Friday, December 31, 2004

New Year's Resolutions

This is the time of year that people tend to take stock of their lives, decide upon changes, set goals, that sort of thing. I do this all the time. I am a lover of beginnings and fresh starts. I loved the first day of school, the beginning of the semester at college, opening a new book, empty tablets and notebooks, all that freshness and promise. So of course I go crazy for New Years. But over the 30 plus years I have been doing this I have realized that most of the resolutions are recyclable. I can use them over and over again each year. It takes a bit of the freshness off to write for the 20th time: I will lose weight. Been there, didn't do that, don't really wanna be there again. Same with I will get organized. I will get my finances in order. So I decided to try some new, unused fresh resolutions this year. How do these sound?

1. I will not lose weight. I will not work towards a size 8 or 6 or 4. I will remain a size 12. I will buy size 12 clothes and I will enjoy being a size 12.

2. I am organized enough. I will continue my very functional organizational plan and I will marvel in its simplicity and effectiveness.

3. I will not work harder. I already work hard enough. I will work when I feel like working and play when I feel like playing. I will move around, dance or exercise when my body desires.

4. I will go to the gym because it feels good, not because I need to. When there, I will do what strikes my fancy. Some days it may only be the sauna, or just stretching on the mat. No more gym pressure!!!!

5. One recycled resolution from last year. I will be positive in my thoughts. This one is very important and very challenging. It is not surprising that it is taking several years to get it accomplished.

Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Limitedness

Something to contemplate as this year ends and anther begins:

"We get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."

--Paul Bowles

via my sister and The Writer's Almanac

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

A question

Why?

She wondered why they hurt her
Why they screamed how much they cared
While they pinched her
And with their cruel eyes stared

Oh yes, we love you
Sometimes they’d sing
Then they’d slap her
Till her whole body felt the sting

Smiling they’d offer a present
Beautifully wrapped and with ribbons tied
They’d say it was a plea
For the forgiveness of all the times they’d lied

Foolishly she’d accept it
Believing that they knew love’s name
Opening it, she would feel her heart soar
Repeatedly playing their awful game

Of course, the box would contain
A dead pet or hairy spiders or choking smoke
Every time she opened one, she felt the pain
And lost another ray of hope.


I wrote this poem when I was a teenager. Lately I have been revisiting my past in an effort to heal. This poem has always been very meaningful for me. To me it describes ultimate betrayal and cruelty. I can't say that I completely understand what my younger self was thinking about when she wrote it. It probably just came bubbling up from my unconscious, but I am trying to understand what it means to me now.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Being today

I am terribly sad
As I move moment to moment
My heart aches
I feel it any time
I stop doing
And yet
The sun continues to travel the sky
My body continues to ingest and then digest food
My lungs breathe
The squirrel takes the peanuts I place on the deck railing
And my eyes smile at the sight
All seem to be oblivious of my heart pain
Today I sit with this
Because this is today

Monday, December 6, 2004

Compassion or Co-dependence?

From Boundaries and Relationships. Knowing, Protecting and Enjoying the Self by Charles L. Whitfield M.D.

Compassion is a feeling that is also a evolved and useful state of consciousness, probably second only to feeling Unconditional Love. But it can sometimes be difficult to differentiate true compassion from the simple and trapping passion of active co-dependence, where there are usually unhealthy boundaries.

Have you ever been moved by someone's story? We feel a similar empathy and passion in both compassion and active co-dependence. But in true compassion we feel warm and caring and yet do not feel compelled to jump in and rescue, fix or try to heal them. We are still there for people if they reach out to us in any way; but we are secure enough in ourself not to try to use fixing them to fill our own emptiness.

Thursday, December 2, 2004

What does it mean to know?

I have started with a new therapist and we have been focusing on the difficulties within my blended family. At some point Tuesday night, after I was complaining that I didn't feel appreciated my therapist said: You knew he had a son when you married him.
I felt bad when my therapist said it to me. This statement feels very discounting and shaming to me. I spent a few hours trying to understand why. What is the assumption behind the statement? That I should have expected all these problems? That I could have been prepared? This was how I defended myself to my therapist. (Notice I said defended, I felt attacked). I tried to argue that there was no way in hell I could have been prepared for this, never having had kids, not expecting my stepson to live with us since he was in Russia and kids rarely leave their moms in Russia. Add on top of that that I didn't expect my stepson to be such a difficult child. But let's be totally honest here. I knew my husband had a kid when we got involved. Did I give it much thought? No. I was head over heels in love and I only thought about how my heart ached at the thought of not being with him. End of story. Was this smart? No. Does criticizing this now help? No. This leads me to some examples I thought of while driving in the car to work yesterday. When someone complains about how bad their husband is, why don't we say: Didn't you know you husband when you married him? It wasn't an arranged marriage, was it? When someone complains about how difficult their teenager is, why don't we say: Hmmmm. You knew he would grow up into a teenager when you decided to have him didn't you? You weren't ignorant of biology, were you? You understood that sex can lead to teenagers didn't you? When someone complains about their boss why don't we say: You had an interview before you took the job, didn't you? You met him, right, you investigated the company? I could go on and on here but I think you get it. We don't say these things to people when they tell us their problems with their boss or kids or husbands BECAUSE IT DOESN'T HELP --- BECAUSE IT JUST DISCOUNTS THEM AND MAKES THEM FEEL STUPID. IT BASICALLY SAYS "YOU MADE YOUR BED NOW YOU SLEEP IN IT." IF THIS KIND OF ADVICE SEEMS HELPFUL TO ANYONE PLEASE RAISE YOUR HAND.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Happy Thanksgiving

I am spending Thanksgiving at my sister's house. Yesterday I met my new nephew, what a cutie! My husband and stepson have gone to scuba dive in the Florida Keys.

Generally, thanksgiving is a time of giving thanks.

  • I am thankful for my self, for working towards healing and wholeness.
  • I am thankful for my family especially my sister and her family for treating me to this wonderful Thanksgiving visit.
  • I am thankful for my husband and stepson for loving me and being patient with me.
  • I am thankful for C. for supporting me through this time and opening her house to me and welcoming me.
  • I am thankful for my dear friends at CSM forum, for sharing with me and supporting me.
  • I am thankful for the blogosphere and especially wonderful caring people who have formed a relationship with me.
  • I am thankful to B. for our recent deep philosophical discussions.
  • I am thankful for the abundance and comfort that I have.
  • I am thankful for the sangha I have found and the wonderful people there that I can share with and practice with.
  • I am thankful for my open eyes and open mind.
  • I am thankful to the human race for the heritage and art that I have access to, for all the people willing to share some part of their soul with the rest of us.
  • I am thankful, simply thankful.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

Cries of a child

Why do I still feel like a child? I am 40 years old. And I don't mean a child in a fun-loving creative way. I don't mean jumping for joy and dancing in the sunlight. I mean sitting in a meeting full of faculty colleagues (but not actually colleagues because they are tenured or tenure-track and I am not) and feeling powerless, small and weak. I mean thinking about my life and how I left home to get a break from a stressful family situation and it seems so petty and childish. I mean thinking about being alone and feeling scared and wanting to call out to someone. But there is no one to call out to. I am an adult. I can't be comforted by a soft teddy bear or my thumb in my mouth any more. I am 40 years old and I am all alone.

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Writing

As a very happy subscriber to the Writer's Almanac (subscribe) I have been wanting to feature it in a blog entry. I have been waiting for just the right issue, just the right time. Well being so philosophical lately has led me to spontaneity, there is no 'right time' so I am doing it today. The Writer's Almanac is a daily email newsletter Minnesota public radio. It is written and read by Garrison Keillor (it comes with a link to the audio if you prefer listening to reading). Each newsletter features a poem and then some pertinent biographical or historical literary information related to the date. Today's issue has a wonderful poem by William Stafford, An Introduction to Some Poems, the first stanza of which was very meaningful to me:

Look: no one ever promised for sure
that we would sing. We have decided
to moan. In a strange dance that
we don't understand till we do it, we
have to carry on.
To give you an extra taste of what flavors and textures were offered for today:

It's the birthday of the novelist Andrea Barrett, (books by this author) born in Boston, Massachusetts (1954). She is known for writing about botanists, oceanographers and geologists in novels such as The Forms of Water (1993) and The Voyage of the Narwhal (1998).

She grew up on Cape Cod, and spent most of her time near the ocean, fascinated by sea life. She decided to study biology in college and went on to study zoology in graduate school.

At some point, she decided she was more interested in history than biology, and started studying medieval religion. It was while she was writing papers about the Spanish Inquisition that she realized she should be a writer. She said, "I'd go to the library and pull out everything, fill my room and become obsessed with the shape and the texture of the paper, and the way the words look, trying to make it all dramatic. At some point I realized: 'Hey, this isn't history, and I'm not a scholar.'"

She worked as a secretary in medical labs, trying to write. After years of struggling to finish her first novel, she showed it to a writer at the Bread Loaf Writer's Conference, and he told her to throw it away. She was so upset that she cried for a day, but then she took his advice and wrote her novel Lucid Stars which was published in 1988. Her collection of short stories Ship Fever (1996) became a best-seller after winning the National Book Award.

Because so many of Barrett's books deal with scientists, she constantly has to do research before she writes. She said, "I love research...I describe a [sailor] character who has to go belowdecks, and I think, 'So what is belowdecks?...Then I have to get books about ship building, ship history, immigration history, so I can write a little more...I love learning that way—lurching from subject area to subject area. When you're lit by your own purposes, it's astonishing how easily you can leap into a new field and get to that center of passion."

In order to finish her book The Voyage of the Narwhal, about a group of British scientists exploring the Arctic, Barrett traveled to Antarctica herself.

Her most recent book is Servants of the Map (2002).

Andrea Barrett said, "I think science and writing are utterly the same thing. They are completely rooted in passion and desire, if they're any good at all. You can fall in love with the natural world in the same way you fall in love with a person. There's that same sense of helplessness, of lacking control over how much of your life you want to devote to it."

She also said, "It's hard to explain how much one can love writing. If people knew how happy it can make you, we would all be writing all the time. It's the greatest secret of the world."

After reading this I thought, "Wow! I want to do that!" I have read Ship Fever and really enjoyed it. To anyone who isn't already a subscriber, I highly recommend it. It has given me a lot of joy over the months I have been reading it.

Support Minnesota Public Radio and NPR through your local public radio station if you can. They do good work!


Monday, November 15, 2004

Lower expectations

I have been working on healing myself. Focusing on healing myself. And all the while I have been piling on expectations. Planning what books to read, what exercises to do, what lists of things to write and then do. All in the guise of self healing. Guess what, I don't feel very healed after 1 month of this. Here is an excerpt of something I wrote on the Childless Stepmoms forum.
I was thinking this morning about what I have done, learned and experienced in these weeks free from the day to day demands. I imagined that without the usual household chores, I would have an enormous amount of free time. I would luxuriate in baths each night, go to the gym, write long entries in my blog, crochet an afghan for my sister, read lots of books, mediate each day. Guess how many of those things I have done? Not too many. I am spending more time at work. My drive is much longer to and from work. I am spending time with my friend but I am not living the life I expected. I also expected to lose weight. Maybe I have a little but it has not dropped off as I expected. I did not transform from an overweight unkempt woman to a svelte sex goddess. I have been to the gym exactly 3 times. I have gone for 1 walk (although I now park in a lot farther from work so I end up walking 20 mins a day to and from the car). I have not started training for a triathlon as I expected. I have not started getting up at 5 AM. I am not zipping around with unbounded energy. Now it seems to me that my impossible expectations of life and myself are my main problems.

Mulling this over for a while and something remarkable came to me. Why not just lower my expectations? Why not write to do lists containing 5 items rather than 25 or 50? Why not schedule the 8 hours of sleep that I need instead of condemning my wimpy biology? Why not plan for the goofing off (or socializing depending on your point of view)? Why not write the couple of candy bars a week into the diet and learn to live with it for now? I am tired of feeling like a failure. According to my view of the universe I have been failing for 40 years. I just can't stand to fail anymore and the only way I can see to start succeeding is to lower my standards, ridiculously. Make goals that are laughable (to my overachiever brain). That's my new plan. So what's slated for tonight. Not much. Therapy from 8-9 and then home to relax, maybe a bubble bath, but if not, then not. Anything is ok. It may be hard to believe someone can feel guilty about not getting a bubble bath but if it's on the list and I haven't checked it off... Drive home, go to bed sometime, preferably wearing pajamas and having brushed my teeth (flossing optional, I am being gentle and relaxed). That is one evening's goals I expect to achieve. :)

Monday, November 8, 2004

Moving along

I am moving forward in this path
if slowly
then slowly
so be it

On Sunday, at Zen
I kept time on the makugyo
for the first time

Somehow thinking about drumming
Made chanting easier
Until I made a mistake
Because then I made two

I also swept leaves from the path
The gentle early morning sun
And the rustle of leaves
Were just what I needed




Saturday, October 30, 2004

Healing music

I haven't posted in a while because my personal life is complicated right now. I am staying with a friend, trying to sort through my feelings, trying to look at myself and my situation and my family from a different perspective. Humans (or me at least) are a mosiac of past and present, of hopes, expectations, disappointments and memories. I was thinking about how I am a generally competent person but I can't seem to get anything right or have any success when it comes to myself. Part of the problem is that I don't know what I want, what I should work toward. All the usual goals of the perfect job, a certain amount of money, fame, getting a book published, a beautiful house, a child, a loving family.... I am unsure about. Such desires seem to come from outside myself, societies expectations, or maybe unattainable, or maybe undeserved? One thought came to me when I was walking, a goal that I may be able to work toward, if I can get past how selfish it sounds, to heal myself. Just that. And if I accomplish it, maybe the description of perfect job will be within view. Maybe a loving family will seem possible. Maybe a book will make some sense.

As I thought this I was listening to my latest ipod playlist, Heroes and Ordinary Mortals. Lyrics from the songs alternatively made me cry or my heart swell. Each song had an additional meaning compared to the last time I listened. I thought I would write the most emotional words here, rather like a quilt poem.



Here on earth I'll have my cake
Gonna eat it too, make no mistake
'Cause if it's a question of to be or not to be
I'll put on my boots and go see what I can see
Here on Earth - Crash Test Dummies

Once I get you up there, I’ll be holding you so near
You may here, angels cheer - because were together
Come Fly with Me - James Darren

See that boy with that guitar
He's got skinny legs like I always wanted
A girlfreind in his car 'cause he's got
Skinny legs like I always wanted
Sister look at me again
You'd love me if I were as skinny as him
Skinny Legs - Lyle Lovett

I will try not to burden you. I can hold these inside.
I will hold my breath until all these shivers subside,
just look in my eyes.
I will try not to worry you.
I have seen things that you will never see.
Leave it to memory me. I shudder to breathe.
Try Not to Breathe - R.E.M.

Then I see you standing there
Wanting more from me
And all I can do is try
Try - Nelly Furtado

Folks said his family were all dead
Their planet crumbled but Superman, he forced himself
To carry on, forget Krypton, and keep going

Superman never made any money
For saving the world from Solomon Grundy
And sometimes I despair the world will never see
Another man like him
Superman's Song - Crash Test Dummies

The fat girl
She always stayed inside and played piano
And she told her mother
The children made her cry
And her mother told her
They don't mean it

Now the fat girl
She ain't fat no more
And lord how she plays piano
And she sings loud
And she sings low
And she sings of love
And blind passion
But she don't mean it
The Fat Girl - Lyle Lovett

Ophelia's mind went wandering
You'd wonder where she'd gone
Through secret doors down corridors
She wanders them alone
All alone
Ophelia - Natalie Merchant

I'm just a walkin' my dog
Singin' my song
Strollin' along
Yeah it's just me and my dog
Catchin' some sun
We can't go wrong
The Dog Song - Nellie McKay

I know a man he lost his head
He said: The way I feel I'd be better off dead.
He said: I got everything I ever wanted
Now I can't give it upIt's a trap, just my luck!
The gift of life it's a leap of faith
It's a roll of the die
It's a free lunch A free ride
The gift of life it's a shot in the dark
It's the call of the wild
It's the big wheel The big ride
But Nature's got rules and Nature's got laws
And if you cross her look out!
It's the monkey's paw
Monkey's Paw - Laurie Anderson

Make me laugh
Say you know you can turn
Me into the real thing
So I show you some more
And I learn
Jackie's Strength - Tori Amos

How about me not blaming you for everything
How about me enjoying the moment for once
How about how good it feels to finally forgive you
How about grieving it all one at a time
Thank U - Alanis Morissette

I returned a paler blue bird
and this is the advice they gave me"you must not try to be too pure
you must fly closer to the sea"
so I'm walking through the desert
and I am not frightened although it's hot
I have all that I requested
and I do not want what I haven't got
I do not want what I haven't got - Sinead O'Connor

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack, a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.
Anthem - Leonard Cohen

Monday, October 11, 2004

Blogger bar

Has anyone tried the next blog button on the blogger bar? I read in some blogger news item that it was a good way to find new blogs, like flipping through channels on the tv. Well I wasn't very impressed. I saw lot's of nearly empty blogs, a number of blogs in languages I couldn't read. Some blogs that just weren't interesting to me. So I was ready to give up, thinking I would never find something that resonated. Then I found this wonderful site, Restless Thoughts. I like it a lot. Most especially, I love this poem posted there:

Number poetry
Two nine

Four eight one
one six six four one
one three six three six one six one
one nine three six nine three six one three six one

one zero
nine
one two
seven
nine
one

four eight
one two
three

two nine
one one
two

I wish the author would allow comments.

Wednesday, October 6, 2004

Debatable

I watched the debate last night. I hadn't watched the presidential debate last week so I wanted to see this one. We are not tv watchers, we have to disconnect our cable modem and plug the tv in when we want to watch. We don't do it very often. But, I wanted to watch the debate. It seemed... the correct thing to do, to be more involved in the political process. I have to say that what I kept hearing over and over again from both Cheney and Edwards worried me. Over and over Edwards said 'find terrorists and kill them'. Cheney said the same thing in different words. What about trials? What about evidence, what about imprisonment? I have always opposed the death penalty. To me, killing is not the answer. I saw a great bumper sticker in a catalog. "Why do we kill people who kill people to show that killing people is wrong?" What worried me even more is that I knew that to get elected this was the right thing for him to say. The American people (I hate this term, it doesn't include me, I don't know who it includes maybe not you either) are out for blood, it seems we are a scared, even terrified nation and without talk of death and destruction of our so-called enemies, one cannot be trusted and cannot be elected. I am very sad about this.

Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Garrison's democracy

From Homegrown Democrat: A Few Plain Thoughts From the Heart of America by Garrison Keillor

I am a Democrat, which was nothing I decided for myself but simply the way I was brought up, starting with the idea of Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, which is the basis of the simple social compact by which we live and also You are not so different from other people so don't give yourself airs, which was drummed into us children back in the old days when everyone went to public schools. Don't be conceited. So you can write: goody-goody for you, but don't think you're a genius because, believe me, you're not. The democracy of the gospel. All have sinned and come short of the glory of God. All we like sheep have gone astray. These articles of faith, plus our common tongue and a fondness for jokes and the American landscape, bind us together in a union of souls, each one free, each one devoted to the union.

. . . I grew up among Bible-believing people in Minnesota, a cold weather state when the jet stream slips and the wind blows steadily from Manitoba; it gets so cold your skin hurts, your innards clench up, and a man's testes shrink to the size of garden peas, but --- Everyone is just as cold as you are so don't complain about it, this is not a personal experience, that's what we say, and you comfort yourself with fried eggs and bacon and you bulk up a good deal by spring, but then everyone else is fat too, so it's not a problem.

Here we have the democracy of flatness: there simply aren't so many hills for the rich people to live on top of. We suffer less from the self-esteem issues that make people call on their cell phones and announce their whereabouts.


I read this and it felt so true, so real, so much in harmony with the way I think. What is really amazing, is that when I go home, most of my family is Republican. So, I don't know where my ideas came from, maybe I watched too much TV. Maybe it comes from hours of Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and Star Trek?

I haven't finished reading this book but it is delightful. I would love to quote more here but really you just have to read it for yourself, if I have enticed you with what is quoted above. And in pure democratic fashion, I took the book from the library. Don't worry, I'll return it soon and give you a chance to read it too.

Misc ramblings

I wanted to post all weekend. I wrote a great post in my head on Saturday afternoon in the gym. It was about how my inner world must be reflected in the outer world and my inner world is pretty harsh and maybe if I start to change my inner world, gentle it, soften it, the world around me won't seem so grim. Also on Saturday, I received my beautiful earrings from Mahala. How well-made they are, how they dangle gently from my ears, how it warms my heart to have something made by her hands. Yes, that would have been a good post. Sunday zen was great as usual. I had lots of ideas for Sunday. We talked about Beowulf, Our Town, the traumas in Haiti. Lot's of good material there. Sunday we also went to a pumpkin festival. I took some pictures, saw some interesting things. Could have been a wonderful blog entry. Last night I had dinner with a fascinating man who is editing the eleventh edition of the premiere book in pharmacology. He talked about his experience as an editor. He is really taking his job seriously. Often times academics have disdain for such work. It can be so dry, compiling all the old data of someone else, looking for details, trying to explain things that aren't within their expertise. It's not exciting, new and fresh. But he has a positive outlook about it, it was nice to speak with him. I could have written all this and you would have had something interesting (I hope) to read. But I didn't. Why? I am in the middle of a fight with my family. Not the screaming, plate-smashing kind of fight, but a quiet, I am not speaking unless necessary kind of fight. A I-will-not-smile-rather-keep-my-face-neutral-at-all-times kind of fight. Why? It seems silly to write. I am waiting for an apology and a promise that a certain digression will not happen again. He doesn't think there was a digression. So I feel like I am in limbo, waiting for my life to start up again, too distracted to write a real blog entry.

Friday, October 1, 2004

Unfinished business

I didn't finish the proposal. Today was the due date and I just couldn't do it. The next time to submit it will be Feb 1. So I guess I will keep working on it for the next four months and submit it then. I feel relieved but also very disappointed in myself. It is just another time that I have procrastinated about this. What if the same thing happens in January? This kind of thing is happening to me too often. Too many times I skip meditating or going to the zendo. Too many times, I avoid the gym, or work out only half-heartedly while there. Too many times I start to change my eating habits only to fall back into the same unhealthy patterns. In some ways, my life feels like it is coming together. Things at home are better, with my stepson and husband. I am not crying with frustration and desperation a couple times a week. That is good. But I am still far from where I want to be. I still have to do lists with hundreds of entries. I am still not satisified with myself.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Silliness



Your Icecream Flavour is...Neopolitan!
You aren't satisfied with just one flavor. They say variety is the spice of life and this shines through in your Ice cream of choice! Just don't eat all the chocolate and leave the strawberry and vanilla behind!
What is your Icecream Flavour?

Find out at Go Quiz

Exactly....

PRAGMATIK: "But there is certainly something wrong with closed-mindedly rejecting something and single-mindedly doing the opposite and then calling that freedom. One is then still under the control of what one is rejecting. That seems simple and obvious enough."

Great post. To read more...

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hero

Saw the film Hero recently. I found it very beautiful but I was a bit troubled by it, without really allowing myself to pursue it since I have been so busy with work.

I was distracting myself tonight reading some blogs and found a link to this review: Fascinating Fascism: Hero at the vernacular body.

I think this is what was bothering me just put into words. Many, pleasing to read words.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Gratitude, guilt and more questions

Hello everyone! I am feeling more myself, or the self I like better. I am embarrassed by my previous post. I sounded like a spoiled child. I would have deleted it by now but for the gentle, heartfelt comments that are attached. It makes me consider how I censor myself, how I categorize parts of me into bad and good, things to keep, things to remove, and things to improve. If I had not written that post in my moment of frustration and complete dissatisfaction with myself and my life, I wouldn't have received those wonderful comments. I would have missed hearing those voices and I am grateful I did not. But immediately I feel guilt. Why is that? I feel that I don't deserve those comments, I don't deserve that concern or consideration. What have I done for Siona or Dale or Mahala that they should offer me such a gift, that they should--can I say it?--love me? It brings a strange juxtaposition of emotions in me and I am quite sure I won't end this message with a pithy statement that shows I integrated this message into my life. Quite sure of that one.

So where does this leave me? I am still a bit sick but also a bit better. I still have the huge, horrendous, nearly impossible to finish proposal, but it is several pages closer to completion, I still feel grouchy and speak to my family in short clipped sentences when they dare to come into my presence. But there is a little feeling, a little voice that is saying that it is ok, that some imperfection is acceptable, that there is some benefit, some use for this jumble of 'negative' emotions. These are the demons that I face. This is the mess that is the inner workings of my mind. Much to my chagrin, it is not peace and logic inside me. Warner is right. Will it ever be so?

How do we deal with these non-niceties? I try to pretend that I am something and I fight moment by moment to be that way. To demonstrate it, to live it ... but it's not true. What is the answer? Control? Suppression? Organization? Compartmentalization? People say things like 'deep down she is a good person.' What am I 'deep down?' It seems the deeper I go with my inner work and meditation the more slime, decay and putrefication I find. What if I find deep down I am not even recognizable? What if deep down there is nothing, an empty hole?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Oscar the grouch

I wasn't gonna post today. I am too out of sorts, out of time. I didn't even write much to my friends on CSM. I try to be the supportive one, the helpful one and today I just don't feel up to it. And I have to confess, I started another blog. A secret blog where I can write all the mean stuff that I won't say and I won't write here and I won't even write to my sister. So there! I'm cheating. There is another me! But that still leaves something for me to write here. I thought about looking up an uplifting quote to put here. Honestly, I can't do it. I don't know that I would even know an uplifting quote if I read one. Just about everything is bothering me today. Should I list my complaints -- an ungratitude list? I am still sick, my throat still hurts, I still have too much work to do. I guess tomorrow or the next day or certainly by next week (when this @#*& proposal has been mailed) I will feel better. I know this but it doesn't help right now because I am in a mood that doesn't want help, I spit on help.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

One view of zazen

I've been sick for a few days with a bad head cold and have a big deadline at work, so rather than not post at all, I thought I would just post a paragraph from Hardcore Zen. I chose this one because of Dale's comment, my struggles with zazen on Sunday and because I thought it was humorous.

For everyone -- everyone -- who first takes it up, zazen is tedious and awful. Your brain is in constant motion like there's a hive of angry wasps in your head. There are moments when you're certain you're going to have to leap right off your cushion and run around the room singing the chorus of Hello Dolly! just to keep from going utterly bananas. Anybody who doesn't feel that way about it, at least sometimes, is not doing the practice very sincerely. Zazen isn't about blissing out or going into an alpha brainwave trance. It's about facing who and what you really are, in every single goddamn moment. And you aren't bliss, I'll tell you that right now. You're a mess. We all are.

--Brad Warner Hardcore Zen

Sunday, September 19, 2004

Sunday Zen

I went to the zendo today. I didn't go last week and I almost didn't go today. Why is it so hard? My mediations was mostly sitting and thinking about stuff. I had a few moments of actually doing the work but that was it. I definitely felt more focused during the nitensoji (short cleaning period during formal practice), sweeping the brick path, than I had during zazen. Maybe I need more activity and less sitting in front of this computer? I had a slight headache the whole morning and I began to contemplate the pain and how it kept me in my body and mind. Perhaps that's why we hold on to pain? To stay with the ego self? The discussion with our teacher was wonderful as usual. He was reading one of Roshi's teishos and in was a line about being one with everyone, and everyone being no other than myself. Therefore when I injure someone, I am injuring myself. For some reason, this made me cry. It wasn't a very strong cry, since I was with the group and supposed to be listening and participating in the discussion, but it was good because some of the debris of the last two weeks was washed away, some of the tightness was loosened, and some of the agitation was released. A small bit of peace could seep into me. And that felt very good indeed.

Saturday, September 18, 2004

6 months

This question came up for me today: What would you do if you only had 6 months to live?
Here is what I think this day, at this time.

If I only had 6 months to live. That is a tough one and I am not sure I can honestly answer it. I don't feel that I can really move into that space in my imagination. I suppose I would repair and/or strengthen relationships with my extended family and with my husband. Why am I thinking about that, I wonder. I guess I don't want to leave any loose ends I don't want people to feel too much regret when I go. Why aren't I thinking about myself, I wonder, what I want to do? Why wouldn't I want to do all the things I have planned now? Read more books, meditate, yoga, take classes, travel? I certainly wouldn't go on a diet. Why not do things I have never done? I don't know. I guess am jumping ahead, like 6 months is nothing, fast forwarding the the ultimate 'goal'. I suppose I do this all the time, like reading the last page of a book before even starting Chapter 1. I am amazed at my lack of an answer to this one. And I have thought about it before. One of my officemates has cancer, serious cancer. The Dr. told her the prognosis was not good. And yet she is still working, for two reasons, one, she doesn't believe the prognosis, and two she needs the health insurance. Would I do this? No, I am pretty sure about that. I would not go to work. I am reminded of a movie I saw on Lifetime with Farrah Fawcett, called The Substitute Wife. When a woman was told that she was dying she found a new wife/mother for her family. It was set during the pioneer days. Anyway, I guess I would try to make my passing easier on my loved ones. And I don't know if this is good or bad. Does this mean I don't have any idea what my Self even is, that I only see my Self as it exists as a part of other people's lives? This definately requires further contemplation.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

So what!

From Barefoot Doctor's Guide to the Tao : A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior
by Stephen Russell

Letting Go
You sit there alone in a state of mild agitation, the primordial monster of encroaching insanity threatening to escape through the cracks in the plasterboard of the reality you constructed so neatly and to engulf you in its slimy, entropic discharge. Your plans seem to have gone awry and you're racked with doubts about the choices you made that got you into this position in the first place. Who did you think you were anyway, thinking you could take destiny into your own hands like that?


So you're disappointed. So what! Disappointment's only disappointment. It will be transmuted into its opposite by the immutable law of yin and yang anyway.


So, so what! May sound impolite or downright compassionless, but really, so what.


The thing about "so what" is that it's got an edge, a small portion of anger released every time you say it. That's its advantage over "never mind," which is also good and valid, but only when you truly don't mind. Most of the time, though, especially when the disappointment's just recently dropped, you do mind. So with that faint hint of churlish delinquency, stand up, release that irritation and boldly proclaim, "So what!"

Monday, September 13, 2004

Red bush tea

I am drinking red bush tea tonight. I first tried it after reading Alexander McCall Smith's second "No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency novel, Tears of the Giraffe. The heroine of the series, the No. 1 Lady herself, Precious Ramotswe, drinks bush tea all the time and making and drinking the tea is such a pleasing ritual to read about. I wanted to try it myself, to see if by drinking it, I could drink in a little of the unprentiousness that Mma Ramotswe displays. In an interview with the author he says that her character was inspired by a woman he saw chasing chickens around her yard. Later in the interview he says "There is something of Botswana in the books. The whole ethos, the whole feel of the books, is to do with that particular country." The books are a joy to read and leave me feeling calm and peaceful inside, as if there is goodness in this world after all. The feeling doesn't last forever but as long as McCall Smith is writing (he says there will be 8 books in all), I'll be reading... and sipping tea.




covercovercovercovercover


Gratitude Journal

After some thought about the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal and comments from Siona and Kat I decided to make a new blog just for that. I will try to post daily. I made it a separate blog so as not to clutter this one since many of the things I am grateful to will undoubtedly be interesting only to me and will be repetitive. So if you are so inclined, check out A Grateful Heart.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Peace

From The Power of Intention by Wayne Dyer

Be the peace you're seeking from others. If peace is missing in your relationships with your family, it means that you have a place within you that's occupied by non-peace. It may be filled with anxiety, fear, anger, depression, guilt, or any low-energy emotions. Rather than attempting to rid yourself of these feelings all at once, treat them the same as you do your relatives. Say a friendly Hello to the non-peace, and let it be. You're sending a peaceful feeling to the non-peace feeling.

I have also been trying something similar with my negative self-talk statements. I just acknowledge the statement neutrally (Thank you for sharing). It feels better to do this than to be upset with myself for thinking negatively. And it deflates or disempowers the statement. I don't understand why this works but surprisingly it does.

Why did I chose to write about peace tonight? I guess because I had so much conflict with my stepson this evening and I feel that I didn't handle it peacefully. I lost my temper and was dragged into an argument about nothing. This is a recurring event and I don't know how to prevent it. In this case, I didn't initiate it. It seemed to me that he sought me out to fight with.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

Tough day to live in NY

I feel sad today. Why? It started when I woke up. Why? Is it because of the day? Because so many people around here are sad today?

Ok, so I am sad. I guess I can be sad. I can just let it be. I don't have to change it or push it away. Sadness is not something to fear, something to resist, something to cure. I will just let it fill me. I will feel it. I am sad because there is suffering, there is unhappiness, there is striving that leads to nowhere, there is effort that falls down in vain.

Crying in Starbucks
I imagine someone asking me
"Why are you so sad. Did you lose someone in 9/11?"
No, I didn't lose anyone
And yes, I lost everyone
Everyone who died, I lost
Not even knowing I had them

My mother's portrait

Today I feel like
how I remember my mother
Sitting drinking
cup after cup of coffee
black
Smoking, elbow on the table
smoke drifting up
reluctant to depart
Her eyes
focused on a point infinitely far
Some place in the past
or the future
or, perhaps
nowhere at all
All alone

Friday, September 10, 2004

Gratitude leads to happiness

People who wrote a list of things they were grateful for were happier overall than people who wrote lists of upsetting or neutral events.

I came across this idea in the Oct. issue of shape last night while biking to nowhere at the gym. Being a total science geek with University library access, I looked up the original article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

Basically they asked people to journal either weekly or daily about A-things they were grateful for B-things that annoyed them or C-just things that happened. The participants also rated how they felt about themselves, the world and the future. The groups that wrote gratitude journals had a more positive outlook, exercised more, and rated themselves more energetic, joyful, and enthusiastic than the other groups did.

I would like to try to put this idea to my own test but I haven't quite decided how to do it. Should I write my gratitude list here? Will that be too boring for people? Maybe I should just write it in a paper journal? I'll think about it and let you know.

I guess it is just human nature or our modern training that encourages us to focus on the negative rather than the positive, on complaining rather than being grateful. How many times did people hold a door for me today? How many times did they smile? 4 or 5 at the least. And yet, if one person had been rude, I would have thought about it, I would have told all my friends, I may even have written about here or someplace else. But about the many positive experiences I had with members of the human race - nada. But if you don't stop to appreciate the good things people do, you forget, they pass right through you and don't affect you, they don't change you, they don't impress themselves in you. You don't make them yours, add them to your heart, and tenderize it. Rather, we tend to take the hurtful things and cast them in bronze to wear around our necks. To harden our heart, to encase it in brittle bitterness. How many people were loving to me today? I can't even begin to count. My husband patted my head when we were stopped at a stoplight on the way home from work, a loving, joyful caress of love. Many people smiled at me at work starting with Max, our custodian who takes such pride in his work that I feel I should thank him everyday. I had a wonderful lunch with my dear friend C. She told me so many uplifting stories about her cousins. I thought about how wonderful it is that I have had to chance to know her, how much she has enriched my life. I could write for much longer and still would not describe all the gifts that today, a completely ordinary day, brought me. But without these few minutes of thought, without writing some words, I would have missed it all. It would have evaporated into nothingness while the other events, mundane or negative remained, like the a dirty bathtub ring after a perfectly pleasant and soothing bath. I wonder if it is because these events and feelings are higher and lighter that they tend to float away if we don't make an effort to grab them and really experience them and acknowledge them.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

More

A few days after my 40th birthday, I got an invitation to try More magazine, the magazine for women over 40. Well, that didn't take long. I was pretty upset about it actually. I wasn't ready to think of myself as an over 40 woman. I was ready to throw the envelope into the trash, uninspected but I couldn't. Curiosity caught me. What does a magazine for women over 40 look like, what kind of articles do they have? Maybe the will be more intelligent than the drivel in Cosmo or Glamour? I looked through it, like the overly curious girl that I am and they had 2 pictures of Jamie Lee Curtis (full article). One with her looking fabulous, like she always does, and one with her in underwear, no makeup, and flat hair. I looked at her and thought, wow she looks like me. I don't mean she looks like me really but she looks about as good as I look, give or take. She has some flab, she has some cellulite. She looks like a normal person. And she's smiling. I would hardly be able to keep from grimacing in her position. What a cool woman! I wanna buy that magazine. And I did. I know it's not good to read women's magazines, but I figured one that actually made me feel good about my body, might be ok.

I received the Sept. issue. I like the fall fashions. They look like I could wear them. There is an ok article about Stepmothers, nothing I didn't already know. And there is an article called Meditate or Medicate? Can the spritual approach really help those suffering from depression? Although it advocates meditation, the article cautions that a combination of medicine and meditation may be required. My personal experience is that when I meditate more regularly, I feel better emotionally. Another reason to stop avoiding the cushion.

Sometimes I hear my voice

I found this Natalie Goldberg quote on Whiskey River.

I write because I kept my mouth shut all my life. I write because I am alone and move through the world alone. No one will know what has passed through me, and even more amazing, I don't know.

- Natalie Goldberg
Writing Down The Bones

I copy it here because it is so true for me. I have always been afraid to speak, afraid of the sound of my own voice. In class, I was terrified to be called on, even though I knew the answer. I would sound stupid. To ask a question (as I knew a good student should (this is in college!) I would screw up my courage for minutes, rehearsing in my head, a nervous wreck the whole time and then still chicken out. When I first started to learn about chakras I had the feeling that my throat chakra was blocked (and still is). Lately, after a lot of personal work, I feel more comfortable speaking. There is still more work to do for me to become casual about speaking to more than one person. I still challenge myself. I am volunteering to teach (med students no less eek!) and as I have said before, I want to take acting lessons. It has always been easier for me to write than to speak. But still, showing what I write to the world, that hasn't been easy either. I think each one helps the other. The more I write here and find some kind of acceptance, the easier it is to speak up during meetings at work. The better conversations with strangers at parties turn out, the more my writing flows from my true heart. As Tori Amos sings:

"sometimes I hear my voice and it's been HERE silent all these years"

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Dusk

This is a poem I wrote more than 20 years ago. I think it relates to the feelings of uncertainty and loneliness that I described in yesterday's post.


I.

Far away a dim light glows
Then the light rays bend
Now, more quickly, the small light goes
Never to be seen again

II.

Why is it that when it's dusk
The world is so hard to see?
It seems that when the vision matters most
The light looks so dim to me

III.

At an earlier age the time was bright
And the roses looked very different from the thorns
But now all the world is night
The dark air is damp from rain
And I often wonder if I am touching a flower
Or, are my fingers too numb to feel the pain?

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Searching for truth

From Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth About Reality

But if you really thoroughly question everything, if you pursue your questions long enough and honestly enough, there will come a time when truth will wallop you upside the head and you will know.

Not knowing is what brought me to the spiritual path. As a child in church, I tried very hard to believe, like a good girl should (as I thought she should). I tried and tried and I never felt the knowing, the security, that I had read about others feeling. I was unsure, alone and scared. So then I turned to science. I thought if I could learn everything in the books, if I could become a real scientist, I would know things. But as all scientists learn, what you really find in science are more questions. And what you know, you don't really know because you have to be ready to change your hypothesis to fit any new data that may come along. You can't afford to be sure about anything. We talk to each other using terms like suggest and implicate not know and not certainty. We learn to couch our statements in may and might, to sprinkle words of caution between the statements of fact. Or maybe that's just me. Maybe I am not ready for knowing. The idea of knowing reminds me of my childhood fantasy of some man on a white horse saving me. At first, it was my father, his strong arms comforting me during scary movies and roller coaster rides. Later I hoped for a prince. But those ideas were fantasy. In reality, my father didn't save me, he got drunk and terrorized us. I learned to hope for a savior but at the same time, to save myself, always wishing I could relax, let go and be caught in someone's arms, and at the same time, sadly aware that there were no arms to catch me. I was on my own. I guess that's not too bad but it never seemed enough. Not secure enough, not safe enough. With me alone, there was no absolute, no independent measure. Am I kidding myself, deceiveing myself? How could I know? It was this nagging question that prodded me on this path and it is still pushing. And I am still walking, seeking, searching, and crawling. I hope Warner is right. I hope someday I will know, just simply know. Right now, I can't imagine anything better than that.

Saturday, September 4, 2004

What color is your world?

Found this quiz at angel's place. Curiously, she was the same color.




you are turquoise
#40E0D0

Your dominant hues are green and blue. You're smart and you know it, and want to use your power to help people and relate to others. Even though you tend to battle with yourself, you solve other people's conflicts well.

Your saturation level is higher than average - You know what you want, but sometimes know not to tell everyone. You value accomplishments and know you can get the job done, so don't be afraid to run out and make things happen.

Your outlook on life is bright. You see good things in situations where others may not be able to, and it frustrates you to see them get down on everything.
the spacefem.com html color quiz

Friday, September 3, 2004

Some thoughts for Siona

Dear Siona:

You touched my heart with your comment. Although I haven't taken much time lately to blog, I am pretty active in a web forum I believe strongly in, the Childless Stepmom Forum. I am recycling something I wrote there since it gives a view of my mental ruminations of late. I am posting this for you Siona. I am very glad I met you.

Today on the Childless Stepmom Forum the founder posted a meditation that made me consider, for at least the thousandth time, how I can balance the two, seemingly opposed ideologies, which make me feel like I live on a seesaw. One set of philosophies I read and believe in emphasizes dissolving the ego, giving yourself, becoming self-less. I read these and about the lives of people who have done this, Mother Teresa, Gandhi. Who can criticize this? Then I read about another set of philosophies about taking care of yourself, 'good selfishness', etc. I feel in my heart that somewhere these two ideas must meet. I mean, it is kind of selfish to sit all day and meditate, isn't it? That person could be cleaning up trash, taking care of an orphan, campaigning for her choice in the presidential election, protesting poverty. But honestly, I still haven't 'got it'. I haven't come either to a place of balance and harmony with these two seemingly opposing ideas or grasped how they are one and the same. I feel in my heart that something is there for me to grasp, that there is some understanding that is just out of reach but no matter how hard I squint my brain, I don't 'see' it. This feeling is unpleasant and busyness is a great distractor. When I get this feeling, I just let my mind drift to all my unfinished work and poof, the uneasiness disappears.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Busy... too busy

Lot's to do at work and at home so my blogging is on hiatus. Sorry. I may not be back until middle of October :(

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Happy Birthday Gene

Today is Gene Roddenberry's birthday.

A man either lives life as it happens to him, meets it head-on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away.
---Gene Roddenberry

Time is the fire in which we burn.
---Gene Roddenberry




Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Already filled with waste

From Daily Grist, an environmental newsletter from Grist Magazine:
A PLAN FIENDISHLY CLEVER IN ITS INTRICACIES
Bush's Small Tweaks to Regulations Carry Large Consequences

In the third installment of its in-depth three-article series on Bush administration regulatory changes, The Washington Post today focuses on the way the administration circumvents public debate and legislation in favor of making small changes in regulatory wording that carry huge consequences -- removing the word "hazardous" from mercury emission regs, reclassifying nuclear waste from "high-level" to "incidental," and perhaps most portentously, changing the name of debris from mountaintop-removal coal mines from "waste" to "fill." The latter change -- the "fill rule" of 2002 -- has led to a boom in a practice that is loathed not only by enviros but by a growing majority of rural Appalachians, who object to the irremediable destruction of landscapes where their families have lived for generations. Some 700 miles of headwater streams have been buried in "fill" and more than 240 species of fish adversely affected. As it happens, the coal industry has raised $9 million for Republicans since 1998.

straight to the source: The Washington Post, Joby Warrick, 17 Aug 2004
Well I know something about coal mining. I grew up in the coal region of PA. My grandfather started 'picking' coal (sorting the smaller pieces of coal from rock) as a young boy. Friends and family earned their living and started their dying (black lung, emphysema) in the mines. My hometown of Shamokin has huge culm banks, mountains really, made from discarded coal waste.


Glen Burn Coal Mine Breaker, Shamokin, PA

And not far is the famous burning town, Centralia, where underground mine fire made the entire town unfit to live in. I think it is very clear, we don't need less environmental protections we need more! Let's not go back to the 'good old days'.


Smoldering hillside near Centralia, PA

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Pictures vs words

I have been spending a lot of time taking photographs and fussing with them using Photoshop. Hence, not much time for writing or reading. It is a really interesting change for me. I am starting to think more visually, more colorfully. Sometimes it drives me crazy to be constantly looking for something to photograph, even when I don't have my camera, but my dreams are more colorful. I was doing a little bit of yoga and stretching tonight and I could even relate the feeling in my body to color and form. Here is one of my latest creations.



Taken from north shore of Long Island near sunset.

Monday, August 16, 2004

Dream: The Gifted Table

I was at a work function, a dinner with other scientists. We were discussing something about a protein with which I work, something about if there were three arginines at the C-terminus. I couldn't remember if there were (and I felt I should know this information). Another scientist (someone visiting whom I didn't know) knew the answer and did some complicated calculation in his head to solve the problem. I was embarassed. I also felt like I was 'hooked' or physically connected to one of the scientists, like our belts had got tangled. We sat down for dinner but when I looked up from my plate everyone had left to another table. Some waiters came and told me I had to move because they were moving the table. I picked up my plate and carried it to a table with people I had attended high school with. One was Kevin Wetzel. He looked at me and said, "Welcome back to the gifted table." He looked different than I remembered. The girl/woman across from me was drawing my picture and/or taking notes on what I was doing. I didn't recognize her. I felt embarassed and relieved to be back at this table rather than the one with all the scientists.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Morning going

I just spent two hours reading blogs, following links, entangled in this web of humanity and words. Here's a partial roadmap.

Started at Nomen est Numen where she writes an achingly honest question:
What sort of accomplishment is it to run a gauntlet of one's own making? I've managed only to close my eyes against the feast of the world and gnaw myself to the bone. It's hardly a mark of intelligence.
Then I followed a link from the comments to Mole. There I read a post containing this intriguing statement:

If I can't have irregular verbs, I'd rather grunt and point.

and followed the link to its source at Language Hat. Wonderful blog full of challenges and insights, quite a bit over my head most of the time, which I like when I am in the right mood. Usually when I find a new blog I like, I read the very first entry from the archives. I like to see how the blog has evolved of the years (2 in this case). First entry quite as enjoyable as the last. This one seems to be good to the first drop.

Friday, August 13, 2004

Another quizzie poo!

Believe it or not that is the way my Physical Chemistry teacher would announce our quizzes and tests! Anyway, on a lighter note (I think) here are the results of the stressful, arduous, what-flower-are-you? quiz:






I'm a Pansy. The bloom of thought. Thoughts are my haven. I prefer solitude and quiet places so I can ponder uninterrupted.
What bloom are you? by Polly_Snodgrass

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Searching for truth

From Hardcore Zen: Punk Rock, Monster Movies & the Truth About Reality
cover
But if you really thoroughly question everything, if you pursue your questions long enough and honestly enough, there will come a time when truth will wallop you upside the head and you will know.

Not knowing is what brought me to the spiritual path. As a child in church, I tried very hard to believe, like a good girl should (or as I thought she should). I tried and tried and I never felt the knowing, the security, that I had read about others feeling. I was unsure, alone and scared. So then I turned to science. I thought if I could learn everything in the books, if I could become a real scientist, I would know things. But as all students of science learn, what you really find in science are more questions. And what you know, you don't really know because you have to be ready to change your hypothesis to fit any new data that may come along. You can't afford to be sure about anything. We talk to each other using terms like suggest and implicate not know and not certainty. We learn to couch our facts in may and might, to sprinkle words of caution between the statements of fact. Or maybe it is just me. Maybe I am not ready for knowing. The idea of knowing reminds me of my childhood fantasy of a man on a white horse saving me. At first, it was my father, his strong arm comforting me during scary movies and roller coaster ride. Later I hoped for a prince to whisk me off. But those ideas were fantasy. In reality, my father didn't save me, he got drunk and terrorized us. I learned to hope for a savior but at the same time, save myself, always wishing I could relax, let go and be caught in someone's arms, and at the same time, aware that there were no arms to catch me. I was on my own. I guess that's not too bad but it never seemed enough. Not secure enough, not safe enough. With me alone, there was no absolute, no independent measure. Am I kidding myself, deceiving myself? How could I know? It was this nagging question that prodded me on this path and it is still pushing me. And I am still walking, seeking, searching, and crawling. I hope Warner is right. I hope someday I will know, just simply know. Right now, I can't imagine anything better than that.

Minor White

I was in the library tonight perusing recent acquisitions and came across The Zen of Creativity : Cultivating Your Artistic Life by John Daido Loori. I read a passage where the author describes a photography course he took taught by Minor White. The course had many 'non-photography' aspects to it such as early morning dancing and meditation. I was intrigued so I looked for a book of White's work. His black and white images are beautiful and moving. He has a very zen approach to photography.

No matter how slow the film, Spirit always stands still long enough for the photographer It has chosen. -Minor White

Let the subject generate its own photographs. Become a camera. -Minor White



Barn and Clouds, 1955

The Masters of Photography website has more photographs.

Monday, August 9, 2004

Day of rest and renewal

Today has been a day of relaxation and rejuvination for me. I took the day off from work, I wrote emails to friends, I went for a loooonnnnngggg walk to shops and to the library. I treated myself to a nice Japanese lunch of miso soup, green salad and veggie California roll. I didn't take my ipod on my walk and that was very good. Without music to distract me I just thought about things, had conversations in my head, let my mind wander around any ol' place it liked. Very uplifting. I spent some time in the library, browsing books. I took out the first season of Babylon 5 (brain junk food!!). I also browsed the new books and came across Franz Wright's latest volume of poetry, Walking to Martha's Vineyard. I opened it to the first page, read this:








YEAR ONE
I was still standing
on a northern corner


Moonlit winter clouds the color of the desperation of wolves.


Proof
of Your existence? There is nothing
but.



After I read it, I had to look away, my eyes filled with emotion, with the 'rightness' of the poem, the truth. All in 28 words.




cover
Walking to Martha's Vineyard
Winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Long trip

I am tired tonight. We just drove to Boston and back (~10 hours total) to take my stepson to his Outward Bound trip on Thompson Island. The course is called Passages and it is for 12-13 year old boys, like a Rite of Passage to celebrate the transition from boyhood to manhood. I was very impressed with all the instructors. I think he and his fellow adventurers will have a wonderful, challenging experience. Outward Bound does courses for women only too. The desert backpacking one sounds interesting. Today I have been thinking about exploring and challenging my body and my perception of its limitations. I looked at the other parents and many were fit and sporty, as you might expect from people who value this kind of experience for their children. I, however, am not. I am not terrible but I am not where I want to be either. This is something I need to think more about, it is just a seed right now but I hope to nuture it and have it sprout some new growth in myself.

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Burning thoughts

Heard this commentary about Shambhala Mountain Center's open air crematorium on NPR on the way home. His description of watching the body burn made me wonder what I would feel watching it. I have long been afraid of the dead, of dead bodies, of hard evidence of pain and death.

Media bias

My sister sent me this article from the NYTimes about media bias.


Some selected quotes/links to whet your appetite:

As the movie "Outfoxed" makes clear, Fox News is for all practical purposes a G.O.P. propaganda agency.

In response to some of the G.O.P. scripting which portrayed the Democratic Convention as showing a 'different' side of the party (e.g. John Leo's column) Paul Krugman writes:

Luckily, in this age of the Internet it's possible to bypass the filter. At C-Span.org, you can find transcripts and videos of all the speeches. I'd urge everyone to watch Mr. Kerry and others for yourself, and make your own judgment.

Media watch sites:

The Campaign Desk
Media Matters
The Daily Howler

Other sites I have come across:

Air America Radio
Mother Jones
(just started my subscription, love the July/August issue)

I'll end with a scary/funny poster published in Mother Jones from Micah Wright's Propaganda Remix Project.




Tuesday, August 3, 2004

Lists, perfection, and completion

Siona's (from Nomen est Numen) comment prompted me to finish the Film List (well, it will never be finished but I think it is relatively up to date) and post it. My idea is to keep a running list of the films I see with appropriate links to my posts (since Blogger still doesn't provide acceptable searching capabilities) and to other sites I like that are related to the film. I will put this on the sidebar as a work in progress. If I have the time and inspiration, I will write reviews or impressions of more of the films. Being a perfectionist I strive for completion, or maybe I am a completionist striving for perfection?

Films seen

--------2005--------
The Sheltering Sky
March of Penguins (2005) in theater
Amazons 2005 Stony Brook Film Festival
Jesus, Mary and Joey Stony Brook Film Festival
The Life of Mammals, 2002
Rashomon, 1950
L'Eclisse, 1962
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, 2004
The Life of Birds, 1998
Border, 1997
Throne of Blood, 1957

Garden State


--------2004
--------

Love Liza **** [related post]
Spiderman 2 (2004) in theater **
I, Robot (2004) in theater **
Razor's Edge (1994) ***** [related post]
Prisoners of the Mountain (1996) ****
LA Confidential (1997)****
Facing Windows (2003) in theater***** [related post]
About Schmidt (2002) **** [related post]
City of Angels (1998)*** [related post]
In This World (2002) ****
Solaris (2002) ****
Moster's Ball (2001) *****
Il Posto (1961) ****
Claire's Knee (1970) ***
Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) ***** [related post]
Heat (1995) ****
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) in theater *****
Smoke (1995) *****
Lumumba (2000) ***** [related post]
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) **** [related post]
Wings of Desire (1987) ***** [related post]
The Crying Game (1992) **** [related post]
The Funeral (1984) *** [related post]
Superman: The Movie (1978) ****
Kikujiro (1999) *****
American Splendor (2003) ****
Anger Management (2003) *****
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) in theater***** [Cup of Chicha review]

Monday, August 2, 2004

A little chamber music

Last night we went to a concert that was part of the 2004 Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival entitled Telemann and the Trout. The first piece that was played was an aria from the "Goldberg Variations". Then two pieces by Telemann, Quartet in D minor and Concerto for F major. The final piece was Schubert's "Trout" Quintet. All the musicians were excellent. We didn't have good seats, at least for seeing but the sound was beautiful. The concert is in a old Presbyterian Church quite appropriate for chamber music, small and intimate. Sitting there listening to the harpsichord in the Bach piece, I almost felt a powdered wig on my head. The real reason we were there, though, was for the pianist in the last piece. Joyce Yang is the daughter of a colleague of mine and an exceptional 17 year old young woman. The way she plays... I am not a gifted enough writer to explain. Anyone who is reading this and has a chance to see and hear her, should not miss the opportunity. We have traveled to NYC and to Albany to see her. We are never disappointed.

Sunday, August 1, 2004

Estranged faces missing many-splendored things

I went to zen today. As usual it was hard to go, I used every excuse in my mind, but I still went. While meditating it was hard to concentrate. My inner critic was going on and on about how I will never get anywhere just meditating once a week. I started to make plans about meditating every evening, every morning, but then I stopped. How many times will I do the same thing? How many times will I make grandiose, impossible plans for the seeming purpose of disappointing myself? After the meditation, my teacher lead a discourse and as usual, gave me much to think about. He often quotes poetry during our discussion. Today he quoted Francis Thompson, especially the poem "The Kingdon of God" below.


The Kingdom of God

O WORLD invisible, we view thee,
O world intangible, we touch thee,
O world unknowable, we know thee,
Inapprehensible, we clutch thee!

Does the fish soar to find the ocean,
The eagle plunge to find the air--
That we ask of the stars in motion
If they have rumor of thee there?

Not where the wheeling systems darken,
And our benumbed conceiving soars!--
The drift of pinions, would we hearken,
Beats at our own clay-shuttered doors.

The angels keep their ancient places--
Turn but a stone and start a wing!
'Tis ye, 'tis your estrang├Ęd faces,
That miss the many-splendored thing.

But (when so sad thou canst not sadder)
Cry--and upon thy so sore loss
Shall shine the traffic of Jacob's ladder
Pitched betwixt Heaven and Charing Cross.

Yea, in the night, my Soul, my daughter,
Cry--clinging to Heaven by the hems;
And lo, Christ walking on the water,
Not of Genesareth, but Thames!

by Francis Thompson

Saturday, July 31, 2004

Recovering intuition


Vasalisa Approaching the Hut of Baba Yaga from MYTHING LINKS Baba Yaga page

I am still reading Chapter 3: Nosing out the facts: The Retrieval of Intuition as Initiation in Women Who Run With the Wolves. My plan was to finish the chapter and then write a summary but I think it is too complex for just one post and I am going to follow my intuition on this.

In this chapter Dr. Estes discusses the Russian folktale "Vasalisa". In this tale, the heroine, Vasalisa goes through several trials or tests and is helped by a small doll that her dying mother gave her. Vasalisa's wise doll symbolizes her intuition.
...the doll represents the inner spirit of us as women; the voice of inner reason, inner knowing , and inner consciousness. The doll is like the little bird in fairy tales who comes and whispers in the heroine's ear, the one who reveals the hidden enemy and what to do about it all. This is the wisdom of the homunculus, the small being within. It is our helper which is not seeable, but which is always accessible.
When I first started on my journey of self discovery I became very interested in intuition. I read a few books on developing it. I felt cut off from any inner knowing and I didn't trust my hunches or gut feelings.
We, like Vasalisa, strengthen our bond with our intuitive nature by listening inwardly at every turn in the road. "Should I go this way, or this way? Should I stay or go? Should I resist or be flexible? Should I run away or toward? Is this person, event, venture true or false?"
I started to do this a few years ago. Once in a while, I would act on a hunch, an impulse. I did it when nothing too unpleasant could happen anyway. I don't know how successful these initial, feeble attempts were. I remember having the feeling I should give a CD to my landlady, that she would like it. I didn't let doubts stop me. (She'll think I am crazy, she won't like it, this is stupid) I just bought it (Enya's Memory of Trees) and gave it to her. I don't know if she thought I was strange or if she even liked it. Nothing really wonderful happened as a result of this small act of following what I thought was my intuition. But I still remember doing it, years later. I still feel glad that I did it even if I don't know, and may never know if it was the right thing to do. I guess this is one time when I can live with the ambiguity of it. I have tried to repeat this 'hunch-following' tradition. I have to admit there is something freeing and joyful in doing something and not analyzing it over and over again, just getting an idea and doing it.
A woman's grasp of her intuitive wisdom may be weak as a result, but with exercise it will come back and become fully manifested.
I wouldn't say that my intuition is fully manifested, but I feel more comfortable about trusting it. And that is a big step for me.

Later in the chapter (I am skipping lot's of good parts about woman's fear of her own power and about the 'myriad faces of the subterrene feminine.') is the discussion of the 'fiery skull' as another symbol of intuition.
Each woman who retrieves her intuition and Yaga-like powers reaches a point where she is tempted to throw them away, for what is the use of seeing and knowing all these things? This skull-light is not forgiving. In this light, the old are elderly; the beautiful, lush; the silly, foolish; the drunk are drunken; the unfaithful are infidels; things which are incredible are noted as miracles.....
Yet, when one sees thusly and senses thusly, then one has to work to do something about what one sees. To possess good intuition, goodly power, causes work....
It is true, I will not lie to you; it is easier to throw away the light and go to sleep. It is true, it is hard to hold the skull-light out before us sometimes. For with it, we clearly see all sides of ourselves and others...
I am not sure I have a fiery skull yet. I am probably still in the small doll in my pocket stage and so I haven't really felt this desire to put out the light. But I can understand it and in understanding it, I hope I can be ready for it.

And further, Dr. Estes discusses how intuition gives a great power of discrimination which we can use in choosing friends, lovers and teachers who are supportive of our wild growth. She describes life as a smorgasbord, where we be satisfied to choose what is near us on the table, or we can use our intuition to determine what we want, independently from what is available.
The way to maintain one's connection to the wild is to ask yourself what it is you want.
... There is around us a constant beckoning world, one which insinuates itself into our lives, arousing and creating appetite where there was little or none before.
...To chose just because something mouth-watering stand before you will never satisfy the hunger of the soul-Self. And that is what intuition is for; it is a direct messenger of the soul.
I think this is especially important in this age because everywhere we are being bombarded with messages, advertisements, slogans telling us what we should want. After hearing these all day, it is so difficult to sort their external screaming from the internal soul whisper. But I have tried to do it their (society's) way and I wasn't happy. It is a good question, "What do I want?" I don't have an answer yet, at least not one that I really feel deeply satisfied with. I will keep asking it, keep following the murmurs of my emerging intuition, my blossoming power.