Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Iris Lambert: Living the Life of a Free Spirit in Tropical Places

I never got to know yoga teacher/singer/massage therapist Iris Lambert when she lived in Ashland, Oregon but started to pay attention to her when I read her Facebook posts describing travels to Thailand, Hawaii, Mexico and Costa Rica-- all places that figure in my own travel fantasies.

I am always interested in knowing more about the lives of older people who are led by a sense of adventure, creativity and attention to health and spirit. I sensed that Iris Lambert had something worthwhile to share about living light and free.

I spoke with Iris by phone recently from her home in the Virgin Islands where she moved from Ashland in 2007 in order to be in a warmer climate. Our conversation began this way. "In 1998 my kids were grown. I needed to get the wind in my sails again. So I started traveling to teach yoga. I went to places 4-6 hours away from Ashland to do weekend seminars, but I found it was too hard on my body to do it that way. I was looking for another way. Originally, I went down to the Virgin Islands to visit my daughter."

She seems to have found a good home base at least for now. "I feel comfortable in my skin down here," she said. She told me that looking out her window, she could see a group of men playing dominoes next to the store. "White people are a minority here," she said. "The native people came here from slave boats. But there really is not much racism here."

The connections Iris made when she was doing her yoga workshops in the US led to international contacts. When she went to Thailand with Ashland massage therapist Dvora Schwarzman to study Thai massage, Iris met a man who invited her to teach yoga in Mexico and she was off on her tropical journey.

I loved talking to her about some of the details of her life. Like me she is a hippie at heart and had many counterculture adventures including living in a teepee in Hawaii. She also got an M.A. in education and homeschooled her two daughters. "I was a single mother," she said, "I did everything for everybody. I had to unlearn that."

With her daughters grown, she was ready for a fresh start in a new stage of life. "When I went to Thailand I wanted to let go of knowing anything," she said. "I wanted to get back to zero."

I decided to check in with some of Iris' friends to see what they had to say. They reminded me that Iris, who is usually called Irie, had formed a choir called Freedom Singers while she was in Ashland in addition to teaching yoga here.

Shari Kalb met Iris in 1978 in Santa Cruz. Shari told me, "I was involved in the Freedom Singers. Iris is a wonderful singer and choir director. We sang inspirational songs and songs of the spirit. I experience Iris as always being positive and looking at the bright side of things."

Another friend, Lindea Kirschner, painted a beautiful and full portrait. "I've known Irie since 1981. Irie is an amazing soul, a true free spirit. She's gifted with many talents and loves using them and sharing them with those around her. She's a true healer, songstress, gardener, yogini, masseuse, world traveler - and excels at whatever she does. She's even great on the computer, creating her own websites and fliers. What a beautiful lifestyle she has, living in the moment and listening to Spirit.

When Irie is in town, one of our favorite things to do is go to Wellsprings and soak in the healing waters, sun and sauna. She really knows how to take care of herself through her healing diet and lifestyle.

Her approach to aging is living a simple, healthy life with lots of adventure, happiness and newness. It really keeps her young at heart and her wise spirit just shines through. She's good at staying in touch with friends, so she's has many places she can call home during her travels. Irie is a gem!"

There's much more to know about Iris Lambert, who is such a great example of creative aging, wellness and spirit. I hope I have a chance to hang out in the mineral springs at Wellsprings with her next time she returns to visit Ashland. Or maybe study with her in the Virgin Islands! If you want to know more about how to study with her there or how to ask her to visit your locale, visit her Website

Friday, April 23, 2010

Approaching My 69th Year

I will be 69 on Monday and the passing of another year makes me reflect on my own life and on aging in general. Today I enjoyed visiting with an 80 year old woman who just got her Master's degree in psychology. Two days ago I visited with a 90-year old man whose career included Hollywood movies, New York theater and college teaching. Both of them are very alive, curious, engaged people. This is a good thing for them, and for all of us who have the opportunity to meet them. It certainly gives me a good feeling.

I've been thinking about older people. Where they live, what they do, and how they think. I have a dear friend who is a Tibetan Buddhist nun. She lives out in the mountain valley near the Tashi Choling temple. She's close to my age. She has 7 peacocks. Some are white, some maroon, and some the iridescent kind we are used to seeing. She has two big beautiful white dogs and one tiny dog she calls Tigle which means Drop in Tibetan. She lives in a very secluded place. Another woman I know who's 78 lives down the road from my friend. It's not always easy to live out in the country when you get older, but it is a beautiful way to live. I always thought I'd be living out there in that mountain valley near those two, but here I am in a townhouse in town. Surprise! Not that living in this elegant artsy town is such a terrible thing. It's quite fine, actually. Perhaps someday I'll live in the country again, or I may live in a bamboo hut in Thailand. Life's possibilities are all rather open.

My friend the nun took me and my wheelchair to the Ashland Food Co-op. We had lunch together and I did some shopping. Today for me the colors of all the fruits and vegetables, the profusion of all the beautiful kinds of food and the array of people of all ages, their clothing, faces, gestures, voices, all of it was like a delicious glass of just squeezed orange juice. Bright, full of sweetness and harmonics. Is my appreciation because I have been in the house so much as I heal my fractured bones? I don't know. Sometimes it seems to me that age itself sharpens one's attention and vision, and sometimes brings an intensified appreciation.

I've invited a group of friends over on Sunday to take part in an informal reading of my musical play. That should be fun and for me as a writer, useful, too. Hearing how the play sounds as a whole. This is part of going to the next stage, or getting onto the stage with a first production of the play.

Meanwhile it's spring and lilacs are blooming everywhere. I am longing for a bouquet of them. Spring fever? Could be because I lapse into my escape fantasies regularly, imagining the beautiful garden of Gabriel and Kitzia in La Ribera, Baja. Or I find myself dreaming of going to India, Thailand or Belize. I think it was my escapist fantasies that led me to interview Iris Lambert who used to live in Ashland, but now lives in the Virgin Islands and teaches yoga in various appealing tropical places. How does she do it? What's it like? I was thinking to myself. So I talked with her about it.

Watch for my blog about Iris and her free spirit tropical lifestyle. I will post it soon.

It's National Poetry Month. "A poem is a piercing look into the very heart of things."--Ferlinghetti


Photo by Chi King: Stairs leading to the "Ocean of Bamboo" in the Yellow Mountains, Huangshan, China

Friday, April 16, 2010

Week 3 of the Wheelchair

I've been using a wheelchair for the past 3 weeks after fracturing 4 metatarsal bones in my left foot. I was trying to collapse a cardboard box but it slipped out from under my foot and I fell, landing with my weight on my left foot. Being in a body requires mindfulness and even then, one may still suffer an accident. One great thing about it is how marvelous the staff at Ashland Community Hospital's emergency room is. I've gone there twice in the past few years and both times it was a friendly, even uplifting experience.

People suggest that it is instructive to navigate in a wheelchair as an educational process in order to understand the experience of the disabled. Yes it is educational. First it is much harder to do anything, from getting something from the cupboard to getting out of the house and into a car.

When your eyes are at the height of everyone else's waist or chest, you remember how big everybody seemed when you were a kid. In a crowded place, I noticed a natural wish to protect myself from the quick movements of others. You feel more vulnerable, in other words. Sometimes people look at you as if you are defective or should be avoided. (Since I am quite aware of these "mostly unconscious" attitudes in regard to being older, this was one more layer to assimilate in terms of prejudice and avoidance.)

In spite of the various difficulties, I have been enjoying this period of time. Maybe day after day of spring rain has helped in this regard. Well it's raining again, I say to myself, settling in for another day in the house.

I finished some rewrites on A New Wrinkle and am pleased with them. I am surveying what I need to do in order to get it produced locally and elsewhere. I am planning several events that involve reading the play or performing excerpts from it. I am reviewing my overall vision for Sage's Play, which includes seminars, lectures, performances, community forums and a book on aging, which I am starting to write.

There are moments when my overall vision seems rather BIG. I now remind myself that I have had little signs posted in my office for months THINK BIG. I want to free myself up in that way since I have often confined myself to small thinking in the past. I want to THINK BIG and be relaxed and easy about having a BIG vision. What's the BIG DEAL? Big or small, you still have to do one thing and another, look for ways to synthesize, expect miracles and enjoy the ride.

I am enjoying the ride which right now involves a wheelchair.

My 69th birthday is about to arrive at the end of the month, so in the Sailing Toward 70 cruise, I am coming closer! Birthdays tend to get me reflecting on my life. I am remembering how my dear astrologer friend Kate Maloney said to me in a reading many years ago, "Doesn't it all seem of a piece?" She was speaking of the pattern of my life. I was ashamed to admit to her that no it did not seem all of a piece. It seemed disparate, fragmented, and the themes were hard for me to see and understand. Now finally it does seem all of a piece, the whole journey thus far with all of its variety, tributaries, cul de sacs, bogs, peaks, enchantments and epiphanies. I notice that my awareness of not only my life but of the culture and era becomes more panoramic with time. Many decades of life can do this it seems.

No guarantees or certainty about anything. Here one minute, gone the next. Learning to relax with that. Meanwhile, beautiful bird songs outside my window and the promise of some sunny interludes today. Hope you are enjoying the ride too.

Photo credit-- www.crinklecrankle.com

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A bouquet of interesting creative elders

I wanted to tell you about some of the creative elders I've encountered lately.

Ruth Flowers, aka MamyRock, is a 69-year British woman who decided to become a DJ after going to her grandson's birthday disco party. That night the music and dancing lit her soul. She decided that this was what she wanted to do with her life. Now she is in high demand on the party circuit at night clubs and festivals in France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. This You Tube trailer provides an introduction to her upbeat, in your face style. If you want to see more, there are plenty of video clips and interviews with her on the Internet. She's a big sensation in Europe. She is definitely a woman who is following her bliss and busting up stereotypes in the process.

Yesterday the New York Times ran a marvelous article on Vollis Simpson,91 a North Carolina man who began to create large scale whirligigs out of scrap metal, wood and other cast off materials. Simpson credits his involvement in creating art for living 20 years longer than his father and other family members did.

The Times reported, "His work, which graced a window at Bergdorf Goodman in Manhattan last Christmas, is on permanent display in Baltimore, Atlanta and Albuquerque. City people regularly find their way down Wiggins Mills Road to his place, and some of them give him $125 or more for a little nuts-and-bolts dog with a propeller for a tail. His biggest pieces have sold for many thousands, though he gives a lot away, and his only business manager is his wife, Jean, 82, who used to do the books for the repair shop."

Take a look at the article and the wonderful slide show of Mr. Simpson's work.

A friend told me about Herb and Dorothy Vogel, a postal clerk and librarian--ordinary folks of modest means who certainly don't fit the usual description of art collectors. The Vogels managed to build an amazing art collection, accumulating 2,000 pieces of art over a period of 30 years. They had a real passion for art and a marvelous ability to choose artists and art that would later become influential and famous. In 1992, they gave their collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. I love their story. You can see a few clips about them at Herb and Dorothy

Each of these elders demonstrates how possible it is for us to follow our bliss and live out our dreams.

That's the story today from Oregon, where I'm hanging out, writing and visualizing my fractured foot bones healing in a beautiful way.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Abandoning Hurry and Appreciating Slowness

The links between speed, aggression, impersonality and stress are quite obvious when we look around at our amped-up culture. Physician/author Larry Dossey calls it time-sickness. There's never enough time, as people rush from one thing to the next, often quite proud of their awful busyness. Even little children suffer from overscheduled days which bring a sense of pressure and confinement.

There's a move on in various countries to counter the speed-driven lifestyle. Slow Food which began in Italy was its start. Now the value of slowness has begun to influence urban design, medicine, parenting and family life. In America, where people work so much more than most other industrialized countries, everyone wants to work less and enjoy life more. More leisure and less pressure. More openness and aliveness.

I don't need to be converted to the beauty of life in the slower lanes and alleys. As an artist and meditator, I have always made sure that I've had free time. I've used it to relax in stillness, to daydream and explore the inner life of imagination and spirit. I have grown to appreciate slowness more and more and I age. It's natural to slow down in the later years.

I recently read two books on slowness because I wondered what others had to say about it. Slow is Beautiful is by Cecile Andrews who is a founder of the Phinney Ecovillage, a project to build sustainability and community in her North Seattle neighborhood. Andrews describes how slowing down helps grow community and a culture of connection. She also discusses how developing a slower, simpler lifestyle naturally decreases stress and increases joie de vivre. Conviviality, neighborly connection and slowness provide opportunities to serve others and bring an increased enjoyment of the present moment.

Canadian journalist Carl Honore's book In Praise of Slowness takes a broad look at many areas in society where speed corrodes everyday life. He talks about various countries and how they are approaching efforts to slow down. He investigates the value of leisure, rejuvenation and adventure, working less, raising an unhurried child,taking naps, vacations and enjoying meals in a leisurely fashion. Both books are well worth reading, even if you are already an advocate of slowness.

Last Friday, I took a fall while trying to collapse a cardboard box with my foot. It slipped out from under me, and now I have 4 fractured metatarsal bones in my left foot. So I am especially slowed down for the next few weeks. But it's not so bad at all. I have been enjoying switching off between crawling around like a little kid and using crutches and a wheelchair. Different forms of locomotion than I usually use.

I think it's a pretty funny coincidence that I read those two books and now am being given the opportunity to slow down to a very slow pace indeed. It's quite a gift.