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I Remember the Day She Collapsed

By Jeff Root

I killed my own mother. Or at least that’s what I thought for the longest time. I can still remember the day she collapsed in the hallway right in front of me. Her last words were “Jeff, I’m dizzy, ”  before she laid face down. That’s the moment I called 911. Before the operator could even answer, I had my 250 pound mother flipped onto her back. Mind you, I’m 165. I knew what I was going to have to do —C.P.R. I just needed some…confirmation. The 911 operator went about her training and stated, “911, WHERE is your emergency?” I rambled off the address of our home, and the state that my mother was in without being asked. She confirmed that my mind was where it needed to be. Good. I’m not losing my mind. She walked me thorough how to perform C.P.R., so that’s what I did. Breath into her mouth twice with her nose plugged. Press on her chest 15 times. Repeat Again. And again. And again. And again.

Somewhere during this process I decided to go and open the door because I knew an ambulance, armed with the most technological advancements of medical science, was on its way. I had to stop though. Was that the mistake I made that killed her? No matter. The choice was made. Back to what I had originally started. I informed the operator that I stopped to open the door so the ambulance crew could easily identify our house. Our house wasn’t exactly on a main road, or easy to find. Breathe, breathe. Press, press, press, press, press, press, CRACK!!!!!!! “WHAT THE FUCK??” was my first thought. Even though I knew what just happened. I just broke her ribs. That same instant, my mind went to: did I do something wrong? Is that supposed to happen? Should I keep going? Should I stop? Should I only breathe into her mouth now? Is there a different process now? I just killed her. Didn’t I? That’s when the tears started to fall. My moment of weakness during the whole ordeal. I knew the 911 operator knew I was about to panic. And so did I. But before the 911 operator could tell me, “you’re doing a good job, sir,” I had already sucked it up and had my mind back in instinct mode.

15 minutes is an eternity when you’re waiting for an ambulance. They finally showed up. They dragged her out into the living room, hooked her up to a defibrillator and stuck a tube down her throat. They squeezed on that bladder to make her breathe. They shocked her with high voltage to reset her heart rhythm. They failed to do so. I can’t believe I had to be the one to say, “she’s gone” and mean it. I had to be the one to call her parents, my grandparents, at 2 in the morning, keep my composure, and break it to them gently. That’s what I planned on doing, but that’s not what happened. I remember that phone conversation.
 “Uuuhhello?”

“Grandma?”

“Mmyes?”

“Mom collapsed in the hallway, aaaaaand an ambulance crew is here aaaaand……they called it.”

“Called what?”

“Shes GONE GRANDMA!!!!”

“OH MY GOD JEFFERY!!! I’ll wake grandpa up and we’ll be on the way.”

“I’m sorry grandma.”

“It’s not your fault Jeffery. See you when we get there. I love you.”

“Love you too.”
Click.

Then I had to call my younger brother and his wife. He wasn’t too receptive to getting a phone call at 2 in the morning either. By that time the only ride that I could arrange was via police. Who really wants to be in the back of a cop car? But it was the best I could do. They offered, so why not take advantage of my tax dollars? They’ve put me in lock down countless times, might as well get something good out of it, right?
After everyone in the vicinity that I had woken arrived, the chaplain said a prayer. I came to grips with reality a little bit. All of her closest family standing above her corpse, each and everyone of us closed that prayer differently.
Amen. Bahai. Blessed be.
We all had a different idea of what the afterlife was.
We all had our own dreams.

I fought as hard as I could to keep her house, but it wasn’t meant to be. That was her house, not mine. I had to walk away. A few weeks later, I packed my back pack. grabbed my tent, and set out on foot. I didn’t have any idea where I was going, but I ended up where I was meant to be: homeless. The bank came and repossessed the house. I left before they could come face to face with me about it. I knew what was going to happen, I knew I couldn’t afford that place on my own. I tried for 3 months. After that, I was falling short. I knew I had to move on. I knew that wasn’t MY dream. That was hers.

Her death was the most devastating event of my life.
It was also the most liberating.
I gave up her dreams. And started chasing my own.
For a while I thought my dreams included my ex, alcohol, and eventually, methamphetamine.
In the past 3 years since her passing I’ve given up the white dope, moved the green dope from the category of necessity to luxury. The same for alcohol. It may not be much, but its better than I’ve ever done in my entire life. I have my name on one of the most expensive apartments in the entire city now. Not much holds me back anymore. I have some more shit I need to accomplish.

And by the way, I didn’t kill my mom. It took a woman who had been a nurse longer than I’ve been alive, and broken more ribs doing the same thing for the same reason, to convince me otherwise. Thank you so much grandma. Sorry I had to unload on you. But thank you for not smacking the living fuck out of me for being so stupid when I asked you, “do you know what its like to break somebody’s ribs?” and then realizing at that moment you’ve broken hundreds, if not, thousands, of them, before you could say
”yes, I do,” and realize that you weren’t lying.
That’s quite a legacy for you to live up to mom. That’s quite a legacy for me to fulfill myself.
Forgive me for failing. But I’m at least going to try.
I had to start somewhere, right?
I no longer wonder if you’re proud of me,
because I am, and that’s what it has always been about, right?


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Breath

Lindsey

I rented a dance studio today.  The room was large.  I felt lost at first, outnumbered by its spaciousness.  Moving within, my limbs wanted to consume the space like hungry vines, their wingspan growing into its emptiness.  I needed a vast space to practice with the specific idea of breath in mind; respiration, health, emotion, wind, atmosphere.   I held breath in thought to see how I could transfer its mental weight into the body.  I found myself in a stream of images, a spider web of the places that breath travels, from air, sky, breeze, to sensations, disease, health, repose, flutter, to chest, belly and lung, to love, loss and retrieval.  I found myself wondering what the rhythm of a lung sounds like, what beats a breath composes.  Slowly, in wondering, a pulse flowered with feet and hands.  One face of its rhythm manifested in turns, while another in crooked contractions cornered by the expansion of breast bone and ribs. 

Lungs, breath, air, moving forward and backward in the subtly of a single breath, these themes have continued to emerge and re-emerge, forming a pattern to which I want to respond.  I have been brainstorming themes to work with for a new performance.  I have thought of the earth, the state of its ether, that which we inhale, and the detriment derived from a magnitude of thoughtless action.  I have thought of rhythm, a mosaic of beats to represent the body’s own rhythmic patterns.  I have thought of stillness verses motion, based on the borders of my telephone booth and the patience to breathe my way forward.  I have thought of health: the body and the mind and the spirit needing breath for life, sustenance, peacefulness, connection, to function in wholeness.  And I have thought of our emotions as conductors of the heart and lungs in their symphony of pumping, constricting, expanding, holding love and grief like water to tissue, holding the seat of our sensations in great gusts of fullness or shortness of inhalations.  As I keep a notebook of the themes that have been inspired to mind through books, images, films, daily moments and conversations, I realize that in each of these themes is the act and weight of respiration. 

Two weeks ago, in a sudden moment of awareness, I found myself captured by the significance of the ability to take a full breath.  I also found myself in a position of time and choice.  My recent work had come to an end and I had the opportunity to spend a month in Vermont to let emerge what could, to wake up in the same room for a series of weeks for a sense of consistency and simplicity, and to see about a love that has been growing like spring in this midst of an ever cooling fall.  A week and a half has now passed and I spy a nest being woven straw by straw, one of possibilities as I am hand-delivered perspective, transitioning me from feeling enclosed in a motionless wade to being deliberately still in its limbo, and curiously aware of nascent motion.  In my retreat, I am taking notice that from interconnected themes to the most mundane daily deeds, from webs of possibilities to perspectives emerging in an unforced flow, it is all, it is all, about breath.


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Growing pains….An unsent letter

Anonymous

Hi.
As my beloved friend and teacher, I am hoping you might be able to offer me some insight or advice. Spare a pearl? I am having a hard time with resistance……
So, here’s the deal. It was about 5 years ago that I took my first yoga class. I was just working at the restaurant, hanging out, going to the beach, reading and cruising, smoking every day, partying with my friends, trying to build a life for myself here……Feeling somewhat lost and lonely (an ongoing theme in my life), but feeling like I was starting to get it together……had finally lost the 30 extra pounds I’d carried around since college, quit smoking cigarettes (mostly), pretty much slayed the “I’m not going to be able to be happy ‘till I find a man” dragon, and given up casual sex (mostly)…………All of which, I suppose, helped prepare me for this path which has cracked me wide open.
And now here I am, in love with my practice, feeling like I’ve found my legs as a teacher(!), trying to learn to navigate a social life without alcohol, fresh off the ganja, which I am having to re-admit makes me depressed, living the cleanest, healthiest life I have ever lived. And, God help me, feeling socially inept, lonely as hell, and bored out of my fucking mind. I miss numbing out…and dammit, I thought all of this clean living and soul searching was supposed to make me feel better…..Why do I feel worse? I feel like I’ve been duped!!!!
I’ll hear stories about wild nights at the bar or a party, and everyone laughs and laughs at the wonderful time they had, or a friend will go on about the 3 long, leisurely days they spent doing absolutely nothing but lying on the beach eating bonbons, and I’ll feel jealous and nostalgic and rather sorry for myself.
I sometimes wonder if part of the challenge is that I have made such a large shift in a rather short amount of time (Maybe you had too much too fast)…Ugh, but I feel like a hermit crab who has left his old, too-snug shell and is scrambling, all tiny and exposed and funny-looking, over to his new one. And I know that my “old life” made me quite miserable most of the time, and I believe in this process with all my heart. I guess I’m just looking for reassurance that the light gets a bit brighter up ahead on the path. (How’s the weather where you are?)
Maybe I just haven’t quite grown into my new life yet? I want it, and I love it, and I feel so incredibly honored and grateful for it, but I just can’t seem to figure out how to dissolve that last bit of resistance and completely surrender to the new shape of my existence. I want to melt into it, joyfully, without this underlying feeling that I’m missing out on all the fun and, dare I say it, occasional resentment that I have to get up early and work, work, work, while everyone else is having the best time ever!
-I suppose, as always, the answer is, “Practice, practice. All is coming”
Thanks for listening,
Your (mostly) grateful student


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Convincidences

by Eugene Yuss

I

I went to a gas station one day and, for some reason, I had the feeling to buy a scratch ticket. I handed the elderly clerk, nice woman, a ten dollar bill and told her with confidence that I’ll be back.

Sure enough, I scratched the ticket, returned to the store, and won my ten dollar bill back.

II

I went outside one night and looked at the stars. I found a bright one and was immediately astounded.

“Hello bright star.” I called out to it.

It dimmed, slowly, then swelled to its full brightness. It dimmed again, then swelled to its full brightness before twinkling like a normal star. Hel-lo.

III

I was hanging out with a friend of mine, talking about the weird occurrences of reality, such as the examples in here. So, eventually, the topic moved to theories on the apocalypse and what the end of the world is. We were leaving to go somewhere and, as I turned the ignition, the radio hummed on with the familiar tune, “it’s the end of the world as we know it! And I feel fine!”

I looked at him with and grin and said, “that’s how it works.”

IV

I was young, 17, and partnered up with a girl named Crystal. She was really pale, like white quartz – I bet her skin would glow if you held her to the light.

We were at her parents’ house, a massive concrete igloo in the country side. Her father was prepared for the greatest of weather or a nuclear attack – if necessary. The exterior of the igloo was surrounded by vines, climbing brush and various gardens of flowers. It was a wonderland in itself manifested by a most joyous creator. We spent a lot of time together there, but this time was different.

Jacob was his name. He visited, as friends to both of us, we got along well. Jacob was a Pagan. I was agnostic. I never had a definitive answer, but I do now and it’s hidden within all of us. No discrimination.

Jacob said he could make the wind blow.

“Really?” I asked, hoping it were true.

“Yeah. It just takes some concentration,” he confirmed. “That bad storm last week? That wasn’t me, that was Sam.” Sam was another Pagan follower. I knew about her, but didn’t know her. You know what I mean.

“Wow,” I agreed. “That’s cool,” I lied in disbelief.

“Can you do it right now?” I challenged.

We went outside onto the front porch. Jacob sat cross-legged on the wood and closed his eyes. A few minutes passed and the wind blew. It was absolutely… normal. There was nothing impressive about it and, needless to say, I was disappointed. I didn’t show it though. When the wind blew, Jacob was modest and said that was all he could do at the time. If he wanted to do more it would have required more “energy.”

I asked about what this “energy” was and he told me it was your aura. The bio-luminescent field that surrounds every object, whether biological or not. He then proceeded to show me how to feel my aura by taking my right hand and making a “finger pistol.” You take the finger pistol and point it at the palm of your other hand. Move the finger gun close to the palm and slowly spiral around it, but don’t touch the skin. The trick is, your skin won’t touch, but you’ll feel the force of the hand spinning in your palm.

The aura trick worked, but I blamed it on the natural phenomenon of static electricity. I was wrong.

The next day I walked down to the store from my house. It was a nice day; warm, partly cloudy, normal – nothing really made it stand out. I purchased my carbonated beverage and was nearing my house when I decided to try it.

I arranged the fingers of my right hand into a gun. I opened the palm of my left and pointed the fingernail barrel at my palm and started turning. I could feel it instantly, the electricity in between.

I flattened my hands out and placed them side by side, like how you would roll a meatball. I started rolling. The low movement hypnotized me and I began staring at my palms, picturing lightning bolts jumping from the arcs in between my hands. The electric charge grew stronger so I started to imagine rolling that into a ball. I could feel the resistance. It wanted to grow.

I started spreading it out, like I was molding the dough for a pizza. My imagination was absolute and focused, there was an electric lightning ball glowing in my hand. The picture in my mind was in my hand and it was growing.

It reached the size of a basketball. That was the breaking point and I said to myself, what the hell do I do with it now?

I tossed it up towards the clouds. It’s gone.

I took a couple steps and started noticing small wet circles landing on the pavement around me. It was raining.

Did I do this?

The rain fell for a minute’s time before ceasing, but it was a minute of absolute frightening confusion.


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The Power of Suggestion

by Jess Everett

In the past year, it has seemed that the universe has been dead set on teaching me the power of suggestion. The latest episode was a water bottle kerfuffle on the trail.

In need of a rest while hiking downhill, I found a large stair where I could sit and rest my backpack on the ledge above. I took a  swig from my Nalgene, then put the bottle aside on the ledge so I could rifle for a snack. I had left the top unscrewed, and I sat contemplating the precarious placement of the bottle while I munched my granola bar. I gauged the temperature: perhaps high eighties, humid.  It would be highly unfortunate if my water bottle spilled in this moment, miles from a water source. As I sat musing, perhaps an imperceptible breath of wind or a slight give in rock particles disturbed the water bottle, sent careening across the forest floor, spilling most of its contents. Was it pre-sentience or had my thoughts created this catastrophe? In either case, I had failed to honor my intuition; I consciously recognized of the possibility yet did not intercede, replacing the cap.

I constantly feel the power of suggestion while hiking. A hike is a constant dance amongst tree roots, protruding boulders, and loose rock, especially in the White Mountains, where steep trails are subject to erosion. Just walking necessitates a sustained mindfulness, which, over the course of hours is mentally exhausting. As a solo hiker, to break a limb in the wilderness would be grave. However, I have found that as long as stay focused (step, step, rock, step, rock, step, highstep, step, hop, step, step, loose rock, step) I am successful. If I allow my mind to negatively frame the challenge (what if I roll my ankle here?) I will do so in a matter of seconds. The speed at which these negative thoughts manifest themselves in the physical world shocks me every time. In addition, if I take mind away from the challenge (step, step, rock, step) to a higher level of abstraction (I need to stay focused on my footing), I seem more likely to stumble than if I stay present with the challenge. Sometimes my mind wanders, but step, step, rock, step carries on subconsciously. I have discovered, however, that when I reflect upon this mental process it seems to cease, leaving me vulnerable to injury. In the Nature, it feels as if the universe can be read more simply.

Last summer, I became aware that this phenomenon functions at a meta-level. I was living in Berkeley at the time, preparing for a month of hiking in the Sierras. This was the first expedition I had undertaken alone, and I was receiving frequent phone calls from my mother begging me not to go. My mom believed I would be eaten by a black bear. This seemed my certain fate that rocked her dreams. I would also be raped. I must assume that this would happen sometime before the bear attack. I would be alone, the whole world seemed to warn. They were never able to articulate precisely the danger of my aloneness, but it seems to be a danger in itself. I am not sure what the hypothetical other would do during the bear attack, when we got lost, or  run out of food, but somehow his presence would be a savior in itself, as if my selfhood was insufficient. Beneath these notions lurked the unspoken danger, that I am a woman. I began to absorb the world’s doubts, making them my own.

Two days before my expected departure I was cruising down Virginia Ave. on a borrowed bike. As I rode I wondered why I would want to leave my job as an urban farmer, to thrust myself into the unknown, against blisters, asthma, rolled ankles, and exhaustion?  I was frightened, I admitted to myself. I was more at risk biking in the city than on the trail, I remembered, but I did not feel at risk. I was whipping down the hill, wings outstretched like an eagle, rounding the corner onto Martin Luther King Jr Way. Why didn’t I have a helmet on? I resolved that the next day I would scold my friend Andy for not owning a helmet. I had been hit once, just a grazing. Really, I reflected, it was a miracle I felt as safe on the road as I did. I entered the line of traffic. I did not slip onto the sidewalk as I came to the red light, but waited patiently at the University Ave junction, breathing exhaust. My mind a thousand miles away, I was thinking about death, its reality emerging through the spider cracks in my invincibility, as I mindlessly followed the traffic down MLK.

My macabre thoughts were interrupted by a flash of motion. The blur of scenery solidified into a slow motion film. A white commercial van was turning left, across my lane. We were separated from collision by an instant. The giant white monster had not seen me, was barreling forward with no regard. Adrenaline surged, but I had no time to react, only time for the anticipation of pain as the front of the fender connected with my side. I flew like a rag doll across the lane, spinning in the air, rolling, rolling across the pavement, my body absorbing the force, shedding skin from my elbow, my legs, like sacrificial offerings to the predator. The white beast, surprised by the ease by which my body yielded, stopped in its tracks. I sat up quickly, collapsing back to the pavement in pain, confusion, and surrender. My sobs erased time. A paramedic’s hand slid down my back, assessing my vertebrae. As long as I can still carry my backpack, I prayed. Tears of shock ruddied my face, washing away the disbelief. Despite the pain, I could not ignore this aggressively blunt message from the universe. I knew I would be safe in the mountains, but that I must never cease to respect my surroundings. After the police officer dropped me off at home I finished packing my backpack.

And of course, I completed the John Muir Trail without being eaten by a black bear.