Category Archives: yoga

What I’ve Learned by Being Alone

Before sitting down to write I did a quick Google search on the following words: loneliness & alone.

The results were just as I’d expected.

There were tons of posts on the growing public health concern of loneliness, Psychology Today articles on combatting it as well as the human need for socialization. What I didn’t see in my quick search, however, was what I want to write about here — what I’ve learned and the benefits of being alone.

For the past year and half I’ve been contemplating the concept of being alone. I moved to Long Island in 2014 for a dream opportunity. I packed up my belongings and transplanted myself in a locale quite culturally foreign to me. I came here without a network of friends and only some limited family nearby. I was, for all intents and purposes, alone.

Before I came out here I had a vibrant social life and a unique circle of friends of all ages. I’d also never truly been alone before, at least not in the way that I have been in this new setting. Here I have not been able to call up a friend and announce that on a moments notice, I’d be at their door. I’ve always had friends to explore and hangout with. So, as you can imagine, this change was pretty abrupt and harsh for me.

At first I rejected the area and its inhabitants. I assured myself that it was time for me to put my head down and to work hard — harder than ever before. If I threw myself into my work, I wouldn’t have time to feel lonely. This was partially true. The first few months I was here, I worked like a dog. I tried to push the loneliness out by working so hard that the weekends could only be a time for rest, relaxation and recuperation. But as expected, feelings of loneliness would creep up on me when I least expected them. There I was again – at the beach, in random parking lots, in my kitchen, on the phone, in the car – crying. I had never been so lonely, and for so long, in my entire life.

When I sat down with the purpose of writing about being alone out here, my intent was to explain the life lesson that I’ve been learning and not to make anyone feel bad for me…or worse, for ME to feel for myself. Just so I’m clear, loneliness does not necessarily equate to unhappiness for me.

Sure, I have days where I feel melancholy and nostalgic and wish I had my best friends nearby. I’ve even had extended periods of time where I’ve felt this way. However, what I’ve been feeling recently is more balance between being a social butterfly and being alone.

Before I moved here, there were many things I didn’t know about myself. I never needed to ask myself questions like Who am I? What do I want most? Do I love myself? I had a barrage of social reinforcements that I defined myself against, and our collective mentality was supreme. I was able to be a unique part of a whole, but I never felt truly whole myself without my friend group.  But now that’s different, and I am different. I have more insight now that I didn’t have before, and I know myself better.

I have a better understanding of my social patterns and tendencies.  I know that when I feel alone I use Instagram and Facebook as a crutch to to feel connection. Or that I pursue romantic possibilities even when I’m not fully keen on the person.  And I know that I will pick up the phone and dial everyone in my ‘favorites’ in order to hear a voice on the line who can reassure me that I am still awesome.

These patterns and tendencies are hard to admit because they go against one of my core values–give to yourself what you would ask of others to give to you. To simplify what I mean by that would essentially be to say, “Hey, go connect with yourself. Be your own best friend. Fall in love with yourself.”

But I am only human. And I frequently forget that I am one with everyone and everything — I am never truly alone.

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So what, you may ask, is the benefit of being alone for this long? For me, it has been having enough time to take a good look in the mirror. In the past two years I’ve been able to shift some of my most negative patterns in a more positive direction because I’ve had the time to look within. None of this means that I’ve perfected my ways, but I’ve definitely made progress.

I’ve learned to value myself and my time more. I have learned to be non-judgmental and kind to myself when I am having a off day. I’ve learned that meeting new people takes time and requires lots of patience. I’ve learned to be more patient. I’ve learned that connection is all about quality and not about quantity. I’ve learned to be more aware of my time spent on social media and handheld devices. I’ve learned to get out there and do things that interest me. I’ve learned to kick box and to tango. I’ve learned to be more grateful for the things that I do have. I’ve learned to relish a quiet Friday evening at home, and most of all I’ve learned that “me time” is a necessity.

So while it’s been a bumpy ride over the course of the past few years here on Long Island, I’ve learned a great deal about who I am as a person and what I am capable of manifesting all on my very own.

 

 

 

 

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 39: Manifesting In the Light of the Moon

The potent energy of the full moon has the ability to amplify not only our emotions (if you’ve been reading this week, you’ll certainly be able to tell that I’m a moon child) but also our desires. With tonight’s blood moon eclipse, these lunar energies are 10 times the strength of a regular full moon. So how can we use our energy for positive manifestation? It is my firm belief that the things we bring forth into our lives are a direct result of the energy we put into them. Be they negative or positive, the energies we release into the universe resonate and we will experience them in their karmic form in one way or another.  The key to manifesting what we want, is being grateful for what we already have.

I have a friend whose negative attitude about finding a job has rendered him incapable of actually finding a job! He is a smart, qualified and competitive candidate, yet every time he submits an application, he tells himself that he won’t get the job. He kills his oppotunity before he allows the universe to let it manifest,  because, I believe, he is afraid to be let down. What he doesn’t realize he is doing, is directing negative energy right at his chance of actually landing a job, and thus, he remains forever in cover letter purgatory. And by purgatory, I actually mean the fiery pits of the comedic inferno. Seriously.

But alas, this a lesson my dear friend must learn in stride, because negativity is as much of a choice as positivity. I for one, stand firm in my conviction that my practice of gratitude has made me see the bright side of every new moon, and I am a happier and more positive being as a result. I can’t help but sound a bit boastful here, but my positivity has had an infectious reaction. I can’t stop meeting amazing people, falling into serendipitous happenings and attracting fabulous things into my life. All I can say is that my life is so bountifully blessed with good health, loving friends and family, a wonderful education, an incredible career and a globe that has my footprints tread all over it’s soil.

I am beyond grateful.

I am sublimely happy.

And yet, it is my human nature to have it all and to want more. Not more in the consumer sense. No, I don’t have a burning desire for money or fame (though there is nothing wrong with those who do desire those things). What I desire most, and what I am asking to manifest in this lunar eclipse is the shiva to my shakti. I want to unite the femine and masculine energies in my life so that I can find a harmonious balance in love.

Love is who I am. I have a natural spring that flows from my heart, and a well that will never run dry. Yet, the balance of the shiva and shakti remain a mystery to me. Under the light of tonight’s blood moon, I sit.  What comes out as audible may sound like a faint whisper as it is swallowed by the howling winds, but to the Universe, my heart roars the question, where is my shiva?

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Tonight, I will go the extra step and give thanks to him before he even exists. In my gratitude, I emit a ray of positivity and happiness that will be seized by the lunar eclipse and my heart’s call will echo across the universe so that I may manifest him into my life.

Can you hear me now?

Good.

How ’bout now?

Good.

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 35: #love #selfie

Love is an all-encompassing word–so very meta, if you will. And while it’s not an easy word to pinpoint a definition to, though believe me I’ve tried, it is something that is very easy to offer some gratitude!

How is it, that if I can’t quite define it, I can offer it gratitude, you ask? The answer is so simple it’s almost silly. If love is everything, within every particle of the universe,  than my offering up of gratitude to anyone or anything at all, is an offer in love’s name.

With that being said, I’m staring at my blank canvas of a word processor, and trying to decide where in the world I’d like to direct some gratitude-filled love today. Whilst this topic is so vast, I’m going to stay inside the box, and offer gratitude to a little thing called self-love.

Self-love is one of those things that seems easy in theory, but  I can’t explain how many times I’ve gotten advice from friends telling me, “All you really need to do is just love yourself a little more…” And I’m like, “I know, I knooow. Of course.  Sure. You’re so right. Definitely.”

But I’d be fooling myself if I could say I had the answer as to HOW best do that.

Let’s not get me wrong here, I think I’m pretty awesome, and I definitely don’t hate myself. But there have been situations that have occurred in my life, where I do not put my well-being or convenience first. I have been known to dance around people’s wishes, aiming to please, forever looking to compromise, and while I don’t think this is a character flaw of mine in the least, I do recognize that there comes a point when I need to say,

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Because today was one of those days for me, I’m grateful that I took the time to see where my energy was being zapped by other people. Letting others control my feelings and/or environment is the opposite of self-love. For me, it takes a lot of heart to admit when  it’s happening, but usually I can feel it in my body. Recently my second, fourth and fifth chakras have felt  blocked up ….And by that I mean, I’ve been experiencing a  feeling of deep discomfort residing in the pit of my stomach, around my chest and in my throat.  Recognizing this discomfort and telling myself stop and settle into it has been the first step.  Discussing with those who have had an impact on my dis-ease, well, that’s a whole different ball game,  but I’m on my way.  I’ll get there, but not before  making a couple of pit stops to: the massage therapist, yoga studio and amazon.com’s spiritual self-help book section. Hopefully by the time I reach step two, I’ll have worked out a few tense muscles in my shoulders and will be yielding my smoking gun of spiritual wisdom and infinite patience.

 

Today, I bow to myself in deep, loving gratitude,

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 29: Leggo my ego

Like any self-driven human being, I set standards, expectations and goals. It’s a way for me to measure my successes and to track my personal growth. Though the legitimacy of my progress is evident with just the slightest bit of self-reflection, I often run the risk of not living up to my own expectations. What’s more, I am also frequently let down by the actions of others whose standards, expectations and goals do not match my own.

Today I’m writing this post for multiple reasons, though particularly as a chance for me to acknowledge the fact that yesterday I failed to write. Not writing yesterday isn’t something I feel any panic about, though I do feel a sense of self judgement and disappointment because I didn’t complete my task sans flaw. I know I could just write two posts today and call my guilt good, but I’ve decided against that course of action because I want to reflect on the validity of leniency and letting go.

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Every so often we need to cut ourselves some slack. I once had a yoga teacher who said, “I don’t make my classes hard because I want you to push yourselves beyond your limit. I make them hard so you can recognize where your ego is telling you to do more than you are capable of on this day. When you find your personal limit, you are not weak for backing off, you are strong for telling your ego to let go.”

I remember being wowed by this statement, and it has never left me. I needed this reminder while I was walking the Camino. One day I pushed myself too hard and walked 40km. My tendonitis flared back up and, though it killed me to do so, I had to let go of the idea of walking every kilometer of the trail. It wasn’t going to be possible in the time frame that I had so I took the bus. GASP. But the lesson I learned that day was perhaps more valuable than the walking itself. I had to tell my ego, which wanted to boast that it walked EVERY SINGLE STEP, to be quiet. On that day, I couldn’t physically walk and I was stronger for recognizing this and taking the necessary measures so as not to hurt myself any more.

This lesson can and should be applied to ourselves as often as possible, but it is also very useful in relationships with others. I’ve had relationships, both friendly and romantic, where I’ve pushed myself to my limit in the search for perfection. My ego, is the part of me that registers disappointment in others. It’s a comparison of my desire with theirs that, when unequal, generates hurt. When my ego rears its head, which it does every so often, it takes the strongest part of me  to tell it to back off. My ego wants to attach itself to a story of disappointment, but my higher Self is so much bigger than that.

Letting go in relationships is probably the most challenging thing we, as humans, can do. In an attempt to control and perfect, we fail to see that everyone is on their unique journey through life. I’ve seen this with parents who push their children to be something they don’t want to be for the sake of monetary gain and “success”. I’ve also seen this with friendships and romantic relations where, though their paths have diverged, one or both of the people cling desperately to the past out of fear for the present.

What I’ve learned through both observation and experience is that the healthiest relationships are those grounded in non-attachment. This doesn’t mean that we don’t  care for and communicate to our friends, families, and partners, rather, it recognizes that their journey is transpiring simultaneously alongside our own. In order for them to live out their personal truth, they must go forth, alone, with your blessing, support and love. Attachment stunts those we love. Ego is attachment, love is its opposing force.

So today, my dose of gratitude is for yesterday’s non-post. I am grateful, once again, for the life lessons I’m learning through this writing experience. Sometimes these lessons come from a place of quiet awareness and non-action, and I’m grateful that I was attentive enough today to see this. I am truly grateful to my higher Self, which took the opportunity to learn as opposed to judge, and I am grateful to my ego for letting go of its self expectations.

 

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Attitude of Gratitude–Day 19: Bittersweet Transitions

There are multiple moments in my life where transitioning from something comfortable into the unknown has been electrifying, yet all together bittersweet. Leaving behind people and places in order to embrace the unfamiliar is never easy, and I have done this multiple times throughout my late teens and early twenties as I moved away from home and subsequently made my way all around the world.

Though I feel that this transition into some semblance of an “adult” life is well underway, it has brought up lots of of reflections on all the people and places in my life that were once brand new– all the strangers that became friends, places that became home.

I always think back on these people and places in fond reminiscence, and there are so many little triggers that quickly jog my memory of them. I can smell Burkina Faso. I can dance San Francisco. I can drink France. I can hear Morocco. I can walk Spain. These small things, which act as portals and transport me through time, if only for a minute or two, so that I can relive a beautiful moment, in a beautiful setting, surrounded by beautiful friends. And when I come back to the present, it’s always with a smile and a sigh. A smile of thanks for all the day’s that have been seized, and for all of the amazing people whose presence has graced my life. But also, a sigh of longing for the days gone by,and the people who are now so far away.

Thus, today I am thankful for the smiles and sighs, because I have been blessed with countless opportunities to discover the world and to befriend genuinely amazing people. They are a reminder that each one of my fond memories was once an uncomfortable new beginning, which blossomed into something worth longing for when it passed.

And if I am able to remain aware through discomfort of the new life chapter I’ve begun, I can let the wave of bittersweet memories wash up on the shore of the present moment, and offer up some gratitude to those people and places who have made my life so meaningful.  I must continue to breathe myself back into the present moment, so that I am able to create new memories here and now that will ultimately be worthy of a smile and a sigh sometime down the road.  There-were-some-memories-1024x884

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 16: Back on My Mat

Today was the first day in over a month that I’ve shared in the collective energy of a yoga class. And let me tell you, I can’t even begin to explain how grateful I feel right now. These past few weeks have been so full of change that I haven’t been able to remain very present. Going to class today reignited the fire within me to focus on the power of the moment. Being in a class of 40 sweaty, om-ing yogis was the exact kind of energetic lift that I needed to remind me to come back into my body and find center.

This practice of being present and centered is a life skill that I began exploring through yoga. When I began practicing I was swimming in the shallow end of what I like to call the “yoga pool.” Granted, I was never averse to the om-ing or philosophical side of yoga, but I loved the physical aspect of it, and that was what always brought me back class after class. As I began to see my body change slowly over time, and I could access new postures like chaturanga (push-up) or sirsasana (headstand), I began to swim into the deep end of the pool. Along with developing higher physical capacities, I also began to open up my mind and heart to the higher levels of yoga.

This is how turned my life upside down(ward facing dog). I began to devour spiritual texts and to meditate outside of the allotted savansana in class. I started reflecting and developing a true practice that used the Vinyasa concept of flow. Moving with the breath, linking the postures fluidly with the inhale and the exhale. An hour of concentrated breathing through difficult postures on the mat, allows for us to flow through life’s challenges when we are off the mat.

I flow in and out of this relationship with the divine, as I can easily become wrapped up in being human. These past few months for me have been very human. I’ve known that somewhere in my heart I can always tap into my divine if I choose, but I have been busy and have made little time for my practice. But today was the kick start that I needed. All it took was a room full of devotees to unleash the divine within me and remind me that I can always tap into infinity.

Today I am grateful for getting myself to yoga, for our teacher, Scot at Yoga to the People, and for all the yogis who got got their butts kicked along side me as I shakily attempted postures that I once took for granted, and sweated out all wine I’ve drunk in the last 2 weeks!

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Namaste!

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Attitude of Gratitude — Day 15: Cleanliness and Order

After a few weeks of what feels like a chaotic shift from my routine schedule, I sensed a glimmer of hope that sometime soon I will have things more organized. Disorder = my least favorite thing–ever. And this week, my life has made very little room for me to do me, leading to complete and utter dysfunction in my personal space.  Leaving for work this morning my bed was left unmade, my sink was sink full of dishes, and my laundry strewn across the floor. I haven’t worked out in weeks, and I’ve had no less than one glass of wine every single day. Let’s just say that I haven’t been feeling at my personal best, as my daily organized routine took the back burner in order for my brain and body to show up and be present as I learn the ropes at work.

However, today I was able to make a small dent in the things that make me feel better put together. I worked in the office long enough to get one of my new projects underway, and then I went to the gym. I came home and ate a nice healthy meal, cleaned my dishes and organized my laundry. Thus, it’s the little things, like cleanliness and order, that I’m feeling grateful for today.

Keeping my personal space clean and organized is also quite metaphorical, as I can work at ridding my mind, body and soul of the clutter that inevitably piles itself on through time and space. According to the yoga sutras, saucha (cleanliness) is the first niyama, or guide for yogic conduct. It is thought that through yoga we work continually to cleanse ourselves until we are nothing but light. While today I’ve made time to cleanse my environment, I also hope to thoroughly purify my body and settle my mind in the coming weeks so that the chaos and clutter in my life can subside.

I’m making small, but valiant steps!

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40 Days Catholic: My Lenten Promise — Attitude of Gratitude

I’m Catholic.
I’m Catholic?
I grew up Catholic.

Catholicism has been a label attached to my identity since my infantile baptism. It was not a choice I made cognitively. Nor were the wrote memorization of prayers, Sunday school, or First Communion. It wasn’t until the 10th grade that I took any leadership in my Catholic identity. By this point I had been a Catholic for 15 years, and the decision to proceed with my confirmation was one of blind acceptance. No internal questions were asked; I did it because I wanted to, and because it was the next stamp in my Catholic passport.

Church in my family was a regular Sunday event growing up. It was never any fun, but I went and I followed all the rules. I stood up, I sat down, I knelt, I sang, I prayed. After church I got to eat donuts…so that was cool. If I wasn’t scraping the nail polish from my nails, I was playing interior decorator and imagining how the sacred space could house my four-poster bed, comfy plush couches, dressers, lava lamps and a closet that would make Cher from Clueless jealous.

Let’s face it, I was there because I had to be, not because I wanted to be.

As my journey with religion and spirituality progressed I drifted away from the Catholic church. I felt disenfranchised and unsupported. I equated the church with intolerance, patriachy and greed. I disassociated myself with the term Catholic. There was too much guilt attributed with my identity and I wanted to purge myself of it.

This is when I disovered Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco’s Ternderloin District. It was a place of acceptance, tolerance, and most importantly LOVE. Their weekly celebration uplifted the community through song and praise. They talked the talk, and they walked the walk. With liberation theology as their underlying tenet, they work to combat social injustices caused by poverty and social inequality.

Finally feeling connected to spirit and Self for the first time, Glide became my primary sacred space to worship in. As my journey into yoga started around the same time, the two spiritual practices began healing me of my Catholic guilt and began molding me in the spirutal being I am today.

Many years later, the concern about my catholic identity still lingered. Catholicism was my foundation. I can still recite the prayers and take comfort in the hymns, though it has been many years since I’ve stepped foot into my local parish. My journey along El Camino started with the intention of reconnecting to my Catholic identity, and in preparation I attended mass all summer long in France and Spain.

And then I walked.

I walked through all the questions and I came to recognize that my spirit is not Catholic, but that my identity is. My identity is also many other things now. As a result of my travels abroad and my daily practices I now identify as a yogi, a buddhist AND a muslim…and so much more. I see myself as part of everything and follow my own religion, the religion of my heart.

With all that being said, I can now explain my 40 day lenten promise. This practice was something that I grew up with as a Catholic, and I’ve given up everything from chocolates and candy to Facebook over the 40-day fasting period leading up to Easter Sunday.

This year, however, I have a new lenten promise. It’s not to give up anything, but rather to take up something. I racked my brain over and over and came to the conclusion that there are many things I want to do more of. In order to not overwhelm myself and to stick to my promise I’ve decided to write every day for 40 days. But not just to write about anything, I want to write on the theme of gratitude.

So, for the next 40 days I will be posting one blog a day about something that I am grateful for.

Attitude of Gratitude — Day 1: I am grateful for Glide Memorial Church for taking me in, opening my heart and allowing me to see that religion is not about intolerance and greed. Rather, it is about community, solidarity, radical inclusiveness, truth telling, hope, celebration and love. I am eternally grateful for that sacred space of worship as I consider it to be the catalyst of my higher spiritual journey. Thank you Glide, Reverend Cecil Williams, Janice Mirikitani. Rev. Karen Oliveto and all the beautiful souls who regularly accompanied me to Sunday service — Jessica Roach, Allie Thompson, Zannah Herridge Meyer and Erika Myszynski. I am grateful to your sources of inspiriation and your spirit!

lizzie

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Enough, already! I’m Already, Enough.

The dawning of a New Year seems to spark in everyone a consciousness and awareness of their physical creation – the haves and have-nots of our manifestations. I like to take the time to look back on my year and laud myself for the triumphs and pat myself on the back for wading through the breakdowns, the losses and the “failures.” Each new year, I set goals and intentions, make plans, dream my wildest dreams and then settle back slowly into the present, filled with optimism that this year will be as good, if not better than the last.

However, this year, I’ve decided to go a slightly different route with my New Years intentions. I am starting from a place that I’ve never started from before, and it’s a place that needs nothing. No superlatives! I don’t need more money, I don’t need to be skinnier, and I don’t need more love in my life.

I am simply enough.

With this new mantra in mind, there is one thing that I do want to accomplish this year. I want to let go of old patterns that no longer serve my personal growth.

I plan on doing this with the help of one of my most powerful resources—my awareness.

This year I want to dedicate my focus to my awareness, to the “me” beyond me, to the observer.

But really, how can I get myself to a place where I can actually believe that I am enough? The power of thought is not to be underestimated, but I honestly believe that one needs to dig down deep—to really go there. My inner archaeologist wants to unearth some dinosaur bone patterns.

Consider your life to be like geologic formations. At a granular level, our solid form is but a mere collection of the material possessions, our name and reputation, physical body, and our mental thoughts. These collections build upon our past and make up the solid form we see as our “self”, though no one can claim to be their iPhone5 or their trek through the Andes or their curvy thighs. These are simply our sedimentary identifications, to  some we are very attached, and to others we’d rather pretend they didn’t exist at all. But all these attachments, whether we see them as a positive or a negative are not truly who we are.

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Thus, this year, I will be examining all my attachments: my memories, my physical possessions, my inner dialogues, my relationships, my body, and my health. And I will begin to look at the foundations that they were built on. I can tell you already that some of these attachments seem like they were laid with cement foundations, while others maybe are more talc-like and easily degraded. Where are there cracks in the foundation? Where am I solid and sturdy?

With this one intention of mindfully observing where I am, I must constantly come back to that place of enough. It is the one place that doesn’t need to add any layers of attachment, though paradoxically it allows me to whole-heartedly embrace all of them.

I am who I am, I am love itself, I am Lizzie.

A blessed New Year to you all!

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Burning the Encyclopedia

It’s cold in here.

I want to dance,

Bare it all.

I want to dance round the pagan fire of encyclopedic knowledge.

So, I hack at the trees,

Swinging from their branches,

Pulling their bows down to the earth,

Sweeping away the snow with their wild pines,

I pine for you.

It’s cold in here.

I want to dance,

Bare it all.

I tear the pages from the Britannica

And crumple them into little balls and toss them in to land midst the logs.

I strike the match,

Inhale the sulphur and it stings the insides of my nostrils.

I burn the French Congo.

I Burn the Grand Teton Mountains

I break down barriers of Geopolitik

Set fire to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef

It all goes up in flame.

Thick black smoke fills my lungs as the thousands of words and symbols and people and places all made possible by Mr. Gutenberg ignite, curl in on themselves, burst into a crackling flame and disintegrate into nothingness.  Johan, himself, is not spared.

 I burn habeas corpus and the willing of your body to mine.

I burn Halcyon and hope for days of peace and tranquility to be granted by the Gods.

Halleluiah

Hallucination

The embers of the charred pages burn, but the wood doesn’t catch fire no matter how much I poke and prod. No matter how I feed the cravings the heat of the burning pages is always quick and intense, yet the fire still dies. The kinetic ashes settle back into potential waiting patiently to bring forth a new light.

I strike another match and swallow the flame.

I am the furnace that will stoke the scorched ashes into a passionate blazing inferno.

Slowly, I inhale

The fire burns more brilliantly

Exhale,

Ever more so.

It’s warm in here,

I still want to dance,

Bare it all

Halleluiah!

Halleluiah!

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