Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Inspiration....

Try this:

For the next few days, find inspiration in every person you meet. Deliberately look for it, regardless of who it might be or the circumstances.

It changes the landscape.



Thursday, June 26, 2008

Let's Talk About the Horizontal Mambo...

Recently, I've been thinking about sex. Not in the respect of wanting a partner or anything like that.. but just how much the social attitudes have changed since I was being raised.

I'm old - but hardly ready for the graveyard. I'm closer to 60 than I care to think about. Still, there have been so many changes in social mores during my lifetime, it's hard to keep up. When I was really young, we weren't even supposed to mention it or talk about it. It was secret. Private.

In fact, funny story.... this is how I learned that boys and girls "did it" together.

When I was six or so, one of the neighbor children whispered in my ear, "You know what dogs do?"

She was giggling and so was I because we both had seen the hoses turned on copulating dogs in the yard at one time or another.


"People do it, too."

I cringed, couldn't imagine that human beings (which meant my parents, too) did that?

Ugh! What a disgusting thought!

Time went along and the 50s became the 60s. It became an open topic, to the point of being crass and tawdry. It was talked about in terms that were vulgar and utilitarian. (I can't stand the "f word" used in relation to what I still call 'making love'.) Women who didn't were told that they should. Commitment and emotional connection was hard to find. The social conservatives of the time made charming remarks like "why buy the cow if you can get the milk free".

Women as service objects, no matter who was talking about it - liberal or conservative.

It was as though something was let loose and restraint just no longer existed. Self-control. Decency. Commitment. If it felt good, do it. If it still felt good, do it more - with anyone you could find.

If you can't be with the one you love, love the one you're with.

It became recreational. No difference really between that and playing tennis or going out to a concert. It became a friendly way to say goodnight. The days of worrying about kissing on the first date became something else entirely. Would we be expected to "put out"?

I am a confessed social conservative (which almost requires an apology now - but I won't) who still believes that sharing oneself physically should be done only with those who have a deep commitment and connection. The way I differ from many social conservatives though is that I support gay, lesbian and transgender issues. I don't care about the configuration of the relationship but I believe the same standards of behavior apply to all - gay or straight. Courage, character and commitment.

I still hold the old-fashioned notion that it has meaning, that 'doing it' means something. While I make no judgments of those who see it differently, I admit to being curious about the way it "feels" now... especially to those younger than me. It's hard to imagine that it feels very good.. and it seems as though something would be missing.

So.. tell me your experience and your thoughts on the topic.


Note: Due to this subject matter, my hits will probably skyrocket. I am monitoring (not moderating) comments and anything indecent will be deleted. Please do not leave spam, websites or comments with vulgar language. This is a family-friendly site - so please be considerate.


Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Smokey Skies ...

This is a picture of the Sacramento skyline yesterday.

There are so many fires in northern California right now that the drifting smoke and ash is beginning to obscure the sun. It reminds me of Long Beach many years ago when there were fires that caused ash to fall from the sky like rain.

We've all been advised to stay inside, preferably with the doors and windows closed, air conditioners on recycle. It will probably be this way for the next few days. The air is unhealthy to breathe. Looking outside, I think most of us could have figured that out without the help of local media.

I've been watching movies. Lots of them. Thank goodness for NetFlix. Just yesterday, I watched "Freedom Writers" (really liked it), "Children of Heaven" (really liked it) and "Yogis of Tibet" (really liked it).

This unexpected time-out has also given me plenty of space to think about many things that will hopefully become posts one day.

Here's a question I've been thinking about: how useful is it to compare ourselves to others, to determine what's "normal"? While I know the obvious answer, it's still something that may be useful in some cases.

Just curious about your thoughts.

Meanwhile, I'll wait for the mail (poor post person out in this stinky air!) and see what Netflix offers for today.


Monday, June 23, 2008

Setting boundaries....

If you could entirely remove one personal characteristic, what would it be?

For me, it would be anger. For all these years of living, boundary-setting is still really hard and I allow myself to reach critical mass before saying anything. Today I had an incident which is not worth recounting here but I finally had to take a stand about something, about reciprocity, and it seems I couldn't do it without getting really mad first.

The thing is that anger rarely reaches anyone. It alienates them. When I spoke words of anger to the person I was talking to, I'm sure from her end it became like the old Gary Larson cartoon of the owner talking to his dog. He was telling the dog what he expected and all the dog could hear was "blah blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah Ginger blah blah blah."

I suspect that is what people hear when we get angry with them.

On some level, asking for reciprocity is hard for me. Gawd... martyr complex. (Just came to my mind.) I hope it's not that - but can't swear to it. Anyway, asking for reciprocity has always felt very strange, kind of like having to ask for something as basic as common courtesy.

I would like to hear from some of you on this. How do you ask for reciprocity? Meaning basically this: when we talk, we both talk, we talk about things that are of interest to both of us, the whole conversation isn't about you, the whole conversation isn't about me, the conversation doesn't occur only when I have something you want and the conversation doesn't only occur when you have something I want. We are kind to each other. We remember each other's birthdays and significant events. If one of us is sick, we ask about each other's health. If one of us needs to vent, the other listens without judging and without trying to "fix" it. In other words, we respect each other - as real people.

Okay. Lay it on me, oh wise ones.

Speaking of birthdays, Tuesday is this blogger's birthday. Go on over and wish her a good one. :)


Friday, June 20, 2008

Hot Town, Summer in the City

Summer is hitting with a vengeance here. It is already over 100 degrees.

I am heat sensitive, a total wimp who spends all day inside with the air conditioner on. This morning, we went out to look at houses and after two hours (this being between 9-11 am), I wilted. Felt like a damp rag. Nauseous. I couldn't drive any more because my legs were cramping. It was time to come back. The air conditioning in the car wasn't enough. (Hear that, Infiniti?? Do something about it! :)

As I've been at the computer or around the house, I see people outside walking around, wearing shorts. Some are even walking dogs. They're riding bikes, hanging out in the park down the street and doing yard work. They seem entirely unaffected by the heat.

Just a few minutes ago, I went into the back yard and the sun has passed over. It's all shade. I sat for five or ten minutes and actually enjoyed the sensation of heat on my skin but the "edge" was off somehow. It just felt ... warm.

Generally though, anything over 85 degrees is too high for me.

How do you respond to hot weather? Do you do well in it or prefer to stay in?

(And before anyone asks how I will survive Thailand, it will be the same way I survive here. Air conditioning set to 75 degrees. :)


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Wellness Wednesday: Take Back Your Time

Recently, I was visiting Olivia's site and found the following link: Take Back Your Time. Even though the site addresses only vacations, it can actually be taken a few steps further.

In US culture, it is a measure of pride to be constantly busy, harried and overworked. That means you are a good produce-and-consume citizen, a good contributor to the Program. It means you are of good character, a "hard worker".

I once mentioned here - and got a nastygram for it - that Hitler was a hard worker. What does that say? It says nothing about character or kindness, nothing about the quality of friendship, nothing about being a good parent or a good partner. It says nothing about being a good world citizen - unless you consider the only worthy activity in the world to be produce-and-consume and building a personal empire.

I lucked out in this life. I am not burdened with a sense of urgency about producing, consuming or getting things done. If I don't get it done today, I'll get it done tomorrow. If not tomorrow, the next day.

The point is that I'll do it. And somehow it always works out okay.

I will always choose lunch with a friend, a good book or engaging in something that brings me joy before I will allow my life to become drudgery.

Turning time into money turns all of us into commodities. It turns us into what Charles Eisenstein calls "survival machines". Each survival machine competes with other survival machines to maximize his or her own benefit. Relationships become economic in terms of loss and gain - what's in it for me - and other people become "you" or "it", something separate from ourselves, something to be conquered or used. We become either boulders rolling down a hill to be avoided or objects to be manipulated.

By slowing down, we are free to savor the things that really matter. Relationships, enjoyment of each other and our environment. As CE says, "We no longer try to resist and control reality, but align ourselves to the indwelling purpose that can only be discovered through relationship. We seek to know people, and not to use them."


Monday, June 16, 2008

I Declare Wellness!

Okay. I think it's safe to say that I am over the shingles, that plague which will never be mentioned again after these few final thoughts. It has been 29 days from the beginning until now.

It truly feels like a plague. As I told someone this morning, if I was a fundamentalist Christian, I would declare it as being of the devil.

But maybe not. Let's look at it from another angle.

Strange things passed through my mind over the past 29 days. For the most part, I believe illnesses communicate something to us. Perhaps I studied too much Louise Hay in the past but most illnesses can be traced to some condition in our lives that match the symptoms. Most people who read here have probably read enough of that kind of philosophy to know what I mean.

The only thing that makes sense for shingles is that it is a manifestation of the toxic "stuff" we carry around. Over the past several months, I've been letting go of quite a bit. It started in Thailand when I began the massages. It's continued with a commitment to deepening my practice of conscious forgiveness and "letting go".

Really though, considering the amount of crap I carried for so many years, it's not too surprising that I would create shingles.

The weekend I became ill, I'd just been to a meeting at the wat where a lot of toxic people stuff came to the surface. In-fighting among some of the members for reasons I can't discuss openly. People were engaging in political maneuvering that would have been more appropriate to a corporate boardroom rather than a sacred place (which I consider the wat to be). I was horribly disappointed. I was also kind of angry. "Kind of", no. I was pissed.

That's supposed to be a refuge, a sanctuary. That's the place where we go to strengthen our path, to receive guidance from the ajahns, to bring ourselves to wholeness.

The behavior out there reminded me of all the toxic stuff I've been carrying about work places and group dynamics in its worst manifestation, the competition and back-biting that represents the very worst of what I loosely call "western culture".

It felt like I'd gone swimming in a river of sh*t and there wasn't a shower hot enough to get clean again.

I came home that afternoon, a very hot afternoon, and even my house mate commented that I looked horribly tired. The right side of my face was red. I went into the bedroom and slept for two hours.

Two days later, I manifested the lesions.

Old, toxic stuff coming to the surface. Bubbling to the surface. Literally. That is what shingles look like. Bubbling. I know the medical explanation but nothing exists in a vacuum. Medical science would present it that way - but it's not the whole picture. At least for people my age, nearly all of us had chicken pox as kids. Not all of us get shingles.

I created the shingles. It didn't come out of nowhere and I don't believe in random chance. At the same time, it's important to mention that I don't assign fault or blame. It's just actions and reactions. There are some people who use this philosophy as a justification for self-righteous judgment and as a hammer against others who might not make the same choices they would make. I'm not going there at all. Anyone who would say that someone "chose" shingles or cancer and turned it into an indictment doesn't truly understand the nature of choice. Or of simple dialectics, for that matter.

Instead, I am saying that illnesses can tell us something about the state of our overall being, in all its facets. If we're getting migraines, why are we angry? If we have trouble breathing, what is it that keeps us from speaking our truth? If we have shingles, what are we holding onto that we need to release? These things provide us with information.

This is just another good reason to keep ourselves spiritually balanced, to keep our lives as "clean" as possible, to do our internal work and to increase our understanding of how everything links together.

(For anyone who is interested in reading more about this kind of thing, I'd recommend starting with Carolyn Myss.)


Friday, June 13, 2008

Up On The Roof.....

For this past few weeks, I have mentioned sun poisoning.

Apparently I was wrong. I went to a doctor yesterday on an unrelated issue and he took one look at my (now healing) lesions and pronounced that I had shingles.

Who knew? I knew there were shingles on the roof but I have absolutely no need of shingles on my head. They're nasty little buggers and continue to cause me discomfort because even as they heal, they itch! Mine were located on the right side of my head and face. They were on my forehead, my eyelid and in my scalp. I'm scratching like a dog with fleas and it's rather disgusting.

The doctor tried very hard (but unsuccessfully) to terrify me. He told me that having shingles on my eyelids could have lead it to going into my brain which would be fatal. (Living is fatal.) He also told me that I need to take pills because I might end up with postherpetic neuropathy for the rest of my life. Basically that means that I'd have a permanent headache and sore scalp.

This led me to think about something. For generations and generations, people have had shingles and gotten over them. (I treated mine with honey and aloe vera.)

I've never been one to run to doctors for relief from every passing illness. Some things run their course and that's how it's always been. I don't like the idea of dependence on chemicals to make sure I never feel any effects of any illness I might have.

On the other hand, I'm not an idiot. If there was something seriously wrong, I would see a doctor. There are medications I take because I have hypertension. I don't want to spend the last 20 years of my life drooling in a cup because of a stroke.

I'm not promoting lack of medical care at all.

But I am promoting limits on how often we weaken our immune systems by not allowing antibodies to form because we kill the process by alleviating every possible discomfort.

Shingles suck. No doubt about that one. However, letting them run their course is probably the best idea unless a really serious side symptom occurs. While I was definitely very sick, I wasn't in danger. I was just sick.

Any opinions?


Monday, June 09, 2008

The Poem of the Shramana

Since all the world must be destroyed,
I seek an incorruptible refuge.
I look with equal mind on kinsman and stranger
For longing and hatred have passed from me.
I dwell wherever I happen to be,
At the root of a tree, in temple or on hill,
I seek the good without ties or expectations,
Accepting all that is freely given.

Hope everyone is doing well. I'll be back soon. Thanks for all the lovely encouragement. It's comforting to know some people "get" where I'm coming from.

Be well. Be happy.


Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wellness Wednesday on Thursday: Be Here Now

First off, I want to apologize for my ugliness the other night. I definitely needed a time-out and still do. At the same time, I believe those who come by here regularly are owed an explanation.

Some New Age circles recommend something called "a bitch book". That is a place where we purge all of our ugly feelings onto paper without censoring and it is theoretically a way of releasing it.

I'm in favor of that idea... and just for today, I'm using this page as my "bitch book".

A few days ago, I commented on someone else's site that being aware of HALT is important. Hungry, Angry, Tired or Lonely. When we feel any of those things, we're more prone to destructive behavior. For those of us who are addicts, it is our highest point of risk.

Lately, I've been there and it's bleeding into most of my perceptions. While I know enough to recognize that all things are temporary, it doesn't necessarily keep me from reacting.

For one thing, I feel bruised and battered by a barrage of values and a way of life that is meaningless to me - and yet have to at least pretend to relate so that there will be some basis for communication. I don't feel like "educating the masses" all the time. I just want to have a conversation. The cultural dissident me needs to rest sometimes.

I'm hungry for likeminded others, people who understand what I am saying and what I believe without having to laboriously explain it.

I can't even sit down to watch a movie without being pummeled by values that I find repugnant.

I'm constantly hungry. I feel like eating everything in sight. One thing leads to another. Last night, I gave in and had some Ben and Jerry's ice cream.

The lack of likeminded communication also makes me feel lonely. Even though I am now a part of a Theravadin community, there are certain traits and characteristics of that community that are anything but Theravadin. Each day, I talk to at least one person who is all about the personality politics and complaints about lack of recognition. Bloody ego! Ambition. Wanting power over the community. I'm sick of it! What do I have to do? Move to southeast Asia and become a nun? Become a hermit?

And that makes me angry. I'm angry that there seems to be no refuge from it. It's like some viral infection. While I understand that most people have to function within that structure, there should be at least one place where it's left at the door.

It's a never-ending cycle at times.

I'm still tired. The truth is that I've been much sicker than I let on here. It is only today that I've awakened without the constant dull headache and malfunctioning digestive system. My head still hurts in certain places. Parts of my skull apparently got burned, too. (On a purely vain level, that means no hair color. I look like crap!)

Burned.. hell. I wasn't sunburned. I was sun-poisoned. I've really been very, very ill. As one person said, I'm lucky I didn't stroke out. Given another couple of hours, I probably would have.

So.. if I've seemed testy and rather unlikeable lately, that's why. And that's why I've chosen to take a time-out.

It's not because I believe feeling these things is unacceptable. We all feel them - but sometimes the answer, especially after the bitching, is to sit still with it, to let it happen, to let the feelings happen without trying to chase them away. Be here. Be now.

I will be back when I can be a bit more positive, hopefully to share some of what this process is really all about ~ something that will be useful to all of us.

However, it will be from my value system - and I hope someone will understand it - without my having to laboriously explain it.

Hope everyone is well - and I'll see you soon - here or in your comment forums.


Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Yelling into the wilderness and barely getting an echo....

Here's what's happening right now: Very soon.. possibly within the next two months, I might be moving to Humboldt County. It's a positive move, to a 55+ building for low income people that is right on the coast! It is a beautiful place and I'm in the application process right now.

I have removed a lot of my personal information here because 1) I don't feel like having it on the web for everyone to read forever and 2) I simply don't care to discuss it any further.

Hope everyone understands. I will still be commenting at other sites because that doesn't cause me the same level of anxiety. Perhaps when I feel a bit safer and less vulnerable, I will post here again. For now, until the move takes place, I am on hiatus.

And I really do wish all of you peace. That's not just empty words.

Mindful speech... (Warning: Vulgar Language)

Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and deep listening in order to bring joy and happiness to others and relieve others of their suffering. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am determined to speak truthfully, with words that inspire self-confidence, joy and hope. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain and will not criticize or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will refrain from uttering words that can cause division or discord, or that can cause the family or the community to break. I am determined to make all efforts to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.

I was just listening to some neighbors over the fence and am surprised at my own reaction to their language. I want to go take a shower. Some would say I am a literalist, given that I tend to take speech rather seriously.

I listen to what people say and feel the aggression that has become such a normal part of everyday speech now.

But mostly, I notice the vulgarity and the violence in the speech used by people toward each other. It's a wonder any of us manage to survive the barrage of filthy and disgusting images that unconsciously enter our brains.

Think about it for just a minute. One of my favorite invectives at one time is a horribly violent word. The much beloved 'f bomb' refers to rape. Think about that each time the word comes out so easily. "F*ck you" is wishing for someone to be raped. One way to cure the habit is to remember that each time we use that word. Think about what rape really is!

I could cite any number of words and the "real" meaning of them but we're all adults here and already know.

I'm not going to say I never curse. That would be an absolute lie. Every now and then, I get aggravated and use some words because they feel like a release. I have my preferred words, none of which are pleasing to the ear - so I do it under my breath or when I am alone. In my previous way of life, I could let loose with the best of them and use words that would peel the armor off a tank but the time comes that we begin to mature and understand that the words and images we put out into the world do manifest. Careless speech is wounding. Polluting the environment with foul language and thoughts is rude to other people.

We continue wounding each other, every day with words.

But eventually we have to grow up and understand that it's not cute. It's not funny. It's not casual. It doesn't sound sophisticated or cool. It just sounds ugly. It's .. icky. It's verbal rot. And it's violent. That's a connection that many people don't make. All violence is interconnected. Assaulting someone with words is just as abusive as assaulting with fists.

I hardly think I have the influence to really get people to clean up their speech - but thought it would be worth mentioning anyway. If even one person is brought to mindfulness so that we can feel a little less assaulted in our interactions, it's worth it.


Sunday, June 01, 2008

Sacred Life Sunday: Perspective...

When I got up, I fixed a cup of coffee, put a DVD in the player and got back under the comforter. My idea for this day was to watch movies. Since I've been doing so much clearing of my living space, schlepping "stuff" from one place to another, several hours of relaxation seemed like a good idea.

I'm always careful about what I watch and try to be mindful of what kinds of thoughts I put in my head. There's been more than one occasion when I've stopped a movie in the middle and quit watching it because it was full of violence... or filthy language... or crummy values. My NetFlix queue is an interesting and eclectic collection of documentaries and movies.

This morning it was "Mother Teresa". It's a very pleasant movie but also challenging. She was a small woman but packed a powerful message.

This isn't about religion though. As Mother Teresa said herself, it's not important whether one is a Muslim, a Catholic, a Jew, a Buddhist or a Hindu. It is only important that you are a good Muslim, a good Catholic, a good Jew, a good Buddhist or a good Hindu.

She wore her faith like a gentle shawl and it enveloped everyone who came in contact with her. That, in my opinion, is goodness from the inside out.

Intense love does not measure, it just gives.

I felt the smallness of my own life and the self-absorption I allow all too frequently. It's easy to get caught up in what we want, what we believe we need. We recognize our hunger pangs and all the places that feel unfilled. We look for ways to be fed and comforted for the things we believe we lack. She made an important point. In order to be fed, we need to feed. In order to be comforted, we need to comfort. To be loved, we need to love.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

The movie reminded me who we are and why we're here. Very few people are Mother Teresa. Very few people do extraordinary things. I think the universe sends us extraordinary people in all shapes and forms as examples - from saints to bodhisattvas - but that isn't because we need to emulate them. We just need to learn from them. Most people are householders. They have families and jobs. We can't all go out into the world and save it.

Jesus said love one another. He didn't say love the whole world.

It's easy to think we have to do something huge, something magnanimous, to make a difference. We don't. We touch each other, one by one.

We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.

It's really not all that difficult. It's not even about charity. It's about a way of life. It's about being loving when that is challenging and difficult. It's about loving each other, even when we think someone is making a bad choice or a choice we don't agree with. (Being rather judgmental by nature, this one truly challenged me.)

The success of love is in the loving - it is not in the result of loving. Of course it is natural in love to want the best for the other person, but whether it turns out that way or not does not determine the value of what we have done.

Perhaps this is meant to remind all of us that we are not small and that the things we do, say and believe do matter on a larger scale. It reminds us to not become overwhelmed by the enormity of all there is to be done to alleviate suffering in the world.

It starts here:

I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?

(All quotes from Mother Teresa)