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Thursday, September 18 2014

During the Labor Day Weekend, I attended a retreat on a beautiful farm in Stanton, KY.  My goal was to attempt to connect with my past—all the bad and the good—in a meaningful to help me move on with my life.  I thought meditation out under the stars might help me achieve this goal.

Through a yoga practice spanning 15 years and countless hours of meditation, I have been able to calm the chatter in my mind and progress through different levels of meditative states.

However, to my surprise, I experienced a great awakening, just by planting my bare feet on the ground, near a venerable maple tree and gazing up at the beautiful Milky Way.  I wrote about my experience and Elephant Journal published it today.

It may be a naive wish, but I truly wish everyone on Earth could experience what I experienced that lovely night.  I believe it just might be a path to making all of our lives so much easier.

Namaste.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 08:26 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Tuesday, September 09 2014

I did not take this beautiful photograph, but purchased it off of one of the stock photo websites.  However, last weekend I witnessed a similar view on a farm in central Kentucky.  I lay on the grass, barefoot, gazing up through and over a beautiful maple tree, focusing on the enormity of the Milky Way.  Shooting stars flickered, and with every breath, I became increasingly drawn into this cosmic spectacle.

I relaxed more, letting my breath settle into my body.  I focused on the silhouette of the maple tree, halfway closing my eyes, inviting a meditative state to envelop me. After what I experienced as a short period, but later discovered it must have been a few hours, I could feel my brain slowing down, the random thoughts spinning out less frequently, and I began to notice a faint web reaching up from the maple into the sky. The more I relaxed and slowed my breath, the more the web grew until it covered the entire tree, my body, the countryside around the tree, the Milky Way and far, far beyond into the universe. 

Through years of hatha yoga practice and more recently acupuncture, I have attained many different meditative states, but none so overwhelming as this. I am not certain I can adequately describe the experience in words, but I will try. I felt as if my self-awareness—my ego—simply evaporated into the night air and my entire being became absorbed into this cosmic web. It did not feel so much a web of life as it did a web of existence. I felt as if I were connected to everything in the universe.

Deepak Chopra says that people are spiritual beings having a human experience, a rather abstract belief that has now become as palpable as the soft, caressing, feel of one of my favorite, old tee-shirts. 

In the days after my experience, one that some Buddhist, Hindu, and yogic doctrines describe as a form of heightened meditation or Samadhi, I have developed a feeling of sadness. This sadness is tightly coupled with yearning that every person on Earth quickly get to that state I experienced. In my naïve dream of Shangra-La, we would all understand that we are truly brothers and sisters, given the divine responsibility of taking care of one another and our beautiful planet as we ourselves journey through this dimension.

I encourage everyone to take your shoes off, put your feet on the ground, lie on your back, and gaze up at the night sky.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 06:40 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, August 09 2014

The Very Old Great Failure is an art book containing juxtapositions of semi-abstract collages with the verses of a found poem, all created by John Edward Brooks.  Brooks created the collages and produced the poems from a chapter of Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain.  I’ll preface my review with a bit of my background.

My forays into the more abstract areas of contemporary art have been a series of stops and goes, mainly futile.  My long time friend, Shannon Westerman, the Executive Director of The Louisville Visual Art Association, has encouraged me over the years to broaden my horizons and expand my views.  He has gently nudged me in various ways:  a tasteful gift of art here, an invitation to an artist’s gallery opening there, a dinner with a curator or a collector, and so on.  Some of the encounters were like a blind date gone awry, others mildly interesting, and others such as my recent meeting of the artist John Edward Brooks and tour of his home and studio, a transformative experience.

As a writer, my quest has been to distill all the shades of the human emotional spectrum into the pages of a novel, a short story, or a poem.  I yearn for the reader to have clarity:  to feel what I feel, in essence, to see the picture I am trying to paint with words.  Yet, in my heart, I know emotions do not work that way.  In fact, they are formed within us, like layers of an onion, and as they are peeled back, they are sometimes raw and stinging, and other times sweet and as inviting as the Vidalia.

John Edwards Brooks’ collages, drawings, photographs and paintings are wrought with many emotional layers.  Perusing his works is like looking through a kaleidoscope of feelings and emotions, especially these collages that flow with motion, evoking emotion.  The layers of pain, loss, sadness, shock, desire, lust, hope, joy, and despair fly in your face.  Fortunately, the artist provides you with a framework of words in the form of the found poem verses around which to grab hold as you view the collages.  For a neophyte into abstract contemporary art, I find this comforting and helpful.  I also find myself returning to the pages of The Very Old Great Failure over and over, each time experiencing something new.  Overall, I keep taking away feelings of the mutability and fragility of life and how we live out our lives in a web of emotions.

I cannot remember the last time a book produced so many different feelings within me.  I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys art and enjoys the written word.  John Edward Brooks is an important emerging artist, and I predict he will become well known in the art world.

I have no criticism of the content of the book, but I would love to see this important work done in an upscale, hardbound version, with high quality paper and art quality reproduction of the collages.  That would be a book that should be on everyone’s coffee table; I guarantee you it will evoke good conversation.

You can purchase this lovely book on Amazon.  I give it 5 stars.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 09:47 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 14 2014

The Hanging Tree: A NovellaThe Hanging Tree: A Novella by Michael Phillip Cash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was asked by an agent to review Michael Phillip Cash’s novella The Hanging Tree. I received a paper back copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Hanging Tree is a wonderful paranormal story about a teenage couple exploring the boundaries of their sexuality under an old tree haunted by five ghosts. The ghosts are different generations of the same family and are bound to the tree by an ancient curse conjured up by the oldest ghost who was hanged as a suspected witch over 300 years ago.

Cash expertly weaves the old with the new while showing that most problems we humans face are universal through the ages. The cast of characters is colorful and interesting and believable.

Cash has a crisp, descriptive style, and writes fine dialogue. The ghouls are not too scary or gruesome, and the story lines converge to a flawless, exciting ending.

I can recommend this novella to anyone. The story is clever and rich and deserves five stars.


View all my reviews

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 01:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 14 2014

The Hanging Tree: A NovellaThe Hanging Tree: A Novella by Michael Phillip Cash
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was asked by an agent to review Michael Phillip Cash’s novella The Hanging Tree. I received a paper back copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Hanging Tree is a wonderful paranormal story about a teenage couple exploring the boundaries of their sexuality under an old tree haunted by five ghosts. The ghosts are different generations of the same family and are bound to the tree by an ancient curse conjured up by the oldest ghost who was hanged as a suspected witch over 300 years ago.

Cash expertly weaves the old with the new while showing that most problems we humans face are universal through the ages. The cast of characters is colorful and interesting and believable.

Cash has a crisp, descriptive style, and writes fine dialogue. The ghouls are not too scary or gruesome, and the story lines converge to a flawless, exciting ending.

I can recommend this novella to anyone. The story is clever and rich and deserves five stars.


View all my reviews

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 01:33 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, July 14 2014

The FlipThe Flip by Michael Phillip Cash
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I was asked by an agent to review Michael Phillip Cash’s novel The Flip. I received a paper back copy in exchange for an honest review.

Cash, a talented storyteller, crafts a paranormal story of a young couple’s purchase of a large, old Victorian mansion they intend to restore themselves and quickly resell for a profit. Several Civil War era characters, including a voluptuous railroad heiress who has amorous designs on the handsome young husband doing the restoration, haunt the mansion.

Cash has a fluid, crisp style of writing, with vivid descriptions of his settings, and realistic dialogue. Further, as a person who has had more than a few encounters with spirits, I find his portrayal of them remarkably true to what I have experienced.

The novel is a quick read with well-developed characters. Cash switches scenes between the antebellum era and the present in a seamless way that progresses the story. The crux of the plot is that everyone just wants to be loved. You will not find blood and gore and scenes that will send you shivering under your covers, but you will find a truly enjoyable ghost story.

The actual printing of the pages was off a bit with some pages having only one sentence in the middle of the page. This bothered me.

I highly recommend this book to people who enjoy a quick read, a great story line, and who have an open mind about the spirit world. I think Cash has many more great stories to tell. I’m saving my five stars rating for one of those. This fine story gets four stars.



View all my reviews

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 09:38 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, March 07 2014

Jody Zimmerman in Standing Backbend, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, July, 2010

I’ve practice yoga almost daily for fifteen years, and I have been a yoga instructor for four years.  Of all the asanas I practice and teach, I have observed that backbends, particularly the standing backbend, generate the most anxiety, fear, and reluctance among yogis.

Backbends are one of the most mysterious of all the asanas, but just like a great mystery novel, as you progress page by page, slowly revealing the layers of the story, as you approach your backbends step by step, you unlock their enormous power.

Anxiety, fear, and reluctance are terms not normally associated with the benefits of the practice of yoga.  Don’t we all practice yoga to rid ourselves of these states of being?  The answer is yes and no.

The practice of hatha yoga or forceful yoga employs the body, mind, and breath control to help an individual arrive at a physical, mental, and spiritual state of overall calmness in order to meditate and connect with the universe—that which is everything.

So, what does this have to do with backbends?  For most of us, particularly Westerners, we spend our working lives hunched over computers, bent over executing physical tasks, bowing toward omnipresent gravity.  In this hunched over state, we are, both symbolically and physically, protecting our vital organs and our hearts.  We are covering and concealing and relinquishing to gravity. 

Backbends are the polar opposite of this.  In backbends, we are uncovering and exposing our vital organs and our hearts.  We are lifting our heart toward the heavens, away from the pull of gravity.  We are opening our spines in opposition to our normal state, we are exposing ourselves, and we are displaying our vulnerability.  These are all fearful, sometimes terrifying states for many of us.

The key to practicing backbends without anxiety, fear, and reluctance is to start within your comfortable range, and each time you come to your mat, take it one tiny step further.

Most of us do backbends each morning without even thinking about it.  At some point we stretch our spines upward, open our arms wide, reaching up, lifting our chests, perhaps with a yawn—performing an unconscious hatha yoga movement to wake up our bodies after sleep.

Locus pose and Bridge pose are the easiest back bends for most of us, because we are firmly supported on the ground.  Camel and particularly Standing Backbend present more challenges because our bodies are more vertical and further away from the mat.

Backbends often generate a great deal of emotional release as you open your Heart Chakra.  Immediately after the death of three of my beloved dogs at different times in the past, I would go straight to yoga practice, and invariably, each time I arrived in Camel Pose, I became overcome with emotion and literally cried my heart out, helping me to both grieve the loss of my loved ones and to arrive at an understanding that they weren’t really dead or gone, but merely moving on to become a part of the universe in a different way. 

And so goes the mystery and power of backbends.

Jamie Haworth, Jody Zimmerman, Shawna Spellman, and Rob Spellman from Heat Yoga and Wellness in Camel Pose at Pura Vida Yoga Resort in Costa Rica in February 2007.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 10:02 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, February 13 2014

HOT TODDY RECIPE

It has been a cold, brutal winter for a large part of the United States this year.  Even now, the deep southern states of Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina are experiencing catatrosphic ice and snow.  Not only have we endurred several polar vortexes this winter, but colds and influenza have spread like wildfire. 

Whenever I get an annoying cold, a bad cough, or even the flu, I find more comfort and solace in slowing sipping a Hot Toddy than any medicine my doctor prescribes.  I have no idea if there are documented medical benefits attributed to Hot Toddies, but the healing and salutary benefits I receive are real.  Sometimes I make one when I'm perfectly well, and I sip it by the fireplace as I read a good mystery or thriller.

I've been experimenting with Hot Toddies for many years.  Here's my recipe.

  • Put one tablespoon of honey in a mug (preferably local honey from your geographic area)
  • Squeeze one-half medium size lemon through a sieve into the mug (preferably organic lemon)
  • Add one whole clove to the mug
  • Add 3 ounces of boiling water to the mug or add 3 ounces of cold water and microwave until steaming
  • Add 2 ounces of your favorite bourbon (I prefer Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon)

  • Stir, grab a good book, go sit by the fire, and enjoy.  If you don't have a fireplace, just grab a blanket, curl up in a comfortable chair or sofa and imagine that you do have a fireplace.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 03:29 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Saturday, January 25 2014

Chicken Soup

There is hardly anything more satisfying on a cold day than a steaming bowl of chicken soup.  It is great to sip while you are reading a good mystery, psychological thriller or other book.  It is easy to make.  Here’s how I do it.  I use organic chicken and vegetables, and I don't mind if a little soil stays on the vegetables—minerals are good for you.

One 3 to 4 lb whole chicken, skin on.

6 to 8 stalks of celery, leaves on

3 large carrots

1 large yellow onion

1 medium turnip

1 large sprig of fresh thyme

Several stems of fresh Italian parsley

1 bay leaf

Several green and red whole peppercorns

Sea salt to taste

3 to 4 quarts of filtered water

Chop celery, carrots, onion, & turnip in large pieces and place in a large stockpot.  Do not peel anything, even the onion.  The skin imparts a lovely caramel color to the broth. Add the water and turn the heat on high.  Meanwhile, rinse the chicken and pull off the fat near the tail.  You can discard the internal organs or use them for something else (my dogs devour them after I boil them), but I throw the neck in the stockpot, too.  Place the chicken in the pot.  Add the bay leaf, thyme, parsley, peppercorns, parsley, and salt.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer, cover.  Let the stock cook for 2 to 3 hours.  Afterwards, strain the stock in a large colander.  Save the stock, discard the cooked vegetables and shred the chicken meat.

Finished Stock

In a saucepan, add the amount of stock you want for soup, freeze the rest.  Add a generous potion of white and dark chicken meat.  Slice 1 or more large carrots on rounds and add to saucepan.  Bring to a boil.  Add noodles of your choice or cooked rice.  Trisha Yearwood published her mother’s recipe a few years ago that has frozen or fresh green peas in it.  I love this touch and recommend it.  As soon as carrots are tender, adjust the salt and pepper and the soup is ready.

Chicken Soup

Enjoy it by the bowl or mug.  I like mine without noodles or rice, but I do add them (already cooked) from time to time for other people.

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 12:36 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Thursday, January 23 2014

The practice of yoga has changed my life more than I can describe in words.  It has taught me so much about myself, about others, and about how I fit into the world and the universe.  Yoga feels to me like a guardian angel, gently nudging me onward in a direction that is right for me, which has included becoming a yoga instructor, publishing my mystery/pschological thriller, Blood Brothers, and rearranging my life to live each day fuller.  I am so blessed to have found yoga, so much so that part of my mission in life is to share it with others.  Today I'd like to tell you about three things I cherish that yoga has taught me.

Patience - To Live in the Present

Balance - Understanding Moderation

Strength - Of Body, Mind, & Spirit

If you have any specific questions about how yoga might help you, send me an email to jodyzimmerman@mac.com

Posted by: Jody Zimmerman AT 08:08 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email

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