Gravestones, Milestones and a Compass

This morning I received word that my little sister, Judy Zack, passed away at the Casey House Hospice, ending a three-week deterioration in her health. She leaves behind Sam, her husband of more than 45 years, and her two sons, Jonathan and Benjamin. I spent some time with her last week at the hospice to bid her farewell. She was two years younger than me.

Judy’s passing makes me the last surviving member of my childhood family. My brother, Richard, died in 2009. My parents both passed away in 2011. None of my uncles and aunts are left. I have cousins scattered around New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Colorado. But I have not had much contact with them because I lived abroad for so long and then resettled in the Washington metro area, even less since my parents died. Teresa lost her mother in Peru in 2015.

That is a sobering thought, even more than I expected. The emotions have been washing over me all day, and they dive deep inside my core to my heart. It’s a kind of shock wave that leaves me stunned.

For the past three years, I’ve not been writing here, and certainly little about yoga, mindfulness, and all that stuff. I have not gone to a yoga class during that time, but I still practice at home. I meditate everyday. I came to the conclusion that I did not want to journal about my practice. At the same time, I was being pulled by the challenges of new career directions.


2018-07-21Since January, I’ve undergone some major soul-searching about what’s important in my life. In February, Matt and his wife, Helena, had a baby, Greta, in Dublin. That’s just a couple of months after pulling up stakes in San Francisco and resettling in Ireland. In April, Teresa and I went to see them. Talk about putting your finger on the pulse of life!

Those two weeks in Ireland had a life-altering impact on me. We had a great vantage point to explore the city and the island. Just spending time with Greta, Matt and Helena provided Teresa and me with a much broader horizon. Watching my son continue to deepen and enrich his artistic expression drives home the value of following your heart. The love and care showered on Greta is heart-warming. We continue to follow Greta’s growth and charm practically everyday through chats, photos and videos. Every morning, I pick up my phone for a shot of joy because there’s usually a photo of her or Matt’s paintings. It’s only been two months since then and time seems to fly.

New Frontiers

Greta inspired me to listen to a calling that I had not heard in nearly 40 years. I started writing poetry and revisiting my translations of Peruvian poets. I’ve found a channel through which I can yield to the stream of life and explore where it will take me. It’s one of those changes in direction that alters the small and big components of routines, plans and dreams. It provides a new compass for navigating life and the transitions that happen to all of us, especially since I am over 60 years old.

I don’t know how all of this will affect this blog as I move forward. I’ve been blogging for nearly 20 years. Certainly, I am still talking about prana, the life energy that moves us all.

Another goof — this one lasting 10 days — but a bigger lapse hit this blog.

On April 4, WordPress automatically updated my WP installation, and something broke. It was probably one of my plugins or the security settings that interfered, but the site stopped working. When I noticed the stoppage a few days ago, I could not even get into the admin panel. I had to remove all plugs and then get things back into working order. Since I have been ignoring this blog, there are a lot of tasks that have piled up.

Over the past 18 months, blogging has not been my top priority, to say the least. I have been making some of the most significant changes in my professional career, creative roadmap, personal mindset, and daily habits. I have had to focus on a narrow set of priorities to get through this transition. I have also had to pay a price by shortchanging activities that keep me grounded, focused and healthy, including slacking off on yoga and exercise.

I hope to write about this transition, but it will require some processing to get the right perspective and remove the extraneous details. I will keep you posted.

Neglect and broken links

I have not been monitoring this website and the number of bad links has bloomed to 45.  So far tonight, I’ve corrected 10, but I can see that I really need to rewrite some content because some sites have disappeared from the Web, others have undergone technical changes (conversions to WordPress, mainly) and still others require greater research and explanation.

Taking a step back from blogging and yoga

It’s been a while. I have not posted anything here for three months, the longest period I have ever gone without blogging since 2000 (before this blog started in 2004, I had another blog at Peruvian Graffiti). Moreover, I have not written anything substantive since last year, just a couple of quick shots from the hip and photos.

Why? The yoga scene has changed

When I took up yoga, pranayama and meditation, there was only archipelagos of content online across the Internet. I had my list of a handful of blogs, instructional sites, and, of course, Yoga Journal. Now there are abundant resources  available on the Internet, from streaming classes to forums, so many that I have given up trying to track them. Any yoga instructor worth their salt has a branded blog, with an apparel line, DVDs and books. More importantly, regional portals are providing local coverage of the yoga community, and diverse special interest groups (Yoga Service Council and International Association of Yoga Therapists, to name just two) are coalescing around yoga issues.

Even in the early 2000s, the mainstream media rarely covered yoga and related stories so I found it helpful to draw attention to major news stories and commentary that showed the spread of yoga in American culture.  I get Google alerts about yoga news stories everyday, and coverage ranges from quotidian (new studio opening on Main Street, park classes on Sunday) to PR (the fascination with yoga pants) to major (yoga macho Bikram Choudhury loses his copyright trial and the running suit about yoga in California public schools).  We even read about how the Indian government and Hindu culture is reacting to the assimilation of yoga within American society.  We even see yoga postures showing up in commercials and meditation getting billed as the latest productivity enhancement.

Yoga is moving beyond novelty and  trendiness. Increasingly voices are coming forward to ask questions about broader issues, to interpret major challenges to how yoga is practiced in America (insert links here  when I have time to dig them up).

Given these shifts over the past decade, I find it hard to register in my two cents in the blogosphere.

Why? I’ve changed

Last Friday, I took my first restorative class in three months. I’ve not taken a hatha class this year. That does not mean that I don’t practice yoga. I do everyday. I’ve intentionally down-throttled my practice from “trying-too-hard” to just trying to master one pose, savasana.

When I realized that I did not want to keep up a running commentary of yoga events in the news and elsewhere or try “big think” on yoga in America, I thought I could stay focused on my own practice, an aging, white male in search of the double whammy of physical exercise and mindfulness, with healing his subtle wounds as a bonus. But if my own practice is lying motionless on the floor, there’s not much to write home about. Of course, there’s a lot more going on under the skin, but that comes with its own risks.

I’ve also become more agnostic about yoga since about four years ago and even more so since I finished my yoga teacher training two years ago. Patanjali does not make easy sense for me; releasing the tension in my myofascial system does.

In a different vein, my wife dislikes that I reveal my inner life on the Web. I’ve become more aware of how the Internet gives unfiltered access to anyone who wants to search for dirt. I think twice before revealing my private thoughts. I’ve already written enough about my physical and mental health for a prospective employer to hesitate before hiring me. With a name like mine, though, I have a degree of deniability or security in numbers. But just knowing my LinkedIn or Facebook page would be enough to dig up my personal history or commentary about my former bosses or whatever.

Even making quick posts to Twitter or Facebook or Instagram makes me feel scattered all over the Internet.

So my original motives for blogging about yoga have faded, leaving me with the need to find another reason for writing. It’s going to require me to write my way forward.

A couple of hours at NYC art galleries

I am just now getting around to processing all the photos I took on a trip to New York City last month. After riding a cruise around Manhattan, we walked over to the art district and were bowled over by the number of art galleries crammed into a block. It was late afternoon on Saturday so we did not see but a sampling of the exhibits available. Sorry, for the time being, I don’t have the names of the galleries or the artists. We barely had time to take a few pictures.

Healing trauma through yoga reaches the miliary

The military is opening up to non-traditional ways of treating trauma in veterans and wounded soldiers.

Warrior Pose — One way to help veterans with PTSD? Lots of yoga. – The Washington Post
Starting Friday night and running through Sunday, Thurman and 17 yoga teachers from five states will be gathering at Yoga Heights in the Park View neighborhood of the District for yoga for PTSD and trauma training. The studio will host workshops specifically designed to heal and help veterans suffering from both the emotional and physical wounds of war.

I am late with the blog entry, but I have to register the article.

The matriarch of the Chavez clan has left us

Photo: bundled-up woman against snowy backdrop
Teresa’s mother, Maria Luisa, during a snowy visit in 2008

Yesterday, Teresa and I received the painful news that her mother, Maria Luisa Carrasco de Chavez Delgado, had passed away after a long, gradual decline in her health in Peru. Teresa had been down to Lima to see her mother three weeks ago. Tomorrow, Teresa will fly down to Lima again, but this time to join her three sisters in laying her mother to rest.

As the matriarch of a clan  of sisters, Luisa (or Celeste to her intimates) welcomed me into her home 43 years ago when I first fell in love with her daughter. For more than 15 years, she lived right next door to us in Miraflores,  She is intertwined with my memories of Peru. When we moved back to the States in 1996, she came up for Christmas almost every year to visit with us and her other daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.

A critic’s eye

Photo: a bearded man and mature woman critique a painting
While we were out in San Francisco, Matt showed us his art studio at the University of California, Berkeley. Teresa examines his latest work.

My son, who now goes by the name of Matt Smith Chavez,  is on his home stretch for a Master of Art Practice at Berkeley. He’s teaching an undergraduate course this semester, and will do another one in the summer. Graduation is only months away. Then, he’ll have to give up his funky, Bay-front art studio and figure out what he wants to do with the rest of his life. Meanwhile, he just has to create.

This is another brief entry to show that I am still alive, but unable to carry coherent thought for more than a paragraph.