Monday, December 17, 2012

Sometimes, I May Say Things That Upset You

I have a bad habit of posting things on the Internet and then getting the idea that I hurt someone’s feelings with what I said. When I check in with people about it, I sometimes learn that yes, I really put my foot in someone’s ass without even meaning to. Other times, my worries were unfounded.

I post things in order to find rapport with others. I hope that other people can sometimes relate to the things I said and feel better or learn something helpful.

But here’s where the trouble begins (and where I learn a valuable lesson): finding connection with some people necessarily means alienating others, because people are different. So if I state an opinion, I get people agreeing with me, and others disagreeing. If you read what I write and immediately feel hurt or alienated by my opinion, I apologize, but I cannot guarantee I will never say things that will bother you. That’s just how it is. No one can get through this life without feeling some pain.

In the past, if I feared I’d hurt someone, I would just avoid posting for a while. Now I realize that no matter how kind or P.C. my statements may be, there may always be some people who take offense. At the risk of sounding rude: that’s their problem, not mine. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


You know how it is when you’ve just finished up a nice Thanksgiving break, you’re looking forward to Christmas, but you’ve got to go back to work or school. If you don’t, pretend you are seven years old for a moment. My poor kid has been dreading getting out of bed and going to school these past couple of days. And I wish so badly I could let her stay home just one day and help me decorate the house, the tree, wrap presents, make cookies and all that stuff. Unfortunately when I look at our schedule, we have so little time to do any of that together, and it’s sad. Things really came to a head in my mind when I considered wrapping up some of last year’s Christmas and birthday gifts that she never took the shrink-wrap off of and giving to her again for Christmas. I mean, she never had time or inclination to play with these things and probably forgot about them, so…isn’t that pathetic?

I never planned to have an overscheduled kid. It happened without my realizing it, and now that we’re stuck – piano lessons aren’t over till June, Mandarin Chinese class goes till February, Chess Club through May, plus there’s drill team – I’m not sure the best way to deal with it other than sticking it out.

People need downtime so desperately that will find a way to get it, no matter what. In fact, people get sick (not fake sick, but really sick) in order to have time off to relax. In extreme cases, people become mentally ill or do something crazy and lose their job, their family, or whatever else is causing them to be short on down time.

We have different ways of dealing with the stress of having little time to relax and just be. Some of us learn that it’s all too easy to morph the computer work we have to do into fun, time-wasting computer time. With a click of a finger, the spreadsheet goes to the background, Facebook comes up, and two hours later you wonder why you never “have time” to read that book you wanted to read.

Kids manifest this problem in their own ways as well. Is your kid not listening to what you say and you have to repeat it four times? She’s probably in her own world because she never gets time to process or think. Is your kid refusing to do things she has to do, like homework, toothbrushing, bathing? It’s possible she just isn’t getting enough time to do relax and do the things she wants to do.

I’m not sure how I’m going to handle the 2013-14 school year, but something’s got to give. In the meantime, we’ll be struggling along, watching dinner and bath time be derailed at least two weeknights a week for practices and lessons, and hoping nobody loses her mind in the process.

It’s all in how you look at it, so I hope to just accept that things are hard right now, but that it won’t last, especially now that I know to do things differently next year.

Awesome song:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Survivor: Pet Edition

I think most of us believe we are doing animals a favor when we bring them into our homes as pets. We feed and care for them, and give them a safe haven, free of predators and roving automobiles. They say that indoor cats live longer than outdoor cats, after all.

But we forget that we can be the greatest danger of all to our own dear pets. I was reminded of this recently when I dangled a foot long length of Malabrigo lace yarn on my cat Sketch's head, hoping he would play with it. He grabbed it with his mouth, and proceded to slurp the whole thing into his mouth in about three seconds. Luckily this yarn passed through without incident, much like the various earplugs he has consumed over the years. 

Here my cat Sketch survives being in the middle of a hug sandwich:

I know that, but so far, the pets in our household have been extremely lucky.

Last month my other cat Max threw up food several times in one day, and on a couple of occasions, it looked like there was blood in it. Away he went to the vet for xrays and tests. Eventually we realized he'd eaten the red plastic fringe off a cocktail napkin (the little plastic bits looked like blood when he barfed them up), and a couple days later, he was fine. However, during the course of all those tests, the vet discovered high globulin levels. Looks like Max is harboring an infection of some kind, so tomorrow he's getting an antibiotic shot which will hopefully take care of it. 

A couple of months ago we brought a garden snail into the house.

This little guy is definitely a survivor. The first disaster to befall him was that my 7 year old sprayed a mild bleach solution on him, thinking it was plain water. If you google "bleach snails" you'll find it is a method of killing them. We carefully rinsed the little guy by moving him from place to place on the deck, while spraying him with clean water, and Fluffy lived.

Then I made the mistake of plucking an old leaf out of his tank, not realizing he was stuck to the underside of it. He dropped about three feet and cracked his shell. In fact, the shell section was about 4x20mm and broke clean out of the middle. He lost a bunch of water and I was sure he'd dry up. In a desparate move, I glued the shell piece back on with acid-free scrapbooking glue. He spent a few weeks estivating and not doing much. I thought he was dead, but he wasn't. He recovered and is now a very active, seemingly happy snail.

So somehow these pets have survived living with my family. I hope they will be with us for many years to come.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Taking responsibility for your own health

“Fix me!” I pleaded half-jokingly to my physical therapist one day last year. Every week for months I had been to her office and she’d spent twenty or thirty minutes manipulating me to help ease pain in my back, shoulder and hip. It was great! Then I’d do my exercises and go home. Yet every week I was back there again, wondering why the pain would not go away completely, forever.

Due to insurance limitations I had to stop seeing her. My shoulder and back pain slowly worsened. I got to the point where I went to a doctor specifically to ask “what is wrong with me that I have this pain?” He told me everyone has pain and that all I could do was manage it with massage and the like. At first I was disappointed. I wanted a magic bullet solution. I wanted proof on an xray or MRI that there was something structurally wrong with me that could be fixed.

The pain between my shoulder blade and spine was like a ball of Ick. It was like someone threw up inside my back and the barf just wouldn’t clear out. I’m speaking of this ball of Ick in the past tense because it is no longer with me in any serious way. I’ll tell you how I got rid of it.

I did four things. I can’t be sure which was most effective, but I’ll list all.

1. I’m seeing a new acupuncturist and she is awesome. Acupuncture is awesome. I highly recommend it for pain.

2. My new acupuncturist performed cupping on my back. A lot of crap came to the surface and my back opened up considerably. If anything, this (combined with the acupuncture) may have been the number one thing that loosened the blockage of ick, and the addition of qigong helps maintain my back’s health.

3. With the help of a qigong exercise video, I learned how to get my qi energy flowing again. Whenever I feel the ball of Ick starting to coalesce again, I can do some of these moves and it’s much better.

4. An attitude that I am responsible for my own health. Believing that I need a certain person or procedure to “fix” my problem takes my power away. In that situation, I become dependant on the outside help in order to feel good. That’s a crappy way to live.

So I encourage anyone who is suffering...look at your mind. How might it be contributing to the problem? Are you telling yourself you are just old or broken and you can't expect to feel any better? I encourage you to give yourself a compassionate pat on the back. You've been through some rough stuff. When you are ready to look at yourself with caring and love, your body may surprise you. I wish you the best!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Being "right"

There’s this mediation practice in Buddhism called metta (lovingkindness). In it, you wish health and happiness on all beings, starting first with yourself, then those close to you, those neutral to you (like the mailman or grocer) and finally with your enemies. The idea is to expand your full circle of compassion toward all living things. Everyone deserves compassion, because they are all worthy just by virtue of existing, even the people you hate. Metta is a little bit like the Buddhist version of unconditional love – loving someone without expectations of getting anything in return.

Sharon Salzberg has an article in Tricycle where she explains how when doing metta practice, it is especially valuable to do it toward one you feel neutral about, because when you know someone (either as a friend or an enemy) your biases about that person and their situation creep in, but with a neutral person, you are forced to face them as they truly are. I have seen the wisdom of her advice from my own experience, as I find myself wishing, for example, that so and so might have health and happiness, then catch myself with underthoughts, like “if only she would see that her health would improve if she quit gluten/alcohol/sugar,” (or whatever I personally happen to think would help that person). With a neutral person, I don’t know enough about them to inject my personal opinion into the wish for their happiness, so I can wish for their happiness in a more pure-hearted way.

After going through this experience with metta I began to wonder: Why is it so hard for us to set aside our biases and our need to be right? We might think are helping someone, when what do we really, truly know?

And I think it comes down to exactly that: we don’t know.

You’ve probably heard stories about people who suffer hardship that turns out to be a blessing in disguise.  With that in mind, how do I really know for sure that my “help” (in real life or in meditation) is helpful? In fact I could be hurting people with my “help.” I don’t know. I don’t know anything. Wishing my mother-in-law would not vote for Mitt Romney, because his policies would set the lives of her granddaughters back several decades in terms of equal rights, doesn’t really help anyone. What do I know? Maybe 4-8 years of Romney in the White House will cause sideline liberals to finally get up and fight for their rights, and in a decade we will actually be better off for it. Maybe another 4 years of Obama will cause liberals to go back to watching YouTube cat videos instead of signing petitions, and in a decade, we’ll be back to the prejudicial 1950’s cultural wasteland before anyone knew what hit them. (I am fully aware of the prejudices I'm expressing with these sentences, yes. :) )

So I aim to set my ego aside as much as I can (easier said than done), and just watch and wait and see. More and more I'm seeing how pointless it is to worry about the future. Maybe I need to do an article on that...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Something most people aren’t talking about in the same sex marriage debate

At least 1 in 2000 human births result in people who are neither male nor female, in the traditional sense. Not all are surgically assigned a gender at birth. Some conditions cause gender to shift during a person’s lifetime. Some people who are born with a specific gender don’t feel comfortable in their bodies and with the help of hormones and sometimes surgery, shift into a different sex body. For these reasons and more, a fair number of people are unable to choose “male” or “female” on a form without lying about who they are.

If marriage is between a man and a woman, what happens to those who are neither male nor female? Like homosexuals and lesbians, intersex people would be denied the right to marry those they love. However, if we can understand marriage as a pact between two people, people can love and marry whomever they feel most drawn to.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Careless Speech

Countless times in my life, I’ve put my foot in my mouth. I’ve said things I later needed to apologize for. I’ve accidentally destroyed friendships and gotten in trouble at work just for sending email without carefully thinking through the consequences. But labeling myself as careless or socially uncouth doesn’t help.

I know that my heart was in the right place when I said and did many of those things, even if the recipients didn’t agree. I thought I was helping, not realizing that sensitive individuals would take offense.

I’ve always been one to stick my neck out and look like a fool, for the sake of others. I’m that person in class who risks looking like an idiot for asking the question that everyone else is thinking but doesn’t dare to say. This is often my role in groups, but I’m not defined by it.

However, there’s a pattern here that needs to be examined.

When I was about eleven, I was shoe shopping with my father and ran into a schoolmate who had just recently gotten braces. Being socially awkward, I didn’t know what to say to her, though I knew I should say something besides, “Hi.” The only thing I could come up with was, “Now I can call you metal mouth!” which I said with a smile. I meant it as a joke, and didn’t mean to hurt her, but my father was horrified. When we left the store he reamed me out. The end result was that I was convinced this girl hated me for what I’d said, and I avoided her for the rest of our school days together.

Recently I realized that this situation has echoed through many of my relationships with friends and acquaintances. I’m quick to convince myself that because someone isn’t writing/calling/texting/emailing that they must hate me for some stupid thing I said or did. It’s tempting to ask people, “Did I say or do something to piss you off?” but I realize that knowing the answer ultimately is not going to help.

What will help is compassionately accepting myself despite my flaws. What will help is taking a cue from that song with the lyrics, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with.” I want to be present with the people I’m with—the barista, the grocer, my daughter and husband, and the handful of people who actually contact me more than once a year—and stop worrying about the past, because we all make mistakes. Forgive, and move on.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Poem: Raindrop on a Leaf

Glistening raindrop
on a leaf

the light
that surrounds and warms it

the illusion of solid.

The leaf underneath, so fragile.

droplet –
never even knowing
it was there at all.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mindfulness and Multi-tasking

When eating with my family, I look around and what sight meets my eyes? Husband has his iPhone in hand and Daughter is reading a book. If I'm expecting conversation and "family togetherness," I get upset. For a moment I wonder if I need to be the manners police and try to enforce a no-phone/no-book rule at the table. But then I wonder if being ignored this way is actually a blessing in disguise. It gives me an opportunity to practice mindful eating. Apparently they practice mindful eating in China, too, because in China it is considered rude to converse at a meal -- all attention should be on the food and the enjoyment of it.

As long as my kid understands that she and her dad are being rude according to the standards of US table etiquette, and can accord herself correctly at important outings, who cares? As long as my husband understands that chronic screen addiction is giving him terrible posture and is willing to accept it, who cares? I can just sit there and enjoy my meal, think my own thoughts, and maybe every now and then some one will share some of what they are thinking or reading and we can have a real discussion, or a soundbite discussion…who cares? It's all good.

Speaking of mindfulness, this afternoon I had a pleasant time sitting in a comfy chair for an hour, doing nothing but poring over food magazines and catalogs. It was great to be immersed in nothing but that…no thoughts of the future or past, or anything else I should be doing. Then I thought about multi-tasking and how different an experience that is. Sometimes I love it, sometimes I don't. It all comes down to control. If I am in control of my own multi-tasking, I love it. Like I might be typing this, cat in my lap, monitoring my daughter, listening to music, while keeping background windows open to remind me of an article I want to read and some photos I need to resize. That's great, because I am immersed in what I'm doing and can keep all those things on my radar in a state of calm alertness. But introduce some factors I can't control: like the kid going apeshit, telemarketers calling, and the cat throwing up -- along with all those other things I was trying to do -- and I'm in hell. So there it is.

Have a splendid, mindful day!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Soup of Conversation

I thrive on deep, intimate conversation. I love it when I can have a one on one discussion with someone about our fears, hopes and histories, especially when we can tie those things in with some sort of philosophical concepts and ideas. These sorts of talks make me feel less alone in this world, knowing that every one of us has issues that have been shared by humans since the early days of recorded history.

Thriving on deep conversation often means I wilt in many social situations. Perhaps you can imagine it. At parties, everyone’s mingling, but not lingering; they’re trying to hook up but too nervous to actually connect. Going out and about and seeing the day’s ration of strangers – the grocer, the mail clerk, the barista – also leads to disappointing shot glasses of small talk rather than the deep fountain of wisdom and bonding one was hoping for. Parenthood is also tough for people like me, first because you can’t easily discuss Hegalian dialectic or Buddhism with most small children, and second because the time you have to talk with your spouse and friends often gets whittled down to brief conversations about what you did that day and planning for the future.

I don’t have any solutions here. I’m trying to convince myself that the soup of conversation can still be nourishing even if it is mostly broth, but I still hunger for more substantial talk.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Poem: Broken Wing Bud

Broken Wing Bud

for my left shoulder

Whether or not I ever had wings to start with
doesn’t matter.
It’s really about
the aching –
just behind my heart.

I first noticed it
in the crushing light of noon
when I tried to reach for the sun
but couldn’t feel its warmth.
Blocked by clouds I misconstrued as solid,
blinded by my ardent hope and expectations –
I shriveled.

Others would have kept trying
to fly toward the light
but I had no parachute to break my fall
and gave in to fear.
So cold, defeated, dead, denying,

What exactly I was trying to achieve
doesn’t matter.
It’s really about
the folly of expecting someone else to lift me higher,
and casting blame,
for the gnawing, yearning pain –
that won’t leave me alone.

Where no one can tell me
I’ll never fly through the stars,
or conversely
that I must try for the sky
when all I need is within me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

How Do You Do?

I'm slowly trying to make this blog into something that will be useful and inspiring to others. For better or worse, I'm not very snarky and my sense of humor is weird, so I can't sell you on those points. I probably come across as a self-indulgent teenager, when I'm actually a 44 year old mom. All I can say in my defense is that I'm one of those sensitive artist dweebs who can barely handle the steps required to shove my novels out the door, let alone bolster the spirits of all the miserable people around me. (It's especially challenging when people don't want to do the work needed to make themselves happy, preferring to lay blame on other people for their own misery, thereby relinquishing their own power and making themselves even unhappier. :) I know, because I've done that, too. But I digress.)

Well, anyway, I've got this poem I was going to put up here, but I keep changing it. It's a poem I wrote for my left shoulder. Yes, that's right. I'm writing to my body parts. And here's the thing about that: I want to fully resonate with the wholeness that channels through me. When I do that, either my pain will go away, or I will no longer care about it. Not sure which. Care to make guesses? Sometimes I think it is wanting something that makes me miserable. You know, like Wanting The Pain To Go Away. Or Wishing Someone Could Fix Me or I Could Fix Myself.  I suspect I just need to live with it and be content with living with it. Easier said than done for a novice like me.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Cure for Loneliness

I’ve been one of those sad, emo kids…for the past thirty years. I am well familiar with the gut-wrenching feeling that accompanies being ignored and excluded from outings, as well as the terrible sense of being alone in a crowd at a gathering of my fellow human beings. I know the torment of missing people to the point of tears, as well as the agony of realizing that I haven’t got much truly, deeply in common with anyone I know. You see the irony of both these statements, I am sure.

But then I realized I was thinking about it all wrong.

I can’t connect with anyone in this world on a personal level. I have to connect on a transpersonal level. This is the secret to contentment. (Easier said than done, perhaps, but there it is).

In other words, it’s not about “me,” or “you,” and it never was. Outside the myth of ourselves as separate selves, is an amorphous world, swimming with possibility. When you dwell inside this very moment, you are connected with everyone else’s present moment. We’re all alive at this point in time, together. We all feel pain and joy and the myriad feelings common to the thread of life that binds us. This sort of connection is the joy I’ve been seeking. In this, there is no need to worry over the superficial things that alienate us from each other. In the moment between the inhale and the exhale, we are together in spirit and time.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Let's get together

I consider everyone I’ve ever met to be a friend, so long as we’ve connected on some level or another, and they haven’t shown overt signs of disliking me. With most people, all it takes for me to connect with them is a discussion of things common to all humans: food, ailments, emotions. But I’m finding that’s not enough for many of the people I naively thought were my friends. I get excluded and ignored for things I can’t always fathom. Perhaps... 
  • I don’t watch the right TV shows. 
  • I remind them of their ex, because we all used to hang out together and now he’s not in the picture. 
  • I’m not the same religion (or anti-religion) as them. 
  • I have a child who I often need to bring along with me on social outings, and they would rather not have her around. 
  • I like to try to help people with their problems, rather than let them wallow in self-pity. 
  • They think I wouldn’t be interested in coming to their party, because I’m generally shy, and perhaps I bailed on them the last time they invited me.

And who knows what else. I want to find the base level of connection with everyone. I can care about you even if all I know is that you’re hurting. Sure it would be nice if I could meet someone who liked the same entertainments as me, or who could keep up with my continually shifting spate of interests. But in today’s world, this is unlikely to happen, and I’ve mostly accepted that.

Over the past year I’ve begun helping more strangers through various volunteer groups. This is more healing for me than sitting at home, cultivating a Balkanized world of online presences to express the disparate sides of myself, or trying to keep alive friendships that no one else thinks are worth bothering with.

I hope I can merge the varied personas that have come to represent me -- mother, knitter, artist, novelist, tech writer, poet, animanga enthusiast, hula hooper, crafter, singer, songwriter, music lover, meditator, pansexual, spiritual anti-seeker, and more – the same way I hope to merge with the people and the world around me.

I just want to exist in this world, expressing myself in a compassionate way, helping in any way I can, and perhaps one of you might find some sense of the familiar in the web of connection I’m slowly weaving.  If you do, let’s get together for tea sometime.

In the meantime, smack me if I ever post about this topic again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

How I Fixed My Eyesight

When I was in my early twenties, I became nearsighted. I remember putting glasses on for the first time, and being able to see the horizon crisply for the first time in quite a while. A few years later, I no longer needed those glasses anymore: my vision is perfect, and I’ll tell you how it happened.

In 1995 I was seeing Dr. Jenefer Huntoon at her clinic in Wallingford (a neighborhood in Seattle, WA). I was complaining of chronic allergies and needing to blow my nose all the time. So she performed what she called “cranial release” therapy on me. It was a rather barbaric treatment that involved sticking a small balloon on the end of a blood pressure bulb, sticking that up each of my six sinus cavities in turn, and pumping them full of air to expand them. Each treatment (I went four or five times to these sessions) I’d finish up feeling like the roof of my mouth had been stretched. It was not comfortable or fun, but during the time I was getting this done, I stopped needing to wear my glasses.

Now the only time the horizon becomes blurry for me is when I have a nasty, nose-clogging cold. I look out the window, see the blurry trees, and remember how that used to be how things were for me.

Regretfully, Dr. Huntoon is now deceased and her clinic is shut down. But I wanted to put this out there, in case anyone wants to do studies on this treatment to see if it could cure others. Clearly, it is possible to cure nearsightedness. It worked for me!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

I Wish More Music Sounded Like This

There are some albums, some bands, where I think to myself, “please make more music! There isn’t enough music like this in the world.” Some of my favorite artists, like Natural Snow Buildings and TwinSistermoon prolifically produce at least one album a year and have a huge back catalog. Others have only a couple of albums, and I’m unable to even get news if there’s more in the works.

Here are a few songs I’m really digging at the moment.

“When Stars Glide Through Solid”
A shimmering wall of effervescent noise that slowly melds into a percussive field of beauty in the last two minutes. Can’t find the song online so I put it on this Fuzz station with a bunch of other cool stuff.

Orla Wren
“The Fish and the Doll”
Weaves a web of tremulous, soft musical magic. Perfect for bubble baths.

Here’s some proper music for Halloween. I haven’t been able to find much that comes close to sounding like this musical collective from Finland. I’ve tried Pandora, but the compared music just isn’t doing it for me.

This song is just weird, but I like it. It’s like fairies whispering to each other among the flowers.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Helping Others, Helping Yourself

"[I]f people keep asking you for help, then you must give it to them rather than thinking, 'No, I’d much rather be sitting in my study having that lovely warm glow.'" - Karen Armstrong, from Compassion Restored.

I haven't had a paying job since before my daughter was born in 2005. In her early years, I was too overwhelmed to even think about anything beyond getting myself and my kid through the day, alive and well. When she started school, I started volunteering. And I learned some interesting things during the course of it.

I think of myself as an inherently selfish person. If given the opportunity between spending an evening home alone listening to music, or spending the evening volunteering (even at an awesome event like SeaCompression), I tend to choose the former. It's easy, it's a known entity. Any fear I feel in my own company is easily abated with a warm bath and some glowing candles. But out in the world, doing things, can be rather frightening. I know this, and yet…I still find myself gravitating more and more toward helping out where I can, even if it means putting my own desires to the side for a while.

I've heard some say that volunteering is addicting and I've wondered why. Supposedly there is some kind of "feel good" thing that is supposed to be going on in the minds and hearts of those who give to others. But I don't think that's really what's happening to me. It's more like the work I do for others -- especially if I do a lot of it -- distracts me from my own sad storyline and burns some new, more positive, neural pathways. And I view writing and sharing what I've written as a kind of charity also, if even one person is able to use what I've written to feel better, get inspired, or learn something.

I know others who struggle with just how much to give of themselves and their time. It's a common notion that people, especially women and mothers, practically martyr themselves to help raise their families and care for aging relatives. But imagine all this in a new light. Imagine you are one of these martyrs. You are annoyed because it's been so long since you've actually managed to read a book all the way through or engage in a favorite hobby, because you've got a little screamer clinging to your leg, and/or an older relative constantly calling for help. And now take that annoyance and throw it out the the window. Because it is time to reframe your situation in a more positive light. 

Your thoughts are the only thing that are making you annoyed. It isn't other people. They are just trying to get by in the world as best as they know how. Have some compassion for yourself for a moment. You have it rough! Cry for yourself. Now think of those people who need you. They have it rough too. There are things they wish they could do for themselves, but can't. If you take your time to help them, you aren't actually losing anything. You aren't. Honestly. When you look back on your life from the perspective of your deathbed, you aren't going to think "gosh if only I had managed to watch that whole TV series I really wanted to see" or "I wasted too much of my time taking old Grandma to her doctor's appointments." No. You won't think that. (And I suspect if you do, you are going to experience the leave-taking of your soul at the moment of death as a kind of chainsaw ripping through your body.) 

Souls are connected to one another. They care for one another. That's what they are here for. By helping others, we can better recognize the web that weaves us together in the fabric of life.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Back to Poetry

When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I wrote a lot of poetry. I sold my chapbooks in stores, self-published a literary zine, recited my work on the college radio station, and even got paid a couple of times for reading my work at venues. But then a couple of things happened --- Poetry was used as a weapon against me by certain people. (That’s a long story that will likely never get written about in a public setting.) Then I got distracted by a cross-country move to Seattle in 1994 --- and I stopped writing poetry. For a while there I was writing song lyrics, but those don’t hardly count, you see. Bad poetry can pass for song lyrics. Mediocre poetry can be excellent song lyrics. Lyrics are awesome, but I’m not into songwriting at the moment.

I am entering a new phase in my life, one that cannot fully be conveyed in photography, paint on canvas, or standard blog posts. So I’m writing poetry again. I’ll publish it here if I think it’s worth sharing. 

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Beyond Oneness

So a few days ago I posted about non-duality. That night I was reading from Shunryu Suzuki's Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, and had the opportunity to take a step back even further from the concept I discussed before. Here's what he had to say:

"Strictly speaking, there are no separate individual existences. There are just many names for one existence. Sometimes people put stress on oneness, but this is not our understanding. We do not emphasize any point in particular, even oneness. Oneness is valuable, but variety is also wonderful. Ignoring variety, people emphasize the one absolute existence, but this is a one-sided understanding. In this understanding there is a gap between variety and oneness. But oneness and variety are the same thing, so oneness should be appreciated in each existence. That is why we emphasize everyday life rather than some particular state of mind. We should find the reality in each moment, and in each phenomenon. This is a very important point."

If I'm going to get a slap down from anyone, I'm happy to take it from the venerable Zen master.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Duality of breathing

"[T]he desire for nonduality arises in wise people to save them from great fear." -from the Avadhuta Gita

I follow the basic meditation instructions: breathe in and out, while being conscious of breathing. That's great. But then one day I started imagining it backwards. What if I'm actually the air itself, being breathed out of the atmosphere into this body, and visa versa? So I tried to do that for a while…to be the air moving out from itself and into "me," and then out of "me" and back into the air. 

But then I woke up to a broader understanding: what if I could get out of this dualistic thinking entirely? I would not be "me" or "the air" but both at the same time. Aha. There's that idea of "all things being connected" again. 

All things are one. I've believed that for a long, long time. It's tough to stay in the mind state of believing that all the time, of course. The English language makes it so that I cannot avoid talking about "I" and "you" as separate people, and the language we use shapes our thinking.

It saddens me when I talk about people as being connected as if they were one big person, and others' respond with something like "Aw, but you have to appreciate all the unique individual differences! You don't want everyone to be the same, do you?" But that response misses the point. Sure we are all different, to the degree that we exist at all. But like a quarry full of rocks, we may all look different, but we all come from the same source. Our differences are meant to serve the larger whole. 

We all play a part in this imaginary universe we create together with our own minds.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Dead Can Dance, live at Marymoor Ampitheatre, Redmond, WA, August 10, 2012

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing Dead Can Dance at Marymoor Amphitheatre last month. It was the second time I'd seen them live -- the first being in the early 1990s -- and I admit I was a bit wary of the idea of seeing them in an outdoor venue. When I'd last seen them in Washington DC two decades ago, they performed in an old church; the perfect place to see Dead Can Dance in that era. The acoustics and the ambience were perfect and memorable. So when I found out they'd be playing in a place with a beer/wine garden, food vendors, and lawn seating, I was concerned that the show would somehow be cheapened by the atmosphere. 

I needn't have worried. From my vantage point in the folding chairs, the show was mesmering, and the acoustics, just right. Lisa Gerrard was statuesque, her voice having somehow become more beautiful over the years. Brendan Perry was a wonderful, subtly humorous host. We heard a number of songs from their new album, Anastatis, and some old classics like Sanvean and Dreams Made Flesh. The highlight of the encore for me was Brendan Perry singing a version of Song to the Siren, which came out much more passionate and beautiful than Liz Fraser's version, IMO (and I adore Liz Fraser).

I leave you with a track from their newest album.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Brace yourself for snark

I should not post this, but I've spent enough time wondering when and if anyone from my child's school will reply to my emails and voice mails requesting playdates this summer that I've clearly gone over the waterfall. My dangerous mind has concocted a checklist that I am super tempted (but do not dare) send out to parents of potential playdate companions for my soon to be second grader.

It goes something like this:

Hi! My child wants to play with your child; perhaps we could get together at playground sometime, or if you're too busy to meet up, you could leave your child at our house for a couple of hours some afternoon. Please let me know what you think!

For your convenenience I have provided a handy checklist to save you the time of crafting an actual response:

__ My spouse and I both work full time and barely have any time with our kids as is, so you can bet we have no time to reply to your email/voice mail.

__  My kid doesn't want to play with your kid, but I don't have the nerve to tell you.

__  I don't want to interact with an unfamiliar person like you, even for the few minutes it would take to tell you that.

__  I'm so resentful of the fact that you actually have time to contact another parent to arrange a playdate, that I cannot even form a single sentence.

Thank you for your time!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Shy People "Speak" Through Writing, Art, Music...

Have you got any shy people in your life? Any introverted souls who would prefer to sit home and read a book than go out and party? Friends who struggle to get a word in edgewise in the middle of a conversation?

I'd like to give you a hint as to how to help them.

No, I'm not going to tell you how to force them to become more outgoing by teaching them how to engage in small talk or encouraging them to partake of the various intoxicating social lubricants that are out there. Think about it: does this world really need more talkative individuals who gleefully steamroll over every conversation with their own loudmouth comments?

Shy people have plenty to offer, the trouble is, few people give them a chance to speak. Now aside from agreeing to meet with quieter folks individually so they have a hope of actually getting a word in, here's the best thing you can do:

Read their writing. If they don't write novels, poetry, short stories, essays and whatnot, read their blog. If they don't have a blog, probably they have a Facebook or a Twitter or something. Read it. You will find a world of insight about a person by what they write and post. The internet is a boon for shy people. 

Another thing: ask them if they make art or music or do some other sort of creative work. Shy people often speak through their creative work. Ignoring someone's creative work is tantamount to ignoring the person, especially if that person is not a social maven.

So pay attention to a shy person (or their work) today. Perhaps your world will be brighter because of it!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Turning Anger and Fear into Compassion

I had an interesting experience crossing the road a few months ago. My hip was acting up and I was limping as I crossed. This car was turning into the road I was crossing and rather than slow down or stop to let pathetic ole' me limp across, the car speeded up and I had to hurl myself the last ten feet just to avoid getting hit. My first reaction was one of fear and anger: did this person have it in for me and want to kill me? Then I remembered the various times I'd been distracted while driving and done careless things that could have endangered others, or... my fence, which I knocked down the day i backed into it after pressing the accelerator when I meant to press the brake. Remembering that folly of mine, I convinced myself the driver who'd nearly plowed me down had simply made that same sort of careless mistake as I did. I felt much better after that.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

The Burden of Stuff

I read recently that people in our society today tend to have more belongings than ever before. This was pitched in an “evils of materialism” sort of way. But I believe there’s a truth behind this that is not evil, just part of the fact of living.

See back in the post World War II era, the government deliberately encouraged us to become a nation of consumers, for the benefit of the economy. Material goods were made available in abundance, and advertising generated the desire for those goods. Our parents and grandparents bought those items and accumulated them, and now they are dying and leaving all that junk for us to deal with.

I recently visited the home of a middle-aged woman who has an entire room full of boxes, lamps and furniture. She’s having a hard time getting rid of it all, because it’s stuff she basically inherited. Anyone who has ever had to go through the belongings of a deceased loved one knows how painful that can be.

So my point is that the reason we are burdened by so much stuff is not just because we are mindless consumers, but because we have so much old stuff from our ancestors to process. If anything, I’d guess that today’s young people are even less enthralled by material possessions than ever. They can buy books and music digitally, and the majority of their social life and entertainment is on their smartphone or laptop.

Ultimately the real problem isn’t the stuff itself, but our attachment to it. Well, there’s the landfill problem of course, but that just takes someone with my daughter’s interest in making art from garbage to figure out.

I asked her what this is and she said, “I know exactly what it is, but it’s hard to explain.”

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Natural Snow Buildings - Monsters/Depths 7"

One of my favorite recording artists these days are Natural Snow Buildings, and they've recently released a 7" vinyl record called Monsters/Depths. (Those are two different songs/links, ahem). Seeing as how they have no issue with people digitizing and sharing their music (listen to this interview), I thought I'd help those of you who were not able to obtain one of the 300 existing copies of this record. This music is crack for those of us who are addicted. If you are not yet addicted, obtain as much of their material as you can (it is virtually all available online if you look for it) and try to listen to everything at least once. If you don't hate, it may soon grow on you. Even my seven-year old has started humming along.

Friday, May 18, 2012

You don't need that, really

Sometimes I make myself miserable because I want to help people, and I think I know what they need, but they won’t take it. Today I realized I’m wrong to assume I know what anyone needs. Maybe my husband’s IBS won’t be cured by a gluten-free or lactose-free diet. Maybe no one will truly benefit from the “insights” I think I’m doling out on my various blogs, twitter, etc. Perhaps I have been fooling myself to think that my creative writing could make certain people feel less alone in this world, or that I can change the world for the better with the lovely child I helped create with my husband.

Who am I to think I know what anyone needs?

Things are what they are – or what you make of them.

Now even if someone were to come up to me and say, “I need X,” I can’t trust their assessment. Perhaps they are fooling themselves, and if I give them X, then it really won’t help the way they think it will. So, no, Daughter, you do not need every Rainbow Magic Fairy book, anymore than Husband needs the house to be sparkling clean and neat every day of the week.

Likewise, there are things I think that I need – and I am probably wrong about most of them. I don’t really need that piece of chocolate right now, nor every Paavoharju track ever recorded. I also don’t really need to go on this knitting tour of Iceland

See, now we are getting into the realm of wants and desires, and that is a whole ‘nother can of tuna.

Oh I could send myself to the crazy house with this kind of thinking, I know.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Drop the magazines if you know what's good for ya

You’ve probably read the research saying that women have decreased self-confidence after spending time with a typical women’s magazine. I just experienced that with Seattle magazine, which reviews fancy local restaurants. I looked at all these fabulous places to eat and had a moment of sadness, because fine dining just doesn’t work out well for our family. I’m gluten-free, lactose-intolerant, and mildly allergic to pork. My husband is the classic picky eater who prefers a simple soup and sandwich or pizza to just about anything else, and who always manages to get sick if he goes to a restaurant and spends more than $50. On top of it all, I have a little kid, and you know what that means. All these things conspire to assure that I rarely, if ever, get to go to a “nice” restaurant.

Going to a fine dining establishment means I have to spend an hour online perusing menus to find some place that that actually has something my husband will eat. Basically, there has to be chicken breast, halibut, or pizza, prepped in a manner that will not bring out his inner paranoia about food safety, shellfish or raw animal flesh. Once I find the one or two places that will work for him, I look to see if there’s anything I can eat, beyond “Caeser salad, hold the croutons.” Once the restaurant is picked, the sitter has to be lined up. Usually by the time all this is figured out, the restaurant is already completely booked for the night.

So I felt a little sorry for myself, reading this Seattle magazine. But then I realized something truly awe inspiring: I am happy to be the mother of a small child. I love the fact that I know what foods give me trouble, so I can avoid them. I love the fact that my husband is a picky eater, because it gives me leverage when he wants to watch a movie I don’t want to see (“I’ll watch this movie that will scare me and make me cry and run to the bathroom multiple times, after you come with me to a sushi place and eat raw fish, mkay?”) I love my family and my life the way it is. I don’t need fancy restaurants!

Likewise, those women’s magazines? I won’t let them make me feel crappy about myself. I would rather have the body I have than spend lots of time and money trying to look like someone I’m not.

Even “O” magazine depresses me, with all its “here’s how you can be happy and find your true calling” types of articles. Whatever my true calling is, I’m already doing it, or I’m on my way there, whether I’m conscious of it or not. Telling me I could be happier, does not make me feel good because it implies there’s something wrong with the way I am now. And there’s not. So just stop already.

Now the only thing I need to make me happier is to stop looking at these magazines entirely, hmm? Back to the books.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Don't let the Internet kill your Creativity

On the way to the bus stop this morning, my nearly-seven-year-old was telling me about a design for a squirrel feeder she’d devised. I was struggling to visualize her idea involving two strings and a “plastic thing shaped like a boat” and thought to myself “I would just google ‘squirrel feeder’ and see what other people have already come up with.” And then I paused for a moment and realized: the luxury of the Internet has made me mentally lazy. Rather than come up with my own, innovative solution, I sometimes simply refer to the ideas of other creative people and use those as springboards for my own design. It saves me time and effort. But at what price? Could I be more innovative if I were forced to get by without access to the wealth of human history that the Internet provides? Probably. Which is why I kept silent and didn’t tell my child to just google it. Maybe she really could “build a better mousetrap” if she’d never seen one before.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Fun with Disney Princesses

When Ravenna turned four everyone decided to give her Disney Princess everything for her birthday. But since my kid has never seen a Disney Princess movie (by her own choice, I can't get her to watch hardly anything), we still can't name a lot of the princesses. This makes it difficult to play the Disney Princess Bingo game, because the spinner will land on a princess' face and then you have to say "B - Cinderella" or whatever the princess' name is. If you don't know the names you have to make them up. So we say things like "I - Brown Haired Girl" or "N - Girl with the Red Bow." My favorite though is one that Ravenna came up with..."Cheese Head Girl" named for the princess with the blonde hair whose tiara looks like a Swiss cheese.