Carsten Spencer

Love Life Yoga

Pix & Musing about Life From Thailand

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As I sat basking in the serenity of true paradise in Thailand, and gazing at these fabulous feet that have danced me through nearly 63 years (Oh My God!  63 years!) I found myself reflecting on my journey.

My mind floated back to 2005 and my decision to leave my life in New York after 25 years and return to my childhood roots in Southern California to care for my Mom as she made her transition.  It really wasn’t much of a decision.  When I heard the fear in her voice as she shared about a recent emergency visit to the hospital I found myself asking,“Would you feel better if one of us was out there with you?”

Mom had downplayed the seriousness of her illness since her diagnosis a couple of years earlier and it had never been easy for her to ask for help.  Something I have inherited.  Yet, after a long pause she said, “Yes.”  I told her I would talk with my brother and sister and we’d figure something out, knowing already that
I would be the one to go.

This was a turning point.  I could feel it.  Though I had no idea where it would lead, I knew that 
this was my karma… and hers. 
Our relationship had been challenging even before she threw me out of the house when I was ten years old to live with my father.  Difficulties continued through much of my adult years, but in 2000 she attended my yoga retreat in Mexico where we were able to step out of our karmic mother/son patterns and connect as student and teacher.
My primary intention as a teacher — and in life — is to allow a space of acceptance and compassion, and that retreat laid the foundation for the time I spent as Mom’s caregiver, confessor and confidant, helping to create the space she needed to make her transition.  It was a healing, even magical time for us both.

After Mom passed, my partner and I decided to go our separate ways and he returned to NYC.  After 8 years of being part of a couple and 25 years calling NYC my home, I found myself wandering alone through the fields of my youth, wondering what was next for me.

When a parent dies a karmic bond is broken and potent life force energy is released. Some of it flows into the atmosphere as pure, energy, but most of it is magnetized to the survivors, the family, those who share DNA — particularly the children and siblings.
At first it’s felt as grief, that heavy, empty feeling, yes, but it is also liberating. I felt it when my Dad passed and after Mom made her transition it became an abiding presence, a sense of freedom that was also somehow grounding.  It had roots connecting me to life and Mother Earth.  Maybe it was simply a deepening awareness of power and responsibility.
But I digress.  Where was I?
Ah yes…

That first year was challenging; grief and sadness flowed like the waves at Sacred Cove, a favorite hideaway and sanctuary during my teenage years, it became my salvation while Mom was dying.  After she passed, Sacred Cove was the antidote to my fear and anxiety that surfaced as the grief subsided and I started wondering what was next for me? Funds were dwindling. How would I survive?

When I had left my legal secretary job in NYC to care for Mom I had made a prayer and a  promise to the Universe and myself:
I was adamant.
However, one foggy So. Cal. morning after checking my bank balance I found myself online browsing legal secretary job.

Jobs were available with good starting salaries.  My next step was to update my resume.  I clicked Microsoft Word and glanced out the sliding glass doors in my living room at the June gloom as the program opened.  I clicked on the resume file and waited.  The computer stalled, giving me enough time to recall my promise.  What am I doing?  I’m betraying the Universe and myself.  I reached for control alt delete then remember my bank balance.

No!  I’m taking care of myself. I had made my decision.  I’ll send out my resume and check out my options.  As I sat there staring at the frozen computer, the path I was choosing flooding into my mind; The job interview.  I’ll have to dress up and wear a tie.  A drum solo began in my chest .  9 to 5, five days a week, even on sunny days.   My hands and scalp began to tingle and sweat as the computer sat in limbo. It’s frozen because it doesn’t want me to update my resume. Suddenly the fog cleared reveling Catalina Island floating serenely in the brilliant blue Pacific. It’s a sign!   I abandoned the frozen computer, grabbed my cat Max and his Sherpa carry-case and we headed for Sacred Cove.
Fear and anxiety can signal impending doom, maneuver you into old and outmoded situations and behaviors, or activate evolutionary leaps towards authentic creative expression.  It all depends on choice, focus, and movement; where you choose to place your focus and whether the movement that results is based in action or reaction. (I would learn more about this after my move to San Francisco.)
MAX THE MIRACLE CAT as he’d come to be known had been my one constant for over 20 years.  He had been diagnosed with kidney disease when he was 16 and given 6 months to live.  I’d renamed him The Miracle Cat when he reached 18 because he was still hanging in there, thanks to the fluids I gave him daily, the natural, raw food diet and love.  And, after 20 years living cooped up in a NY apartment, he had blossomed in the California sunshine, so much so that he no longer needed the fluids.

Max loved the beach.  Secure in his Sherpa, slung over my shoulder and held snugly under my arm with his head popping out the open front, we’d trek the mile-long trail down to Sacred Cove.  I’d set him down in the sun and, after taking a couple of laps around his Sherpa to check out the scene, he was perfectly happy, to plop down in the sun, ruling over his domain like the King of the Beach and Beasts that he clearly knew himself to be.

After losing Mom and my relationship, Max’s new lease on life was solace, redemption.  I sat, reveling in the utter peace and satisfaction of Max the Miracle Cat allowing the water, the waves the opulence of the day to transmute the earlier anxiety and I began to hear the voice of Spirit.

I didn’t recognize it as such at the time.  It was simply idle musings.  The same idle musings I’d often fallen into throughout my life.  I’d taught myself to view such musings as a waist of time, flights of fancy and a pitfall to progress.

But progress had not been a priority lately. On the contrary, for the past year I’d longed to stop progress in it’s tracks, stifle the growth of Mom’s cancer, and the domino effect of a lost relationship, forced freedom and the jarring painful jolt of evolution that Mom’s passing had initiated. Progress was the prodding, nagging old voice that had pushed me into the claustrophobia I’d felt waiting for my resume to open.  Now, the fog in my mental body was lifting as I surrendered to these idle musing that seemed the complete antithesis of fear, anxiety and worry.

I had a favorite t-shirt that one of my yoga had students gifted me during my 10 years teaching Yoga at the West Side Y in NYC. The shirt had snapshots of a cartoon cat in different poses and read: ALL I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM MY CAT.  I wore that shirt until it literally fell apart.  I loved it because it was true.  As I gazed at Max, feeling the bond, the love, and honoring, reveling in whatever it was in him that seemed to whisper: I’m right here! And I’m staying.  Others may leave but I’m still here.  I’m not going anywhere.  

His very presence in that moment, felt radical, rebellious… even revolutionary.  He was giving the finger to the vet who’d given him 6 month to live, thumbing or pawing his nose at a mere 21 years.  He didn’t know or care that that was 130 in cat years.  How was it possible that at 21 he seemed to be blossoming? What was the source of his peaceful yet powerful protest?   Who or what unseen force was responsible for this revolutionary majesty before me?  In response to my musings he tuned his head and looked at me.  I blinked an I love you, and as he blinked back I knew that it had everything to do with me.  It was our relationship, our bond, our connection that held him here.

That’s when the dolphins showed up.  I know, I know.  It sounds like too much.  But, I’d gotten used to the dolphins appearing at key moments.  They were frequent visitors while Mom was dying, often arriving to lift my spirits when I was feeling the weight of life and death.  I’d always swim out to greet them making my Flipper sounds wanting to see how close I could get
 and they’d always swim off when I got too close.  However, on this day, instead of swimming off, two dolphins swam over and circled me so closely that I could hear and feel their spray.

The air cooled as the sun slipped toward the sea.  This was Max’s cue to rouse himself and head for the trail. I grabbed my towel and the Sherpa and followed. There was no arguing with Max.  He was almost completely deaf and blind but when the sun’s radiance began to fade it was time to go home.  Following his inner GPS he’d lead the way back to the car, sometimes even finding a new path or shortcut.

When we returned home the resume had finally opened.  But it wasn’t my legal secretary resume.  It was my yoga resume and I found myself cutting and pasting it into a Craig’s List ad offering private yoga and spiritual guidance.  Within the week I began working with my first clients and was on my way to making a living
doing what I love.

I awoke one sunny fall morning knowing my time in So. Cal. was done.  2 years had passed since posting that first Craig’s List ad and I had become bi-coastal. I now had clients in NYC and So. Cal and the private yoga sessions had immediately and effortlessly evolved into the mind/body/spirit integration process I now call CEA, Carsten Energy Alignment. From my very first client my hands seemed to guide me and the Universe was responding.

I had made new friends and connections in California, singing karaoke with Sy & Mercy, my downstairs neighbors and connecting with The Little Fish Theatre, a local theater company.  I was cast in a play, The Underpants, written by Steve Martin and got a rave review in a local paper:  “… but it’s Carsten Spencer who nearly steels the show…” That inspired me to finish the first draft of a one-man play I’d been working on about my recent experiences caring for Mom.

I planned a performance of  Lettin’ the Lord Lead Me, A Work in Progress at The Little Fish Theatre hoping the directors of the company might be inspired to stage a full production.  That debacle (a story yet to be told) was in part what convinced me that my time in So. Cal. was done.  I was planning to head back to NYC and regroup but Spirit had other plans.
Life only moves forward and you can’t go back again (so they say, and so I was learning) and after three people on one week suggested What about San Francisco?, since I’d never been, I decided to check it out.  Six weeks later I found myself in a new apartment with a new partner at the start of a whole new life.  That was a powerful experience of trusting and the authentic movement that results. However,
those first years in San Francisco were challenging.  When you start to trust things can really move quickly and that can be disorienting, scary in fact, and I found myself putting on the brakes and trying to take back control.  Instead of trusting the flow I was trying to push the river, reacting to life from a place of fear that led to one of the most frightening experiences of my life…TO BE CONTINUED.
Thanks for reading.
Love & Light All Ways