The Yogi

Perspective makes the view. We all see something different when we look at the moon, though we all call it the by the same name. During my junior year of high school, I was failing algebra II. I could understand three out of every five words that rolled off the thickly greek accented tongue of Mr. Papastathis. I dropped the class in which other students were doing just fine. It was like he was speaking Greek to me, ha. I tried A2 again the next semester with a different instructor and scored an A-. I’m sure the Greek teacher was a fine mathematician. Still, his teachings blurred to the point of useless for me personally. Perspective.

Learning is a personal venture, and we all take our own pathways to knowledge and wisdom. My Algebra II experience taught me more than math. It taught me that is was okay to search until I found the right teacher for a given subject. Those who impart wisdom come in many forms: educators, family, mentors, friends, and sometimes a yogi.

It’s a true gift when a random someone changes our life for the better. Often when we least expect it, our short time here can be enhanced, brightened, and improved by hearing the right message. The practice of yoga takes multiple forms, and I’ve explored most of them with many different teachers. All have been gifted with the ability to do the poses and pass the test of instructor certification. However, it became clear over the last year that very few have the ability to make a profound, state altering difference in the lives of their students, at least this pupil.

Enter “the yogi,” or as I’ve nicknamed her, Lady Dalai Lama. Class starts with her rambling a bit about whatever is on her mind. She laughs at her own jokes. Most importantly, she never fails to bring up something that resonates with me. It could be an anecdote about suddenly realizing while walking through Target with her kids that she has allowed holiday madness to take her in a mental stranglehold. Other times it’s about meeting a vacuous someone who she diagnosed as a case of “There’s no there in there, you know what I mean?” Most importantly, she has distilled the practice of yoga down to its most simple and essential elements, stripped away the encyclopedia of postures, and made the practice genuinely effective. Her most repeated motto for the class is “Close your eyes, no point in comparing yourself to the person next to you, yoga is not a competition.”

The Lady Dalai Lama specializes in the art of relating the finer points of each simple posture. I’ve done some of the poses hundreds or thousands of times over the years. A few words from her sage lips and I find a completely new, deeper place in the same old pose. Tuck the tailbone to the left here; notice how this grounds both feet. Extend the ring fingers there; can you feel how that releases the shoulders. Voila, the same old pose creates an exponentially deeper result. Details, not actually the province of the devil, matter most. Her class has changed my physical being, my mental state, and my life. Now that I understand the depth of wisdom a gifted teacher can afford, I will be unable to settle for less. As we go forth on our journey of lifetime learning, when choosing mentors or teachers, we would be wise to keep a weather eye out for the essence of the yogi.

At the End of the Parade

At the end of the parade, the costumes come off. The instruments are returned to their cases. Batons are put away. Horses are lead to the stables for hay. Clowns wipe off their make up. The floats are deconstructed or left to deteriorate at the hand of the elements. Time marches on, but not for the parade.

That blink of an eye that caused so much anticipation, preparation, a bit of anxiety, and so much excitement has come to a close. All the planning and hard work are spent. All the joy and wonder that were created now begin the process of vaporizing into the ether. The parade takes up residence in fading memory as the next novel distraction begins to crystallize, sure to capture the imaginations of the willing.

Why go to all the effort to manifest something so fleeting? Perhaps it is because the act of creating an experience from nothing affords us a sense of meaning, even if only for the ephemeral moment. Because meaning, fashioned from nothingness, is the prize that we all feel impelled to create before the end of our parade.

Trimming the Deadwood

The quagmire of neglect is fed by many streams. Indifference, preoccupation with the demands of every present moment, innocent ignorance, or willful avoidance, to name a few. These may occur singularly or compound to create a blind spot, the perfect breeding ground for runaway deterioration. It’s natural, perhaps inevitable, but in the short term, most certainly addressable.

The cypress tree on the front corner of our little brick home knows of neglect. Her arboreal brothers and sisters feel it too. The groundskeeper has forgotten them, or been away, or lost motivation. There are dead limbs visible throughout the property. Once they were green with leaves or needles, but now when the wind rises, they sit mostly still, only trembling slightly for lack of sail. They are no longer part of the tree’s growth. Instead, they are a liability, an invitation to disease, and decay. A good steward would, with a sharpened tool and gentle hand, remove them in the name of the greater good.

So it is with the branches of a life. Some grow unhindered to great majesty. Others flourish for a time but then wither. They may take the form of perspectives, habits, regrets, or relationships. These dead branches often hang on long after their time has come to be gone. The burden they present may be difficult to see as for so long we’ve known them as something else. Best to remove them before their dead weight brings down the whole tree.

It is not cruelty, nor indifference, but awareness, thoughtfulness, courage, and mercy that call for the removal, the setting free to a new purpose of that which no longer serves a tree, or a life. Today the saw will be sharpened, the gloves pulled on, and the task will begin. Today is a perfect day to begin trimming the deadwood.

 

In The Blink Of An Eye

Jackson Hussey 6th grade Trampoline

Now you see me, now you don’t.  

Yesterday I walked into my first day of kindergarten. I blinked and had a bachelors degree. A few days later I held my, ten-minute old baby boy, I blinked and he’s gone to college. We all feel it, the Einsteinian vortex that turns days into years, then decades into nanoseconds. All in the blink of an eye.

I am aware of the fact that I overuse the word ‘bittersweet,’ but I’ve not as yet found a more suitable way to describe this beautiful, sorrowful adventure. ‘Love’ is another word that some feel falls in the category of overused. I personally love the concept of the bittersweetness of life, so there.

In the presence of things we love we don’t want to blink. We don’t want to miss a moment. Then eyes shut tight when boredom, discord, or darkness flood our tiny worlds. So then it is the case that we choose to be open, to be present, or to blink, to escape. Hungry eyes open wide for the moments we cherish or crave, then clench to deflect pain or fear or push tears as they wash over us. Human nature, yes.

It’s easy to watch our loves grow up, not so to watch them grow weary and wither. Blink, and you’ll miss it, but what is it? The person you could have spent a mostly happy life with? Your children’s childhood or perhaps your own? The chance to create something beautiful that instead will never be? Adulthood takes on the quality of endlessness for a time, the perfect breeding ground for the cunning cancer of complacency. 

We cannot stop the ‘illusion of time,’ but we can choose to challenge its passage with vigilance. When the days grow short, and memory becomes our most precious holding; when we painstakingly replay the moments of our lives, will we rejoice in, or regret the choices we’ve made? How much will we have truly seen, known, or touched? How much will we have lost to the blink of an eye?

In My Time of Dying

In my time of dying

In My Time of Dying – Thank you, Led Zeppelin, for the opening line : )~

As to the next line of the aforementioned song, I won’t go so far as to discourage mourners, for that will no longer be an issue within my sphere of influence.

I will say though that I would prefer a celebration! Just sayin’.

Claiming a life well lived would be mine to conclude on the way out, and a point with which others could agree or debate, but again when the time comes such agreements or disagreements will be of small importance, at least to me.

What I do know is that for those I’ve loved, I will not be gone. A singing cardinal on the maple branch at dawn, a sudden thundershower, a new favorite song, I’ve loved those things in this life, and so they will always be a part of me, and I a part of them in the lives of those who carry on.

In my time of dying, I wish peace, tranquility, and acceptance for any who might grieve.  Most importantly, I want them to know they have been loved with all the commitment and earnest appreciation that a human being could have mustered in one small lifetime.

In my time of dying please play the following song, for those I’ve loved, those I did not have the pleasure of coming to know, and for me, if only in the form of memory.

 

P.S. My health is currently delightfully good. I was just having a dust in the wind moment and thought I’d get it all down while it was fresh.  

It’s Always Darkest Before the Dawn

rain storm web1

It’s always darkest before the dawn, but what if dawn never breaks? 

Optimism vs. fortitude.  One is outcome dependent, the other self-sustaining. Dark times come, and hopefully, go, but “hope” is not a strategy. The only meaningful goal then is to endure, rather than to dream of being rescued.

As the midnight storm clouds bare their icy fangs I brace for the knife blade deluge of unexpected misfortune this season demands.

Heaven & Hell

Heaven and hell web

The expression, “The world is going to hell, (sometimes in a handbag)” implies that some of us haven’t already been there. In my experience, heaven too gracefully finds its way into everyday moments.

Last Saturday, while racing our mountain bikes through the lush spring woods, my eldest son asked me, “Do you believe in heaven and hell?”

“I do,” I said. “Right now, here with you, I believe I am in heaven, though on my journey to this moment I have at times passed through what surely seemed to be the heart of hell.”

He smiled and offered, “Yeah, that’s what I think too.”

Heaven!  At least for now, in this precious moment.

Namaste

The Work of Living

The Work of Living_by John Hussey

The rains came at the end of December and have since called this place home.  It is not the countryside, rather a despondency that blooms in the midst of this cold winter downpour. Those in the parts of the world where such weather is commonplace probably bare it away silently, knowing year after year that such is their fate. Here in southern North America, this bleak, relentless drenching has transformed myriad normal men and women into so many agitated, forlorn creatures.

The wearing down of the spirit by natural means such as continuous dark, damp days is in no way sinister.  In that light, this indifferent water torture shows a modicum of kindness. The spirit breaking inventions used by one human on another cut more profoundly, with much greater precision. Cruelty is intentional, and therefore personal. Such malevolent behavior, like the weather, is sometimes predictable, sometimes not.

Confronting darkness in any form, be it natural or man-made presents each of us with the opportunity to choose a response. With rare exception, we can decide whether to reflect or reject the shadows cast upon us. Reacting on impulse is natural, but void of the benefit of circumspection. Stepping back, taking stock, digging deep and choosing a way forward that lies outside readily ostensible options, a path that leads us back to the light, that is the work of living.

Holiday Postpartum

Holiday Postpartum_JH

January 9th. The Christmas tree, or should I say fire hazard now long in the tooth droops in the corner of the living room. Brittle needles find their way to the hardwood floor, forming a circular colony of tinder. Surprisingly, the scent of pine has been growing stronger, filling the front rooms of our small cape cod style home. Holiday postpartum has descended upon this place. Andy Williams is not singing of the “Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Festive open houses are closed. The last of the baked goods have fossilized and so been shown out to the frozen garden plot for the birds to beak. The heat runs near constantly as the days of subfreezing temperatures depress the mercury in this part of the world.

I miss the holidays, the anticipation, the many opportunities to raise a glass with old friends and make new ones. Over the years Christmas time has always managed to deliver joy, optimism, and magic. I found myself this season thinking for the first time about the fact that I have only so many Holiday celebrations left. It may sound morose, indeed but this recognition of reality is also a useful reminder. Living fully, openly, and with the intent to make the most of each moment is a choice…just that, a choice. We only have so long to become our best, then we rest. Have you made strides in this quest over this last year?

When the twinkling lights go dark, and the long nights unrelentingly hold the world, we may turn inward, we may be saddened, or we may take no notice. To each his own. I for one find myself a bit saddened, a bit grateful, and a bit nostalgic. Every day is not Christmas, though as Charles Dickens suggested we might do our best to keep it in our hearts throughout the year.

Barring an untimely demise, I will find myself eleven months from now decking the halls, raising a glass, wrapping treasures for those I love, and feeling that twinge of the childlike excitement that the holidays bring. I know not all share my opinion of the magic of Christmas time, and to those who struggle during the season, I wish you strength and love. May your days be merry and bright, long after the twinkle lights have faded.

Childish Things

Flexible Flyer Sled_by John Hussey

I spent 3-4 hours last weekend refurbishing runner sleds.  I have a bit of a fascination with these playthings.  Over the years I’ve accumulated five of them. The first one I received for my fifth birthday, a 1966 Flexible Flyer.  Another belonged to my maternal grandpa, dated 1906.  The third I found in the shed of the house my sons and I moved into once we were finally able to move out of our one bedroom apartment.  I stumbled upon the last two in a pawn shop on Nolensville Road here in Nashville, Tennessee.  If You aren’t familiar with Nolensville Road, it is rife with pawn shops, paycheck advance loan joints, and killer Mexican restaurants.  In addition to the family of runner sleds, I am in possession of one ridiculously long wooden toboggan, the sled, not the hat…and when the hell did we give birth to that term for a ski cap? But I digress.  Why this winter snow and sled proclivity?  I’m guessing it is a subconcious reaction to growing up in alway sunny southern California.  

Yes, I now live in Nashville, Tennessee.  No, we don’t get a lot of snow these days, though we used to.   In the early nineteen something-or-others we had such a winter here in middle Tennessee that the Cumberland River froze over.  The mighty waterway that splits our fair city turned solid to the point where one could drive a car across it.  Global warming…politics/science aside, I refurbish the sleds in the hope that we will have at least a day or two this winter to run them.

Peter Pan would have liked sledding.  Not the pop psychology Peter Pan, the immature fuck-up that many equate with the “not willing to work” type.  From what I read the real Pete fought valiantly for what he valued.  He worked to be free and shared the fruits of his indefatigable labors with the lost boys.  Courage, rather than immaturity may be a fine way to define Mr. Pan.  Do what we have to do to protect what we love, right?  

As it relates to surviving the aging process in modern times, what about blinders?  Some of those who are not familiar with the term “horseless carriage” may also be confused by the term “blinders.”  Blinders where created to be worn by horses as they pulled carriages through the busy streets, often more like mud troughs, of bustling turn of the century cities.  They were designed to protect the beasts from overstimulation.  Blinders, therefore, aren’t intended to create a state of blindness, rather they are intended to facilitate focus.  I think we can all give a nod to the value of focus.  Focus is the rail on which we are able to forge momentum.  It is the way we get from standing still to full speed.  Growing up is one thing, acting the role of a “grown-up” is another.  Focus is most likely about creating a life that matters, whether it fits a societally accepted norm or not.

Some people loved sledding when they were children.  Some people did not.  Some who did appreciate the sport lost that love as the grew up.  Others did not; (Sidebar, I realize my fixation with riding sleds is absurd).  Deconstructed, the act of sliding down a hill on a fast moving vehicle has no scientifically significant value.  You can’t necessarily become spiritually whole, the richest man in the world, or the president of the United States by sledding down an icy hill…or can you?  Olympic bobsledders may win gold medals then return to their day jobs at HomeDepot.  Are they the better for it?  Probably.  Have they become the Dalai Lama?  Ehh!

Sleds aside, what do we gain from our adult choices; from putting aside childish things?  Do we gain Money?  Security?  Power?  Freedom…Whatever the fuck that means?  Most likely yes.  What do we lose in exchange?  The process of maturing is exciting, confusing, intoxicating most often inevitable.  It can bring great things, but at what cost?  Do we have to surrender our child-like wonder in order to survive as adults?  If we do in fact, have to sacrifice our childhood consciousness to become grown-ups what language will we use to communicate with children?  If not their’s then who’s? 

Peter Pan was written by James Matthew Barrie in 1904.  He saw struggling children in need of relief, and so created a fantasy world based on his hopes for their emotional survival, or so I surmise.  He crafted a surreal safe harbor for humans faced with the reality of aging.  It was to be his most celebrated work.  It overshadowed all others in his career.  Curios that a story so well received at the time of its creation has been reduced to a term used to define those who refuse to conform to rather rigidly defined acceptable forms of “adulthood” in modern times.  

Back to sled riding for a sec, and for those without snow in there lives please substitute an appropriate metaphor.  If at times we feel stuck, sad, discontented, hopeless or just bored, perhaps a swift ride on a polished set of steel runners could be the perfect emotional reset.  If everything is just fine, all is right with the world, would it not be still be a hoot to make time to feel the rush of plummeting down a snowy hill, just to see where it takes us; feeling the wind blow through our hair as we descend a slope of memories long left behind.  Why the hell not? 

Freedom, heaven, hell, sorrow, joy, regret, redemption; they live within all of us.  On good days we get to choose which of them we will invite for a play date.  I find that when the long nights of winter begin to weigh on me the ensueing darkness can be parted by pushing off hard and diving onto my ’66 Flyer for an icy glide.   Sometimes its the simple things, often even “childish things” that make the world brighter, better, and for at least a rare moment, timeless.