Wednesday, December 31, 2008

California Dreamin'










Okay, I admit it. I 've been infatuated with California for most of my life...it might have started with this song. When I was a teenager, I was determined. I had to get there someway, somehow.

I drove 'across the country' when I was seventeen, destination California. California beaches, the ocean, Beach Blanket Bingo, for crying out loud! I was California crazy until finally, I was stationed in San Diego. I was 18 ...I stayed 23 years, got married, and had two children before moving on with my young family to another location. Okay, I like California...maybe love... I like how people generally accept differences there. I felt more relaxed about my weird self.
See, when I was growing up, my father called me "weird" but only in the nicest "hippy-ish" meaning of the word. My mother was okay about my curious nature but a little worried about my sanity- and lack of money sense; in a nutshell, my lack of practicality. What to do? What do you do with a daughter, who seems so liberal, artsy, carefree in a conservative world?
Now, I have a daughter of my own and we had a discussion today. We often have this discussion. "Mom, I can't believe that you don't want me to wear a bikini. It's silly." I respond, "I just want you to strike the right note, dear. I want you to be safe." Please! I mean, I can hear myself. What is my problem? Sure, I let her wear the bikini. "Just put a cover-up on at least over part of it," I tell her. I can't help myself. Seriously, I don't even have to say anything. She knows. I guard my face, gentle my expression but she stiffens. "Mom, it's just a bathing suit and I'm going to the beach!" "How many boys will be there?" I can't help myself. I know she can't answer that question. How would she know? It's a public beach. I just want her to be safe. Please, there I go again!


Do you remember the itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini song? As a teen, I thought that song was so cute. I would dance wildly whenever I heard it! Now, when I hear , "She wore an itsy bitsy...", in my mind's eye, I see an older man leering at my daughter. I've gone mental for real.
I see Steve Harwell of the San Jose, California, Smash Mouth band enjoying my daughter in her cute bikini -and its all because of this video I've posted below. Sure, I happen to find it entertaining in a retro sort of way.(I graciously acknowledge.) It's peppy. Okay, I admit it. I can hardly keep myself from doing the swim! And I respect Steve for his hard times, and the foundation he started, and all that... but-imagine Smash Mouth dancing with your daughter!



As a mother, I'm here to say, it's not only fathers who get over-protective! I need help! Cynthia, you might as well be walking on the sun!












Happy 2009, blogger friends!Smash Mouth, Walking on the Sun

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Matisyahu: Fusion to Uplift

Why do Rastafarians avoid the use of the subject pronoun "me"? Being sensitive to language, they use "I" in all cases because "me" implies a receiver, which means there is a sender. See? But if you believe that there is no separation between yourself and Jah (God) as well as all humanity, then you express this "I and I unification with Jah" by being careful about the words you select. It's a way to remember.

***
I'm fascinated about how religions mix and incorporate varying aspects of culture into their spiritual expression. And no where is that more apparent than in the Caribbean where aspects of religion can be traced to African, European and the local First People (Indian) population- in Puerto Rico, the original population was Tanio . What is Catholic or Protestant here is not what I knew these to be in the United States. Culture and religion are frameworks for understanding but we can be flexible with these frames if our true purpose is to understand and accept each other. Once we know that 'there are many paths and one goal' which is conscious unification with insert the most comfortable term here: Love, God, Jah, Jehovah, Alla, Rama, Consciousness, Higher Being, Higher Self.... Within this accepting space, we can all say with Bob Marley, "One Love," and feel no conflict. I think that we all must include each other as members of the 'one earth community' so that we can learn to negotiate and put religious fanaticism aside. If we accepted that we are all connected through whatever belief system that feels culturally/religiously right; then we know that we have to work with others who have made different decisions-including the decision of non-belief.

I'm troubled about the situation between the Muslims in Pakistan and the Hindus in India. I'm troubled about the threats and disapproval that most Muslims are experiencing. I'm troubled about the unrest in the Middle East. I want all of us to learn a new way of communicating with each other. If we are to survive as a people, we have to find a way to understand that we are all connected. We must care about each other; it's a question of our survival. The root of our problem is lack of acceptance and intolerance of differences in our belief systems, resulting in insurmountable barriers to trust and negotiation.






****
A Memory; Separation and Pure Categories


I can clearly see a facial expression in my mind. A disapproving but reserved critic of Caribbean literature and culture was expressing her distaste for Matisyahu because he was ripping off the Rastafarians. She also felt that Bob Marley had become a sellout in the middle and later years of his musical career. She particularly held firm in her belief that his son, Ziggy Marley, was not an authentic Rastafarian. She completely missed the charm of Ziggy's performance when he was singing his father's songs. She didn't value that he was attempting to create something special, to extend his father's tradition into another audience. Maybe it didn't entirely work in a musical sense but it was about more than that- he was finding his way.


Ziggy Marley



****
Why must we try to keep everyone in their assigned category? Why don't we just get used to the idea that sometimes we are going to be uncomfortable when we can't place others. Not everyone is easily understood. What most people need is encouragement to find their own way, their own true path to spiritual and/or life satisfaction.

And now dear bloggers, it is time for our Fusion musical program

(Are you still with me?):




















Close My Eyes Ethiopian Jews





















Matisyahu on David Letterman (I'm afraid Dave was unmoved.)

















Bob Marley One Love

















Ziggy Marley Tomorrow People (Cute!)


And if that one didn't 'catch you' scroll down and fortify yourself by listening to John Lennon's "Imagine," in the Imagining Peaceful Action (2009) posting.
Ziggy photo on flickr

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tell All




I've been tagged by the remarkable tangobaby (thank you) and I have to follow this procedure (for real?):

1. Link to the person who tagged you. tangobaby "check, check"
2. Post the rules on your blog. "in process"..."check"
3. Write six random things about yourself. "just a moment"..."check"
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them. "check"
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog. "in process"
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up. "in process"
Random Things About Myself
(Note: I already scare people with my over-the-top self-disclosures and Dears, I've already told too much about myself in this blog...but I'm in...I'm all in...so here it goes...)

1. As a teenager, I competed with over one hundred girls to have the privilege of escorting Santa in the Southland mall. My job as a Christmas Pixie during the holiday season entailed wearing a little green skirt trimmed with faux white fur. Santa was too happy about the winners; he smelled faintly of alcohol and cigarettes and clutched my arm too tightly during our daily walk to the sleigh.

2. I have a tendency to get addicted to things...for example, when I was an older teenager, I got addicted to romance genre novels. I felt appalled with my behavior but they were around and I kept reading them. In order to ween myself off of them, I gave myself permission to read romance novels that were historical, or taught me about the environment, or considered classic in the Gothic sense. Finally, I lost the desire to read trash romance books. I was nineteen.



3. When I was twelve (and deciding to no longer eat meat), I met a vegetarian with long thin brown hair. He was gaunt, determined and an over the top fanatic. Nevertheless, I discussed his reasons for eating only raw uncooked fruits, nuts and vegetables. I remember that he said he would never eat white crackers because they were dead food. I asked him about bread, "No, it's cooked and usually made with white flour." He seemed impatient with my questions. I realized that some people are so committed that they need to be.



4. When I was fifteen, I was a drum major and co-student leader of the high school band. One night, when the bleachers were full because it was the homecoming football game, I had the most embarrassing moment of my life. During the opening number, it began to lightly rain as we marched across the field. I furiously twirled my baton and kicked my proud exposed leg high into the air and promptly fell on my a-rump! In pain, I gathered my composure and marched on with the uproariously loud and humiliating laughter coming at me from the stands. Upon arrival to our place of performance, the co-leader, M, continued to laugh to my great humiliation and discomfort. I angrily insisted that he stop, took up the baton, and with as much dignity as I could muster, led the band in, "The Washington Post March."


5. I have studied non-stop for my entire life. I think I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to go to college and it has pushed me to continually need academic validation. I have many degrees, credentials, certificates, and yes, I'm still in school.


6. I hate to wear shoes and socks. And I hate to have dirty feet! (see above!)

This bonus confession is for tangobaby. The only time I ever picked up a hitchhiker was when I was seventeen years old and driving across the United States with my sister. Why did I stop? He was holding a chubby puppy in one hand, he pleadingly got down on one knee, took off his cowboy hat in a sweeping gentlemanly manner. (Please refer to the romance novel addiction problem to understand my behavior.) My sister and I both laughed. We let him ride the truck because after all, we too were traveling with a dog for protection.


Here are my six-ish tags:

Lala/My Castle In Spain

High Desert Diva

Vicki/French Essence

Sarah Laurence

Nature Remains

Pink Cowboy

Passion4Blue


Boy that was a lot of work! I think I approached it as a school assignment. Now, it's your turn...

Concerned Connection

Nearly seventeen years ago, when my daughter was two months old, my mother was murdered in a hate crime in Michigan. (Click on the OWL October 31, posting, "Goodbye Sun," if you want to read about this experience.)

When I preferred to retreat, "Don't Give Up" had a powerful impact on me and encouraged me to return to active participation in life and work.

Though not everyone is suffering, for the countries and people that are going through difficult times, and for those blog readers who are struggling, I offer this song to you in whatever version that touches your heart the most.

Willie Nelson and Sinead O'Connor










Bono and Alicia Keys









Peter Gabriel and Angun









Shannon Noll and Natalie Bassingthwaighte









Don't Give Up (written by Peter Gabriel 1986)



In this proud land we grew up strong


we were wanted all along


I was taught to fight


taught to win


I never thought I could fail.



No fight left or so it seems


I am a man whose dreams have all deserted


I've changed my face


I've changed my name


But no one wants you when you lose.




Don't give up - 'cause you have friends

Don't give up - you're not beaten yet

Don't give up - I know you can make it good.



Though I saw it all around

never thought that I could be affected

Thought that we'd be last to go

it is so strange the way things turn.

Drove the night toward my home

the place that I was Born on the lakeside

As daylight broke I saw the earth

the trees had burned down to the ground.



Don't give up - you still have us

Don't give up - we don't need much of anything

Don't give up 'cause somewhere

there's a place where we belong.




Rest your head

you worry too much

it's going to be alright.

When times get rough you can fall back on us

Don't give up

please don't give up!


Got to walk out of here

I can't take anymore

Going to stand on that bridge

keep my eyes down below.

Whatever may come and whatever may go -

That river's flowing that river's flowing.

Moved on to another town tried hard to settle down

For every job so many men so many men no one needs.

Don't give up - 'cause you have friends

Don't give up - you're not the only one

Don't give up - no reason to be ashamed

Don't give up - you still have us.


Don't give up now - we're proud of who you are

Don't give up - you know it's never been easy

Don't give up - 'cause I believe there's a place

There's a place where we belong

Friday, December 26, 2008

Eartha Kitt (1927 - 2008)



Blogger friends, I have some news. On Christmas day, I posted "Santa Baby" to encourage you to remember to take a lighthearted look at our sometimes insatiable Christmas material greed. And it was on this day, while we were laughing with Eartha Kitt, that she died. She is a perfect example of someone who took the tattered fabric of her life and pieced together a creative and beautiful life-quilt. If you would like to read about this remarkable woman, go to "The Original Material Girl" by Richard Corliss at Time magazine:



Thank you blogger friend, The Pink Cowboy, for keeping me update.


photo (1960) Central Press/Getty at Time Magazine

A Quilter's Wisdom



That's the same as with living. The Lord sends us the pieces, but we can cut them out and put them together pretty much to suit ourselves, and there's a heap more in the cutting out and the sewing than there is in the calico. The same sort of things comes into all lives, just as the Apostle says. 'There hath no trouble taken you but is common to all men.'

The same trouble's come into two peoples lives, and one'll take it and make one thing out of it, and the other'll make something entirely different.


*******Sage advice from Aunt Jane of Kentucky (1907)********




Let's be honest about it, readers, the holidays are stressful. First there are the additional tasks that must be done in preparation for the big event. Then there is the emotional pressure coming at us from all directions. The nostalgic memory of Christmases gone by brings with it the attendant memories of those who have left us through perhaps a parting of the ways or through death. In the first case, you may want the comfort of your childhood family but sometimes they prefer the old you, this person you've become is too troublesome. It may be that they are too difficult to be around or too critical. Then there are the soul mate type friends with whom you've lost touch. When the effort to reconnect fails, you feel silly and wonder if the relationship was really authentic after all. Did it only exist in your mind? And then, the big one, if you have lost a parent, or another powerfully significant intimate, you feel tremendous pressure brought on by holiday absence, and these feelings are spiced with holiday regret and yearning. It's true. It does not matter if you are religious or not, the holidays are difficult. Why do some people seem to be filled with light and magic during these trying days while others cocoon themselves away (or wish they could) until the season passes? It's a question of survival strategies; some people, drink a little too much during the holidays, others obsess over food, decorations, present selection -or blogging? I think the most successful holiday survivors are those who take all of that emotional pressure and redirect it to some creative task.


It is my wish for you that you take all that is stirred up in your life during this holiday season and make something beautiful out of it. How about Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt? No? You think of something more appropriate then; I think I'll just keep writing.

* * *

If this quilt were blue it would look exactly like the gift my dear friend C from the UK made more than twenty years ago for the birth of my son. We had weekly 'craft nights' that were devoted to artistic expression (she would sew and I would crochet); the evening topics invaribly focused on all that life had given us and all that we still wanted from life!



If you love quilts as I do, take a look at a brief history of my favorite quilting pattern, Grandmother's Flower Garden.

* * *

Check out the pattern to the updated version of grandmother's flower garden quilt
(displayed above).



* * *

baby crib photo Larkspur on flickr

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Confessions of a 24-7 Yogi Blogger






Just like all of you, I'm busy. I manage family responsibilities, a full time profession, and a huge writing project involving research, a working memory and mental processing. Not to mention that my yoga/meditation practice requires that I get up early every morning and do that routine, which always is a blissful respite from the sometimes abrasive world. But blogger friends, I have to come clean, tell the truth, spill the beans-or peas, that is. I admit it, I burned the main pasta dish that I had intended to bring to Noche Buena dinner, last night. Yes, I had to make it again. Then I packed it and set it in the car. I think. When we arrived to our destination, I couldn't find the food-any of it! Not the main pasta dish, nor the specially prepared seasonal pasteles; not the fresh veggies or the spinach dip. I couldn't even find the red and white holiday tray I bought to serve them on. I remembered that I had packed everything and I did carry it to the living room. Did I leave it on the chair -or the couch? When we unloaded the hastily wrapped gifts, and I couldn't find our food. Then I had to suffer through the uniform cries of disappointment for my negligent behavior. Oh yes, I defended myself. Someone should have helped me: I was too busy! Why was misplacing our food such a problem? You see, we're vegetarian-the kind that never eats any meat at all- and one of our foolproof solutions to causing food inconveniences at family gatherings is to bring our own. It turned out fine, my dear mother-in-law had made us vegetarian arroz con gandules-rice with pigeon peas. No, it doesn't have poultry in it, that's just the name. Later that night, when we returned home, I looked for the misplaced food. I couldn't find it- not on the couch, not in the kitchen, not anywhere. I went out to the car and looked again. No, the bags were not there. I looked around the house again. Seriously, I even checked the hall that leads to the bathroom. Where could the food be? I gave up and went to bed. The next morning, I returned to search the mini van but this time, I moved everything out of the back storage area. ..and there, dear readers, under a white plastic bag full of newspapers, was our now spoiled Christmas evening dinner. You might wonder why I couldn't find or even remember where I had set the dinner? Excuse me, I left out a little detail in this somewhat tedious narrative, I had been blogging. I blogged through the first batch of burned seashell pasta. I blogged through and around in my mind when I recooked dinner. The pasteles water pot went dry and the paper burned, "Oh, they'll be fine, I'll just add a little more water." I took unheard of short cuts with the pasta. Usually, the time consuming preparation does not bother me in the least. I left the kitchen and got caught in the bloggy world again. I was brought back to real reality (verses virtual reality) when my husband called out, "Are you burning something again?" I left my laptop oasis in the bedroom and rescued my second attempt at preparing dinner. I feel like I should be in a bloggers 12 step program; "Hello, my name is Cynthia, and I'm a blogger." Here's the problem, I'm addicted to blogging. My neglected-feeling teenage daughter says, "Mom, what are you doing?" "Oh, I'm writing something here, do you want to read it?" Amid groans, she quickly signs the cross at me. I have to laugh. I've been reading her my postings, telling her my discoveries, insights and connections, relentlessly. I'm on vacation, I tell myself. I quickly think about all that I'm doing. Yes, I'm off the blog quickly writing some Christmas letters. I'm still reading but everything of interest connects to my next idea. And I'm cleaning, too, at least enough to make a space to walk through to the kitchen. What has happened to me? I just want to keep writing and finding out who else is in this bloggers world. I'm sure this emotional roller coaster will stop or slow down but for now I need a bit of support, "Dear, will you tell me when I've been at the computer too long? Dear??" Forget about it, he's stuck on his own TV crime story addiction. (We've just gotten satellite hookup out here in the mountains.) "Son, will you...can you hear me?? Son!" He's hooked on the computer chat that never ends-he's no help. "Daughter of mine...daughter! Where are you?" She's got her face in Facebook; no, she's downloading music, I can hear her singing. "Son!" I try again. He can't hear me because he's got plugs in his ears and is listening to screaming music; he's also on the cell phone. What is this? Can no one help me? We're all living duel lives in parallel worlds! Where's my mindfulness practice? Oh, I remember, "A yogi, never feels tension, when she does something, she does just that. ..there is no resistance...no tension." Wait! Is that permission to immerse myself in blogging-to give myself over to the blogging experience entirely? I think it is...or is that my procrastination-persistently-rationalizing to the blogger me? Write about it! Yes, that's what I'll do.

* * * *

Five pounds of these gandules verdes (green pigeon peas) were bought fresh at the Rio Piedras mercado (market). Abuelo (grandpa) spent all day shelling them for the evening cena de Noche Buena (Christmas Eve meal).





Abuela (grandma) prepared these locally grown peas with rice, vegetarian style so we were able to participate in the eating aspect of the celebration despite my negligence.

We ate this traditional meal minus the pasteles, which were MIA due to a blogger's obsession.

Wouldn't it have been nice if I had cooked this traditional Puerto Rican dinner? Even though I bought the plantains, I couldn't prepare them because I was too busy- blogging, that is.


Arroz (grano mediano) con habichuelas rosadas y tostones


Rice (medium grain) with pink beans and fried platanos (large green plantain bananas)

* * * *
Christmas day, I pulled away from the computer for a few hours by fortifying myself with George's Bangladesh DVD (mentioned in the earlier posting) and focusing on the uphill climb of making a special-ish dinner. For motivation, I reflected on my daughter's morning face when she said to the blogging me, "I guess we're not having a special Christmas breakfast." I still have the chastising and mildly disappointed expression in my mind. Christmas evening, we had a little blessing, dinner, and talked. I didn't rush anyone. After waiting for everyone to leave the table, I dove into the computer world again. Sigh. The table is still dirty and the dishes await. It's almost 11:30pm!

Imagining Peaceful Action in 2009

And now dear bloggers, I must post the inspiring John Lennon (with the lovely and under appreciated, Yoko) performing his Imagine offered to you as a message of hope and love for us all. ("War is over, if you want it.")



Today, I'm listening to music by the master of heartfelt acceptance, humble sharing and spiritual upliftment to all, the understated guru himself, George Harrison, in "The Concert for Bangladesh". May we all remember who we really are and practice kindness in the year ahead.

Santa Baby




After opening presents, and experiencing the attendant greed, lust and persistent desire for material satisfaction, I thought I would reward all of you, dear bloggers, with a nostalgic and irreverent look at Christmas Clause by Eartha Kitt. Don't forget to have fun today!

The lyrics to Santa Baby for your added enjoyment:

Santa Baby, slip a sable under the tree,

For me.

Been an awful good girl,

Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa baby, a 54 convertible too,

Light blue. I'll wait up for you dear,

Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Think of all the fun I've missed,

Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed,

Next year I could be just as good,

If you'll check off my Christmas list,

Santa baby, I wanna yacht,

And really that's not a lot,

Been an angel all year,

Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa honey, there's one thing I really do need,

The deed

To a platinum mine,

Santa honey, so hurry down the chimney tonight.

Santa cutie, and fill my stocking with a duplex,

And checks.

Sign your 'X' on the line,

Santa cutie, and hurry down the chimney tonight.

Come and trim my Christmas tree,

With some decorations bought at Tiffany's,

I really do believe in you,

Let's see if you believe in me,

Santa baby, forgot to mention one little thing,

A ring.

I don't mean on the phone,

Santa baby, so hurry down the chimney tonight,

Hurry down the chimney tonight,

Hurry, tonight.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Sweet Lord






Do you remember the controversy over George Harrison's, "My Sweet Lord"and "He's So Fine?"George Harrison lost a lawsuit in 1976 when a judge said he "subconsciously plagiarized" his first single as a solo artist. He was ordered to pay Bright Tunes Music, who owned the copyright, $587,000. "He's so Fine" was recorded by "The Chiffons" and written my Ronald Mack who unfortunately, never got to appreciate its success because he died of cancer shortly after its release. Here's the Chiffon version of "He's So Fine":




I liked both versions and I didn't care if they were similar. I used to lie in my little bird's nest bedroom on the second story of our Michigan 1930's farm house and sleeplessly, listen to George Harrison. "My Sweet Lord" had a kind of devotional-spiritual influence on me. It suited by teenage moody musings, "They should stop bothering George...what's a Beatle to do when he's not in The Beatles anymore? Poor George. And that's such a great song, too." "He's So Fine" impacted me in another way. I remember my close friend, Jessica Simonson, who played first-row clarinet in the Huron High School band while I humbly sat in second, held up her hand and said to the band leader, "Pitt's can do it, Mr. Ludwig, "She can sing the song." And there ladies and gentlemen, the star was nearly born. We were going to recreate the Chiffon's version for a talent show featuring a bold but understated singer, me. When the night came and during the rehearsals to be more accurate, I would give my all pretending that I was confident and hoping that those brave feelings would somehow manifest. I was afraid nerves would make my voice waver and crack. The subdued but persistent, Mr. Ludwig, sitting in on electric guitar, raised the key slightly to make it fall within my strongest vocal range but I had trouble remembering which key I was singing in. So often, I had practiced with the record album (yes, they were called LP's and records) that I couldn't quite remember the new key. When we stood before the crowded auditorium complete with girl-group coordinated costumes, I knew my voice would give my nerves away. What to do? The music started, the show must go on, the backup girls, including Jessica, started singing, "Do-lang, do-lang, do-lang..." and I had to jump in at my cue,"He's so fine. Wish he were mine. That handsome boy over there. The boy with the wavy hair." I pointed to Russell, a cute, shy and smart boy that I didn't know at all. I was getting bold, now, "I don't know how I'm gonna do it but I'm gonna make him mine. He's the envy of all the girls. It's just a matter of time." Okay, there was a moment when my voice got overconfident and jumped back to The Chiffon's key, "Whoops, control, Pitts, control," I pulled myself back on key. Complete with dance steps and arm movements, we sang out, "He's so fine. Gotta be mine. Sooner or later. I hope it's not later. We gotta get together. The sooner, the better. I just can't wait. I just can't wait, to be held in his arms." And on it went...I've always had misgivings about the next verse, you know, the lyrics about being a queen and giving up my throne but I figured I didn't have to mean it to sing it. When our song ended, the students in the tightly packed gym loudly cheered. I was surprised. Didn't they hear me go off key? I guess there's something to be said in favor of gymnasium acoustics. A teacher came up to me and asked if I was going to become a professional singer. I was flattered. And that was it, just one more evening performance and my career as an imitation Chiffon ended.


Thank you tangobaby for triggering my memory with your George Harrison YouTube video posting. Also, readers, get some Puerto Rican Christmas "Feliz Navidad" spirit with her Jose Feliciano posting.


http://tangobaby2.blogspot.com/2008/12/some-jose-before-another-monday-morning.html

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Little Brown Jug

I Want You



When I was sixteen, I enlisted in the Delayed Entry program in the United States Navy. I was completing high school and uncertain about how to go to college and in love with the romanticized Navy life in the movies. I played clarinet, which Grandpa Al called a "licorice stick," and heard Benny Goodman play "Little Brown Jug" along with me when I practiced-though there was a great disparity between our performances. I loved the naval uniforms and wanted to wear that 1940's looking "summer blue" skirt suit before it was discontinued. Why not go into the Navy and see the world? Grandpa who was orphaned at twelve joined with falsified papers when he was fourteen years old. He said it was the best service experience that he had ,even though his secret was discovered at sixteen and consequently, he was discharged. He preferred being stationed at the Panama Canal and being exposed to malaria carrying mosquitoes to returning to no home at all. When I was finished with my four year term of service, I would have my college already pre-paid with the GI Bill education program. The recruiter promised me choice locations, a specialized school, and a bright future in the USN. I would be challenging boundaries and living up to my mother's Annie Oakley get tough principles, "Anything you can do I can do better."

I had all the high school credits I needed to graduate except for a one credit government class that was only offered in the second semester. Consequently, I was stuck taking an 8am class five days a week. I left all my "unnecessary" classes behind to the shock and displeasure of my teachers. I announced to Mr. Ludwig that no more would I be co-student leader of the Huron High School band, Mark could take it over. No more drama, choir or advanced literature classes, the school counselor said I didn't need them if I was going into the Navy. Unhappily, my teacher for all of these classes, Mr. Fawsett, would have to do without his mezzo-soprano who could sing the lower parts and dutifully act as a replacement for the usually absent boys. I was finished with high school and all of its rules!

While waiting to graduate and to earn some money, I took an all night waitressing job working at Pierre's Fine Foods on Middlebelt Road near the Detroit-Metro airport. Sometimes customers would come in either on their way or coming back from somewhere exciting- maybe New York, San Francisco, or New Orleans. I thought soon that will be me; I'll be off on a great adventure of my own. I started at 10pm and after getting off at 7am, I would ride a 350 Honda motorcycle into school each morning. While carrying my black helmet under my arm, I'd breathlessly join the class and discuss the Constitution or participate in a mock-dramatic debate taking place in the House of Representatives or Senate. I was confident and admired; the teacher would excuse me when I was late, "She works all night and is finished with school -but for a technicality." I became the moderator and deciding vote in the debates. I would graduate soon and had plans to drive across the United States for two months on a great highway adventure- which I did with my sister.

I was a "reader" and had many places I wanted to see with my own eyes. I had hoped that the Navy would provide me the chance to see Europe but for now I was determined to see what I could. Yes, my mother and father allowed me to go. I was encouraged to be independent and strong, to fearlessly take on the great challenges of life. Many times during the trip, I felt out of my safely zone but I developed an independence that strengthened my will and made me completely unfit for the USN! Enter boot camp hell, Naval Training Center, Orlando, Florida! Join the many who must obey, or else! "Drop and give me fifty! What are you doing here? Women don't belong in the Navy-especially, pretty ones- unless you're a prostitute? Are you here to cause trouble?" I had joined the tense 1970's transition Navy that was forced to include women in all non-traditional specialities. The actual WWII WAVES had been disbanded but the name lived on among service members, "Join the Navy and ride the WAVES."

Okay, from the earlier portrayal you might think that this Airman Recruit trainee could handle the pressure, but readers, I was in drama. I was pretending a lot! The final pressure that sent me to the cumulative climatic moment was a letter I received from my mother announcing the celebration of her official divorce from my father, "I'm a free woman now," she wrote. My sentimental romantic self was bruised already; I had discovered that life in the Navy was not romantic and further, I was unwelcome. It wasn't like the movies; there were no adventurous antics behind the commander's back, not to my knowledge. I fell into a depression, became chronically ill and failed the General Orders exam. I tearfully stood outside the official door standing at parade rest waiting for the evaluation committee to determine my penalty. The deciding board had asked me, "What kind of grades did you get in high school? What happened here? Why did you fail this exam?" I was sick and ashamed...my pride gone. "Do you want to stay in the Navy?" I said yes but they looked doubtful. What would happen now? Would I go home and bring shame upon my family? My family... where would that location be? Where would I live? I did not want to choose my father or mother's place of residence. I needed to stay in the Navy. I needed to go to college. Maybe the Navy did not really want me but I had to get through this period. I thought and cried until I was sure I wanted to stay. They called me in, "Airman Recruit, we've decided to give you a chance because you have done fine up to this point; however, you will be Set Back For One Week. Do not repeat this offense again." Set back for one week? The sentence repeated itself over and over in my head. I was almost finished and now I have to continue here? I returned to the barracks and shamefully collected up my possessions. "At least I wasn't kicked out," I thought as I moved down the ladder of my Naval career.

The Navy Rudder's memory book says, "The training is diligently planned and administered in order to develop in every trainee the strength of character, loyalty and patriotism necessary to prepare him to defend his country, its ideals and people, against any aggressor." I don't know about that preparation. I do know that when we marched across the graduation field and the Master of Arms said, "Eyes right," and we saluted toward the commander who sat in front of the bleachers that were filled with proud family members, mine included, that I was thoroughly humbled and relieved to be leaving. I was going on to "A" School Training in Lakehearst, New Jersey where the Hindenburg Zeppelin blew up killing 35 privileged people who were out experiencing a novelty voyage that ended badly. I had orders to Aircrew Survival Equipment School, better known as the Navy Parachute Rigger's school , which had just opened up to women and where I knew I had to succeed. Why didn't I just go to college right after high school? I felt I had no options. I was determined to make it through, though most of the service members did not want me for the Navy, I would continue. I needed to go through this experience and I would, without movie romance, if necessary.

Here is a link to a video of and information about the Hinderburg Disaster (1937)
http://www.vidicom-tv.com/tohiburg.htm

For an entertaining look and listen to Benny Goodman, "All the Cats Join In" (1946) click here:


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Beautiful Gifts


Yesterday, I watched Little Women, the more recent version with Susan Sarandon, and remembered again the personal importance of Louisa May Alcott's book. When I was a pre-teen, Aunt Sherry gave everyone a book. We all got what was considered age appropriate, I remember my younger sister and I received a book from the Bobbsy Twins series, my older sisters received, Hedi and Little Women. I guess I was book deprived. Most of my sister's were because we read everything we could, cereal boxes, packaging, directions (globes/maps). We had plenty of young children's literature in the form of Dr. Seuss; The Cat in the Hat, One Fish Two Fish, and Green Eggs and Ham because Mom ordered a subscription that came by mail. My younger sister and I would memorize the silly stories which I still occasionally recite to this day to the consternation of most listeners. Let's see..."One fish, two fish, red fish, blue fish. This one has a star, this one has a little car..." and "I do not like green eggs and ham, I do not like them Sam I am." We also memorized The Night Before Christmas and we would recite the poem to each other and to everyone-anyone- who would listen,"Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there." One Christmas, I was thrilled with the gift, The Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes-that was before anyone thought about what underlying message they might have related to patriarchy, misogyny or violence. Up to this point, my family and much of society in general rarely realized the potential impact of a book. Do you remember Katherine Kelly's lines in the movie, You've Got Mail about how reading a book shapes identity and how it becomes a part of you? I agree with this statement only I would say that timing is important. The book has to reach the reader at the right time in her life. It was the right time for my sisters and me; we all read our books and then each others. I now realize that Little Women helped me to understand that beauty defies definition or representation, can be created or experienced, and has much to do with the way we live our lives. Viewing the movie, yesterday, I realized that the parents were transcendentalists and that all of the children have trouble living up to the highest ideal of taking responsibility to be their personal best self. They struggle with the gesture but ultimately do give up their special food so that the poor can eat, and even Beth who is the closest representation of angelic on fictional earth, is overwhelmed by the poverty of the family she visits while her mom is away. The girls try to live up to Marmme's wish that they make the world a better place. This sharing balance and the focus on what's important comes to our minds at Christmas or when viewing a classic movie such as It's a Wonderful Life-or when reading Louisa May Alcott's book, Little Women. May all the gifts we give and receive this year lift us up to our own version of our transcendentally beautiful self.



Jon Davidson, "Christmas in London", photo flickr


Thank you willow for reminding us about those lovely intangibles. http://willowmanor.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Crabby Apple

When I was a pre-teen, I walked to the backfield on our farm in Michigan and decided to climb the thorny crab apple tree. I had been warned, "Don't eat those apples; they'll give you a stomach-ache." I did secretly eat one and I was okay so later, I tried to taste their sour-bitterness again. Just one taste was sufficient to remind me that there was no way to acquire a taste for crab apples. However, today I encountered another crabby-apple in the form of a bitter person who would not accept my apology for both real and imaginary transgressions. I didn't know I had eaten the apple until later when I noticed that my emotions were encased in a clear sheet of ice. I couldn't find my known self for a while but suddenly, my music motivating muse heated me through. (Enya/Watermark)."Oh, there I am." Getting back to the dangerous climb story... I pulled myself to the upper-most branches when I heard a series of consecutive snaps that sounded like the tiny popper-crackers that children throw down just to delight in their own noisy-making. All the while, the brambled-up branches were grabbing hold of my jacket, slowing my fall and delivering me crisply to the ground, unharmed except for a few scratches that later began to burn. That's how I feel now after the rejection, "I'm okay. I didn't break my arm and I won't get in trouble." May we all heal quickly, may our falls be buffered. May we keep our hearts open and remember, "It's not their fault!"

Thank you sukipoet for permission to use your frozen apple photograph.
You can find her at http://sukipoet.blogspot.com/

I am Love, a thought-idea...

I am love

a thought-idea

I am love

Breathe

from in to out ...from out to in...

I am Love

I am Now ...the ever present moment

I am love

There is no there, there is only here

I am love

I am infinity, eternity expressed

I am love

In me white is black, black is white

I am love

I am rainbow's arrow

shooting kindness into the hearts of All

I am love

I am compassion

I am love

I am yearning realized

I am love

I am gratitude expressed

I am love

I am All in love, by love, with love...

I am restored beauty, never lost

I am love

I am gold thread in conflict, offering a way out

I am love

Ever-present love

I am tenderness, care,


the first green leaf of spring,


the resting hope of winter...

I am love

Look, only notice...see

I am love

You are love

We are love's perfection expressed

by our choice of love

You are love

You are Thy precious moment

You are love

We are thought ideas, unveiled as love

We are harmony's chimes caressed

by gentled wind

We are love

We are angelic visions, fragrantly blooming

We are love

We are love

I am love

You are love

All is love,

the safety-pin, fear dispersed, hope understood,

Love

Copywrite 2009 All Rights Reserved by Cynthia S. Pittmann

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Courage


Thank you readers for your courage to share with me the difficult stories of your life. This Free Owl in Nature painting is offered to you for braving your own "dark night of the soul." May we all be supported in our efforts to liberate ourselves from all that limits and keeps us from having the life we deserve.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Approaching the Yoga Tree of Life


Various yoga styles are popular today and the following link provides a quick reference. I selected the integral yoga page as your point of entry because it is such a comprehensive system of yoga.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cin-Cin's Story

A Picture for Mark, "Tasha Tudor with Goat"
One winter when I was eleven years old, my parents bought me a registered French Alpine goat. (Yes, she had papers and everything!) I remember we went to a large cold carpet-less farm house in Michigan where several huge greyhound dogs lived and barked with protective but controlled zeal; excuse me...that is...they somewhat shared the house with an indoor jacket wearing callous-handed couple. I was going to raise my goat, Cin-Cin, and show her at the 4H sponsored fair event the following summer. It was snowing and cold when we brought the baby goat-kid home, and I had permission to create a temporary home by covering the front entrance hall with blankets and straw. I mixed milk and oatmeal together and fed her from a bottle-all the while trying to encourage her to eat real goat-food. I slept there with her many nights until I was able to move her out to the barn a few weeks later. (It was still cold but my parents thought the smell was getting too strong.) Cin-Cin learned to walk on a leash without resistance, turn, and hold a pose with her head held proudly upright. In my girlhood devotion, I painted her stall entirely yellow, orange and red-I brushed the wooden planks with great swirls and waves of tempestuous fire-what I thought were the most satisfying colors in the world. I got many surprised complements on the colorful composition and Cin-Cin didn't seem to mind. The first 4H competition I entered her in, she won a blue first-place ribbon; the following year, she won the red second-place ribbon-disappointingly beat by her less attractive but larger brother. The priority there at the Bellview County Fair was size. The third year of Cin-Cin's life brings me a bit of shame because I had discovered teenage friends and the human male animal (who later came to remind me of a goat come to think of it) and I may have neglected her- but I'm getting ahead of my story. That same year, Cin-Cin went crazy-no, not boy-goat crazy, she went any person-animal-pony-horse crazy. She would go after Windy (pony) and Thunder (horse) incessantly, until they lost patience and kicked-dissuading further overtures on her part. My younger brother, Rich, devised a game where we would sneak into the Not-Okay Corral and try to cross to the other side without being discovered. Only Cin-Cin would always see the bait and come snorting with her tongue hanging out and offer intense bleating to our tender ears. If you couldn't run fast enough, she would jump on top of you and do heaven knows what to the great amusement of those observing. Cin-Cin wanted to sin! My father said we must sell her. What could I do? I conceded, and my 50-dollar goat went for 15; she had babies, gave milk and lived a normal goat-life on a nearby farm- thereby, concluding my 4H career as a prize winning goat show-er.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Dangerous Roads



The other day I got in a slight car accident. I was a passenger and the impacting car hit on the passenger side where I was sitting. I write "slight" because no one was hurt and there was minimum damage. Still, I was shaken on some level that was not readily apparent. My muscles have been sore for days, especially in my neck...I remembered the serious accident I had in the desert many years back and the neck problems...but recently, the real memory surfaced...the memory of my seventeen year old niece, Allie, and how she was killed in a car accident on highway 8 heading west toward San Diego. She was also a passenger and the teenage driver of the little car she was in lost control. Allie, extroverted and affectionate, was gone forever.

I think of my sister, Allie's stepmother, Linda, who took care of her the majority of Allie's life...and Sy who lost his only child...with compassion. Linda called me the night it happened, "Allie's dead" she said. I felt numb-shock when I first heard the words. I tried to be present for Linda as I asked for the details that she wanted to share. I believe this loss of a loved child is the most difficult experience anyone can go through.



Allie loved the water and would frequently swim with my son, Alex. She was up close and center-stage during my children's birthday parties. She helped my two year old daughter, Amber, open presents when the wrapping paper was as much fun as the gift inside. Allie was seven years old when we left California and whenever I spoke with her on the phone, it was as if no time had passed between us. She was immediate in her affection and shared a powerful heart-feeling with all those who knew her. Lately, my own children need to grow up and start driving but I think the pain in my neck stems from this heart-pain about Allie. I need and ask for the courage to allow my own children to start driving.


May the universe send love to Allie wherever she is so that in her ever-after she knows that we love her dearly. May the universal force support her father, Sy, for the rest of his life. And may my sister, Linda, be given all the blessings she deserves for her own great-heart and ability to love others as her own family.


Please click on the sidebar, OWL Playlist, and play the Caribbean Blue Video as a tribute to
Allison (Allie) Mcgloughlin.

Namaste


This is a link to an article about the accident.

http://www.signonsandiego.com/news/metro/20040615-9999-1m15crash.html

Tasha Tudor





In the previous posting, I mentioned an artist that some of you may not know, Tasha Tudor. She was a painter/children's book illustrator along the lines of Beatrix Potter but I appreciate her independent life that combined art with a rural life-artistry. She was a superior gardener and garden cook, which is that special kind of cook who takes in-season ingredients and finds clever ways to save and serve them. I like her quirky manner; notice the last line of the Tasha Tudor Mother Goose Rhymes-"I took him by the leg and threw him down stairs." The above photo is of her green house, a romanticized photograph and painting of her; however, from what I've read, she was extremely practical and not at all fussy about her looks. She died this summer (June 18, 2008) in her home in Marlboro, Vermont.
I found this quote at her family sponsored memorial website:
"Einstein said that time is like a river, it flows in bends. If we could only step back around the turns, we could travel in either direction. I'm sure it's possible. When I die, I'm going right back to the 1830s. I'm not even afraid of dying. I think it must be quite exciting." ~Tasha Tudor

Wish-Garden



When I was a pre-teen and garden dreaming in the north, I would read seed catalogs by the fireplace. I imagined the green returning to the earth and could hardly wait until the weather changed. I suffered from the anticipation of spring. I remember my sisters and brother would all go spring-fever crazy when the weather changed. We were like a litter of puppies, jumping over each other, barking and biting until someone cried out, "Mom, he/she hit me!" I always had a garden project in mind and many times my efforts at the standard tried and true were successful. But once I tore up a plot of grass and planted various tulip bulbs and such, only they did not thrive. I was disappointed at the failure but I learned that you try and give what you can and the rest is nature's decision. I could say the soil was not prepared properly, or the bulbs were not planted the right side up, or it was too wet/dry that year but I won't because I think somewhere in the other-and-beyond that the bulbs did not want to grow-and I respect their decision. I continued to attempt the garden but I decided to encourage what responded, give it whatever it needed, appreciate the bounty of the ordinary marigold, eat hot tomatoes off of the vine, and cherish the silk tops of sweet corn. Meanwhile, I still read the "wish-books" (my father's name for catalogs) and now my dreams can be large scale: a Japanese garden with a bridge where I will contemplate the meaning of life; Monet's garden where I will paint water colors like Beatrix Potter or Tasha Tudor; and an English cottage garden where I will have tea and chat with dear friends such as you- and those readers who enjoy the memory/wish-garden almost as much as the real thing!


Note: The above garden photo was taken at Yogaville, VA where the Integral Yoga retreat is located.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Impermanent Mandala


Here are two photos representing the ceremony mentioned below, the finished mandala is swept into a vessel and dumped into the water. No regrets!

Laughing at Impermanence



















Have you ever seen a sand mandala being made/experienced by a group of Buddhist monks as a ceremonial practice? The mandala is so intricate, beautiful and impermanent. They carefully feed the colored sand to its specific design location, lift their robe sleeves to prevent brushing the sand, and they cover their mouths with cloth to impede their breath-wind from disturbing the mandala until the spiritually significant concept is finished. Upon completion, it's all swept into a vessel and poured into the sea; a final meditation on the impermanence of life. I think anyone who writes on computers has an opportunity to practice the impermanence of life. Just now, I wrote an extensive comment that disappeared. Actually, I wrote it, checked the preview, then the computer made a rather loud rude noise, like a belch, and seemed to gobble up the comment! In reaction to the hungry ghost, I will write here in response to Hector's questions about journals, deity yoga and meditation but I will address the answers to anyone (experienced or not) who wants to start a regular meditation practice.

I do keep journals; one for health where I write my yoga, mantra, and reading practices, sleep and stress (hormones!) patterns, and my weight. I usually update this weekly/monthly unless I am under stress or am trying to institute a new pattern/routine. I keep another first-thoughts journal inspired by Natalie Goldberg (Writing Down the Bones) where I write (stream of consciousness) for ten minutes, five times a week during ordinary work weeks. My meditation routine is based on various yoga practices, which can be connected to Pantajali's Eight Limbs of Yoga, serious practitioners might say loosely connected but I see the connections/intersections. No deity has directly presented her/himself to me; but I do practice mantra connection with energies that are associated with deities; the force of nature (Kali), the heart-centered/ fun-loving compassion (Krishna), and especially the energy of transformation (Shiva). I think the deity yoga practice, where you dissolve your ordinary self into emptiness and follow specific techniques to immerse yourself into the qualities of a particular deity is useful but I have not learned this method from my meditation teachers or another guru. The whole system of deities in Tibetan Buddhism is complex and highly nuanced; I have studied the Tibetan Book of the Dead with great attention but failed to connect to the complex visualization/deities as presented in this important work. I think that this is not my path.

The Dalai Lama details his practice in the Spalding Gray interview and here is a brief summary: first, he re-establishes his connection to be reborn until all beings are free, recites mantras to commit to non-violent speech, does prostrations and other Buddha remembrance practices to earn merits, conducts a meditation on the impermanence of life focusing on birth, death, and rebirth; finally, a meditation on emptiness and non-conceptuality completes his practice. No matter where he is, he does a four hour practice from four in the morning until eight -regardless of the time zone change. I think that the most important factor to a meditation practice is to develop and establish a routine-a place in your life for meditation. It is also important to acknowledge your practice and commit yourself to the feeling that it is happening through you but is not about you. I think that is why the Dalai Lama says he is a "simple monk" -so that he is not fooled into mind-game thinking that he is above the temptation of breaking his monk's vows. I have noticed that the ego/mind attracts attention down side-roads even in meditation -when this happens I just return to my practice. When I awaken, I fall into a mindfulness routine that reminds me that I will sit for an hour. I remain silent until my practices are over; first, I give the animals food and water, wash the dishes, clean the floor where I will meditate and set up the cushions. I mention these details because they have become my karma/service yoga. I light candles and/or incense in offering and do several sun salutations. Then I sit for one hour; I recite devotional chants until my awareness of energy begins to flow; I keep my attention on two points- the center of my forehead and the crown of my head. If I experience a flatness of energy during the meditation, I usually visualize energy rising from the base of my spine to the top of my head or I practice a pranayama breathing exercise (breath of fire). I accept disruptions to my practice easily; sometimes the half-asleep kids wake up and trip over me/or hit my knee. Junie, the cat, rubs my mudra (hand gesture) and tests out the softness of my lap while she decides if she will sleep. Sometimes, I begin too late and the regular morning routine of I-can't-find-my-keys starts. Usually, I continue to practice without difficulty-even if I have to get up for a moment. A warning though, emotions may be unleashed when you first start to seriously practice (in the early months/years) so it's better to be alone and out of the way-or else you may become unduly angry about normal interruptions and at an unsuspecting house-mate! At the end of my practice, I cultivate goodwill and send thought energy to anyone who appears in my mind while recognizing that we are all connected.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Yoga Moves

Check out this newspaper article: Health minister pushes that all school age children learn yoga (in India) to prevent future diseases: diabetes and obesity.





















YOGA FOR LIFE!

Life Road; Destination Unknown?

When you first look at the photograph below, you probably see the dry tan colored road. As your eyes travel into the shot, you see a line of color in the sky, then a hint of color above...a double rainbow! For most people, the dry road holds our attention, maybe we remember the taste of dust in our mouths and the gritty feel of sand on our skin. If we'd look to the road-side, we'd see a variety of green plants-or up ahead, we'd see there's light and it's getting brighter. Not only is there light but also color up ahead! The impact of the scene is related to where we place our attention. In the Seven Spiritual Laws of Yoga, Drs. Deepak Chopra and David Simon write that whatever you want to increase in your life, you should place your attention there. Keep returning your attention to what you want to increase in your life. Like this road, you could look down, to the side, or up ahead. Whatever you focus on will impact you the most-it will seem to be the most significant. I try to remember that when I am in the midst of some sort of crisis-like feeling; I will myself to see a broader perspective and through that effort I find relief. Sometimes it may seem as if I am out of touch with the situation but I am cultivating the ability to shift my focus when it gets over-attentive to what's wrong-after all, usually something is going well in all circumstances. And the Buddhists have an often remembered phrase-at least in my memory,"Good luck, bad luck, who knows?" It's kind of leveling phrase that reminds me that your perspective shifts depending on where (in time) you're focusing. So when a loved one tells me in sympathy, "Your having a lot of bad luck, lately," rather than feeling sorry for myself, I think of transition/change, and how I don't know if what has happened is indeed bad in the whole scheme of things. Today, I was reading an interview with the Dalai Lama by Spalding Gray (in A Simple Monk; Writings on his Holiness The Dali Lama, New World Library 2001). Spalding confessed that he would have an alcoholic drink to calm his nerves when he was traveling to a new place, then he asked the Dalai Lama if he ever felt fear and what was his calming technique. The Dalai Lama admitted that he used to be afraid of flying, and that he would recite a mantra or prayer to relax his anxiety. Ultimately, however, he accepts karma, "If I created some karma to have a certain kind of death, I cannot avoid that. Although I try my best, if something happens, I have to accept it. It is possible that I have no such karmic force, then even if the plane crashes, I may survive...that belief is very helpful. Very effective." I also remember reading Pema Chodron's, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times (Shambhala Classics). She writes that often it's the reaction to bad news that triggers more consequences and consequently, more pain. I remind myself it's best not to run around crazy in fear or anger; it makes things worse. How can I help myself or anyone else if I give in to panic? Many years ago, I was walking with my hatha yoga teacher, Helen Curly Brown, when she dropped her camera down the stairs, "Bless you" she said as she reached down to retrieve it and continue walking. In her quirky way, I noticed how she cultivated patience. Pressure to act in reaction to emotion is strong; I'm grateful that most of the time I do find my center. I come back to my practice and know that all is well. By meditation, I have learned that ultimately, all is well...as a mantra when anxiety visits...I mentally repeat all is well, all is well...all is well until I remember and accept...all is well. May we all have patience and the mental strength to continue to consciously act- but also to know and accept that all is well. May we attend to the double rainbows in our lives and not keep our attention on the dusty road any longer than necessary. Om Namaha Shivaya




Thursday, November 27, 2008

Appreciation and Intervention

Today is Thanksgiving: I still cultivate the spirit if not the myth of the Pilgrims sitting down to eat with the Native Americans. I honor the idea of the Native Americans receiving appreciation for helping the Pilgrims to cultivate corn, squash and such -so that everyone could survive through the cold New England winter. As it turned out, the Native Americans were swept down the river and landed in the desert to receive a thorough drying out. And I'm sorry about that from both sides of the genetic fence; genetically being part of the "victor and vanquished" blood-line (-as Jamaica Kincaid's Lucy would say about Mariah). The holiday's irony is heavy on my mind today and I woke up thinking about the Dalai Lama.
Have you ever wondered how the Dalai Lama can continue to fight for his country's culture-it's continued existence in Tibet- while the Chinese continue to destroy any remnants of Tibetan autonomy? (He is pictured here at a World Peace ceremony.) If you listen to him speak on his feeling/thought toward the Chinese, it takes great attention to comprehend his practical philosophy. I hold onto his words with intense focus and just miss the action part. I want to know what he means because I think that I have lost my mother to the same community apathy that caused Tibet to fall; or that allowed the genocide of the Jewish during WWII. How do we as a human community resist violence without triggering more violence? I have had this question on my mind since I was in the US Navy many years ago, and it continues to return again and again to my thoughts. When my mother was murdered in Flatrock, Michigan no one intervened; and I have pondered about the silent and spoken support James Brooks, the murderer, received as he contemplated killing the lesbian couple down the street. When my husband was attacked in Condado, Puerto Rico no one came outside in answer to my screams until all danger had passed. But there was one police officer who doggedly searched the streets until the criminal was apprehended and finally convicted. When my car was knocked off the highway by a young, intoxicated, undocumented Mexican in the desert near Needles, California; it was a truck driver, who said he was Richard, who came to my rescue. Richard reported the accident (which happened on purpose) on his CB radio, waited with me while I was trapped in the car for the jaws of life/death to arrive -that's the machine used to remove people from smashed-up cars. He put aside worry that he might be caught in the possible fuel triggered flames and he stayed with me, a total stranger, in the abandoned sandy darkness. I was rescued, flown out in a helicopter to a Las Vegas, Nevada hospital and I recovered. Richard was my human angel who surpassed the ordinary and became the archangel Michael or Gabriel in response to a stranger's need. How many of us would have done the same?
So much has happened lately; there's upheaval in the world because of the bombings in Mumbai, India, yesterday. Deepak Chopra said on Larry King Live that we must take action to 'remove the cancer from our family'-he was refering to the Muslem family. (Yes, he used a medical metaphor that pointed to his doctor-MD- ethos-even though most people think of him as a contemporary spiritual healer/leader) I was impressed by his position of strength that validates necessary action while at the same time, I wondered how would this work out? What kind of action is necessary? Some of you may not know that Deepak Chopra was a student of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, the founder of the Transcendental Meditation (TM) movement. I mention this fact because mediators are often thought of as passive people who take no action as they sit in their "Rocky mountain high" caves and meditate. Chopra meditates. Chopra acts. I often think of the Bhagavad Gita and it's reported conversation between Krishna and Arjuna, where a reluctant Arjuna is encouraged to fight against his cousins because they are taking what is not rightfully theirs. It's in chapter eighteen, verse 59-60: If, clinging to the ego, thou sayest:, "I will not battle," fruitless is thy resolution:...thine inborn nature, will force thee to fight. ...shackled by thine own karma, inborn in thy nature, what through delusion thou wouldst not do, thou wilt helplessly be compelled to do. He decides-is compelled-to take action. As a people, we, too, are honor bound to take action to protect each other.
Yesterday, I had a personal disturbance to my own harmony with humanity; my son was robbed at a Bayamon bus stop in the daylight-in the sunlight- in front of all the other awaiting passengers, and no one intervened to help, comment, or stop the strolling bulk of Puerto Rican youth from going on his comfortable way. Though my son was threatened with death, I am thankful that he is safe. What I want to talk about is reaction/action. When my son went to the police station to file a report, during the course of collecting information about the crime, the receiving officer recommended that he lift weights to build muscle. Let me clarify, he suggested that my son put on weight-that he change his physical form- so that he is not victimized again in the future. I ask myself, would he say that to a girl? What about my petite daughter, would the police officer say, "Well, you have to start lifting weights, gain about five or six inches in height-then you won't be victimized by strangers on the streets." Would he tell someone confined to a wheel chair, :"Just get up and walk-then things like this would not happen anymore." My son is not usually a victim of crime but lately he wants to be independent and move around without his parents-as he should be able to as a member of the human and Puerto Rican community. There is no need to explain to the police officer or anyone else the medical reasons for his small stature because all human beings of every shape and size are part of humanity. I thank the universe for keeping my son safe, but I call upon people to react. We must protect each other from the takers/killers who exist in our human families. We must assert together that it is not okay to harm others on whim or to fulfill a covetous desire. We must be sure in our hearts of our love for humanity and take action to protect the innocent. Not crazy action, just necessary action. Show compassion. Offer assistance. Confine those who cannot live without violating/killing others. Assert every one's right to stand outside in the sun and be a part of the human community. And when someone is violated within your space, do something! Help them! I send blessings to all the Richard's of the world who intervene in times of crisis; who find Arjunda's courage to stop, interrupt their day, and offer solace and strength to those who are innocently victimized. Let us use our Solomon's seal of collective resistance against gratuitous bully violence as a protective amulet we wear in society. Together our consciousness must change so that we extend our heart-love to those in need; so that we learn to have compassion while we discover a cure for the violence-cancer that propagates within our inert human societies. Let us take a solemn vow to protect and love each other, always. Namaste