Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Uglies … and, no, we’re not talking politics

Moving to a new country allows you to discover new things in the environment around you … and, as they say here in Mexico, desafortunadamente (I love the eight rolling syllables of that word), it also reveals things about ourselves that sometimes we’d rather not see. I call them the uglies.

I’ve been visited by two uglies in the past couple of weeks. The first was more of a blemish, but apparently I didn’t pay enough attention, so it came back in a much uglier form. As a relatively well-educated woman from a wealthy country, I have had decades to build up my prejudices and biases.

(And, just in case you believe you are prejudice-free, you might want to take the assessment at I first took it years ago and it surprised, and disappointed, me to find that I was moderately biased toward white people. It did open my eyes though, and made me more aware of my own bias and stereotyping.)

I believe strongly in tolerance and equality, and thought I had made progress in moving past bias. Apparently not so much. In a conversation with a Mexican man, I was surprised to find out that he had been a University professor in the US. I think I made it through that conversation without appearing completely arrogant, but, on reflection, realized that I carried into that conversation the stereotype of “less educated Mexican.” It made me uncomfortable to see that piece of myself.

However, there was more in store. At breakfast a couple of days ago with friends who have recently arrived to start their life here in Ajijic, we sat at a table next to an older, dark-skinned Mexican man missing several teeth. I actually felt myself write him off as a borracho (drunkard).

My friends are moving into their new place and were admiring the chairs in the restaurant, wondering if they could find some just like them, when the man at the next table, in near-perfect English, started telling us about where they came from and how they were made. And, then, without pausing, about his life here and in the US and how he learned to speak English by following tourists around the town when he was a boy. Once his words started, they didn’t stop.

My mind began a chaotic spin … attracted to his language skill, repulsed by his appearance (truly an Ugly reaction), amazed by the way he had learned the language when I am working so hard and seeing such slow results, irritated by his needy demand to be part of our conversation, startled by my own reaction that someone “like him” could be so fluent in a second language, impatient with his endless flow of words, wanting to be on with our own conversation and my own life.

It wasn’t until later that it all swirled into a truly ugly discovery about myself. I just finished a book (Forty Rules of Love (see more here) about Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. Shams is a wandering dervish who talks to drunkards, prostitutes and people of low status. Not only talks with them but learns from them, helps them. The book reminded me of my own commitment to “being love,” being kind and grateful for everything that comes my way. I don’t believe I have to go wandering through the world like Shams, but I do believe I need to be kind to everyone who comes my way.

The encounter at breakfast was like the Universe said, “Here’s an opportunity to be what you say you want to be.” And, I blew it. I knew it the minute I got up from that table and walked away from a man, a human being, who needed kindness. I fretted about it all day and went back the next morning, hoping to find him at that table, hoping to have another chance to be who I want to be. I thought at least I could buy him breakfast, listen to his words, be kind.

Of course, he wasn’t there. Chances are, I may never see him again. Perhaps, he was just an angel sent to give me a chance to express my better nature.

So, I’m left writing this, accepting and kindly embracing my inner uglies, hoping to make peace with them, hoping to do better next time. Inspite of the title of this piece, there is a political message here. I have been struggling with many of the policies of the current administration, wondering how our leaders could be so heartless and insensitive to the needs of our people. Now I realize that my behavior toward that man in the restaurant was just an example of how we wind up focused on our own wants and needs even when it’s at the expense of the person next to us.

If I can think my time is too important to be kind to an old man in a restaurant, why should I expect our leaders to choose kindness over their own interests?

More thoughts on kindness:

"There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy.  Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; my philosophy is kindness."  -- The Dalai Lama

"The magic in this world seems to work in whispers and small kindnesses." -- Charles de Lint

"One kind word can warm three winter months."   -- Japanese proverb

"Doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.” -- Martin Seligman, Founder and Director of the Positive Psychology Center, University of Pennsylvania

Monday, June 26, 2017

Review: The Forty Rules of Love: A Novel of Rumi by Elif Shafak

"Into the Unknown"
Have you ever started a book, which, from the first word, you didn’t want it to end? A book that you wanted to read as slowly as possible, savoring every word? A book that you knew was more than just a story, more than just black words on a white page? This is one of those.

I have to admit the recommendation from my sister-from-another-mother clued me in to the possibilities of this book, but the first words enchanted me and offered me a reflecting pool on my own life. From the beginning I knew reading this book was going to be a journey.

Many long years ago as a sophomore in college, I read a short story. Although the title and author are lost in time, the insight it gave me changed my life. All I remember about the story is that some guys are sitting around a campfire and one of them explains that The Bible could be condensed to one word: Love. That story, that one insight, stripped away my need for religious dogma and political debate and gave me a one-word rudder for my life.

While my skill at wielding this rudder through the journey of my life has been less than expert, I always know what I’m trying to do. I even announced it at the end of a workshop decades ago. When asked to state our after-workshop intention, I stood, and with my introvert-heart pounding, announced that I wanted to “BE love."

But, time and life keep rolling along, picking up sand and pebbles and boulders until it’s a muddy, frothy flow and clarity is lost. Moving to Mexico was like jumping out of the river onto the bank of a small island away from distractions and expectations.

At first it felt wrong to just be sitting on the sideline as the river rushed on without me. How could I just do nothing when there were so many problems and issues, opportunities and possibilities swimming past me? Slowly I found myself breathing deeply, wrapping my arms around my knees and turning my face to the sun, just being alive and unencumbered.

And then, the book arrived. It’s an interesting story by a Turkish writer. An ordinary woman in a tired marriage is assigned a book to review as part of her editing job. The story takes her back centuries, to the time when a highly educated and revered Islamic scholar meets an itinerant dervish, a meeting that breaks open the scholar’s heart, freeing the poet within. It is the story of Rumi and Shams of Tabriz. It is a story of love, the power of love, the mystic power of relationship to break us open.

In my vertigo, in my dizziness, in my drunken haze,
whirling and dancing like a spinning wheel,
I saw myself as the source of existence,
I was there at the beginning and I was the spirit of love.
  -- Rumi

In January, 2011, I did a blog celebration of Rumi with 31 days of Rumi’s poetry as read by Coleman Barks with his incredible voice and deep connection with the spirit of Rumi. (For an index of that series click here:

Now, this book calls me back to Rumi and to my determination to “Be Love.” Here in this sheltered village on a peaceful lake, maybe I will be guided to discover what that truly means. As this journey opens up, the recent piece of art which I thought was about a young woman entering into the unknown world of adulthood takes on a new meaning. Deep within all of us there is a spirit who is always entering into the unknown, still somewhat hesitant, glancing back, wondering if the watching world will judge us, wondering if we are up to the trials ahead. Are we good enough? Strong enough? Beautiful enough? 
This book reminds me through the forty rules of love that all we truly need is to love enough.

  • An review of this book from reviewer EEE included this word, which means "wonderful." I have decided to adopt it.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Four Agreements and naming the full moons

"New World Coming" **
One of my new neighbors and I have started a small ritual of reviewing our intentions on the night of the full moon. Last night’s incredible Strawberry Moon (see below for more info) prompted a lot of thoughts about personal agreements and the keeping of them. 
With gratitude and deference to Don Miguel Ruiz who gave the world Four Agreements that have changed lives for millions, I have decided to set down my own four agreements for this place and time in my life.

 * Connect Deeply … with my self, my spirit, my body, with others, with my environment and the world.
* Express Gratitude … for everything that comes to me and everything that exists in our world.
* Give Generously … of my time and resources, to myself, to others and to the world we live in.
* Celebrate Beauty … honor the beauty of the world and let it flow into my actions and art.

However, what are the actions that support those agreements? 

Thought without action is a seed on the wind. Or, as my elders used to say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” What actions will I take to give life to my agreements, to plant these seeds in fallow ground where they can grow and thrive?

The agreement that most calls to me now is  Connect Deeply. I want to know my new environment, its culture, its history, its people, its language. I also want to slow down and take time to connect to my spiritual and physical self.
Action: learn Spanish. I’ve embarked on a self-study course but need to speak the language more. I need to find a native speaking tutor.

Action: practice yoga. Getting ready for this move to Mexico, I sprained my foot (mildly). In the process of hobbling about, I threw my hips out of whack. While my foot has mended, my hips hurt and it is taking away from my joy of walking. I’ve been seeing a chiropractor, which has helped, but I need to practice yoga and allow my body to regain flexibility.

Action: meet mural artists. I am fascinated by the wall art I find here in Mexico and I want to know more about the artists and their work. So, go meet them.
So, that's my plan for this moon. We'll see where we are at the next full moon.
If you are fascinated by moon names, here’s some additional information, which makes me think that we should get to name our moons according to life in our particular environment. Since I am now living on Lake Chapala, Mexico, I am renaming Strawberry Moon to Return of Rain Moon.

Thank you, Return of Rain Moon for these insights and I look forward to your next appearance, which, for now, I will think of as New World Coming Moon. 
** (I recently started a new Photoshop Artistry online class and this is one of the first images from that class.)

More full Moon names: 
JanuaryFull Wolf MoonThis full Moon appeared when wolves howled in hunger outside the villages. It is also known as the Old Moon. To some Native American tribes, this was the Snow Moon, but most applied that name to the next full Moon, in February.
FebruaryFull Snow MoonUsually the heaviest snows fall in February. Hunting becomes very difficult, and hence to some Native American tribes this was the Hunger Moon.
MarchFull Worm MoonAt the time of this spring Moon, the ground begins to soften and earthworm casts reappear, inviting the return of robins. This is also known as the Sap Moon, as it marks the time when maple sap begins to flow and the annual tapping of maple trees begins.
AprilFull Pink MoonThis full Moon heralded the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox—one of the first spring flowers. It is also known as the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and the Fish Moon.
MayFull Flower MoonFlowers spring forth in abundance this month. Some Algonquin tribes knew this full Moon as the Corn Planting Moon or the Milk Moon.
JuneFull Strawberry MoonThe Algonquin tribes knew this Moon as a time to gather ripening strawberries. It is also known as the Rose Moon and the Hot Moon.
JulyFull Buck MoonAt this time, a buck’s antlers are in full growth mode. This full Moon was also known as the Thunder Moon, because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month.
AugustFull Sturgeon MoonSome Native American tribes knew that the sturgeon of the Great Lakes and Lake Champlain were most readily caught during this full Moon. Others called it the Green Corn Moon.
SeptemberFull Corn MoonThis full Moon corresponds with the time of harvesting corn. It is also called the Barley Moon, because it is the time to harvest and thresh the ripened barley. The Harvest Moon is the full Moon nearest the autumnal equinox, which can occur in September or October and is bright enough to allow finishing of all the harvest chores.
OctoberFull Hunter’s MoonThis is the month when the leaves are falling and the game is fattened. Now is the time for hunting and laying in a store of provisions for the long winter ahead. October’s Moon is also known as the Travel Moon and the Dying Moon.
NovemberFull Beaver MoonFor both the colonists and the Algonquin tribes, this was the time to set beaver traps before the swamps froze, to ensure a supply of warm winter furs. This full Moon was also called the Frost Moon.
DecemberFull Cold MoonThis is the month when the winter cold fastens its grip and the nights become long and dark. This full Moon is also called the Long Nights Moon by some Native American tribes.

There are many names for full moons … here is a plethora of names from different cultures:

From the Native American Tribes:

Jan Old Moon,    Wolf Moon,    Ice Moon,    Moon after Yule,      Winter Moon
Feb  Hunger or Starvation Moon,  Storm Moon, Trapper's Moon,    Moon of Ice,  Tree Moon
Mar Crow Moon,  Sap Moon,   Worm Moon,  Moon of Winds,  Fish Moon,   Chaste Moon, Death Moon
Apr  Egg Moon,    Seed Moon, Frog Moon,   Pink Moon, Awakening Moon
May  Flower Moon,     Milk Moon,  Hare Moon,  Grass Moon
Jun  Strawberry Moon,    Planting Moon,  Green Corn Moon
Jul  Hay Moon,      Summer Moon,  Thunder Moon,     Buck Moon
Aug   Sturgeon Moon,      Corn Moon, Green Corn Moon,    Dog Days Moon,  Lightening Moon
Sep   Singing Moon,     Barley Moon
Oct   Travellers' Moon,      Blackberry Moon
Nov   Frosty Moon,    Beaver Moon,  Dark Moon,     Tree Moon, Snow Moon
Dec   Cold Moon,    Long Night Moon

Or these - special ones from the Siouan (Assiniboines) Tribe, Montana ....  the March 'Sore Eye Moon' comes from long days watching the glare of the sun on the snow - and 'Gophur Looks Back' from the little Gophur looking behind him at lost summer days.

    Hard Time Moon
    Long day Moon
    Sore Eye Moon
    Frog's Moon
    Idle Moon
    Full Leaf Moon
    Red Berries Moon
    Black Cherries Moon
   Yellow leaf Moon
   Gophur Looks Back Moon
    Frost Moon
   Younger Hard Time Moon 

  How about these - from the Inuit peoples of Northern Canada?

   Dwarf Seal Moon
   Seal Pup Moon
   Snow Bird Moon
   Snow Melt Moon
   Goose Moon
   Hunting Moon
   Dry Moon
   Swan Flight moon
   Harpoon Moon
   Ice Moon
   Freezing Mist Moon
   Dark Night Moon
Here are the old Celtic and Medieval names attributed to Britain
Wolf Moon,  Stay Home Moon,  Moon after Yule
Storm Moon,  Ice Moon,  Snow Moon
Plough Moon,  Wind Moon,  Lenten (lengthening) Moon
Budding moon,  New Shoots Moon,  Seed Moon
Mothers' Moon,  Bright Moon, 
Mead Moon, Horse Moon, Dyan Moon,  Rose Moon
Claiming Moon,  Wyrt or Herb Moon,  Mead Moon
Dispute Moon, Lynx Moon, Grain Moon
Wine Moon, Song Moon, Harvest Moon
Hunter's Moon,  Blood Moon.  Seed Fall Moon
Mourning Moon,  Darkest Depths Moon,
Oak Moon,  Full Cold Moon

 Then, there are the beautiful and ancient names for their much celebrated Moons, given by the Chinese people
       Holiday Moon     
       Budding Moon     
       Sleeping Moon     
       Peony Moon
       Dragon Moon
       Lotus Moon
       Hungry Ghost Moon             
       Harvest Moon
       Crysanthemum Moon             
       Kindly Moon
       White Moon
       Bitter Moon

 Here are Muddypond's Faery Moon names

    Wolf Moon
Dec 21st - Jan
     Icicle Moon
Jan - Feb
    Snowdrop Moon
Feb - March
    Waking Wood Moon
March - April
    Birthing Moon
April - May
    Moon of White Petals
May - June
    Wild Cherry Moon
June - July
    Dancing Delight Moon
July - Aug
    Blackberry Harvest Moon
Aug - Sep
    Chestnut Moon
Sep - Oct
    Moon of the Wild Hunt
Oct - Nov
    Mistletoe Moon

 Stop.  The rest of this is formatting I can't make go away. Sorry.





Inuit Protrait - Inuit Library of Congress


Celtic design - Courtney Davis


Dr Ho ©Q T Long


Hindu Girl -© Margaret Bourke White
   Lunar Month