i am in love with my skeleton

wpid-sketch7122109.pngi am in love with my skeleton
my ribs when i can feel them
hard under the skin.

i am in love with my skeleton
all these finite bones
a clattering of dust
on its way to the bin.

i am in love with my skeleton
the femur like a bat
a weapon clothed in flesh.

i am in love with my skeleton
in motion and at rest
heavy in the bed.

i am in love with my skeleton
the ball and socket joints
the hinges and the fusion
of young bones grown old.

i am in love with my skeleton
hollow with breath
the pelvic bowl cradling
this primordial ache.

i am in love with my skeleton
when a hand (mine or yours)
rests on my ribs and paces
searchingly to the hip and back again.

i am in love with my skeleton
smooth and bare as can be
a hundred years from now
dry and sun bleached.

i am in love with my skeleton
this clanky home rattling along
and creaking up the stairs.

I am in love with my skeleton
even when the pain is great
even with the sharpness
of death that starts on the inside.

i am in love with my skeleton
this blank-faced doll
when she is put to rest
by the sweet child god
whose playtime has ended.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I’m digging up a bunch of old poems, including an entire collection I wrote about two years ago and re-thinking how to present them for sharing. Brace yourself for random poetry attacks.

I also want to redesign this site, but I’m lazy as fuck when it comes to web design, so I make no promises.

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Pornographic, Offensive, or Just a Naked Body?

393px-Torii_Kotondo_-_Woman_Before_a_Mirror_-_Walters_95890

Last week, when I posted this article on Facebook, a couple of my guy friends expressed their discomfort with the art work I used. Several of my girlfriends defended the image. There was a debate about whether Facebook’s terms of service explicitly forbade all nudity or just pornography and whether this piece of art crossed the line into being pornography. You can read all the comments here.

As I pondered how to respond, I scrolled around clicking “like” on my friends’ clever witticisms and taking personality quizzes (I’m Bjork, according to Buzzfeed). And then I stumbled across a photo of a man I’ve never met naked in a bathtub eating a burrito.

Now… let’s talk about what’s pornographic and what’s offensive. The idea of pornography is that it’s intended to be used as masturbatory material. That is the supposed difference between porn and art. Of course, it’s also possible that a piece of fine art could arouse the viewer, and maybe the artist even created it with that intention. In those cases, the quality of the work is often what determines the difference. If the artist is good enough, the sexy painting ends up in a museum. If not, it goes in a closet.

For something to be offensive, on the other hand, is more serious. I’m not offended by things I simply disagree with, though. I am offended by sexism, racism, homophobia, and other forms of hate. Hate is the only thing I find truly offensive. Everything else is usually a matter of taste.

If you label something offensive just because you don’t agree with it, what you’re engaging in is not morality, it’s censorship. You are not “protecting the children” by shielding their eyes from a perfectly healthy image of a woman looking at her body in a mirror. Our society largely invalidates brilliant art work because we’re uncomfortable with the fact that it turns us on, or might turn someone on, or maybe just reminds us a little too much of sex.

To be clear, the picture I posted was of a woman looking at her vulva with a mirror. As my friend Krista said, “our necks don’t bend enough to see all the good stuff.” The woman is learning about her body and admiring it. She is smiling into the mirror. She loves herself. I don’t find anything offensive about that idea or the picture, and in fact the whole damn thing makes me happy.

As for the guy in the bath tub photo, that I didn’t want to see. I’ll admit I’ve posted a dorky selfie or two, but what the hell man? Actually, the photo was taken and posted by bathtub guy’s friend (who is my friend, hence me seeing the photo). I can’t quite imagine the circumstances that lead to this photo being taken, but I’m sure it was hilarious for the two of them. However, if any of my friends posted something that unflattering of me on the internet, we wouldn’t be friends anymore. But I’m still not offended by the photo. Furthermore, I doubt anyone will complain to my friend about the picture because we know him and his weird sense of humor. Everyone will roll their eyes and laugh about it. Facebook will not take down the post. It’s just a naked guy in a bathtub eating a burrito.

What’s wrong with that?

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My Favorite Yoga Class

René Descartes' illustration of mind/body dualism.

My favorite class that I teach right now is a chair yoga class for people dealing with cancer. There is no vinyasa in this class. We don’t even get on the floor for savasana because some students might not be able to get back up afterwards. But that doesn’t matter — they do yoga. They practice at the level that’s appropriate for their bodies and their current level of health. The purpose of their practice is not to master every pose but to find peace in a body that is anything but peaceful. Once again, I am learning more from my students than they are learning from me. I show up and give them a few exercises to do, and in return, they teach me about choosing serenity in the midst of chaos and suffering.

Asana practice is about establishing a relationship between mind, body, and breath. Too often, we see ourselves in a disjointed way. We think the body is one thing, the mind is another, and the soul is yet another thing. We’re not in touch with our bodies, and we don’t have an accurate perception of how we look or what a healthy body looks like. We fail to see ourselves as whole, integrated beings and ignore the fact that what happens to the body affects the brain and shapes our entire experience. And when the body is gone, as far as we know, so is the mind.

Still, this lack of appreciation for the body persists across cultures, and it’s especially problematic in the US. Here, we see ourselves as being separate from nature, better than animals, above it all. Thinking that we are civilized, intellectual beings, we divorce ourselves from the body and spend our lives feeling like that little alien living in the man’s head in Men in Black. So, asana practice is about coming back into the body and inhabiting it in a healthy and joyful way.

The poses don’t matter that much. Each pose has a unique effect on the body, the breath, and the energy level, so it matters in a sense, but we basically choose a practice that produces the effect we want. Some people love hot yoga because it’s exhilarating. Some people crave the soothing atmosphere of a gentle class. Some people need a teacher who will push them hard to improve themselves. Some people need a teacher who will allow them to be vulnerable. That’s all fine, and it’s all yoga.

We learn various poses, breathing techniques, mantras and whatnot. Sometimes we get little glimpses of something bigger than us. That’s a very pleasant experience, but if it doesn’t make your day-to-day life better, then it’s hard to stay with it. Your practice has to be sustainable in order to make a lasting difference in your life. Find a practice that is sustainable — any practice that helps you make peace within yourself. You don’t have to be able to do a handstand. You don’t even have to do asana. Just find a way to make peace, and keep doing it. That’s your yoga.

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Monday Night Nonfiction: the robot

Robot graffiti

Here is a weird little thing I wrote the other day.

the robot turned her head
from left to right.
it is a she because
it is beautiful.
if this was what they called being alive
she guessed
she liked it
the way her metal joints would slide
she liked the whir of
her electricity.
the robot turned her eyes on
and then she turned them off.
the robot turned her eyes on.
and then she turned them off.
the robot turned her eyes on.
the robot found herself a heart
until she got her own
it would do.
the robot said her prayers.
the robot was Very Good.
the robot did a sad dance
but the body said “joy” with its grace
and the robot took flight.

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Meditate Like a Boss, Part 2: Being in Your Skin

Yoga vid Dödsklippan

The real reason we do yoga poses is to prepare the body for meditation. Yep. In fact, in the Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, the only pose or asana mentioned is the simple seated posture we use for meditation. In a classical yoga practice, the primary reason for doing poses is to help the body be strong enough and flexible enough to meditate comfortably. Of course, that translates to better overall health as well, which is one reason yoga has become so immensely popular in recent years. The good news is you don’t have to do a long, complicated or showy practice to prepare for meditation. Here’s a simple practice that you can modify based on what your body needs and how much time you have. Each pose has a unique effect on the body, so it’s best to pick one pose from each category to get a well-rounded practice.

Step 1: Side Stretch
Side stretches are energizing to the body and good for the digestion. A simple side stretch can be done while sitting, standing, kneeling or lying down. To start, try reclining half-moon. Lie on your back on the floor, and stretch the arms out overhead, touching the floor behind you. It’s OK if the elbows to bend in order for the arms to relax in this position. With the legs straight, walk the heels over to one side as far as they’ll go, and then inch the arms, head, and shoulders in the same direction, forming a “C” or half moon with the body. This will create a stretch through the elongated side of the body. Take a few deep breaths, and allow the body to sink into this stretch without using force. Come back to center before repeating the stretch on the opposite side.

Step 2: Twist
Twists are cleansing and calming to the body. Like side stretches, they’re also good for the digestion as they gently squeeze and massage the internal organs. Here’s a quick and easy twist anyone can do.

Sit in a comfortable position on the floor or in a chair. Stabilize the hips so they will not move when you twist. Place the right hand directly behind the spine on the chair or floor, and place the left hand on the right knee. Inhaling, imagine you could actually grow taller, extending the head toward the sky and tucking the chin slightly to create length through the back of the neck. As you exhale, gently squeeze the belly button toward the spine to begin twisting. The heart and ribs turn to face the right while the hips stay grounded. Turn the chin over the back shoulder. When you’re ready to come out, inhale once more to sit up tall, and on the exhale, gently unwind the pose. Then do the same twist in the opposite direction.

Step 3: Back Bend
Back bending is considered very energizing – no wonder it’s the first stretch most of us want to do when we wake up! When you spread your arms wide and raise the chest with a big yawn, that’s a gentle back bend. To do a seated back bend, simply rest your hands on your knees while sitting up nice and tall (just like you will for meditation). Inhaling, lift the heart and press the chest forward while rolling the shoulders back and down. Slightly lift the chin to create a sense of length and openness in the front of the throat. As you exhale, hug the belly button in toward the back, tuck the tailbone, and create length through the back of the body, reversing the curve. Do several rounds of this movement combined with slow, deep breathing. The same thing can be done on the hands and knees and is usually called “Cat/Cow” in yoga classes.

Step 4: Forward Bend
Forward bends are calming and are great for times when introspection is needed. There are tons of great forward bends to pick from, such as child’s pose, standing forward bend, wide-leg forward bend, and downward dog. If you’re seated in a chair, place both feet firmly on the floor, and simply drape the upper body over the thighs, allowing the head to hang. If your chest doesn’t reach your thighs, a blanket or pillow across the lap can make this more comfortable. Alternatively, sit on the floor in a comfortable cross-legged position (also known as sukasana or easy pose), and place the hands on the floor in front of you. Walk the hands out in front of you, bending forward until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the hips. Whichever foot is in front, that side of the hips will feel the stretch first. After a few breaths, change the cross of your feet and do the stretch again to make sure you address both sides.

Once you’ve completed this brief practice, try sitting for a short meditation. Notice if there is any difference in the body, the breath, the energy level, or the state of mind. If you are very distracted, a longer practice can be helpful in calming the mind. Several rounds of Sun Salutation, for example, can be a great preparation for a longer meditation.

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