Welcome to my blog..

"We struggle with dream figures and our blows fall on living faces." Maurice Merleau-Ponty

When I started this blog in 2011, I was in a time of transition in my life between many identities - that of Artistic Director of a company (Apocryphal Theatre) to independent writer/director/artist/teacher and also between family identity, as I discover a new family that my grandfather's name change at the request of his boss in WWII hid from view - a huge Hungarian-Slovak contingent I met in 2011. Please note in light of this the irony of the name of my recently-disbanded theatre company. This particular transition probably began in the one month period (Dec. 9, 2009-Jan. 7, 2010) in which I received a PhD, my 20 year old cat died on my father's birthday and then my father, who I barely knew, died too. I was with him when he died and nothing has been the same since. This blog is tracing the more conscious elements of this journey and attempt to fill in the blanks. I'm also writing a book about my grandmothers that features too. I'd be delighted if you joined me. (Please note if you are joining mid-route, that I assume knowledge of earlier posts in later posts, so it may be better to start at the beginning for the all singing, all dancing fun-fair ride.) In October 2011, I moved back NYC after living in London for 8 years and separated from my now ex-husband, which means unless you want your life upended entirely don't start a blog called Somewhere in Transition. In November 2011, I adopted a rescue cat named Ugo. He is lovely. As of January 2012, I began teaching an acting class at Hunter College, which is where one of my grandmothers received a scholarship to study acting, but her parents would not let her go. All things come round…I began to think it may be time to stop thinking of my life in transition when in June 2012 my stepfather Tom suddenly died. Now back in the U.S. for a bit, I notice, too, my writing is more overtly political, no longer concerned about being an expat opining about a country not my own. I moved to my own apartment in August 2012 and am a very happy resident of Inwood on the top tip of Manhattan where the skunks and the egrets roam in the last old growth forest on the island.

I am now transitioning into being married again with a new surname (Barclay-Morton). John is transitioning from Canada to NYC and as of June 2014 has a green card. So transition continues, but now from sad to happy, from loss to love...from a sense of alienation to a sense of being at home in the world.

As of September 2013 I started teaching writing as an adjunct professor at Fordham University, which I have discovered I love with an almost irrational passion. While was blessed for the opportunity, after four years of being an adjunct, the lack of pay combined with heavy work load stopped working, so have transferred this teaching passion to private workshops in NYC and working with writers one on one, which I adore. I will die a happy person if I never have to grade an assignment ever again. As of 2018, I also started leading writing retreats to my beloved Orkney Islands. If you ever want two weeks that will restore your soul and give you time and space to write, get in touch. I am leading two retreats this year in July and September.

I worked full time on the book thanks to a successful crowd-funding campaign in May 2014 and completed it at two residencies at Vermont Studio Center and Wisdom House in summer 2015. I have done some revisions and am shopping it around to agents and publishers now, along with a new book recently completed.

I now work full-time as a freelance writer, writing workshop leader, coach, editor and writing retreat leader. Contact me if you are interested in any of these services.

Not sure when transition ends, if it ever does. As the saying goes, the only difference between a sad ending and a happy ending is where you stop rolling the film.

For professional information, publications, etc., go to my linked in profile and website for Barclay Morton Editorial & Design. My Twitter account is @wilhelminapitfa. You can find me on Facebook under my full name Julia Lee Barclay-Morton. More about my grandmothers' book: The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick & Jani

In 2017, I launched a website Our Grandmothers, Our Selves, which has stories about many people's grandmothers. Please check it out. You can also contact me through that site.

In May, I directed my newest play, On the edge of/a cure, and have finally updated my publications list, which now includes an award-winning chapbook of my short-story White shoe lady, which you can find on the sidebar. I also have become a certified yoga instructor in the Kripalu lineage. What a year!

And FINALLY, I have created a website, which I hope you will visit, The Unadapted Ones. I will keep this blog site up, since it is a record of over 8 years of my life, but will eventually be blogging more at the website, so if you want to know what I am up to with my writing, teaching, retreats and so on, the site is the place to check (and to subscribe for updates). After eight years I realized, no, I'm never turning into One Thing. So The Unadapted Ones embraces the multiplicity that comprises whomever I am, which seems to always be shifting. That may in fact be reality for everyone, but will speak for myself here. So, do visit there and thanks for coming here, too. Glad to meet you on the journey...

Friday, August 6, 2021

The Unadapted Ones...

Have not posted here since the whole COVID debacle, since I now blog at The Unadapted Ones. I have a lot of news and changes in my life since moving blog over there in December 2019, including getting COVID and long haul COVID in 2020 bleeding into 2021. Fun times! New publications in Prairie Schooner and Heavy Feather Review, and the wonderful news of now having a literary agent for my memoir-in-progress, in large part thanks to this most recent Unadapted blog post.

So, if you want to follow this particular bouncing ball, that's the place to go!

I also have some openings in a writing retreat in October in Scotland and hope to begin teaching yoga again soon, though right now need to focus on finishing up my new book proposal. You can follow my website and blog for latest info and announcements, publication links, etc.

Thanks for joining me on this rollercoaster life thing. Hope you are safe and well.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Bye bye 2019 and the 2010s...I am ready for the Roaring Twenties.

I wanted to write a year summary and felt daunted, then realized it should be a decade summary and was more daunted. This decade has been a rollercoaster from start to finish.

A thumbnail (the details are all here in this blog, at least from 2011 onward, with reference to 2010).

At the end of 2009, things were looking up. I had finally finished my PhD and was dragging myself out of the worst of the grief over my miscarriage in 2007, a day after my wedding.

But at the very end of the year, my 19 year old cat died while I was in the US (at the time I lived in London) and then on that day I had what turned out to be the last phone conversation with my father on his birthday (same day my beloved cat died). A few days later, at the beginning of 2010, he was rushed to ICU, and I flew out to Sacramento to see him before he died. I have written about that prior, but that floored me...but also clearing out his storage area I found photos of my grandparents when they were young. So while I was in a grief fog clusterfuck, I also found a seed of what would become my life for most of the decade, writing about my grandmothers. But first, months of grief fog for a father I barely knew, who I lost twice, once in life and then again in death.

This decade has been like that. Oh joy, then death, then in the death grief fog a seed...and something grows...then joy, then death, then...rinse repeat.

My second marriage, begun with such hope and joy that was cruelly crushed the first day of our honeymoon (the miscarriage), was disintegrating in slow motion by 2010 and by 2011 had ended. That along with wanting to work on this book about my grandmothers—which desire also had contributed to my closing up my London based theater company, Apocryphal—led me to make a leap with no safety net back to the states. I say no safety net because when made decision no job or place to live, but I was rich in friends, one of which let me stay at her place to make that decision.

In the summer, I spent time with my cousin Darcy, celebrating her remission from cancer, and  researching our shared grandmother, my mother's mother, in Minneapolis. Earlier that summer I met the lost part of my grandfather's family, lost because he had had to change his name during the Red Scare to save his job. I found clues to his real identity in all the stuff in my father's chaotic storage unit in January 2010. Again with the seeds.

Then, poof, back in NYC...where I discovered Inwood at the top tip of Manhattan when trying to find someplace I could afford, and moved here. That was a great find. The parks, the green, and then in October, the beginning of autumn in Inwood Hill Park was a revelation. This was October 2011. I had found a job at Bronx Community College and then later at Hunter.

Ugo the IWW (Inwood Writing Workshop) cat
A month later, I adopt Ugo the cat, who I found online at WaHi Cat Colony. He was an adult cat, so harder to place and still available. When I saw him, I knew he was mine.

I then am shortlisted for a full-time teaching post back in UK in May 2012 and fly back to interview and audition for it. They choose someone else. My ego is bruised, but I am so grateful for the ability to come back to NYC that this is the feeling that takes over.

My stepfather Tom sends me a lovely affirmative note about this.

A week later, Tom is in the ICU. He dies a few days after my birthday, Bloomsday (during which I read him Ulysses) and Father's Day. I am holding his feet when he dies and feel giant waves of love that almost knock me over. I am devastated and moved. I have a dream of a net and a diamond. Indra's Diamond my mother says. She is more bereft than me. Who wouldn't be?

I end up finding my own apartment on the top floor of a five-story walk-up in Inwood. Tom left all his kids including me (his step-daughter) a small amount of money, which was enough to furnish a new place (with Ikea and Housing Works and Freecycle). I got it all ready for me to live in, including my own study. I began to work more in earnest on my book. And decide to take some extra time to sort out my life.

Then comes Hurricane Sandy. Happily, my apartment survived and Inwood had electricity, so was able to host people up here who were stranded downtown. Sadly, we lost some huge trees in Inwood Hill Park. The beginning of understanding how vulnerable NYC is to climate change sinks in.

A couple months later, a friend who I had met at a meditation retreat where we were accidental roommates talks me into online dating, and I meet my future husband almost immediately.

Didn't see that coming. I was just trying to get a date before I turned 50.

John and me in Montreal at Botanical Gardens Valentine's Day 2013
Much happiness ensues of course, because it's super fun to be in love. Then of course all the issues rear their head about money and citizenship, since he is Canadian. Very long story short, we do everything by the book and he ends up down here, but there was a bunch of stuff he had to deal with in Canada and that all was way more complicated than he would have wished. We survived it all, but it was challenging, as in years of being challenging, in an apartment I had chosen for me alone, not two people.

On the happy side, I kept working on my book, got support from a crowd-funding campaign (all this is in blog circa 2014) and other votes of encouragement. John helped me with all of this and has been a relentless (in a good way) cheerleader of my work. I was given fellowships to residencies, and that helped, too. I directed a staged reading of ''whatever God is..." and Ian W. Hill directed My First Autograce Homeography (1973-74) at The Brick, all in 2014. My first short story publication as an adult also happened in 2014 with The God Thing, which has since been nominated or been a finalist in some awards, which is gratifying.

There have been many highways and byways with the book, The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani, and with luck it will get published fairly soon. That is a long story that I cannot give details about, because much is in process. But it had been a steep learning curve for a theater chick to figure out publishing, and wow, it's different, but OK.

However, I was beginning to figure stuff out and making some headway when I came back from a lovely yoga retreat at Kripalu in December 2016 to a phone call from my mother that David Berry, my ex-stepfather, the playwright, had died suddenly of a heart attack, boom. I have written about that a lot too. But his sudden death floored me. It was two months after the DTs struck the US, and I was convinced that is what killed him, a gay Vietnam Vet artist. What greater insult than a homophobic insane person who had 'bone spurs' that he used to weasel out of service in Vietnam.

I lurched through another series of months in a grief fog, but also managed to finish another book I had begun in September. However, I was adjunct professoring, and it was killing me. I was exhausted all the time, and the pay, in case you don't know, in terms of hours work, is basically minimum wage.

I realized it was killing me right around the time I read a book that is the most iconic book of the decade for me: The Body Keeps the Score. I mark the time I read that book (early 2017) as the moment when I realized I was not a broken toy. But instead had a normal response to severe traumatic events. I cannot overstate how important this moment was. How healing, and how much my life has changed since.

From then on (Feb-March 2017), I mark as an existential shift in my understanding of myself and the world. I quit being an adjunct and decided to go full-time freelance, which has worked better than I could have dreamed. I decided to go to Westray, one of the Orkney Isles in Scotland in June, where I had not been since 2010. I had written my PhD there, and fallen in love with Orkney in 2003. It has always felt like a spiritual home, and some part of me feels severed from my soul until I get back there. I had postponed this trip a number of times because of my relationship with John and trying to work out schedules and time, etc. But I knew this time I could postpone it no more. My mother and John were going to go with me, but then could not for separate reasons.

Two stones from Ring of Brodgar in Orkney
Dear reader, I went anyway. And that made all the difference.

I stayed on in the olde Manse overlooking where the North Sea and Atlantic meet and revised my second book, Girls Meeting God, to get it in shape for submission, and taught my first ever private writing workshop, on this small Orkney Island, which was a  success and a revelation.

John meanwhile was able to sort out his Canadian albatross, and so when I returned, we were in much better shape on many levels.

Thus began the life I have now: writing, teaching writing workshops, coaching writers, reviewing manuscripts, editing, and sometimes back to theater.

Speaking of which, when the #metoo movement began in 2017 that allowed me to write my stage text On the edge of/a cure. Working with MoveOn and their text team to help elect Doug Jones in December 2017 allowed me to have a reading of this play. I did not realize until seeing this political work effect a positive change how paralyzed I had been...ever since watching DT stalk around behind Hillary Clinton on the debate stage. I could not move during the debate. Literally. But did not realize how totally paralyzed I was in terms of a certain kind of voice until I wasn't.

On the edge of allowed me to speak about things in a way I never have done before. It was also possible because of reading The Body Keeps the Score and Leigh Gilmore's Limits of Autobiography. In 2018, another play I had written in response to another trauma response I was having because of various terrorist incidents, Shit, was produced by IATI as part of their play development program. I got to see another director work with my texts and that was lovely.

Other reading that inspired me along this journey include Elena Ferrante's Neopolitan Quartet, Joan Didion's everything, Jennifer Egan's writing, and the ongoing ever present influence of Doris Lessing. With some key assists from James Baldwin and David Foster Wallace. Yeah, it's weird, I know that. If you know me, you understand the breadth, depth, and gaping holes in my weirdly selective knowledge of Whatever.

2018 saw the expansion of the freelance work, up to and including starting a retreat for other writers in Westray, an experiment that succeeded enough to repeat it in 2019, twice, and yes, going again in 2020. I also tried again in the spring of 2018 to heal from the traumatic miscarriage in 2007. I went to a workshop at Kripalu hosted by outside teachers that was so wrong it was almost hilarious. But  when I went to the Kripalu yoga classes I felt at home. I made a decision: I would become if at all possible a Kripalu yoga teacher so could be part of carrying on this important lineage, which is the opposite of spiritual bypass faux positivity crap that makes my skin crawl.

Back track to the shit storm of 2016, to remember that was the year also that my beloved cousin Darcy's asshole cancer returned. So the drumbeat underneath all my activity was: how long does she have left and how could I help? The answer was: all I could do was make phone calls and send crystals and gifts when possible, and she would die in September of 2018. My biggest fear in leading the retreat in 2018 was that she would die before I got home. Instead I just got a severe case of frozen shoulder. And the news Girls Meeting God was a semi-finalist for a book prize. The gods are fucking weird. In 2018 John was able to travel to Westray with me, and we had a week together as a 5-year-delayed honeymoon, so that was cool, too, but again all was overcast with the reality of Darcy's illness, the shoulder, and starting a writing retreat. Someday, we will have a proper honeymoon.

I was able to get to St. Paul at the end of August to see Darcy before she died. I wrote about that, too, and someday maybe that will get published. It took me well over a year to write about it even as a short essay. She was the closest I ever had to a sister so the word 'cousin' doesn't cut it as a term to describe her meaning to me. Suffice to say her dying plummeted me into a grief fog that was so complete, I have almost no memory of autumn 2018. I do remember trying to revise my book and sending it in, leading a workshop somehow, going to her memorial in November and then my memory does not return until December 2018 when I went to a very good healing workshop run by Aruni, who is a Kripalu veteran teacher, on grief, loss and renewal. Without that series of days and sharing with a few other people who were equally poleaxed by grief, I am not sure I would be functional.

The one thing I was able to do consistently throughout 2018 was text with MoveOn and that helped the Dems flip the House anyway. Did thousands of texts a day, like clockwork. I am proud of the work I did and the many, many others who did so, too.

Then in 2019 I focused on healing. I had intended to do yoga teacher training in October 2018 but my shoulder ixnayed that. (The body Does keep the score.) I began studying Qi Gong with Alicia Fox, which was transformative. I decided not to try to write because I was exhausted. I taught two workshops, though.

Artistic discoveries of this year that were revelatory include Hilma af Klint at the Guggenheim in January and April, her paintings gave me life. The fact she knew a hundred years ago her work was not legible until the future was amazing, and now they quiver with meaning. In October, I discovered Betye Saar at the new MoMA. She is in her 90s, and only now being discovered. If you are a female artist, you best live long to see your work recognized in your own lifetime.

Graduating on Summer Solstice at Kripalu
I also directed a staged reading of On the edge of/a cure. That was both incredibly healing and challenging work that took place between February and May 2019. By the time I was done with that, I was ready to finally do the Kripalu yoga teacher training in June, which shifted me irrevocably. It was the capstone I intuited it might be that drew all the parts together, all the fragments somehow settling into one person. I have written a lot about that, too, but mentioning it here again because key to so much. Getting underneath fixed, linear story has been a cornerstone of my artistic project and lo and behold it's the cornerstone of yoga, too. Fancy that. But to embody this rather than just have an intellectual or artistic framework is a whole other level of living it.

At the 2018 retreat I worked on a novella and short story. The short story White shoe lady won the Nomadic Press chapbook contest in May and was published in December, and the novella I am about to begin revising. In the 2019 retreats, I began writing about my nonlinear journey through yoga. I am writing a lot now. If I had not allowed myself the long down time, though, I don't think I would have the reserves I do now.

During 2019 my workshops and retreats doubled and I now have numerous coach clients, and my own work is beginning to find a home. I am now teaching yoga, which may not seem like a big deal, but me it is huge, because to teach the way I do means embodying radical self-acceptance and compassion, so it keeps me honest.

the shelves that John built! So much more space & writing can breathe (me too!)
And equally, I spent the last week before Christmas organizing my office and the last few days doing the same thanks to John building me new shelves. John is doing well, too, in school and full time work, thriving in a city he moved to in his fifties, not a small thing.

In other words, instead of rushing off somewhere Else to heal or whatever, I am here, in my own space, in my own skin, in my own life. I am 56. It has taken this long. Oh, and I finally created a website, which relates to all this, because I brought together all my various moving parts. The Unadapted Ones. Check it out. Most likely my next blog post will be there, the one that greets the New year and new decade. This is the one that sums up the decade this blog covers. Maybe I am more settled now. I fear saying that, however, less it calls upon a real or psychic earthquake... I began this blog in lieu of a website in 2011. I wasn't sure what I wanted to be when I grew up...

For 2020, I am present and accounted for, accepting reality as it is rather than as I would hope or fear it to be (as much as possible, understanding no one human ever totally can do that). If I keep staying sober one day at a time in February, I will be 33 years clean and sober. I should add without that rock solid ground, None of this is possible. And without the companionship and counsel of many other people who also stay clean and sober one day at a time, I would be bereft.

So...Happy New Year. Happy New Decade.

Find what brings you joy and go towards that more. Accept what is weighing you down is in fact weighting you down, and if possible, slough it off. And if you have any trauma in your background, and you have not read it yet, for the love of all that is holy read The Body Keeps the Score.

Let's help carry each other to shore.

path to Maes Sand outside of West Manse in Westray

the water the shore the distance the light the shadow...Westray
le puffins at Castle O'Burrian, Westray

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Chapbook published and FINALLY a website!

One of the reasons I have been so silent of late is creating a website. Finally! Back when I started this blog in 2011, I mentioned the need for a website, but I started this blog instead. I called it Somewhere in Transition, because I was, between so many identities and then more than I even knew, between countries and relationships and so much else besides.

Well, this year, I finally have found a way to put all these fragmented parts of me in one place, the aptly named website: The Unadapted Ones. Please do check it out. This blog will eventually migrate over there, since there is a blog option. As of now they coexist, and you can link to this blog from that site, but am guessing in about a year, I will be mostly there. I won't take this blog down, because it's a record of eight years of my life, and also still has the most comprehensive list of publications, etc.

However, this was a big step, and when I pressed 'publish' on the site, I felt nauseous, but so far the response has been overwhelmingly positive, so go check it out and tell me what you think. You can subscribe to that site, too, and get updates on all parts of my life, including: publications, writing workshops, writing retreats, coaching and manuscript review services and yoga classes, among other things. I will be adding features and sections over time, but wanted to publish it now so finally had a place to send folks instead of grumbling about how I don't have a website yet. My favorite thing is, I finally have all the wonderful testimonials people have written me over these past few years about my teaching and coaching and retreats all in one place. Hurrah!

The other big news is my short story White shoe lady, which won the Nomadic Press Bindle Award in May is now published as a limited edition, illustrated chapbook! You can order here! I wrote this story on Westray in 2018 during the first writing retreat I led there, and it was inspired by growing up as a young child in rural Maine in the 1960s. Support a great press and order the chapbook! You can then read the story, too.

I hope to have some more good news to tell you in a month or so, but it's still being worked out so can't make it public yet, but fingers crossed and all that.

So, here's to bringing all the pieces together and embracing The Unadapted Ones!

Monday, December 9, 2019

In Blue review

Sometimes I use my blog to review theater that I see that interests me enough to write about it, and this is such a time. I was lucky enough to see In Blue, written and directed by Ran Xia at The Tank in NYC on Friday night (running through December 15), and wanted to share some thoughts on that.

The play does not reveal itself easily. The subjects are poet and playwright Else Lasker-Schuler and Blue Rider painter Franz Marc. I am on not an expert on either of them, and am not going to pretend to be for this review, though I am a fan of The Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) school of painting, its most famous member being Kandinsky. I went to the play in part because of a memory of going to the museum in Munich devoted to this work back in 1984 and being blown away by the riot of colors and the sheer energy of the work.

Franz and Else's connection is not clearly factual or fictional, though according to the play there were postcards Franz sent to Else, and he illustrated one of her poems with his famous blue horses. But the sense of In Blue is that it is working much like abstract-expressionist paintings, vivid imagery that does not cohere to a specific story in the naturalistic sense of that word. What makes it hold together are the performances of Alyssa Simon and Finn Kilgore, who are grounded in each moment wherever it may go. Simon as Lasker-Schuler especially needs to move through multiple levels of presence, sometimes even within the same sentence, and does so with grace, ease, and humor, whereas Kilgore is an anchored fictional presence, seemingly evoked from Lasker-Schuler's memory and dreams. The direction and use of the beautiful set designed by Sarah Adkins and lights designed gorgeously by Becky Heisler McCarthy is imaginative and wonderful to watch unfold (sometimes literally). And, a special shout out to the costume designer Florence Lebas for sourcing the historically accurate and drop-dead gorgeous Lasker-Schuler shoes, which alone are worth the price of admission. The musician, Luke Santy, who is credited as performing a 'live score' is also a delight, and his presence and live music, including his interaction with Simon, adds a necessary present tense sense to the moment to moment flow of this multi-layered piece.

I am not attempting to be overly oblique here, but just wanting to evoke a sense of what it is like to watch this show. At first I became obsessed with dates (since many were mentioned) and where we were from moment to moment. Then I gave up and it got easier to follow. In the end, the bits, like in a Blue Rider painting, revealed themselves as a whole. The difference between theater and a painting being of course that the painting you see all at once whereas the play accumulates over time. So, I would counsel patience while watching, as it will all eventually come together, not in a linear whole but like a certain kind of painting or experimental music.

I do recommend going to see this play, as it gives insights into the early 20th Century, with some uncanny and uncomfortable parallels to our own tumultuous beginning of the 21st, and to a kind of love and connection via art and words that transcends—albeit in a troubled fashion—even such inconveniences as death and time.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Yoga for Writers and (over)Thinkers - an invitation to a workshop

Integrating my teaching of writing and yoga has been a goal of mine for a while, since yoga has been of incalculable benefit to my writing practice. Yoga in the broadest sense of that word, including the various paths described below that include not only asana and pranayama (postures and breathing) but also meditation and intellect/self-study. Below is the flyer followed by a long form invite to this workshop, the first of which is happening December 8 from 1-4pm. If you are interested, get in touch, because it is a small studio and space is limited.

Yoga for writers and (over)thinkersstrengthening the container, cultivating the witness

You are invited to participate in a 3-hour workshop that integrates a number of yogic paths in order to give you as a writer or (over)thinker resilience as you move through your writing or any intellectual/creative practice or perhaps simply a thorny life issue.

At the beginning of the workshop we will focus on asanas and pranayama (postures and breath) to give you a series of techniques that you can bring with you to integrate into your every day. You do not need to be an experienced yogi for this workshop. These will be simple exercises and movements, that when repeated throughout the day can have a profoundly strengthening effect. This can help your body from seizing up into writer’s ‘slumpasana’ and all the attendant aches and pains that can go along with that. As anyone who writes (or works in an office) for a living knows, this seemingly un-physically challenging position of sitting and typing can create issues in our backs, necks, shoulders, wrists and legs, especially as we get older. There are simple things you can do throughout the day to loosen your body and breath practices to aid in concentration and also undercutting stress response. This section is considered Hatha Yoga, the path most people think of as yoga: the body as a mode of transformation.

We will then work with forms of meditation as ways to settle into and receive answers for any knotty questions about your writing or other life issues. This is Raja Yoga. This will also be where we begin to cultivate the witness. The witness is that which watches us think and act. In Kripalu yoga we talk about cultivating a compassionate witness; Swami Kripalu (1913-81), the founder of this lineage said: “Self-observation without judgment is the highest form of spiritual practice.” This self-observation applies to the pranayama and asanas as well, but in meditation we are engaged with this task in a direct way. We will also discuss tools for actively cultivating the witness in order to ‘ride the waves’ of intensity that can emerge in writing and in life, rather than jump off into the many modes of distraction and diversion.

Throughout the workshop we will also be walking the less well-known path of Jnana yoga, the intellectual path of self-study. This is when the writing comes in more directly. Throughout the workshop, you will be invited to write and engage your mind in what your body and heart are discovering on the mat. 

If you have a pre-existing writing practice, I encourage you to bring whatever it is you write on or with (assuming it is not WiFi dependent) and even some of your work. There will be opportunities to investigate any rough patches you may be having either with the content or process of your writing. I will invite you at the beginning of the workshop to set an intention regarding any of these questions, so the questions will be brewing inside you throughout, with a chance to invite new perspectives on these questions throughout the various stages of the workshop. If you do not have a writing practice, these exercises can be applied to any thorny issues in your life or other creative/intellectual endeavors. 

We may have time to read some of what you write to one another, perhaps in pairs, perhaps to the whole group. One way of strengthening the witness is allowing another to temporarily act as your witness; the experience of conscious listening can be quite transformative, both as the receiver and the listener. This can include reading writing or simply speaking, then hearing from the listener what they received. It is not a critique session but instead a way to simply hear, after you have spoke or read, what another heard from you, and to hear yourself either read or speak aloud, without interruption. 

What you will come away with after the workshop are some tools you can use in your everyday life to ground your body and breath, thereby strengthening your ability to write or create in any way, which manifests as enhanced resilience to continue creating and living through rough patches. While this workshop will be focused on yoga for writers, these tools can be used in relation to other forms of creative and intellectual endeavors, including writing as a form of self-study. The practice of cultivating the witness is useful no matter what you do in life, as it offers methods to move through even the most challenging times without checking out. 

If interested, please reserve a spot, as the studio is small and space is limited. 

Sunday, December 8, 1-4pm, Inwood Movement, 5030 Broadway #613. 
Subway: A to 207th or 1 to 215th.

Fee: $60 advanced payment/$65 at the door (assuming there is space). Contact me at andwearebreathing@gmail.com with any questions. If you want to attend but money is an issue, get in touch. I don’t want to turn away anyone for lack of funds. In relation to this, if you can pay a little more, please do, so I can subsidize a spot for someone who cannot pay the full amount.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Offering gentle, meditative Kripalu yoga classes for Every body beginning on Sunday, woohoo!

So, it's official, I am teaching yoga now as a KYT & RYT 200 certified teacher! Started out small in August, and the classes are continuing now that I am back in New York after another great writing retreat in Westray, Scotland. I may teach more but for now it's Sundays at 1pm at Inwood Movement, which is a lovely intimate studio.

The flyer I designed (!) is below. And if you want to know more about Kripalu yoga, scroll down a couple posts to where I describe why I think Kripalu yoga is special and you can read more. And of course you can get in touch with any questions if you are interested. I am happy to bring this type of yoga to other spaces and workshops, so if you have a studio or a space or a group of people who might be interested or want a private session, get in touch.

This along with my writing workshops is my joy. The photo was taken by my dear friend and excellent photographer Jill Nierman when we were in Stromness in the Orkney Isles together before the writing retreat in Westray in September. She captured how I feel about yoga and writing and the Orkney Isles all in one...as I have said many times, I am rich in friends. Who also happen to be wildly talented. A plus.

Monday, September 9, 2019

on unconditional love and grief

It is a year since my beloved cousin Darcy died. I wrote a letter to her for her sons, at the behest of her husband. He had asked those of us close to Darcy to write memories down while they were fresh and she was still alive. I wrote and sent mine to him a couple days before Darcy died, which was a few days after I had visited them in St. Paul. Because my sadness today puts me at a loss for words, but I want to honor this anniversary, below are excerpts (with some adaptations for public context) from that letter. And below that are a couple photos.


Dear Darcy,

My first memory of you is Jani telling me about how you and she picked strawberries. She clearly adored you, and I was so envious. You were the granddaughter in Milwaukee, the one of whom she was so proud. 

We first met when I flew to Milwaukee for Jani's memorial service. You were (almost?) 12. I was 16. You told me years later Jani had told you all these wonderful things about me and you were intimidated, but there was no need. I was just a scared, freaked out teenager. But we got along as I recall, though to be honest my memory of that time is hazy, other than a very strong felt-sense, that I think most likely emanated from you and your mother, which was of warmth. I was attending a boarding school in New England on scholarship. Warmth was in short supply. 

Because of so many reasons, great and small...we were not in touch again until we were much older. We met again at my parents' dining room table in Maine, and I remember feeling: we are related. I remember also feeling: I don't feel related to anyone else. Because I had never had that feeling until meeting you again then. It felt strong. I finally understood the phrase: blood is thicker than water. As an only child with a fairly random-chance childhood, I had never felt this.

Was it the tilt of your eyebrows? Your sense of humor? The mix of deep warmth and deep skepticism? A certain depth of soul that I find rare, maybe not because depth of soul is rare, but perhaps it is not always easy to recognize in those to whom we do not feel kinship. We were both Jani's granddaughters. That was clear.

The time we got to spend in Maine in 2004 was a gift. S was 4 and L was a baby. J had to pick me up at the Portland bus station because I had made the mistake (never to be repeated) of taking a cheap bus line to Boston that literally burst into flames on the highway. All were safe but sat at the side of the road for ages. I barely new J but as will come as no surprise to you or anyone else, he was gracious about this late night guest washed up hours away, and we had a nice chat back to Damariscotta.

You and I had time to talk, but this visit was about your mother, Carol. She was dying of breast cancer then. You were so worried about her and doing everything you could to make her comfortable. Meanwhile, you asked me about my own life and affairs of the heart. Again, the warmth. 

And from Carol, too, who was insistent we go on the whale watch come hell or high water. Sound familiar? It should. And that was a lovely day. Carol was happy. I think it was hardest on you, though, because you could see her pain. You are always so aware of your surroundings, and especially the cares and concerns of those who are lucky enough to bask in your love, which I think is infinite. I know you would scoff at that and tell me I'm exaggerating, because that's what you do, and like me, you find every reason on earth to be on your own case, but I wish at least for this moment, you could stop and see yourself how I see you: loving, kind, crazy smart, funny, wise, and yes sometimes sad and angry, because why wouldn't you be? But always present. Always. Present.

Another lovely memory I hold in my heart is the time I visited you all in St. Paul in 2011. I think James picked me up and my first memory of your house is L marching me up the stairs (he was 8) to meet his plastic figurines. One looked like a Dr. Who character, which led to watching Dr. Who (with parental agreement of course). L loving it, S being afraid of the monsters, and asking me about them, walking down in his PJs with James to make sure they weren't real, asking for a hug. I was stunned that an 11 year old could speak so articulately about his feelings, but then again he had you and J as parents, so why should it be a surprise?

Once again, unplanned, I was an emotional wreck because of my second marriage ending (I took on this aspect of the Jani personality apparently). And you wanted to help, and I wasn't having it, and you - in your warm way - basically told me I was being an asshole. Which I was. You were right. I have always been grateful for that conversation. You probably don't remember it that way, but it was done with such kindness, it didn't hurt, because you said it from love.

Other times during that trip included lovely moments like sitting on beanbags (I think they were?) in Walker Art Center watching a slideshow of Nan Goldin's photos of children, so beautiful and So unsentimental. Her aesthetic suited us both right down to the ground. We also went to a yoga class together that I loved instantly, gentle and wise was your yoga teacher. Afterwards, we discussed without going too far the senses we got there. The intimations of things not seen. Larger than us.

This is where I feel the most connected to you in the end.  I know you are agnostic, whereas I believe deeply in something I cannot explain but has saved me one too many times to be easily dismissed. But I think deep down you have had this experience, too. 

I remember too and will never forget our brief - all too brief - goodbye conversation on the sofa when you told me about dragonflies, that they are ancient but live such short lives, and in their short lives they are so busy - mating, making more dragonflies… but how you loved it when one would alight on your arm when you were younger. You were somehow wanting to link to this to the fact that it was OK we were saying goodbye. You could not remember what you wanted to say, but I think you said it:

Ancient but brief. Something about life. About our connection perhaps? It is how I feel it anyway. S walked in the door soon after that, your brother had driven him from Grinnell. The mood changed, and then I did have to leave, it was so late. I don't remember the actual moment we said goodbye, perhaps because we said it a number of times that night. You told me you didn't think you were dying "right" and I feel like I didn't say goodbye "right" - which for both of us was precisely: typical.

These are snapshots. There is so much to be said. There is nothing more to be said. You are my heart. As are your sons, and I hope they know that. If they ever want deep background, I can give them the book that is half about Jani, who is an influence like no other. I am here for you always, and them, too.

You wrote once you loved me to infinity. And I wrote back I love you to infinity and back.

And I do.

I love you to infinity and back.

Julia xoxoxo……

Darcy on left with brother Jonathan, sitting on legendary Jani's lap

Darcy and me in Maine in 2004, her young son's head visible