#9

symptoms:

constantly running

in some respects a good thing

constantly turning and thinking and speculating

you try to hold it in your mind but it transforms into something else

diagnosis:

i see now that you have trouble being stationary

do you feel as though you are carrying something you can’t get rid of?

an invisible monkey holding onto your neck with firm grip?

yes, this prevents the thoughts from releasing properly so they swirl endlessly instead

you probably have tension in your upper traps from the weight that isn’t your that you carry

treatment:

we need to give you tasks to do

big and small, endless juggling at first

we see that you are nimble

and also we recommend a kind of surgery

well to a degree — it’s non-invasive

one of the things will be to relax enough that we create an opening next to your neck

it’s like bone setting

once we get space in between the monkey’s grip and your neck

we latch onto the invisible monkey with a firm grip of our own

it’s a swift pull and then it’s off

you should notice instant relief in your neck and upper back muscles

over time thoughts will cycle through regularly

prevention:

1) nature

2) breathing deeply

3) gratitude

4) action

5) walks and other forms of physical exercise

6) meditation

7) eating right (less sugar and alcohol which are the monkey’s favorite)

conclusion:

just because you have an invisible monkey strangling your thoughts and keeping them from circulating

don’t let it keep you from a normal, happy life

invisible monkey is treatable

you can be free

#5

more confused than angry

more stuffed away than needing to speak

more afraid of meaning than feeling

more resentful than righteous

more betrayed than mistrustful

more disgusted than indulgent

more agitated

more disappointed

more hurt

more angry about the understanding than the experiencing

such a fleeting moment

it lingers longer than is comfortable

then is washed away by song

and sun

and tomorrow

Commitment

I took a trip to Minnesota recently that came with a lot of unexpected detours. I went to celebrate my grandmother's 90th birthday and as the second stop on the Jwanouskos Ramos Wedding Celebration Tour.

We had an amazing time seeing the beautiful lakes and forest areas. So green compared to California! However, the time was sadly overshadowed by my grandmother's decline in health.

She was a strong woman with a huge heart — one that unfortunately was born with a defect. Her breathing became more and more difficult during the time we arrived such that she was admitted to the hospital the day after we flew in.

She knew. We all knew what was next. Though I tried to avoid the conversations and the subtle shifts, she was dying. In my head, her death was something that would happen way far off. Not when I was there. As time went on, it was clear she wasn't leaving the hospital. So the best we could do is make her comfortable.

Maybe it's the wrong segue, but I depended on my practices during this time. I have her and my weary family members lomi lomi massage. As the pain medications wore off, I sang her Ka Lei Aloha I Na Kupuna – a Hawaiian chant and lullaby that Brent and I sang for the new expectant mothers preparing for birth. It is a song about being surrounded by the love of the ancestors and understanding that you too are part of that love. I talked to her about my tai chi practice and the book on Russian breathing systems I was reading. I read her my poetry. I talked to her about the business Brent and I hope to create. I talked to her about my step daughter — who she told me to give the beanie babies in her basement. And I practiced yoga in the early hours of the morning to the rhythm of her strong yet forced breathing. I even was able to bind in Marichasana D on my tight side. I think it was even the day or day before she transitioned on.

My Grandma taught me so much about pain, death, and family during this time. I tried my best as a visitor from California to be there and be grounded, be compassionate for my family. And it was hard to do that. It was hard to see them come apart at the scenes and feel like though you wanted to, you couldn't. As if something kept you from it.

I was named after my Grandma and she was one of the strongest ladies I knew, who got things done. She didn't fuss or make a big deal about it. She was a nurse and she was used to long hard hours and endless self sacrifice. At the same time, she was fun and laughed a lot while she called you on your shit. Up until the last days she was talking, she was cracking jokes and speaking her mind.

She transitioned on surrounded by her family and so much love. I knew by the end of the week I was in the exact spot I needed to be and I was giving what I was meant to give.

In the days that followed, I didn't know what to do or how to help. So I began my day with yoga and tai chi. I figured that maybe if I could keep steady, my family could keep steady.

My family on my mom's side is a range personalities and A LOT of feminine energy. For some reason, people look at me and they go, "well of course Barbara does this crazy artistic thing that we couldn't think of or do." And I just am so adamant that the answer to that is, "yes! You can do it. You are capable of more that how you see yourself!" I probably get to be a little airy fairy for people if I start talking about it, so I try to just hold my tongue and not say anything unless people ask me.

But then the strangest thing happened… People started asking me about meditation, tai chi, yoga, eating vegetarian, art, music, storytelling, social justice, keeping in shape, martial arts and breathing. What? Me?

"I just do what I do."

So I started connecting more with my cousins, aunts, and uncles and on Instagram and Facebook, I'd post snippets of my practice. Mostly because without regular access to my teachers, I wanted to see and understand for myself what I needed to work on.

I even watched a yoga practice session with my brother who lightly chided me for moving too fast. He said to take my time with it.

"Yeah, see, when I was practicing, I loved up dog, you should take your time with it more. You're missing out on that stretch."

My cousin would ask me advice about breathing in yoga and how to get started at home because she wasn't ready to start going to a class. Another two cousins and I bonded over plants and essential oils. She is growing the Oxheart tomatoes that come from my Italian great grandfather (my Grandma Barbara's dad), who loved these tomatoes for sauce and just everything. In fact, my Grandma still has two living older sisters (96 & 106) and she said that the secret to her longevity was to eat tomatoes and have a little brandy every so often.

Here I'd been so secret about these holistic and artistic practices, considering myself to be the family anomaly and just like most things, I was looking myopically. My family was so supportive of me. Not who I tried to be or wanted to become, just everything I was at that moment, they saw as valuable and worth emulating. For that I am eternally grateful.

Part of me wonders about the synchronicity of this experience and wonders what my Grandma may have been trying to say. While I haven't always called or been able to visit, I never doubted for a second that she loved me deeply and truly saw me for who I am.

A couple hours after she passed, I was sitting in the family lounge with my relatives enjoying the memory of her and what she gave us. I was going through my email trying to find something about her ancestry to give to my cousins and I came across a lot of forwards of prayers and wishes and beautiful pictures from her. Then, I came on a direct message from her to me. She saw an email I sent about my upcoming play production and was sending me some money and wishing me luck. Matter of fact, supportive, and loving. I read it and it was a confirmation of everything I already knew.

So, "my practice" has taken a turn because I can longer see it as just for me and a source for my comfort solely. I see my family, my friends watching me and taking something from the one thing I do think I'm okay at — continuing to show up. This has made all the difference to me and propels me forward in dark times so that I can see those faces saying to me that they saw what I did and tried it for themselves.

Thank you and thank you to my beautiful Grandma for showing me how to continue day after day through the hardship with only love to guide you.

❤️

the many little things of today

went a new way today

discovered a surreal plant

discovered how one street was connected to another

did many small things

that i hope will have an impact

felt better when i left 

than i did as i entered

taking a deep breath

here we go

found ways to help those around me

found little things i could do to protect them from stress

i am grateful for that

it makes me see myself differently

and remember who i am 

winds of change

swirls the hair into the air

it moves and whips up into an invisible tornado

keep moving

can’t dodge it

can’t face it head on without been blown away

couldn’t even reach out

suddenly burst into fits of laughter 

at being pushed by this

wind

changing direction

keep going and you take a different path

you keep swirling into 

nothing

something that lifts up

take off and take away

towards the sky

hair standing on end 

but then falls to your shoulders 

once you find shelter 

storm

you underestimate us

you think you know 

but you don’t know

you get over-confident

but we stay working 

stay building 

you try to trick us

make us think we’re not capable 

that we have no choice 

that we will be ruled by fear and hate

but we are not

we know how to survive 

we know how to live vibrant lives

we know how to reflect joy

you can only repeat yourself 

and that tactic wears thin

we’re waiting patiently as you become powerless 

drained of everything 

when we repeat ourselves 

it becomes underlined 

bold

we go deeper into our power 

and you hate that

you hate it because you’re scared of us

you should be

this is the way of the world 

it’s your new reality

the tides are turning 

and we are beings of the ocean

we know every inch of it by heart

and this is your first voyage

to move mountains

maybe the immediate pain

could trigger a release

that would be so much greater

than the miniscule point experienced

and you would see the kind of shift

that would move mountains

and then you would truly know

you are capable of so much

small things

small changes make big differences 

small things like remembering to breathe deeply

to smile

to say hi to the people around you

to make people laugh

to share 

share food

share time

share thoughts

to make plans

to brighten someone’s day

to acknowledge where you’re having trouble 

to know yourself

to try something new

to do the things you love

to give compliments 

small things are big things

small things make a difference too

and small things have power

self

out of the corner of my eye

there was a girl in the mirror today

but i did a double take

thinking it was me

i realized i didn’t know her

i realized it was someone different

but each time i looked up 

the girl was so familiar

and i thought

is this what my self looks like now?

is this what it’s like to catch yourself

in the midst of change

and realize

you don’t know 

the you in you anymore?

if it is

i can’t feel scared

confused

or unimpressed

only a bit surprised

at what i looked like now

standing beside what i looked like then

each beautiful

in their own

very special way