A State of Hypocrisy – A Rant Session

Recently I was on a flight from Seattle to San Diego.  I rarely board an airplane early (typically preferring to board last).  However, for some odd reason (and I forget why) I found myself to be one of the first people on board.  I took my window seat, fished out my book and relaxed during the boarding process.

Not long afterward a woman sat down in the aisle seat across from me.  She didn’t smile, didn’t move out of the aisle while taking her magazine and water out of her bag and when the person behind her said, “excuse me” so as to pass her, she ignored him, rolled her eyes a bit and at her own pace put her duffel bag overhead.  She also placed her yoga mat overhead.  I began watching her.  She wore a tee shirt that said YOGA on it and the magazine she was reading was International Yoga.  She must’ve sensed her being watched and when she looked over to me I simply smiled back at her.  She didn’t return the smile and instead turned her attention to her magazine.

The plane began to fill.  The flight attendant on board then approached the woman and politely asked if she would consider moving a few seats back so that a family could possibly sit together.  The woman/yogi respond with a curt, “No.  I paid for this specific seat.  Find someone else.”  The flight attendant, without responding to her rudeness moved on to the next row (where the people graciously agreed to switch seats for the family.)  I closed my eyes and shook my head to myself – sad.

I wondered how a woman who so blatantly advertised to the world that she is a yogi could be so callous and rude to everyone around her.  Her hypocrisy really bothered me.  I once knew a man who wore either a Caduceus (wasn’t Mercury a protector?) or a Shiva pendant around his neck every day, had a collection of spiritual figurines in his home and was well versed in the yoga sutras and philosophy.  However that same man, when asked by an old man to help him move his car on the street of Rome, ignored the man and walked away; refusing to help a senior citizen. Although his Caduceus dangled around his neck he held little compassion in his heart.  The man I was with wasn’t a bad man altogether, he had just become so conditioned to say no to those on the street, asking for help.  And who else was the old gent going to ask for help in protecting his car then someone advertising their spirituality?  We all come across rude and unhappy people on an almost daily basis; and personally I am rarely put off by them: but, when someone announces to the world that they are a Yogi, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Taoist, a fill-in-the-blank-here….and then behaves as such a hypocrite – I want to cry.

How many times have I seen people advertising their faiths with tee shirts, crosses around their necks, WWJD bands, OM pendants, Mandala beads, spiritual tattoos, Shiva bracelets and such, only to watch them put down, strike out and otherwise ignore the humanity around them?  Why is it that there is a need to market our beliefs anyway?  And, if we choose to market them shouldn’t we hold ourselves to a certain standard towards our own social graces.  Perhaps we have simply been taught false advertising.  Even when it comes to advertising our beliefs and core values.

In no way am I stating that I have not been hypocritical in my life.  I most certainly have.  There were times that I have asked of those around me something I was incapable of giving back to them and so on.  At one time I called myself a vegetarian and continued to eat fish; a hypocritical act.  However, although I have been hypocritical myself, I have never once announced to the world that I practice yoga, believe in the serenity of Buddhism and so on, only to then denigrate those I had held myself to a higher standard to.  Also, I have always shied away from advertising my beliefs for some reason.  I’ve always felt that words never go so far as deeds I guess.

Maybe we are all just looking for something to belong to.  Perhaps we hope that one day we can live up to the standards we advertise with our words, wear on our shirts, our necks, our arms and our hands.  But in the meantime….is it so hard to just give up our seat to a family…or help an old man move his car??…

Oh Hands of Mine

“Ignorant men don’t know what good they hold in their hands until they’ve flung it away.”

Last night I was at a restaurant with a few new friends and while the conversation was moving from one subject to the next I found myself thinking about hands of all things.  One of the couples I was with had a little girl around two years old.  She really was beautiful;  with a sweet disposition, perfect olive skin, brown hair and pretty brown eyes – and the cutest little hands in the entire busy restaurant.  When the waitress came to take our orders the little girl, Josie, was entranced by her hands.  The waitress, Wendy, had long fake fingernails all painted different bright colors and a tattoo of some sort on her left hand.  I watched Josie watch Wendy’s hands.

Wendy’s hands were quite feminine and her fingers (minus the long nails) seemed to be as long as her forearms.  My own hands are rather earthy and not particularly feminine.  I keep my nails on the short side and wear only nude nail polish.  I frequently have charcoal or ink staining my fingers and my tendons seem as though they want to sit on top of my skin, rather than underneath.  While they are certainly not my most feminine quality they relay the information my eyes – the mirror of the soul – needs relating.

I’ve long had a fascination with hands.  Everyone has been asked the question in their life of, “What is the first thing you notice on a person?”  I’ve always noticed hands first; then eyes and so on.  If the eyes show a person’s soul, their hands relate the information their soul holds.  Hands hold the key to expression of sorts and can transfer information in a way that the voice can’t.  They can create and destroy most anything (even things you cannot see, like feelings.)  And likewise they hold compassion, love, hate, anger and even memories inside of them.

I remember going to visit a convalescent home with my daughter many years ago when she was a little girl (she’s now a woman.)  Her dance school was performing a Christmas show for the senior citizens.  Afterward, the little girls would go around and give out special Christmas treats to the residents watching the show.  Every senior citizen would reach out and touch the hands of the girls when receiving their gifts.  The girls, unbeknownst to them, were showering the residents of the home with love and compassion just by taking their hands – by touching them.  I stood by and watched as my daughter and the other girls brought touch to some twenty or so lives that day.  Some of which may not have been touched again for weeks on end.

As a yoga teacher, practicing and teaching Ashtanga yoga, I have literally touched hundred and hundreds of bodies and have gotten different responses to each and every one of them.  Some would soften at touch, while others stiffened, clearly uncomfortable being touched at all.  I became somewhat of an expert in reading muscles and reactions to touch.  I came to the conclusion that although some people don’t like to be touched, there is a certain amount of comfort in just knowing that you have been touched compassionately; that someone has transferred their information to you via their hands and without words….if that makes any sense at all….

I myself need human touch and am quite touchy feely when comfortable with someone.  In fact, having been single for quite some time now, I’ll say that the thing I miss most about having a romantic partner in my life is the simple act of holding hands.  I miss that – hand holding.

It’s a powerful thing we have in our hands, no?

“Once I knew only darkness and stillness… my life was without past or future… but a little word from the fingers of another fell into my hand that clutched at emptiness, and my heart leaped to the rapture of living.”
– Helen Keller

Jennifer Allison Hands, Elizabeth McElveen Photography

A Poem by Stanley Kunitz

The Layers
by Stanley Kunitz

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
Yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

Honolulu, Hawaii and Men with Balls

I met a man on the beach – juggling.  I stopped my walk and watched for a moment.  After noticing me, he turned and gave me a private show and when he had finished, I complimented him on his skills and turned to leave.  Before I could take my first step the man began a conversation.  The man; the juggler, simply wanted to tell someone his story .  I was that someone and he had my utter attention.  He didn’t introduce himself, nor shake my hand.  Instead, he humbly thanked me for my compliment, explaining that Hawaii had many amazing jugglers and he was certainly not one of them (He was juggling six balls without flinching mind you.) I politely disagreed with him and told him he shouldn’t knock his skills.  He ignored my comment.

The man; the juggler, told me that he had lived in Honolulu for twelve years and had been juggling since his arrival.  He was from Chicago originally; where he had been a mailman for many many years.  His mother, on her death-bed, had told him of his inheritance and he promised her that he would retire from the postal service, take the money and move to Honolulu – her favorite place to vacation – and retire.  He did just that.  After explaining that Americans in general had no respect for the art of juggling like that of Europeans, he began juggling once again.  After a while I wished him a good day.  Likewise, he wished me a good walk and continued his juggling.

I’m not a huge Honolulu fan, however, I now have a whole new respect for jugglers…

Men with Balls, Jennifer Allison

“Close Your Eyes and Just Feel It” – Tango Love

Tango Love, Jennifer Allison, charcoal and pencil

Argentine tango is danced in an embrace that can vary from very open, in which leader and follower connect at arm’s length, to very closed, in which the connection is chest-to-chest, or anywhere in between.

Tango dance is essentially walking with a partner and the music. Dancing appropriately to the emotion and speed of a tango is extremely important to dancing tango. A good dancer is one who transmits a feeling of the music to the partner, leading them effectively throughout the dance. Also, dancers generally keep their feet close to the floor as they walk, the ankles and knees brushing as one leg passes the other.”

“Close your eyes and just feel it – don’t look down.” he said – his chest to my chest, softly holding my right hand in his left hand, while his other hand rested on the middle of my back.  He stopped mid dance so I could “collect” my heels and as I did, I felt his chest fill with air as he took a deep breath in.  His warm breath then left his mouth and passed quietly by my right ear; comforting me.  He was helping me to relax; to let go of all the tension I had let build up on the dance floor as I scrambled to remember each move; what to do next.  Moving his chest and body ever so slightly from side to side he repeatedly took my balance from one heel to the other so I could “feel” his next move.

With my eyes closed I let my body relax once again and taking a deep breath in I allowed myself to feel every nuance of his body’s movements just as he had said I would.  After our long pause to breath, collect, and feel, his right chest and shoulder subtly pressed into my left.  It was my cue to take a step back so as he could step forward towards me.  For a few more minutes he led me around the dance floor like some master artist.  I felt as though I was a thread in a great tapestry and he was the weaver guiding me through the loom until the song ended.

Forgetting the rules once again I thanked him (I’m polite if nothing else.) He responded with a slight scolding of, “Don’t thank me unless we are done dancing.” I smiled at that and apologized; grateful it was him, who happens to be a good friend of mine (as well as a musician and tango instructor), that reminded me (once again) of dance etiquette.  It’s okay to thank a friend by accident, but entirely different when you thank a new partner who then wonders what they may have done wrong that warranted your ending the “dance.”  The “rule” or “etiquette” is as follows: Typically a “dance” will include more than one song.  Also, when you say thank you to your partner before those songs are done, you are essentially telling them that you no longer want to dance with them.  My politeness be damned, I held my tongue when the next song ended and after three songs we finished.  I was then free to express my sincere thanks, of which I did.

By the end of the night I had danced with a few partners (all completely different), learned a couple of new techniques and ochoed my way across the wood floor multiple times.  More importantly though I felt free, entranced, expressive, womanly, artistic and utterly happy all at once.  Dancing has become for me just one more outlet to express myself and like the other forms of art I practice, I’ll not leave it…

Key, A Poem

I once had a key
to a door with layers of white paint
covering the old
walls and hardwood floors
windows that overlooked windows
with Buddha paintings staring at me
and a hard Ikea bed
next to cheap night-lights
with bulbs that burned
on tiny glass tables
which held my water
and hairbands
so I wouldn’t strangle myself
while I slept
until I woke to snoring
beside me
to neighbors talking
and me in the little bathroom
which housed Rogaine for men
and hair dryers
that were left on
so as to warm the room
and dry dried hair
that used to be thick and wavy
that would fall out anyway
because beauty
doesn’t care about hair
or words
that injure
compliments on my body
but never my mind
giggles that would fill the air
while falling on the hard Ikea bed
bought on sale
along with cheap bookshelves
filled with books
most of which never to be read
while pictures in frames
would watch from shelves
which smelled like the old books
and morning breath smells
soup smells
rotting vegetable smells
cologne smells
sex smells
hallway smells
computer smells
of lies
of photographs
and profiles promising more love
more sex
better lives
with copies of keys
being passed around
in the night
at the office
at the coffee shop
while my key slid
under the door
with layers of white paint
covering the old

-Jennifer Allison

Chicago, Illinois and Hot Sticky Cable Love Blues

Underneath Love, Jennifer Allison

Ferris Wheel Love, Jennifer Allison

Subway Music Love, Jennifer Allison

Book Man Love, Jennifer Allison

The great city of Chicago through me eyes…..

I find when I ask people what they think of Chicago they either love it or hate it.  There is no in-between when it comes to Chicago; like when I ask someone what they think of San Francisco or Miami.  They either say, “I love Chicago, what a great city” or, “It’s too hot and sticky in the summer and too damn cold in the winter.  I hate it.”  Personally, I’m of the loving kind when it comes to Chicago.  Would I live there?  Probably not.  It’s too big for me.  However is it one of my favorite cities to love up?  Yes indeed.