was over at 10 a.m. Monday so we packed up, hitched a ride to our car and were on our way by 11:30. Off to find a job!

To read more about this very important summer in my life click here.

Always Looking for Role Models

As I age, I find myself drawn to older people who can serve as role models in the aging process. I met a woman in Amritapuri whom I think of in that way. She lives a life of adventure even though she is well into her 70’s. The woman in this video is a very different kind of role model. I don’t see myself following in her footsteps, but I thoroughly enjoyed the video. I hope you do too.

Living Life My Way

My contribution to The Seeker’s Dungeon “From Darkness to Light” event went live today. You can read it at:

The Courage to Believe

In 1989 or 1990, a friend wrote a poem for me. It was written soon after I met Amma, but prior to the time I asked Amma for a name. So at that time my name was Carol. That name seems so unfamiliar to me now.

Her poem came into my mind the other day; for the first time in decades. I was able to find the booklet it was published in.

THE COURAGE TO BELIEVE, FOR CAROL POOLE

The pot looked empty. It was a clay pot, orange and cracked from the rain. On Mondays people came to fill it and the water, somewhat yellowed, seeped out at the bottom.

At first I wondered why they didn’t patch it. But looking closely, I saw their need to bend slightly to the right. Some called it agility, but really they were trying to keep their hands on the hole.

Now you choose a jug, and songs arise from its clay. And in the rhythms of drums from inside, the moon-roundness of it takes on the form of a woman with the courage to believe.

The jug is round and smooth, and the water is always full.

SHELLEY TUCKER

Thank you Shelley. Your poem means as much to me today as it did the first time I read it. I hope our paths cross again some time in the future.

More Greenbelt Mysteries- this time of the Grrrrrr variety

Last week, I wrote a post about an intriguing mystery that happened after a recent Greenbelt work party. While I experienced a myriad of emotions at that time, it was primarily a positive experience.

There were several other mysteries in process at that time. They were different than the one I had written about in that I was very irritated by each of them.

Soon after I came home from India in mid-January, I found that someone had cut down a large tree somewhere and then dumped it in a part of the Greenbelt that we had cleared. I believed it was done by a “professional” company because all the debris had been sorted by size and much of it had been banded before it was dumped.

(Click on the gallery to enlarge the photos.)

A week later, I noticed that someone had pruned a cedar tree and dumped the branches in front of the first stack. The new debris was neither sorted nor banded, so I assumed that this illegal dump was done by a different person than the previous one.

Shortly before our January 21 work party, I noticed that all of our buckets were missing from the site. Most of them were 5 gallon buckets. Many were bright orange or bright blue. How in the world had someone taken 30 buckets without being noticed? And why? We had used the buckets to hold wood chips, trash, glass and weeds.

Some of the buckets in use at a previous work party

Seattle Parks Department removed most of the dump and replaced most of the buckets. The buckets are now chained to the job box that holds our tools. I also placed three Another Future Healthy Forest signs in hopes that it would prevent people from dumping in the reforestation space.

Instead of going out into the snow to take a new photo for this post, I decided to use one that was taken in February of 2017!

The roads were finally clear and dry yesterday so I drove for the first time since the snow began last Sunday. When I passed the area where I put the three signs, I noticed that one of them was gone.

Grrrr. I guess these are all opportunities to practice equanimity and “putting in the effort and letting go of the results”, but I’m not there.

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Reentry Challenges

I have a list of posts waiting to be written. This will be a busy weekend for me but now seems like a good time to start!

Journey home

I left Amritapuri on the afternoon of January 12, the day before my international flight. If I had stayed in the ashram, I would have probably gone to bed late, slept poorly, arisen at 3 am, finished last minute tasks and then started the two-hour taxi ride to the airport sometime between 4:30 and 5 am. By spending the night in Kovalam, I was able to get a good night’s sleep and leave for the airport at 6:40 am. That trip took about 20 minutes.

Once there, the Emirates agent asked if I would like to have an upgrade to Business Class for $150. I was ecstatic. My excitement was short-lived however. I soon realized that the $150 fee was too good to be true and that he was talking about the leg of the trip between Trivandrum and Dubai. I wasn’t going to spend $150 for a four hour flight, especially since I had spent the previous night in a hotel, and would be spending the night in another hotel once I was in Dubai.

When I arrived in Dubai, I was met by a hotel staff member and taken to the Dubai International Airport Hotel. I was there for 19 hours, which allowed me to rest throughout the day and get another solid night’s sleep before the long journey back to Seattle. I love staying in that hotel. From the time you get into the elevator and the time you leave it, you are immersed in silence.

I can’t sleep on airplanes, so nothing can make the 14-hour leg of the journey easy, but having two nights of restful sleep helps. I watched two good documentaries. I don’t remember the first one at this point, but the second one was called Drowning in Plastic. If I remember right, it was a BBC production. Since I’ve been focusing on the world-wide plastic problem being able to see the documentary seemed synchronistic.

Eventually, I was in Seattle. The immigration and customs process was speedy and I even got my baggage quicker than normal. I ordered a Lyft “taxi” and was soon on my way to Seattle. Before long, I was in my house!

Challenge after challenge

The last time I stayed two nights in hotels on my way home, my reentry was much easier than it has been in the past. Amritapuri is 13 ½ hours ahead of Seattle, so nothing can make the transition easy but the time in the hotels at least helped. If it helped this time, it wasn’t obvious. I’ve been back for 12 days and sleeping has been an ongoing problem. I slept almost 7 hours last night though, so maybe that problem is almost over.

The other thing that has been different this time is that I’ve experienced challenge after challenge. They started almost immediately. The ones I’m remembering now are:

  • When I drove my car for the first time, there was a several inch crack in the windshield. It immediately grew to 9 inches.
  • When I drove my car for the second time, the crack grew to 5 feet.
  • The lights and fan in my bathroom went out soon after I got home. The circuit breaker hadn’t tripped. The electric company I chose had a diagnostic fee that was around $250. When the electrician came, he went to the downstairs bathroom and pushed the reset button. It reset the upstairs system as well. I knew the button would work if the problem was downstairs, but I had no idea that it would work in another room. I was frustrated that the company didn’t troubleshoot with potential customers over the phone.
  • I discovered that the 30 buckets we have in our forest restoration site were stolen.
  • Someone dumped all of the debris from cutting down a tree into an area of our restoration site that we had cleared. It had to have been a professional company because the debris was sorted and banded.
  • Someone dumped disgusting garbage along the street on the edge of the Greenbelt. The garbage was further scattered by rodents or animals. I reported it and then eventually picked it up.
  • My bathroom scale doesn’t work.
  • The physical therapy appointment I had made before my trip was canceled, and I had to wait a week to get another one.

There were more challenges but that is all I remember at the moment. I would guess my list is complete enough for you to get a sense of what my reentry has been like. Lack of sleep has been the hardest part of it.

The Good

Everything hasn’t been a downer though. There has been a lot of good.

  • Since the electrician was in my house, I decided to spend a little more money and have him install an outlet in my kitchen that has two USB ports in it. I have wanted to do that for a long time.
  • I have been dealing with a carpet problem for about a year; carpet that was put in three years ago unraveled. That type of carpet was no longer available, so the company couldn’t patch it. That meant that they had to replace all of the carpet in the living room and dining room. The carpet was installed three days ago and it’s beautiful.
  • I hired a friend to move the furniture out of the area where the carpet was going to be installed. That gave me a chance to sort through the books in the book case and give away any I didn’t really want. He also cleaned and organized the big storage area under the stairs. (I’ve worked on that area from time to time, but wanted to do a deeper level of cleaning.) Many items went to Goodwill or the trash and the storage room looks beautiful.
  • There is a big maple tree in my back yard that has grown so big that it was covering part of my back deck. It also covered part of my neighbor’s house. I have worried that if a branch broke off, it would damage my neighbor’s roof. I had not done anything to that tree in the 45+ years I’ve lived here. That tree was pruned two days after my return. I received validation that it is a healthy tree and it now looks even more beautiful than ever.
  • We had a wonderful work party on Monday, the Martin Luther King National Day of Service, and many of the volunteers who participated want to come back! It was the first time we had opened one of our work parties up to children and that was a good experience too.
  • I’ve had numerous chances to work in the Greenbelt myself. Most of the plants are beginning to bud. I am so eager to see what the land looks like in Spring.
  • Replacing the car’s windshield was easy.
  • The Seattle Parks Department is going to take away the 10′ x 10’x 6′ pile of tree debris that was dumped into our restoration site. They will also replace the missing buckets.
  • I’ve almost finished the part of the February PNW GreenFriends newsletter that I am responsible for.
  • I went to Seattle Satsang last Saturday and will be going to satsang activities today and tomorrow. One of my goals for this year is to once again get more involved with this group. I’m off to a good start.
  • I had a physical therapy appointment yesterday. While I still am having problems related to shoulder, neck and ribs, I was pleased to discover I had made progress during the time I was in India.

There have been more good experiences too, but that is enough for now. So, to summarize, it has been a difficult reentry, but all is well.

Photo Credits: Pixabay.com