Sunday, January 31, 2010

Art Matters

"Exuberance is beauty."
-- William Blake

Not long ago I discovered the documentary "River & Tides" about Andy Goldsworthy the artist who "makes art that nature consumes" -- icicles, sticks, flowers, driftwood nests, rocks. His art works are made on the edge of the sea, in the heart of a forest, on a wind-swept hillside. He says that by making art in these places he feels like he has touched the heart of the place. He says his work is about "seeing something you've always seen before but you were blind to. There are moments when it's extraordinarily beautiful ... those are moments I live for."

In the documentary as I watched one incredible piece of beauty after another drift away, melt or collapse, I wondered, "Why?" And the answer seemed to be ...
Because ... just because.
Because it called to me.
Because I could.
Because beauty ... art ... matters.
There are many YouTube videos on Goldsworth. Here's one that gives a brief glimpse of some of his work although the music is a little distracting. The DVD is available from Netflix.




About the image: Worm trails on a downed eucalyptus.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Conjecture

Cleve Backster is a polygraph expert best known for his controversial experiments with biocommunication in plant and animal cells using a polygraph machine in the 1960s. After establishing that plants in his office could sense his thoughts, he was curious to know whether the plants could sense the "thoughts" of other organisms. He arranged a carefully controlled experiment where a small number of brine shrimp were dumped into boiling water by automated equipment which also tracked the polygraph results. The experiment showed that the plants reacted to the death of the brine shrimp even though they were in separate rooms and Backster himself was out of the building. This experiment and the others that he conducted over a 30-year period convinced Backster that all life forms are in tune with each other and that they are constantly passing telepathic information back and forth at every moment.

This experiment, described in Lynne McTaggart's The Intention Experiment and in the video below, has been replicated by others but is still not accepted by the scientific community. But, for just a moment, let's assume that Backster's experiments are valid and that there is a continuous exchange of information between organisms and that the death or threat of any organism is felt by all other organisms. We know that more war, more horror, more genocide happened during the 1900s than during any period in history. Could this be part of the reason we have seen such a massive rise in depression and other stress related diseases?

If we knew ... really knew ... that every action we take, every thought we think, truly affects every living person, animal, plant or cockroach around us, what would we do differently?

The Power of the Mind

While the ethics of this study are troubling, the findings are fascinating. What power we have in our minds.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Don't Miss This One!

Just when you think you've seen every sports story, something new comes along. Don't miss this one.



Wouldn't it be great if we all had the compassion and courage of Coach Chris Hogan of Faith Christian School?

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

2010 Intention

"You have to know what you want to get. But when you know that, let it take you. And if it seems to take you off the track, don't hold back, because perhaps that is instinctively where you want to be. And if you hold back and try to be always where you have been before, you will go dry." -- Gertrude Stein

Several months ago the theme song from Bagdad Cafe (I am calling you ... ) began haunting me as I listened to it repeatedly. A friend asked me what I was calling and I had to reply that I didn't know. Weeks later now, I know ... I'm calling my new life. At the end of November, I made a declaration of independence and challenged myself to fearlessly enter the unknown ... Dragon Country. And, for several months now I've been taking a deep dive into "new science" ... quantum physics, cellular biology, etc. As a non-scientist, this has been pretty heavy slogging but I've been fascinated to find the extent that science is now validating what the ancient mystics have been saying for hundreds ... thousands ... of years.

It is not just a belief that we are all one ... it's science.
It is not just a belief that we create our own reality* ... it's science.

So with those beliefs settling into the fiber of my being and with the challenge to enter the unknown territory, I have created my intention for 2010 and am making it public. I recently heard a quote that stated, "Someone out there needs you. Live your life so they can find you." I want my new intention to live in the world. I have no idea how to make it a reality so it will have to attract the right people and situations to me.

2010 Intention
I am committed to, by December 31, 2010, living in California in a beautiful, peaceful place with lovely outdoor living space. From my new home I can see the ocean and there are incredible, big trees around me. I have a perfect place to do art, play music, meditate and exercise. I am actively involved with helping people create their own spiritual realities and all of us are part of the change in consciousness, the tipping point, that will eradicate violence and restore the planet to health. By my side in this joyous venture is my new playmate, lover, best friend and spiritual partner.
Many, if not most, of you will read the above and think, "She's crazy!" And, that's perfectly OK. For any of you who are attracted to this, leave me a comment with your email. I'll be happy to talk, even if it's just how this intention is progressing. I'll also put brief updates here every month.

AND, if you'd like to go public with your 2010 Intention, feel free to put it in the comments section.

* I'd like to clarify this ... I do NOT believe that people with an illness or other life challenge have been "bad" or ineffective in creating their own realities. Stephen Hawking has a neuro-muscular dystrophy that is related to amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a condition that has progressed over the years and has left him almost completely paralyzed. Yet he is one of the most pre-eminent scientists of our time, even awarded in 2009 the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the United States. Things can happen to us ...what we do with them is our choice and one way that we create our reality.



About the Image: This is one of my new series of "intention art."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Peace ... please.

"War is always an acknow- ledgment of failure."
-- Dominique de Villepin, former Prime Minister of France

Blog-sister Maureen, Writing without Paper, challenged us to join the Blog Carnival poetry prompt of PEACE and to make a contribution to Haiti relief based on comments to our poems. So here is my offering, based on an actual comment made to Louise, Recover Your Joy, by someone who had experienced war coming to his life way too much. I will contribute $2 to the Vassar Haiti Project for every comment left here today.

Peace ... please.

"And then war came ..."

Spoken by a child, simply.
Like sunrise.
Like rain.

And then war came ..."
From the heavens.
From the earth.
From the very air.

"And then war came ..."
Buildings fell down.
People died.
There was no food.

"And then war came ..."

Songs stopped.
Books burned.
Rivers ran red.

"And then war came ..."
and the child
was
gone.

About the image: it may be a stretch but this street scene reminds me that art is one thing that bridges the dark and the light.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Change Your Altitude

Special thanks to Maureen at Writing without Paper for this inspiring find.

Bertrand Piccard, along with Brian Jones, was the first to complete a non-stop balloon flight around the globe. He presented some his lessons to a recent meeting of TED (Technology, Entertainment & Design."

"One of the main problems of our society, people learn that the unknown, the doubts, the question marks are dangerous and we have to resist the changes and keep everything under control."

"As long as we fight horizontally against life, against the winds, against what's happening to us, life is a nightmare. If we want to change our trajectory in ballooning or in life, we have to change altitude. How do we change altitude? In the balloon, we have ballast and when we drop the ballast overboard, we climb. In life, it is exactly like this. Pioneers are not the ones with new ideas because ideas are easy to find. No, the pioneer is the one who allows himself to throw overboard a lot of ballast ... habits, certainties, convictions, exclamation marks, paradigms, dogmas. Pioneering spirit allows us to explore the vertical axis ... all the different ways to do, all the different ways to behave, all the different ways to think before we find the one that goes in the direction we wish. This is very practical."



Upon finding a jet stream that would allow his balloon to go faster and save on their precious fuel, Piccard called a weatherman to tell him about the newly found jet stream. The weatherman said that was nice but if he stayed with it, he'd wind up over the North Pole instead of where he wanted to go. The weatherman asked, "Do you want to go very fast in the wrong direction or slowly in a good direction?

When they landed, Piccard promised himself that the next time he flew around the world, he would do it with no fuel and never be held hostage again by the fuel gauges. He urges us to use the pioneering spirit to improve the quality of life and to look at the things that are completely impossible today. He is now applying this spirit to the challenge of flying around the world completely on solar power. You can read more about this project and Piccard at http://solarimpulse.com/.

My favorite quotes from Piccard: "People will tell you it's impossible and that's exactly why we tried to do it." "The most renewable energy we have is our potential and our own passion."

And, the bottomline question: What ballast are we willing to let go of today in order to get to a new altitude?

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Secret #1

Mystery is the greatest need in the human soul.
- Emily Dickenson

The Book of Secrets
by Deepak Chopra was born in a moment of family crisis ... his father's sudden death. It drove him to investigate the mystery of life and death which he articulates in 15 "secrets" in this book .

Secret #1: The Mystery of Life Is Real

Chopra's premise around this first secret is that we are already living the answer to this mystery at the cellular level. Our body contains 53 trillion cells all working in amazing, cooperative harmony. Chopra describes the qualities of this interaction as:
Higher purpose ... every cell in your body works for the welfare of the whole. If necessary, it will die to protect the body.

Communion ... a cell keeps in touch with every other cell as messenger cells race everywhere to notify the body's farthest outposts of desire or intention.

Awareness ... cells adapt from moment to moment in order to respond to immediate situations.

Acceptance ... cells recognize each other as equally important.

Creativity ... although every cell has a set of unique functions, these combine in creative ways to meet new situations.

Being ... cells obey the universal cycle of rest and activity.

Efficiency ... cells function with the smallest possible expenditure of energy and stores only three seconds of food and oxygen inside its cell wall.

Bonding ... cells know that they are fundamentally the same.

Giving ... the primary activity of cells is giving, which maintains the integrity of all other cells.

Immortality ... cells reproduce in order to pass on their knowledge, experience, and talents, withholding nothing, creating a practical immortality.

In the cellular world, selfishness, refusing to communicate, living like an outcast, overconsumption, obsessive activity and aggression are not options.
Chopra suggests that we recognize the intelligence of the body and live more along the principles of this example. He also says our ancestors understood this way of living more than we do. I agree but I have some questions:

How did cancer get introduced into this relatively perfect system?

And in our larger system, how did greed, selfishness, anger, overconsumption and aggression get introduced? Did these things come with the development of our "higher" brains? First, we used a rock to crack open nuts and then found it useful to stop someone from taking our nuts? It reminds me of one of my favorite movies, The Gods Must Be Crazy. The peaceful, simple lives of a tribe of Bushmen are totally disrupted when a Coke bottle tossed from an airplane lands in their midst. At first, it was a wonderous thing with many uses, but there was only one and people began to fight over it until their leader heads off on an adventure to get rid of it by tossing it over the edge of the world.

Somehow, I don't think we're going to get rid of all of our "Coke bottles" and, so far, the book hasn't answered these questions. Stay tuned.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Story

Thoughts on readings from Notes from the Song of Life by Tolbert McCarroll, known as Brother Toby.

"You are a necessary part of a long story." One of the people I love most in the world is having a hard time and it's partially my fault. She is a bright, creative, passionate young woman and I've tried to be supportive and loving but I've fallen far short of my intentions. I've let my own insecurities and fears keep me from being who I wanted to be with her and from sharing with her my heart and my spirit.

This morning as I picked up this book, I suddenly realized how little I had helped her understand her place in the world. Now her spirit is crying out for help and I'm hoping that this slim volume of daily readings will help guide me in finding a way to guide her.

I passed along today's reading to her and I especially hope she hears these words and that they find fertile ground deep within her.
You are a guardian of the seeds for the world to come. All that has gone before and all that is yet to come is within you. Through you passes humanity's saving fire. You are running in a relay. This is the moment you have been chosen to hold the torch. You cannot refuse to run. Whatever you do is part of your page in the story of life.

Be yourself. That is who you were meant to be. You are a note, a necessary note in a beautiful song.
And, for myself, I hope I find the courage to truly be who I am in the world and never again withhold my heart or my spirit.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Arguing with a Teenager

We are what we repeatedly do.
Excellence, then is not an act but a habit.
-- Aristotle

A few days ago I found myself in the midst of a mini-rant about calendars ... actually my own calendar and any regularly occurring items on it that spoiled the open expanse of the day. Even when I want to do something, I resist putting it on my calendar because it means I have to do something. I've committed to it. I'm responsible for showing up. I tend to be a highly reliable person. I keep my commitments and honor my responsibilities. So why am I now having so much angst over the commitments I make?

I recognize the situation ... my inner teenager is acting out again ... throwing a ruckus because she only wants to do what she wants to do. And, with no "job" or external commitment, there's nothing to make her tow the line. Everything on my calendar is there because I put it there but still she's whining and carrying on.

Maybe somewhere in my past, I overdid it to the point where commitments and responsibilities kept me from being who I wanted to be. Maybe I became attached to commitments and responsibilities and wore them like a badge. Maybe they became such a fixed "duty" that I lost the passion that made me sign up for them in the first place. Maybe that's causing the teenage rebellion. She seems to know that if she only does what she wants to do each moment, she will stay in her passion. Whereas, if she agrees to do something every day or every week, at some point in the future, she may not actually want to do it any more. And, then she'll be stuck. What she doesn't seem to get is, if she doesn't commit to the practice I've put on our calendar, she'll be stuck in a different way.

I didn't practice my hammered dulcimer yesterday. No reason. I still haven't started meditating ... No excuse. I like playing my dulcimer and I actually like it when I meditate. And, I want the greater competency and peace that comes with those practices. Part of me wants to stay the same. That's the message from the 21-day Spirituality and Practice e-course "Catalysts for Change." I have to agree, although I can't quite find the part that's holding out, that's resisting with all the tempestuousness of a spoiled teenager.

The S&P folks continue:
Resistance seems built into the universe as part of its wiring. Each and every thing seems to want to remain where it is and exactly how it is, for that is what it is. Once this was called the formal cause, the essential nature, that gives each and every thing its internal power to exist. The world seems to like the status quo; it resists change despite what mystics say about change being the only truth and what nuclear physicists say about the motion of waves and particles as the fluctuating instability inside all solid substance.
Apparently the trick is to do something long enough that it then becomes what wants to remain the same. Would that someone would explain that to my internal teenager.

So, I could sit here and contemplate the source of this resistance or I could get up and go play. And, I really like playing my HD but I'm still at the incompetent stage wondering if I'll ever reach any level of mastery (not unless you get up and go practice). And, as for meditation, I don't really mind it ... there are just so many things that are so much more interesting and fun. My blog-sister Diane (Contemplative Photography), though, posted this morning about creating space. Unless we create space, nothing new can come in. I know that and I want to make space for new thoughts and new insights. (then meditate!)

OK, OK, OK ... my teenager and I are both going off to practice and meditate.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

I Don't Write Poetry

Everywhere I turn, I find a poet has been there before me. -- Sigmund Freud

Today I'm posting this old poem in response to a challenge put out by Faith, Friends, Fiction. Blogger Glynn Young is offering a book of poetry and a bottle of wine to someone who writes 100 words or less about poetry. Check it out.

Several years ago, my friend Lynne and I attended a Natalie Goldberg writing workshop in Taos. It was a fabulous experience but also surprising. Every morning I would take a long walk through Taos and, whether it was Natalie's workshop or the Taos air, something started stirring within me.

Answering the question posed by this poem led me into poetry, changing me, changing my life, changing my outlook on life. In other words, it changed everything.

I Don't Write Poetry

I am a practical person.
I don’t write poetry.

I have bills to pay.
I don’t write poetry.

I have people to impress.
I don’t write poetry.

So what is this stuff oozing up
From the cracks in my life in these Taos mountains?
This stuff that demands its space on the page
This stuff that will pay no bills, impress no people.
###
About the image: "We Are Stardust," a new piece of art just completed

Love Untwined

"Some day, when we have harnessed the power of the sun and the waves and gravity, we will learn how to harness the power of love. And then, for the second time, we will have discovered fire." -- Teillard de Chardin

My blog-sister Louise (Recover Your Joy) tells me that there is an African tribe that does not have a word for "love." Instead they say, "I am beautiful in my heart for you." I don't know which I am more struck by ... a culture without a word for love or the beauty of that simple phrase that expresses so much more than our overused word.

"I am beautiful in my heart for you." My love for you makes ME beautiful. It makes my heart soft and radiant. But, isn't that the way with love? ... it does as much or more for those of us who love as it does for the ones we love. It makes us beautiful in our hearts.

We use the word love in dozens of ways ... to convey our appreciation for everyday things ... I love Desperate Housewives, I love Crest toothpaste, I love books. We also use it to express our sensual experiences ... I love the smell of pine after a hail storm in the forest, I love the touch of velvet, I love the sound of children laughing. We use it for the things we like to do ... I love photography, I love kayaking on a high alpine lake, I love long conversations. And, of course we use it to convey our deep feelings of connection ... I love my children, I love my family, I love my friends. It has become like a ball of twine batted about by a kitten till it is raggedy and trailing loose ends across the floor. It's hard to tell which end to pull to decipher the meaning.

Perhaps we need more words to differentiate just which type of love we mean ... or perhaps we could borrow the African phrase and, when we want to express our deep feelings of connection, we could just say, "I am beautiful in my heart for you." I really love that phrase.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Placebos and Nocebos

Your beliefs act like filters on a camera, changing how you see the world. And your biology adapts to those beliefs. -- Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.

Almost everyone is aware of the phenomenon of placebos. Unfortunately, the mechanism of how the placebo works is not yet understood and thus, not harnessed. One of the most amazing examples, written about in Bruce Lipton, Ph.D.'s book "The Biology of Belief" tells the story of "placebo surgery."
A Baylor School of Medicine study, published in 2002 in the New England Journal of Medicine evaluated surgery for patients with severe, debilitating knee pain. The lead of the study, Dr. Bruce Moseley, "knew" that knee surgery helped his patients: "All good surgeons know there is no placebo effect in surgery." But Moseley was trying to figure out which part of the surgery was giving his patients relief The patients in the study were divided into three groups. Moseley shaved the damaged cartilage in the knee of one group. For another group, he flushed out the knee joint, removing material thought to be causing the inflammatory effect. Both of these constitute standard treatment for arthritic knees. The third group got "fake" surgery. The patient was sedated, Moseley made three standard incisios and then talked and acted just as he would have during a real surgery--he even splashed salt water to simulate the sound of the knee-washing procedure. After 40 minutes, Moseley sewed up the incisions as if he had done the surgery. All three groups were prescribed teh same postoperative care, which included an exercise program.



Lipton also talks about Nocebos ... the power of negative beliefs and tells a counterbalance story ...
In 1974 Dr. Clifton Meador had a patient, Sam Londe, a retired shoe salesman suffering from cancer of the esophagus, a condition that was at the time considered 100 percent fatal. Londe was treated for that cancer, but everyone in the medical community "knew" that his esophageal cancer would recur. So it was no surprise when Londe died a few weeks after his diagnosis. The surprise came after Londe's death when an autopsy found very little cancer in his body, certainly not enough to kill him. The case still haunts Meador three decades after Londe's death: "I thought he had cancer. He thought he had cancer. Everybody around him thought he had cancer ... did I remove hope in some way?"
The question is, of course, how do we learn to use this placebo power? Just as in this photo from the Walt Disney Center in Los Angeles, we may have to look at things from a different perspective.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Who Are We?

Who Are We?
Literally ... Who ARE We?


we are stardust
held together by light
filled with an ocean of
two gases that form a liquid.

50 trillion cells
each deciding who they are and what to do
through messages received from outside
living within an illusion of form.

we are a wave
of energy experiencing life as a particle
touching and being touched
observing and being observed.

we are temporary
and timelessly eternal
spirit made manifest
extraordinary made ordinary.

we are god
creating the world anew each day
from inside God
we are, each one of us, a miracle.

-- Joyce Wycoff, 2010

Saturday, January 16, 2010

What am I practicing?

"Most people live and die with their music still unplayed. " -- Mary Kay Ash

Recently I made a set of intention artworks including one that states "Practice daily." I like that and believe we do need to practice daily the things that are important to us, the activities that will deepen our understanding and capabilities.

But today, that phrase took a different turn as Patti Digh and David Robinson were talking about principles on the "Choice Points" teleseminar which is part of their Circle Project. David twisted the thought to "We are practicing daily." Every day we practice something ... the only question is whether we're practicing what we want to deepen or practicing what we'd prefer to eliminate. I'm trying to learn how to play the hammered dulcimer ... but right now, I'd like to watch "Grey's Anatomy" ... so I can either practice music or practice watching television. Sounds kind of silly when put that way. If I want to be more compassionate but get irritated by slow service in the coffee shop, I'm practicing being self-centered and judgmental. Whatever we practice will become stronger.

I've sometimes wondered why change is so hard but now I think it's because I spend too much time practicing NOT changing. Funny that it should be so simple.

So, my question for today, for this moment, is what am I practicing?

And, as I was thinking about practice, I came across this simple practice from the Dalai Lama:

The Practice (as offered by the Dalai Lama, October 18, 1999):

1. Spend 5 minutes at the beginning of each day remembering we all want the same thing (to be happy and loved) and we are all connected.
2. Spend 5 minutes cherishing yourself and others. Let go of the judgments. Breathe in cherishing you and breathe out cherishing others. If the faces of people you are having difficulty with appear, cherish them as well.
3. During the day extend that attitude to everyone you meet - we are all the same and I cherish myself and you. (Do it with the grocery store clerk, the client, your family, coworkers etc.)
4. Stay in the practice, no matter what happens.

About the image: This is actually a rail fence with extreme photoshop.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

One Tree's Story

On a recent trip to Sarasota, Florida, I visited Selby Gardens and met this tree. It is a beautiful tree but became even more special when I read the sign beneath it.

Tree of Enlightenment
"Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it."
-- The Buddha

The bo tree is beloved by Hindus and Buddhists who believe that the Buddha meditated under one for years until he attained enlightenment. Selby Gardens' bo tree is much-loved as well. Countless couples have married to the music of its leaves rustling in the breeze.

On September 14, 2001, Tropical Storm Gabrielle struck the Sarasota coast. Thousands of trees were destroyed. Our bo tree, completely uprooted, was one of the casualties.

But love--with the help of technology--conquered all. Arborists quickly pruned the tree's canopy by 30 percent to reduce its weight and moisture loss through transpiration. Meanwhile a barge, equipped with a 50-foot crane, chugged into place at high tide. Cables were looped around five of the tree's large branches and the crane gently tugged for 90 minutes until the tree was upright. Soil was packed around the root system to support it. Tended with care and water, the tree showed signs of new growth in six weeks-time.

"I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act."
-- The Buddha

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I didn't know

"In the end, it is not the sorrow of the world that matters but our heart's response to it. Compassion is sharing in the beauty of life and in the ocean of tears."
-- Jack Kornfeld

What if, as a young person, you were launched on a new path that brought you fun, fame and fortune? What if you became the most accomplished master of a new skill and it brought you joy every day you practiced your craft? Until ... until the day you suddenly realized that you had made a horrible mistake ... a mistake that would eventually claim the lives of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, of your friends. How would you atone for that mistake?

This is Richard O'Barry's story and most of us of a certain age were as familiar with his craft as we were of Tinkerbell's pixie dust falling on the Magic Kingdom. O'Barry was the trainer of the five dolphins who played Flipper on the television show of the same name. We fell in love with dolphins through that show and our love has grown like a cancer until it now results in the death of thousands of dolphins every year. Ric was delighted with his life and his craft until Cathy, one of the five Flipper dolphins, fell into depression and stopped breathing in his arms, an act that Ric insists was suicide. He instantly became an activist and has spent the rest of his life working to save the dolphins.

Ric's story is entangled with the story of Taiji, a small Japanese fishing village where 23,000 dolphins are killed every year in a search for "show dolphins" to fill our bottom less passion for these beautiful and graceful animals ... and as a method of "pest control" to protect the Japanese fishing industry. This slaughter and the efforts to capture it on film are graphically recorded in Louie Psihoyos' documentary, The Cove. This is a hard movie to watch but it is also inspiring to watch the creativity, heroism and passion of the people who risked their time, careers and lives to film the truth of what happens in that beautifully wretched cove in Taiji. One small way to honor their efforts is to watch this film even though it is gut-wrenching.

Apparently the Japanese people are unaware of the Taiji secret and at the end Ric O'Barry is standing in the midst of a busy street in Japan with a television monitor strapped to his chest, showing people the truth. The words, "I didn't know," no longer apply to this dark secret ... to the people of Japan ... or to us.

Watch the trailer and learn more at: http://savejapandolphins.com/

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Dream


"If one is lucky, a single fantasy can totally transform a million realities."

-- Maya Angelou

I Dream

I dream of being.
I dream my roots deep down into the impervious,
sun-warmed granite where their tendrils drill into
the tiny cracks and crevices where life hums.

I dream of truth.
I dream my dark spine rising upward
into the harmony of sun and earth and rain and wind
until it sings one clear note of an ancient melody.

I dream of love.
I dream my green needles into the crystal air
dancing light beams back to the sun
in a forever rainbow waiting simply for rain.

I dream of death.
I dream my shadow across the lichen children
reaching outward further, further each hour
stretching beyond, yearning ... yearning for ...

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Gift of the Outsider

In her book "The Seeker's Guide," Elizabeth Lesser states, "I recently heard a great writer say that an essential element in the life of a writer is to have been an outsider in childhood, to have been given the 'gift' of not belonging." Gift? I never thought of it that way. Lesson, maybe. But ... gift? Those long, endless days of my lonely childhood as the incubator, the essential element, of my writer's soul?

There is no doubt that I was an outsider ... an only child growing up in the country spending more time with Anne of Green Gables and Dorothy on her trip through Oz than the flesh-and-blood playmates of real life. Books were my friends, my teachers, my magic carpet taking me far beyond the small, southeastern Kansas town where I lived and introducing me to people in all parts of the world, past, present and future. And that journey made me different, not quite on the same page as anyone else I knew. Hard as I tried, I couldn't quite force myself into the mold that would have let me truly belong. Outsider was tattooed on my forehead. So I asked one of my new best friends, "What does it mean to be an outsider?" and Google replied:
Being an outsider can do either or both of two things to a person (or a group in society). It can make you feel alone, lonely, isolated ... faceless, nameless, voiceless ... like you don't have a say in decisions that concern you. But it can also give you a unique perspective on the people around you or on your society as a whole. But, as Henrik Ibsen wrote in his play "An Enemy of the People", "The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone."
And because Google has many voices, I also found a long discussion of one of my favorite poems from Emily Dickinson ...
I'm nobody!
Who are you? Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us — don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!
It seems that being an outsider was part of Emily's "gift" also. And, like many gifts, one wonders if there were a return counter for life's "gifts," which ones would we return and which ones would we keep now that we know what it brought us. I can't imagine a life without writing so perhaps a lonely childhood as an outsider was a fair price to pay for the world of books and the joy of words.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Where Have You Been?

One of my blog sisters asked me where I've been since I haven't posted for a few days and it triggered the refrain from a long ago poem ...
"Where have you been?
Did you get lost again?
Did I get lost again? I've been so busy trying to find myself, could it possibly be that I got lost again? I've been reading, studying, doing art, checking off boxes on my "to do" list ... I've been BUSY! And, how I love being busy. Too busy to just sit and listen to that small, inner voice. Too busy to let uncertainties and doubts have their say. Too busy to risk the return of fear and loneliness.

I want to turn my face to the sun and stride forward in a straight line stretching all the way to the horizon. But, that small voice keeps murmuring, wanting to be heard, wanting to tell me things I might not want to hear. It's easy to not listen. It's easy to say "later." It's easy to know I should listen and even easier to find justifications for "not now."
Memo to little voice: I am now in charge and you will remain quietly in the background. Take a nap, go for a walk, have a nice life. Tap me on the shoulder if you have something pleasant to share, otherwise please keep your thoughts to yourself.

Irritating response: Isn't that what you've been saying to me all your life? How well has it worked for you?

Rebuttal: Look, I'm supposed to be entering Dragon Country. I need to be fearless and strong. How can I make progress with you nattering on about how I'm really feeling?

LV: So it would be better to enter that unknown territory armed only with your false feelings and thoughts?

Me, the solid, real me that people can see: There you go, just like I knew you would, trying to trick me into listening to you. I know what I need to do, who I need to be, how to act fearless until it's real, or at least seems real. Listening to you could make me crazy, leave me vulnerable and defenseless, cracked open like an egg dropped on a concrete floor.

LV: How little you know how safe you are. Let me tell you how loved you are. Listen to me just a little ... just a little ... let me take your hand and help you find your way.
Silence ... ... ... ...


Red Leaf on a White Pickup

Red leaf sitting on a white pickup
Shouting, "Look at me!
It's fall and you haven't yet seen
The colors of the trees.

"You haven't felt the soft November air
Or the electric shock of orange persimmon
Against crystalline blue sky,
Or heard the stir of red leaves not yet gone dry.
"Where have you been?
Did you get lost again?
"Did you get lost in the thick woods of work and worry?
Did you forget to inhale the last breath of this year's roses
Offering their pink and white ecstasy to the morning sun?
Or let the dancing yellow-green light beams go unsung?

"When was the last time you strayed off the world's highway,
Beckoned by the invitation of an unknown path
Fringed with weeds and grasses heavy with seeds?
Or listened with compassion to the stories of a gurgling stream?
"Where have you been?
Did you get lost again?
"Did you forget the haunting smell of crushed eucalyptus?
The lemon-yellow explosion of a liquid amber tree?
The feel of a cool breeze breathing on sun-warmed skin?
The peaceful sound of Sunday before the day begins?
"Where have you been?
Did you get lost again?"

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Love

"With love, even the rocks will open."
-- Hazrat Inayat Khan*

When I was in college I read a short story (and have unsuccessfully tried to find it ever since) about a group of men sitting around a campfire in the mountains talking. One of them says that the Bible could be reduced to a single word: love. That struck a chord and has stayed with me since then. As my journey led me through a series of churches, it seemed to me that all of them complicated and diluted that simple and beautiful message until it was thin and weak.

Now I am in the midst of a studying "New Science" and my head is full of new concepts such as ... zero point field, string theory, multiverses, epigenetics, uncertainty principle, non-locality, and the non-linearity of time. It is fascinating to watch "New Science" referring back to ancient mystics and mystic traditions in a process of rediscovery of what was apparently known eons ago. But suddenly this morning I wonder if all of this, too, could be reduced to a single word: love.

And, what would we do differently if we truly understood that word and lived it?

About the Quote:
Hazrat Inayat Khan, (July 5, 1882 – February 5, 1927) was an exemplar of Universal Sufism and founder of the Sufi Order International and set forth ten thoughts that form the foundational principles of Universal Sufism[4]:

1. There is One God, the Eternal, the Only Being; None exists save He.
2. There is One Master, the Guiding Spirit of all souls, Who constantly leads all followers toward the Light.
3. There is One Holy Book, the Sacred Manuscript of Nature, the only Scripture that can enlighten the reader.
4. There is One Religion, the unswerving progress in the right direction toward the Ideal, which fulfills the life's purpose of every soul.
5. There is One Law, the Law of Reciprocity, which can be observed by a selfless conscience, together with a sense of awakened justice.
6. There is One Brotherhood, the human brotherhood which unites the children of earth indiscriminately in the fatherhood of God. ... (later adapted by followers) There is one Family, the Human Family, which unites the Children of Earth indiscriminately in the Parenthood of God.
7. There is One Moral, the Love which springs forth from self-denial and blooms in deeds of beneficence. ... (alternative, source unknown) There is one Moral Principle, the Love which springs forth from a willing heart, surrendered in service to God and Humanity, and which blooms in deeds of beneficence.
8. There is One Object of Praise, the Beauty which uplifts the heart of its worshipper through all aspects from the seen to the unseen.
9. There is One Truth, the true knowledge of our being, within and without, which is the essence of Wisdom.
10. There is One Path, the annihilation of the false ego in the real, which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all perfection. ... (alternative, source unknown) There is One Path, the effacement of the limited self in the Unlimited, which raises the mortal to immortality, in which resides all Perfection.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Forgiveness Lesson from South Africa

"Without forgiveness there is no future."
-- Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1983 Nobel Peace Prize, was chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Yesterday I watched (or should say wept through) Invictus*, the incredible, inspiring movie about Mandela's early years as president of South Africa. (watch the trailer here) I remember talking to a friend from South Africa many years ago when we were at a conference in Mexico together. I asked him why Mandela was so readily accepted as a leader when he came out of prison. After all, he had been in prison for 27 years, not exactly in the public eye. How did people even know who he was? Ketani told me that it was about character and how much more their culture focuses on and values character. They knew Mandela's character ... even after 27 years in prison ... and that was enough.

I also remember how we expected the worst in South Africa. Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: "If you asked even the most sober students of South African affairs what they thought was going to happen to South Africa a few years ago, almost universally they predicted that the most ghastly catastrophe would befall us; that as sure as anything, we would be devastated by a comprehensive bloodbath." The bloodless and relatively peaceful transition in that country as it moved from apartheid to democracy is one of the most remarkable stories of our time.

In an article about the process of forgiveness in South Africa, Archbishop Tutu discusses the concept of "restorative justice" rather than our idea of "retributive justice." He states, "There is also restorative justice, because we believe in Ubuntu -- the essence of being human, that idea that we are all caught up in a delicate network of interdependence. We say, 'A person is a person through other persons.' I need you in order to be me and you need me in order to be you." (It is well worth the time to read the entire article from Archbishop Tutu)

But the movie isn't directly about forgiveness ... it's about rugby and the underdog story of a losing team's rise to the World Cup. Rugby was a white sport and at the beginning of Mandela's presidency, there was a move to get rid of the team, the colors and everything that it stood for. Mandela pleaded with the leaders to keep the team because it was so beloved by the white South Africans and then worked hard to show his support for the team and let them know how important they were to their country. Rugby was used as a force to unite the country, creating a sense of one country, one people and a reminder of their sense of Ubuntu.

As we think about "forgiving those who have trespassed against us" and forgiving ourselves of our own imperfections, this movie and the words of Archbishop Tutu seem to offer much to ponder. And, it seems to me, that if forgiveness can happen under the most horrific and extreme circumstances such as South Africa's, surely the rest of us can do it.

*“Invictus” (meaning “Invincible” in Latin) was a short poem written by William Earnest Henley and published in 1875. What’s the connection to Mandela? It seems the poem was a great source of inspiration for the freedom fighter. The impact of its verses is probably best summed up by this passage from a 2007 Reader’s Digest interview with Mandela:
RD: When you were in prison all those long years on Robben Island and elsewhere, was there something that came back to you, something you had either in your mind, a message or passage from a book, a song, something that helped sustain you and keep up your spirits?
Mandela: There was a poem by an English poet, W.E. Henley, called “Invictus.” The last lines go: “It matters not how straight the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.”
Since this has always been one of my favorite poems, I'm adding the full version here:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Third Choice

"The most beautiful and profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the power of all true science."
-- Albert Einstein

My friend Emily Meek is an amazing painter of archetypal scenes. She was kind enough to give me a print of one of my favorites, and, since she is also a poet, on the back she wrote:

The Tension of the Opposites

Both in Shadow.
Both part Light.

(Neither one's all wrong or right.)

Only curious delight
to watch,
as Two call forth the New Light.

It strikes me that almost all of our social polarities would benefit from this thinking that neither side is all right or all wrong and if we could look at the whole situation with curious delight, we might call forth a new light. What if we decided to hold our most diametrically opposed views in that state of tension and let curious delight work its magic in finding a Third Choice which would shine new light on the situation? Wouldn't it be great if we could apply this thinking to the issues of abortion, health care, gay marriage, immigration and world conflicts?

But, this morning I'm thinking of the long-standing division between Darwinism and Creationism. I have just finished reading Bruce Lipton's visionary book, The Biology of Belief, in which he makes a case that Darwinism is not exactly right ... but neither is Creationism. Somehow, through his curious delight as a cellular biologist, he managed to find a new light and has become a leading thinker in the new field of biology termed epigenetics, which literally means "control above the genes."

Lipton states:
Suddenly I realized that a cell's life is controlled by the physical and energetic environment and not by its genes. Genes are simply molecular blueprints used in the construction of cells, tissues, and organs. The environment serves as a "contractor" who reads and engages those genetic blueprints and is ultimately responsible for the character or a cell's life. It is a single cell's "awareness" of the environment, not its genes, that sets into motion the mechanisms of life.

On one side of the line is a world defined by new-Darwinism, which casts life as an unending war among battling, biochemical robots. On the other side of the line is the "New Biology," which casts life as a cooperative journey among powerful individuals who can program themselves to create joy-filled lives.
Lipton's scientific discoveries in cellular biology shattered his beliefs about the nature of life to the point that he "instantly went from nonbeliever to believer ... convinced that we are immortal, spiritual beings who exist separately from our bodies. We are made in the image of God and we need to put Spirit back into the equation when we want to improve our physical and our mental health."

The science developed 300 years ago has served us well in many respects but it also filled us with thoughts and beliefs that may no longer be serving us well in today's challenged, over-populated, over-consuming world. Lipton offers us fresh, empowering insights based on sound science. What a nice way to start the new year.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Starting with Self-Compassion

One of my words for 2010 is "maitre" ... the Sanscrit word meaning loving kindness toward ourselves. If we want to have a more compassionate world, perhaps we need to begin by being compassionate with our self. Kristin Neff, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Human Development at the University of Texas at Austin, has a website devoted to ideas about how to be more compassionate towards ourselves. Here are two of her recommendations for being more self-compassionate when we might normally be self-critical or judgmental:

Self-Kindness - "What would a caring friend say to you in this situation" "What is a kind and constructive way to think about how I can rectify this mistake or do better next time?" Try putting your hand over your heart or gently stroking your arm when feeling a lot of pain as a gesture of kindness and compassion.

Self-judgment - "Who ever said human beings are supposed to be perfect?" "Would a caring mother say this to her child if she wanted the child to grow and develop?" "How will I learn if it's not okay to make mistakes?"

And here is another set of recommendations found at cure2.com
Six Ways to Develop Kindness Towards Yourself
Adapted from The Force of Kindness, by Sharon Salzberg (Sounds True, 2005).

People often find some difficulty in caring for themselves, in receiving love, in believing they deserve to be happy. Developing care towards ourselves with the power of concentration is the first objective, the foundation for later being able to include others and finally all of life in the sphere of kindness. Try these ways:
1. Spend some time consciously reflecting on the good you’ve done, or a good quality you have.
2. Remember a time you made a mistake. What qualities help you learn to act differently? What qualities stifle the creative urge to change?
3. If you see anger, fear, or similar states arising in your mind, and you find yourself reacting to them as “bad” or “wrong,” purposefully translate that response to “painful” or “suffering.” See what changes.
4. Reflect on what the middle way might look like for you in a particular endeavor, relationship, or challenge.
5. Devote some time each day to self-care. Can you spend 15 or 20 minutes doing something to be kind to yourself?
6. Develop and practice loving kindness meditation for yourself.
About the image: This is from a new set of "Dragon Country Intentions" I'm doing to get ready for the "Frozen Dead Guy Festival" gallery opening. Most are taken from the poem by the same name and posted here.