By the Window – A Poem of Hope in the time of Coronavirus.

By the Window

By the window,
It looks like any other day,
a particularly beautiful one,
sun shining, clear blue sky,
the snow and ice succumbing
to winter’s end.
It is quiet,
a silence heralding, to me,
a feeling of peace
that is hard to ignore,
or to thwart with logic,
with what I now know.
By the window,
it is just I, the observer
of life being itself,
of steady spruces offering comfort,
of geese flying home,
of hand built wooden furniture
meant to weather
the seasons and the years.
Then the thoughts trickle in,
and the freedom of this moment,
this clear moment of witness
of all that his holy and right
with this world,
threatens to become
a cage for fears and doubt,
which, like the fertile earth
one window away from me,
know well how to grow.
Before this can happen,
I turn to look at the flowers
we have been nurturing inside
these coldest months of the year,
at the scarlet petals blushing with life
that do not sway with the times,
and settle on finding eternity here,
so that I can turn my gaze outside,
and see that eternity cannot depart.
The geese know it,
in their homeward movement,
and if we can sit within the stillness
of a new day beginning,
despite, and even though,
and gather every last beating heart
into our own,
we too can become the world,
and in it find we are home.

– Tammy Stone Takahashi

Learn Walking Meditation!

Another video is up! This is a short “how-to” for walking meditation, another amazing thing that can be done right at home. I’m excited to be posting more yoga videos soon, with more active sequences, but this is a great “slow down, get mindful” exercise – I hope it is of benefit! 💛

2020: The Heart of a Decade

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The Heart of a Decade

Truthfully speaking, I’m not one to remember anniversaries, think about dates, or even pay that much attention to time, though its passing sometimes evokes nostalgia, if not outright anxiety in me, someone who often prefers to live in the spacious realm of imagination that defies time until it comes along to bang the door down to teach me otherwise.

As we are about the confront the dawn of the 2020s, however, I cannot help but look back on the last decade, and realize, and even celebrate with some degree of awe, the decade it has been on a personal level (we know it has been a big decade in the social, political and environmental spheres, and I know many of us our grappling with how to move forward based on these cataclysmic changes; I am with you).

At the very beginning of 2010, at 35, I was newly-unemployed, ambiguously enmeshed in unambiguously destructive relationships, and I was freed – or unhinged, depending on my perspective at any given moment. I remember sitting in my now-emptied, soon-to-be former Toronto apartment, near the windows on which my purple sheets-turned curtains were the only remaining décor, a couple of empty wine bottles next to me, Skyping with a dear friend who pointed out how reminiscent of Demi Moore in “St. Elmo’s Fire” this whole scene was. Have you seen that movie? It was a loving comment, but it was not an assessment of how well things were going in my life, or at least the visible parts of my internal landscape.

Another good friend helped me unload my possessions in my parents’ basement in Ottawa, and I was soon off to Thailand, where I’d lived previously for a year. I’d fallen in love with this land so far from my own in every way; this time, like the last time, I had no agenda or future plans. I was older, though. There was a palpable feeling that everything was at stake, and I simultaneously felt like I had everything and nothing to lose. It was one of those rare, crystal-clear moments in a life when I was acutely aware of this edge, that it was a potential precipice… or gateway.

I spent three months consciously committing to self-exploration the main way I knew how, which was to write, though it must be said that doing nothing was also completely alien to me, and a highly subversive and transformative act in its own right, as I realized that not doing the things I was conditioned and expected to do was actually doing a whole heck of a lot more than nothing. I wafted between Thailand, Laos and Indonesia melting into hammocks, eating peasant soups (I love peasant soups; I want to run a peasant soup restaurant), and meeting special person after special person in budget guesthouse after ramshackle abode, many of whom I’m still in touch with today. I marveled at the fact that I never once, for a second, felt lost or confused. I had granted myself a gigantic time-out, and I was not so much making the most of it, as surrendering to the knowledge that life had to be lived right now, exactly as it was, exactly as I was, with no past and no future. Counter to everything I knew about myself, I magically embraced it.

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In Ubud, Indonesia, I was rummaging for books in a secondhand shop (these are sadly all but lost to the wayside in the region now), where I needed to find three to make an exchange. About to give up, I made the strange decision to crouch down and look behind a row of books lodged against the front window to see if anything had fallen – it had. Sri Aurobindo’s “Our Many Selves” was one of many landmark moments of 2010 that profoundly changed things. It is a dense and difficult book, but I couldn’t put it down and I quite honestly felt like something bigger than I am was guiding this almost hallucinogenic (I was sober) reading experience, much of it at the airport, where I stayed overnight before an early morning flight. The book suggested that we can’t transcend ourselves, our egos, until we fully understand the many facets of our personality and character. I took this straight to heart and made it my mission to catalogue as much of myself as I understood at the time.

Everyday for three months, I wrote about one of the aspects of the self that was living inside of me and was my interface with the world. I called them “Little” versions of me: Little Timid, Little Communicative, and so on. I wrote page after page, day after day, surrounded by absolute love and kindness by everyone around me. There was the jewelry artist who suggested I try a Reiki session in Nong Khai (I’ll get back to this life-changing moment), a young Korean musician in Nong Khiau, Laos, with whom there was a language barrier, so that we sat on our neighboring balconies and just smiled, and somehow protected each other. There was a Scandinavian philosopher recovering from food poisoning in Vang Vieng, Laos, with whom I shared so many of those kinds of deeply intense conversations that stay in your psyche long after the content has disappeared. I met a brilliant medical student on the River Kwai in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, who suggested I try a Vipassana meditation retreat when I told her I felt a calling to learn to meditate, but didn’t want anything that was remotely trying to sell me a religion or even hinted of cultism.

Was I fully coming to understand myself after three months? Certainly not, and certainly not in any direct or concise way. Looking back, though, I can see a woman on the cusp of something that felt huge, even if it couldn’t be touched or tasted. I was most definitely earnest. I thought I was earnestly looking to know myself better, but I can see now that more importantly, I was willing, maybe for the very first time, to start regarding myself with an attitude of love – not harshness, not self-judgment, not recrimination, but kindness and love. I was finally ready, and even desperate, to come back to myself, to treat myself with the same kind of compassion I naturally felt for others. It was (is) a long, harrowing process of meeting myself with curiosity, openness and a real sense of caring.

At the end of those three months, I found myself returning to what would become – and still is, and will always be – the home in my heart of Nong Khai, Thailand. Nestled into a little pocket of heaven in Northeastern Thailand overlooking the Mekhong river is a guesthouse called Mut Mee, where many tourists come to stay for a night on their way to the border city of Vientiane, Laos, and where many fall in love with the serene quietude and the kindred spirits they meet, and don’t leave for months. It’s where I was recommended, months earlier, to have a Reiki session with Beatrix of the Nong Khai Alternative Center, tucked into the same little alley as the guesthouse, an oasis for healing, soul-soothing, learning and self-awareness. That one Reiki session was so powerful that I knew I had to start studying this healing modality – and so I returned, and this return felt like the first step of a path with direction, leading back to myself. This Pantrix center, established by two brilliant yogis – and artists, and so much more – Pancho and Beatrix, has grown over the last decades to become a true home, a mecca, really, for people interested in developing as yogis, healers … and humans. Pancho and Beatrix are as true as true yogi can come, and they’ve have become the dearest teachers who have helped and guided me in ways I will never be able to express in words. Beatrix is also a Reiki master and teacher and a stunningly insightful astrologer, and Pancho is a master-of-just-about-all trades who brings wisdom, joy, a generosity of spirit and an interdisciplinary approach to the teaching of yoga. Pantrix offers free daily meditations with Pancho, seven day Intro yoga classes and intensive one-month courses and special workshops, and an overall welcoming energy that I couldn’t recommend more to anyone looking for a cleanse of mind, body and spirit. Silvie, a long time resident of Nong Khai, does amazing CranioSacral therapy and Shiatsu sessions and dance workshops just down the alleyway, and Aey, proprietor of the Hornbill Bookshop, has make her shop more than a place of commerce; she has welcomed us into her home over and over, and has transformed her beautiful space into a coffeeshop and restaurant, where she serves food, smoothies and love in equal doses.

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Here in Nong Khai, I began studying Reiki and yoga, and almost immediately met my now-husband, Takeshi, who had just arrived for the first time after his visa run to Laos. I had recently completed my first 10-day meditation retreat, and it turns out and he had already done several in this style. We eagerly talked about everything that falls under the rubric of life. I told him I’d cancelled my 10-day stopover to Tokyo on the way back to Canada to stay in Thailand a few months longer, and joked that now Japan had come to me. Our connection was strong and quick, and it wasn’t long before we were making plans to do one of Pantrix’s one-month yoga intensives, and then journey on to India. We ended up doing several more of these courses and retreats over the next few years.

Ten years on, I can’t believe I have been with my love for a decade. I’m not surprised, though, to find that who I am today is so much of an ongoing product – project? Result? – of the seeds that were planted in 2010. Our journey took us to India, back to Thailand regularly and to Japan, where we made a home for six years. We have been through ups and downs, heartaches and joys, have found ourselves meeting each other and ourselves anew over and over, even as we met the challenges of feeling lost and wayward as often as we found ourselves gently touching what feels like life purpose.

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We have recently moved to Canada – not only Canada, but my hometown of Ottawa, where, to be truthful, I never, ever thought I would live again once I left at the age of 23 to pursue my Masters degree in Toronto. It felt like the right time to be near family again, but being back here, where I so unceremoniously dumped my life’s possessions a decade ago, is doing quite a number on my emotions and sense of self. I feel in many ways like I’m “back where I started”, as though the last decade never happened. At the same time, as I look into myself, I’m not sure what is left of that woman-on-the-edge of 10 years ago.

At the heart of it, we, and everything around is, is changing all the time, every single second. Time does not wait for us. We can’t really look at the numbers like 2020 and neatly package our goals and expectations into a new year or decade. Still, though, we are human, and big numbers like this are a beautiful chance for us to tap in and check on our state of being. I am tremendously grateful to have given myself a chance, back in 2010, to try out a new way of being in the world that immediately brought me more profoundly closer to my heart than I’ve ever been. The challenge – and joy – is to know that this journey does not end, no matter where our life’s circumstances take us.

The gift of time is really the gift of opportunity, to discover what it is that make our hearts sing, and to create the song, note by note. Happy, happy 2020 and beyond …

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If you happen to be in Thailand, or want to make your way there, these are highly recommended:

Mut Mee Guesthouse, Nong Khai – http://www.mutmee.com

Nong Khai Alternative Center – http://pantrix.net

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A Travel Poem

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What is the promise of a new journey
if not an awakening of soul’s stirring,
an expansion of the privileges of new dawn,
and the singular experience of renewal
as we search for the morning sun
after night’s dark and restless charms,
and bathe ourselves in the soft heat
that has been all the way around the world
and has so many stories to tell us?
How is it possible not to seek communion
with each of the places the sun has been
that has painted us with all this life?

– Tammy Takahashi

I Want to Be

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I want to be like the sun,
using my incredible power
to light up the world.
 
I want to give like the tree
that stands the test of time
to give us our chance at life.
 
I want to sing like the birds
who create peace and beauty
every time they make a sound.
 
I want to know like the sky
that looks without limitation
and inspires all imagination
 
I want to feel like the moon
allowing all emotions safe harbor
with an open eye and heart
 
I want to bud like a flower
with not even a slight doubt
about my inherent perfection
 
I want to aim like the wind
happy with all the directions
travelling so far and so light
 
I want to roar like the ocean
with her wild, untamed strength
that comes from her fluidity
 
I want to love like Time,
which cannot exist without us,
and extends to all without end.
 
– Tammy Takahashi

Love Stories Everywhere

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There are love stories everywhere,
in the butterflies of first caresses,
in the clouds shaped like hearts.
Love can be found in the flowers
opening each morning to feed the bees,
in a mother’s warm, soothing embrace.
There is love in interlocking treetops,
in their roots intertwined underground
to help each other, and feed the world.
Love builds a mama bird’s nest
for her babies’ fledgling first days,
and makes a rainbow from rain.
Love arches the sun up toward the moon,
and the moon across the breadth of sky,
and love makes all the oceans swell.
Love lets us forgive our gravest mistakes,
and come to believe in new beginnings,
And love lets me reach deep inside,
where I sometimes forget love resides,
and turn all of the darkest places to light,
until I know: love stays, love abides.
 
– Tammy Takahashi

Your Small Gestures Matter

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Sometimes I think that if we had even
the smallest notion in our wily minds
that keep spinning the same old stories
for us day after day, year after year,
of how many other ways it can always be,
we would immediately look for this door.
We would stop thinking we have to make
the greatest journeys and grand gestures
to make the profound changes we seek.
Have you ever tried to smile through tears?
It feels at first like an alien invasion, strange,
unwanted, until the body responds in kind,
ignites from deep within, bearing lightness.
The smallest hand gesture, brilliantly new,
and suddenly we are carrying ourselves
as a different person, with a purpose,
perhaps, we didn’t know had been calling.
Have you ever seen cherry blossoms bloom?
Without ever leaving its one sacred place
In the world of cycles, seasons and Time,
it does the only thing it knows how to do,
but does it with all the effort of its being,
which is not effort at all, but fulfillment,
and for the briefest moment in our history,
because every single blossom did the same,
we have a tree that moments ago was bare,
and is now grander than any work of art,
and the blossoms have not arrived to stay,
but to live out their short symphony with grace,
and leave the tree stronger for their presence,
and leave a world that will never be the same.
 
– Tammy Takahashi