Baby, I’m AMAZED

Years ago, I read a famous book on spirituality. The person in the book went to a metaphysical bookstore in LA and while she was browsing, a book jumped off the shelf and into her hands. Without a creative impulse, I decided that because I was reading this, I too needed to get to the same bookstore so magic could land in my hands.

I was a copycat trying to lighten my darkness of depression, unemployment and feeling victimized by the world.

After an obstacle course in getting there, I arrive at the book store. A woman approaches me in the self-help aisle. She asks me for money. I tell her that I don’t have anything for her. I leave incensed. This was not what I came here for. I feel like I took a wrong turn. Then another. I wasn’t looking to help. I was looking to BE helped. Gawd!

As I return home and park, a homeless woman approaches me and screams how she has lost her car, her family and her job and that I NEED to help her. She is scary. But I am scarier at this point. I scream back that I don’t have anything for her and I huff away. Another wrong turn towards…well not towards what I want. Double Gawd!

Stoopid book on spirituality. Nothing magical happened. ONCE AGAIN, I am overlooked! No empathy coming my way *pout pout pout*

A few years later, a co-worker of mine (I was working at this point, but I wasn’t much happier), and I went up to the Mt. Washington home of guru Paramahansa Yogananda. It was lovely.

I had been raised around new agey-ness and meditation, but I was never really good at the sitting still with my thoughts. So although I could get on-board with the teachings and the philosophies, I couldn’t put meditation into practice effectively. Still, the location was serene and quiet.

I no longer carry that darkness with me. I know how to be happy, live in gratitude and be more empathetic towards those who are suffering. I have even learned how to meditate to a point where I can almost feel my body exude light.

That doesn’t mean I don’t succumb to negative energy. I do. But I can usually change course as it’s happening.

This past week, however, I found that I was working double-time to get back on the feel-good-train. It was exhausting. I came home Friday night and told Shaka about it. He said, “Maybe you’re not supposed to fight it so much. Employ the downstream thinking you usually practice.” He was right. But I didn’t hear him finish his sentence since I was stuffing my face with chocolate covered pretzels and then I fell dead asleep like some tired, weird, cartoon bear.

The next day, after watching a documentary on Paramahansa Yogananda, I exclaim to Shaka, (with the same desperate fervor that prompted me to go to the metaphysical bookstore many years ago), “I must take you to do the labyrinth at the Mt. Washington location. It’s beautiful and serene but there is this labyrinth that you HAVE to do! it’s really cool!”

“A maze?”

“A labyrinth. Not a maze. There are no walls or anything. I used to do this with my co-worker. We went a few times.”

“Cool!” (he’s so easygoing)

So I call the place and find out they will be open Sunday. I ask about the labyrinth.

The woman on the phone doesn’t recall there being one. I hang up, knowing there IS one, but we will have to find it on our own when we go.

After the past week of exhaustion and frustration,  I was slowly turning my weekend around 180 degrees. Life was good!

So after voting for our friend and his slate (United Progressives) as delegates for  of AD 46 (which was exciting to be a part of – and he won!),

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we got a text from Mads that there was a soft opening for Groundworks Coffee in North Hollywood.

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It’s in an old train station, right by the Metro. We loved it!

Time was running tighter than I wanted. We had reservations for an early dinner at Lucques (a generous Christmas gift from Shaka’s sister), so I was getting nervous that there wouldn’t be time to go to the labyrinth. Shaka, the zen master he is, assures me that downstream thinking is our friend and we will make it on time to do it all.

The twisty-turny roads towards the SRF on Mt. Washington are more windy than I remember. Shaka is questioning whether I have actually ever been here.

“It’s been awhile,” I tell him. Which it has, but the terrain is not familiar. My co-worker drove us there before so who knows how much I was paying attention (a little not at all).

We arrive! It’s breathtaking! The sky was a clean, just-rained kind of clear that you see in movies.

We find parking pretty quickly. Then, we look for the labyrinth.

The grounds are gorgeous, but I am not seeing what I remember in my head. We come upon the sundial. “This is where it was!” I screech.

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“This is beautiful. Does it matter if we find the maze?”

“It’s a labyrinth! And it was here! Where did it go? Come on! Let’s see if it got moved.”

We walk to an open space of green, surrounded by palm trees and foliage whose look and smell lies deep in my childhood memories of Pasadena.

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We sit on a bench. My gaze darts around the open space like I am looking for a late uber driver. Shaka sits quietly.

“I am feeling something here I haven’t felt in a long time.”

“Yeah, it’s peaceful,” I say unpeacefully.

“Let’s just sit quietly. Listen to the sounds you normally wouldn’t be able to hear.”

He is in meditation with his eyes open and is quite still. I frantically look at my phone to search labyrinth, mt. washington, self-realization fellowship, where-the-f-is-it?

After a few moments, I look at Shaka. “Want to walk around?”

“I want to stay here a little longer.”

“OK.” I close my eyes and try and feel what he is sensing. But I can’t. I am chasing a memory that doesn’t exist and I am frustrated. This was not what I came here for.

At the same time, we look at each other and he agrees to walk to the Visitor Center with me.

Shaka, still in a calm state, looks around the store and is breathing in the incense as two women who work there are talking. They turn to help us. I ask about the labyrinth. I tell them I came around 12 years ago and I walked it. The one woman snarkily says, “Well, if there was one, it must have been before I was here and I have been here 41 years.”

I bristle. We thank them and walk out.

Shaka asks if I am okay.

“How did you know I was not okay with her answer?”

“I know you.”

We wander around the main house and find a path that leads to a beautiful fountain and a view of the other side of the mountain.

I sit. And all of a sudden, a wave of energy hits me.

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I tell Shaka that I am now feeling something and that I would like to sit here for a bit.

And then apparently (according to Shaka), I took a selfie.

But then….I meditated.

Like a flash, I felt the words come into my brain.

The labyrinth isn’t here (echos of Westworld ring in my head, but I digress).

And then the location of where it is, comes to me.

EUREKA!

I come out of my stillness quickly and say, “The maze isn’t here!” I grab my phone and look it up.

“I thought it was a labyrinth.”

“It is! The maz  labyrinth is at Forest Lawn. I went there with my co-worker too! Now, it’s all coming back.”

Shaka, is laughing and shaking his head at me. “You almost missed this entire experience looking for something that wasn’t here. And I am still not sure you have actually been HERE!”

I am reminded at how I was waiting for a book to jump off a shelf and missed the message that was ready to bite me, so long ago. The message that others were worse off. The message that my life was pretty good. The message of being in the moment. That message had evaded me then.

I was doing the same thing now. But why? Wasn’t I better now?

Hadn’t I improved?

Well, yeah, I mean, I guess, now I was able to laugh about it as Shaka gently makes fun of me. Fun of me for thinking that lady was dumb and mean (though I still stand by the fact, her snarky response was NOT necessary), fun of me for not recognizing the gift of finding something unexpectedly great in place of what I was seeking, fun of me for being so anti-zen even though my mission was to get my zen on in this spiritual place.

Driving to our dinner reservations, we were both still laughing about it.

I was just happy that my memory hadn’t failed me entirely.

There was a labyrinth, or rather there is one. Somewhere else.

And I can’t wait to show Shaka some time. We can go there and meditate.

Because, you know it’s just so hard to find the right place to do that if you are already in a maze where you are waiting for books to fall off shelves.

But then I remember, it’s not a maze. It’s a labyrinth.

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Rut-free

It was as if I was asleep and an alarm went off.

This year started off nicely.  Quietly.  Patiently.  That is not how my schedule usually works.  But Shaka had gotten a great gig in December to last for awhile and we could exhale financially.  Which also means emotionally. So we relaxed and enjoyed the pacing.

With the exception of a whirlwind, fabulous trip to Vegas to celebrate Monet’s birthday, the year was still unfolding in slow motion.

But the pacing made me wonder if I was happy or depressed. Mads would invite me to dinners and events and I would turn them down.  We finally talked about it.  She was a little worried.  It wasn’t like me.

Was I depressed?  Was I nervous?  Was I becoming a hermit?

Actually, I was nesting, it turns out. So many art projects and pinterest ideas left me feeling slightly insane. Which made me exhausted.

And then…whoosh! My usual, self-chosen break-neck pace had resumed.

Snapshots of the past month:

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For Valentine’s Day, I made an art piece for Shaka.  It taxed my brain to figure out the best way to get my idea across.  I visited all the craft stores armed with coupons and questions.  The workers there must have wondered if I had partaken in cocaine, red bull or both.  I was a woman with an unquiet mind.  Obvi, meditation was not part of my schedule.  Too peaceful.  I finally finished it.  It is the lyrics from one of Shaka’s songs (his favorite of his creations) deconstructed and combined with hardware for an industrial feel.

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Also, Shaka’s gifts were everything I wanted.  We stayed home in lieu of joining the vday masses and ate pizza and drank the Dom that Shaka’s bro had given us a few years ago.

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My birthday was similar.  I was bathed in love and gifts from everyone.  Also chose to stay home for dinner and watch movies.

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Birthday Brunch was supposed to be held at an outdoor spot in Pasadena.  But as February is wont to do, rain was on the menu.  I had 12 people and the option to eat inside at a place we had never been and whose indoor space was limited, with no reservations was too much for my tender nerves.  I confabbed with Mads to find a place that was affordable, could accommodate, had good yelp reviews, was ambient, and had mimosas.  Found it!  Camilo’s Bistro was a gem!  It was the best way to celebrate with everyone AND the best way to usher in what is becoming a busy spring.

http://www.camilosbistro.com/Camilos_California_Bistro/Home.html

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My cousin Donnie, whose art brings out emotions from all who gaze upon her work, held a cocktail party at her digs for a visiting curator at a museum in Michigan.  It was fun, and interesting and very chill.

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Shaka pulled the gang together for a Little Tokyo adventure. On a Friday night, we met up for Japanese tapas at Fuga Izakaya http://izakayafu-ga.com/.  Zappy got there first and was in a little private area behind a shimmery curtain.  She said since she was sitting there all by herself and was all lit up behind the curtain, she felt like she was a psychic waiting for clients to read their futures in her crystal ball.

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A meeting of the minds with Jazzy and Tamanda to watch the Bachelor finale  discuss our creative plans for the future.  I went kind of off the rails with my calorie counting but it was worth it.

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Reb hosted an Oscar party that was a nice reunion of folks I hadn’t seen in awhile.  Food, per usual, was delicious.  And like last year, I came in second in the Oscar pool.  *shakes fist into the air – so close

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Celebrated BY’s bday down in the Orange Curtain.  The road to get there, however hit a big of a snag. Jazzy, Reb, Shaka and I met at Mads’ to drive down there together.  We made a necessary stop at Starbucks for some fuel.  Jazzy was driving Mads’ car.  Except when she started it up for us to head out on our way, the car wouldn’t start.  It actually did sort of start but took on a life of its own.  We were half-in, half-out of a parking space blocking the already congested, tiny lot.  Tensions were running hotter as the guy in the car parked next to us, sat there with his windows open playing a flute along to the music on the radio.  He wouldn’t help us cuz he said he was better at watching a situation.  CLEARLY flute playing to the radio has made him think life is a film and he is creating the soundtrack.  Jerk floutist. Several people did help though and it turns out that Mads’ car only needed a new battery.  After some reshuffling, we all ended up at BY and Helou’s new place.  Shaka and I were obsessed with getting their dog Cooper to love us. She’s a beautiful Aussie Shepherd and I just love her!  Food was divine and the wine was a-flowing.  Helou is such a fantastic host!  I would hire him always to host any party, though it’s not what he actually does for living.

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I had yet to meet the beautiful baby Marlon.  His parents are the coolest and always throw great fetes.  It was Marlon’s first birthday and Shaka and I were not going to miss meeting this little smiling boy.  It was pirate-themed and Marlon-dad had made a drink that is supposed to be the first written-down cocktail recipe ever (from Pirate times I guess).  It’s called Dark ‘n Stormy and it was delicious.  I am not a rum person, but I could become one if all rum-tails tasted like this.  Marlon-dad couldn’t believe how fast it went.  He underestimated how many “thirsty” people were attending.  It was a hot day, but it was a fun celebration!  This is us after a few Dark ‘n Stormys.

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The Wrecking Crew (a nickname for a group of studio and session musicians that played anonymously on many records in LA during the 1960s.) is being honored in a documentary.  Shaka and I went to check out a screening and met Jazzy and her date.

It was bean bag seating which we had missed out on, so it was SRO for us.  But it was worth it.  Well, I must confess to sitting on the ground between two couches.   If you have a chance to see this film, you should!  It’s kind of amazing what this group of musicians accomplished.  I was amazed at the filmmaker’s music clearance aptitude, cuz there’s a lot of music up in there.

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Shaka and I took Leigh and Aubs to the screening of DreamWorks Animation “Home.”  Based on reviews and word of mouth, I didn’t have high hopes, but was happy to take 7 year old Aubs to a screening and explore downtown.  Well, color me surprised!  I absolutely loved loved loved this film!  The Jim Parsons’-voiced “Oh” is such an adorable little character.

After the screening, we wandered downtown.  I wanted to show them the Last Bookstore, but Aubs had to use the restroom.  Try finding a restroom downtown and everyone will direct you to the Starbucks.  F-that!  I wanted to show her that the world is full of options and locales you won’t find in a strip mall.

We found an indoor-outdoor space that years ago, I had seen with a Jesus-performance-art installation thing happening.

Nowadays, it housed a few cool restaurants and a gelato place – Gelateria Uli. Continue reading