Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Love Me Tender

Tomorrow is April 1st. My, how time does move and change. Since my last post I spent a weekend in Memphis with my Mom and Aunt and Uncle. The air travel was happily uneventful, except for expected events, which included short delays because of fog and thunderstorms in Atlanta that started a ripple effect of delays during the day. The AirTran crew (one lively woman in particular) was delightfully enjoying herself, and very funny as she announced her expected announcements re: safety, electronic equipment, time, and more. I really appreciate those personalities.

Atlanta was a hubbub of activity, as always. What a great way to help yourself become conscious of "energy is real" - being in a busy airport and slowing yourself down, including your heartbeat, taking in the whole scene if only for a moment. The scope and layers and rhythms, smells, sounds, and sights are an amazing tapestry, motion picture, silent picture, wall hanging - any image you want to choose. An art gallery in the making all the time. One very young woman sat next to me on a connecting flight. She had her ipod and headphones, focused intently on her own music. Part of the time her plug wasn't plugged all the way, or some connection wasn't completely sealed, because I could hear the "white noise" of her music, the louder songs louder, like a blur of static in the energy fields we shared. When it stopped, the silence was magnetic. I listened to both, tuning in and out, occasionally looking at her face, which was slightly hidden by a mass of tight curls. She had pretty brown eyes. I had the aisle seat, she had the middle. On her right was a teenage boy, quiet, calm, and an intense thinker. He had a very deliberate way of moving, using his body.

Between flights I got a bite to eat in a very busy place in the Atlanta airport. What a whirlwind that was. One of the waiters I've noticed before when I've traveled and stopped there for a while. He is an older man, been there a long time and has good experience in "taking care of people." He is a fast-moving body of calm in the midst of the cacophony of transients with much on their minds.

As I made the quick trip, I felt I had been through a time warp. I thought about this feeling, and of all the sensations I was conscious of - as I traveled, as I walked through the airport, as I talked with different people. With my Mom, I watched her blue eyes with their deepening beautiful grey shine, and her hair growing back with those soft curls. As a helper and I went through Dad's clothes and gave them to a friend who could use them, I remembered him in flashes as he wore some of those things - the belt, the shoes, the sweater, asking Mom if this one looked alright. I cried a little as I remembered some of these images, as I felt his presence, his hand patting me on the shoulder as he used to do, smiling a little - that quiet comfort which was his natural way of being and expression. We had a few good laughs, too, as we remembered.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A Whole New Mind

Last night, on a tip from a friend, we watched Daniel Pink's Living on the Right Side of the Brain on UNC-TV. The promo goes, learn more about your grey matter, explore how right brain abilities can make you more effective in your career and relationships. Dan Pink has a new book, A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the World, and PBS is a perfect venue to promote it. As he says, public television is "whole-mind television." Pink is smart, funny, and full of practical, simple examples that made me think, smile, and laugh out loud. (One was a little book of six-word autobiographies/memoirs. We tried it - I wrote, Longed for more, then found it.) He writes and talks about how our thinking is changing, the importance of pattern recognition, and why anyone who says any variation of "but I can't do that, I don't think that way" is full of bunk.

Watch the 5 min. youtube clip!

My waking dreams show me we are awakening our dreams - we're all philosophers at heart!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

How Crackers Show Affection

In a publishers' email I read of an event which included this great description: Janis Owen, the author of The Cracker Kitchen, came to Fairhope (Alabama) over the weekend and demonstrated how to make sweet potato pie at The Village Peddler, the town's kitchenware store. "Giving you something is how a Cracker shows affection," Owen told her audience. "If you were to tell my momma that you liked her iron skillet, she'd put it in the car before you left her house." This may be, too, a "relic" from our Egyptian memories, of sending our objects of value with us to the "afterlife," to appease the gods, or to use however we might need. Amazing to think on how our thoughts reflect our histories, our every cellular story.

As Janis O. writes on her blog, I frankly fear my biscuits will disappoint, and am privately relieved to be making them in the Great State of Alabama, where there is a good-natured acceptance of human frailty. If my biscuits fail to rise, I will be pitied rather than despised. Probably sell more books.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"The Illusion of Death Does Not Affect What Is"

Monday night two friends and I joined others at the Triangle Philosophy "Meet-up" at Porter's Tavern in Raleigh to watch the award-winning documentary, Flight From Death. (It was fun!) The documentary was three years in the making, photographed in eight different countries, and features an all-star cast of scholars, authors, philosophers, professors and researchers in a film that is thought-provoking, entertaining, and creatively unique.

Once the film began and I listened to the professors speak about Ernest Becker, I vaguely remembered hearing about him many years ago. I never read any of his work, but remembered reading about him, and others' views of his work. Along with so much else, that information faded away in my mind's ocean. Becker is said to have written about the "science of human kind." NOW, I am very interested in the science of human kind! I enjoyed the video, and the questions we can ask ourselves, as thinkers, are necessary to changing our way of being together in the world. What are we to do with life? Are we a viable form of life? What is the root cause of human aggression? Social scientists' experiments reveal more to us about our behavior and motivations, and if we are open and interested in self-knowledge, we will learn a lot from them. They talk about how we create illusions to give meaning to our experience; how we create and turn to the symbolic when our literal world fails us; the idea that remembrance is the way we deal with the brevity of life. We use illusions to hide facts or to better explore facts, depending upon our way of thinking. They talk about how reminders of our own death affect our behavior. They talk about "consciousness." Yet I don't know how they define consciousness.

As always happens, after seeing the video, I began to see everywhere phrases and symbols and behaviors which related to what I was made more conscious of in the film. For example, later that night I picked up the best-selling novel (Civil War setting) Cold Mountain from my bedside table before going to sleep. I flipped open to a page and read, "And, too, Inman guessed Swimmer's spells were right in saying a man's spirit could be torn apart and cease and yet his body keep on living. They could take death blows independently. He was himself a case in point, and perhaps not a rare one, for his spirit, it seemed, had been about burned out of him but he was yet walking. Feeling empty, however, as the core of a big blackgum tree. Feeling strange as well, for his recent experience had led him to fear that the mere existence of the Henry repeating rifle or the eprouvette mortar made all the talk of spirit immediately antique. His spirit, he feared, had been blasted away so that he had become lonesome and estranged from all around him as a sad old heron standing pointless watch in the mudflats of a pond lacking frogs. It seemed a poor swap to find that the only way one might keep from fearing death was to act numb and set apart as if dead already, with nothing much left of yourself but a hut of bones." (22) Then I remembered something else I had read in the book before: "What would be the cost of not having an enemy? Who could you strike for retribution other than yourself?"

Death is the truth of our design, I heard a spiritual philosopher say. I've been thinking of this since watching the video. Listening to an old tape by Kathy Oddenino, focused on "Loss, Death, and Grief," I hear the words, "The illusion of death does not affect what is." This tape has helped me to think about the energy of change as I feel the levels of sadness about my Dad and the challenges he lived. It's fantastic. To live the good within us is to live the god within us. I have been learning the cost of not having an enemy, as I continue to study Spiritual Philosophy. The cost is simply the knowledge of "good and evil." Back to the Garden!

Spiritual philosophy defines consciousness and teaches us to "know ourselves," asking questions and continuing to know ourselves as energy living in matter, our "intelligent design." Each cell within me tells its own story, and the congregation of cells within me lives its own "joyful noise," or cacophony, harmony of spheres, all constantly in motion. Today I've felt the effects of mind-expanding conversation, not enough water, a little too much wine, and the wonderful release that tears can bring. I feel the life within me change as I think on these things, as I move and do, and with each smile that overrides shadows. I hear the birds expressing themselves in their wonderful ways. The soldier Inman may rest in peace as we do, when we truly study the science of humankind and let our self-knowledge lead us into new relationships as we learn to love ourselves. The way of human growth is to transition through our feelings of loss into the energy our true love.

I enjoyed the Triangle Philosophy adventure, the questions, the lively conversation with inquiring minds, and am going to look up Ernest Becker!

Saturday, March 07, 2009

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?

Practice! Practice! Practice!

Watch Richard Restak on Neuroscience and Advertising
I have been reading Richard Restak’s 1995 book, BrainScapes, as part of our ongoing Spiritual Philosophy study, and I’m fascinated by what I’m connecting (literally) with what I read last year in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success. Gladwell discovered patterns of behavior in personalities who developed their interests into skills that put them ahead of the average person in their use of those applied skills and discoveries. He questions our assumptions about the inevitable result of innate or natural talent. (Bill Gates and Bill Joy, founder of Sun Microsystems among other things, are familiar examples.) In his research Gladwell discovers a pattern of “immersion,” practice, development with a particular focus that is measurable in terms of hours and the numbers of hours in relationship to “success.” The number he comes up with is 10,000 hours of applied and persistent focus over time. His emphasis is that what he calls “outliers” (something out of the ordinary) reach their status through a combination of ability, opportunity, and “arbitrary advantage.” (Gladwell, 37)

In my interpretive reading, Restak, a brain scientist, explains how this pattern works in the brain, based on the research of the moment. Synapses occur because the chemical mechanisms cooperate in ways that prepare for the moment of transmission, create the chemical signal, and follow the transmission with one of two defined interactions - if all works according to the brain design. “Most neuroscientists now believe the organ remains malleable throughout life. Each thought and behavior is embedded within the circuitry of the neurons and, according to one hypothesis, neuronal activity accompanying or initiating an experience persists in the form of reverberating neuronal circuits, which become more strongly defined with repetition.” (38) Experiments involving neurosurgical patients show that a person cannot simply choose to be conscious of stimulation. A certain duration or “time on” of neuronal activity may be one factor separating conscious and unconscious brain functioning. Duration below a certain minimum does not change our level of thinking (conscious choice!). Restak gives examples, too, such as boxers and the patterning of their brains to instantaneously respond and thus their limbs “act” to support their highest potential of behavior in the given situation in the ring. More practice makes for better performance as the repetition occurs to expand these patterns of chemical interaction. If our patterning is “negative,” that is if we repeat our addictive behavior of drugs, alcohol, wife-beating, whatever degree of depression we are living, we are still reinforcing our brain patterning, but in a “descending” pattern, not an “ascending” pattern. Rather than civilizing our minds and therefore our lives, we are criminalizing them and abusing the internal intelligent design with which we are made.

This is even more fascinating to me because of what we are being taught in
Spiritual Philosophy as the “intelligent design” of us as energy and matter. As Restak writes, “At least in theory, all that we are and all that we have done could be read by an observer capable of deciphering the connections and circuits that have been established within our 50 billion nerve cells.” (38) Restak clearly explains the pattern of depolarization as it happens within the brain cells. Spiritual Philosophy teaches us to open our thinking mind, or to let our thinking mind open, to the energy of us as evolving consciousness – and thus begin to know ourselves as “eternal energy beings.” The “Now Is” reality of us as energy is defined, in physical terms, by how we live as individual human beings - by the activity within our brains, even as the research of today indicates. When we believe that we live more than one life as unique human beings, these patterns of brain activity, just as the patterns of our human interaction in all of our personal relationships, can be explained and understood – in their infinite potential.

The brain’s modules, sometimes widely separated groups of neuronal circuits, cooperatively create what none of them can do separately, Restak explains. I’m thinking about all of this in relationship to all I hear on the news about the “stimulus package,” views of what’s best for the collective, the necessary sacrifices and compromises, the action for the collective good in the “long run,” the ensuing debates and battles over outcomes and choices. As I think about how we live these levels within us, through our accumulated experience and memories, I recognize the patterns and how the proof of our learning is in how we are able to understand and live "consciousness” of the Ethical Values as our internal spiritual energy design. “Energy” and “spiritual” become redundant once we known ourselves. We are spiritual energy beings because of our design as energy experiencing matter through lifetime after lifetime. Without this knowledge, we habitually and repetitiously project images of ourselves and of the world as we perceive it, onto the screen of our “mind,” and we adapt our way of living to these images, sometimes forcing ourselves not to think any differently.

Spiritual Philosophy teaches us that philosophy is a way of life – thinking about ourselves as energy, and every application of our thinking mind, our energy fluxes, our joys, sorrows and spectrum of emotions, our infinite sensory expressions – are how we know who we are as we interact as energy expressions of the creative life force constantly in motion. We are not separate from the energy of events. We ARE the energy of the events of our lives. We create the energy of our interactions by the energy that we generate and live as energy beings!

I think about my father’s frustration and persistent attempt to “think through” and use his memory as he once did, and beyond. His advancing Parkinson’s disease, as we define the activity and symptoms today, showed disturbances and disruptions in the nerve communication of the basal ganglia in the brain, which affected every other energy function. Some days he had trouble orienting himself in the “past, present or future,” because the connections did not add up so his mind could make sense of his physical reality.

Constantly, today, we talk about memory. In the news are statistics about aging, memory loss, Alzheimers, about medications to improve memory function. With this, at the level of science, comes our perception of the chemical reactions that are deficient or in excess to create and affect memory function in our brains. Among people, we begin to talk about this as though it is “normal,” a normal aspect of our aging. We say things like, “you shouldn’t have that (memory loss) at your age!” Or, after all, you are 85.” What does all of this “thinking” tell us about our perceptions and beliefs about ourselves?

More and more, also, we are thinking, in our culture, about how to boost our brain power. We talk about “success” and how to use our brain more effectively. Every way we think is reflected in our physical lives. We are still trying to clearly understand form and function and the relationship of our energy as matter, yet to a large extent, many of us are not even aware of the question we are trying to answer. We relate the question to the level that we are living as a thinking mind. For example, if my doctor tells me my test showed my cholesterol is too high, how do I successfully change that?

These physical applications are just peripheral branches of the family tree which is what Aristotle called the eternal question: What is reality? This question isn’t “abstract." It simply means, in considering anything about life, what do we consider essential to it (or our relationship to it).

When I think about myself and my life, I think about the many details to attend to: food, water, sleep, bills to pay, schedules to keep, maintenance of all things physical. I am responsible for my life in all aspects. My mind has had to come to know and begin to understand that we are energy and matter, and the mind’s role in the creator of my quality of life as a functioning physical being before the haze of sensory fragmentation (depression) could clear. This is where Restak’s description of brain activity and the patterns of neural circuits supports the success of Spiritual Philosophy as our goal of a way of life as a civilized (ethical) being. The knowledge of the internal chemical energy design of us as Ethical Values raises or expands the consciousness of a thinking mind into a civilized cooperative response to creative life at higher and higher levels.

This is why it is fun to learn! The mind seeks answers. The duration of our stimulus in life determines the outcome of that stimulus,as that chemical interaction reflects our level of thinking (or knowledge). I feel depressed when I am not using my energy productively (creatively). I feel happy as I know myself better, and part of knowing myself better means I know “how I work!” As my Dad said, sadly, “It’s just pitiful!” – as he wanted to be able to DO what he wanted to do, and his energy and matter were not functioning at the level he remembered and had become accustomed to. This is how I understand the way memories work in our cells. My depression in my early life was the result of accumulation of energy buildup from my repetition of thinking and resulting behaviors over thousands of years as consciousness. My thinking mind wasn’t keeping up the pace that my consciousness is designed to live. That creates a shadow cast upon a life. The sun shines brightly when we have a Eureka moment. The warmth and heat of love brings us in from the cold of our thoughts of fear that are simply a physically patterned response, an awareness without true understanding, which satisfies the mind and motivates more, faster. This is why we cannot truly ever control another person. Our prisons and liberation are always first within our own mind.

Restak writes, “Later we will discuss why true knowledge may require reliance on a clever understanding of the brain’s process – the millisecond communi-cation within the networks of nerve cells widespread throughout the brain. “ (12) Socrates’ dictum that “virtue is knowledge,” supports this modern research of the brain, if we begin to think of ourselves as energy and matter expressing itself through this intelligent design of Ethical Values. No matter the “function” or role in life we choose, our virtue (the integrity of our function) depends upon our possession of the knowledge relating to that function. If we want to be a shoemaker, for example, the first thing necessary is to know what a shoe is and what it is meant for. It does no good spending time deciding on the best tools and material and methods without a clear plan in our mind of what it is we want to produce through our thinking and subsequent action based upon that knowledge. (Consumer reports are no help if we don’t know what we are looking for!) We ought to be able to describe the nature of the thing we want to produce and the use we will make of it. (Thus, if we cannot communicate clearly our intentions, what we do is not useful!) What is the function of man? Once we understand that we are energy first and matter second, our function as we choose it follows in an ethical manner, no matter our physical choice of activity.

In her first book, The Joy of Health, Kathy Oddenino writes, “Evolved humans will learn the balance of body, mind and spirit by starting first with the body.” (25) “Understanding the role of the mind in health is the first step to healing.” Good health is the secret to joy, and the ultimate in learning is the awareness of joy in being. Spiritual Philosophy teaches that we must start with learning to live the joy of health to feel joy in being, which is a lesson of the physical on Earth. Kathy explains how we do not know the negative effect we have upon our body when we do not live in our moment of power. We cannot truly and consistently live in our moment of power until we grow into knowing ourselves as energy beings creating matter as chemical interactions, and the joy that such chemical interactions can create.

The more knowledge we gain, the better we function, if we apply that knowledge. (And knowledge isn’t truly gained unless it is learned; otherwise it remains information, falsely unrelated to us, as the clouds are if we simply see them as "clouds.") The spectacular beauty, and common sense once my mind knows it, of spiritual philosophy and Socrates’ dictum that “virtue is knowledge,” is that this statement explains the integration of form and function, of energy and matter creating itself through our life experiences. Clich├ęs define our perception about our level of thinking: she’s not playing with a full deck; the porch light is on, but nobody’s home; he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. We act like we know what we mean when we say these things. Yet, do we really? What level of understanding are we using? Why is that enough for us?

Thinking is fun! Now I’m listening to the raindrops converge outside, hitting the ground and every other surface as they fall. The heat just kicked on inside this building. I’m happy to be here, thinking, breathing. And now I’m getting hungry! My neural network is alive. (Energy is real!)

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

In memory

In the fourth watch
Of the night
He left us

When we got the call,
You need to come.
His death.

This is what I think,
Holding the threads of memory,
Experience, and mystery.
He did not leave unannounced,
Was simply unburdened,
Lifted, I imagine,
The dark hours he swallowed
No longer visible.

He died in his sleep on Sunday, resurrection day,
Surely as he wished.

We smile,
Knowing it had been 40 days.

That'll preach,
As will many things.

I was a witness that cool, dark morning,
His body stretched out on that bed,
Regal in his poverty,
A gentle spirit returning home.

I am not looking for infinite reminders,
Only the particulars of him,
His face. His hands. The shape of his body.
His smile.

Nothing hidden or dimmed,
This is what I fill my arms with.

In memory

by Mike Martin

Monday, March 02, 2009

The Secret to Begin Again

"The secret to begin our understanding of everything is for us to open our thinking mind to understand energy and how we relate to all energy." (14)

"Love is in the mind of the beholder." from Kathy Oddenino's class, The Energy of the Thinking Mind (Feb. 15)

My Dad died early in the morning on Sunday, February 1st. There is so much to say about him, and from so many perceptions even as I have had, from the time I was a child throughout the years of growing into the person I am at this moment. Dad was simple in his love of life, his love of people, his way of showing and living love. He did not want to make things complicated, and preferred that others not do so either. He aimed to simplify. This is one of many characteristics of his personality that I appreciated. My cousins and siblings and their family members that could had traveled to Memphis for the weekend to celebrate my mother and her twin sister’s 80th birthday. Dad had gone from the hospital to a nursing/rehab facility, where he lived since a few days before Christmas. He was determined to be home for a few hours on this birthday, for the "birthday party. " We picked him up that Saturday, and, though he wasn’t feeling well that morning, he focused the energy he had, and came home. He was glad to be there, and ready to leave when he did – in every aspect of the word.

The memorial service for him was a wonderful tribute – both because of all of those who made the effort to attend, from near and far, and all of the acknowledgements given, the words spoken, the flowers in their array of beauty, the music, the food, the presence of all.

Once more, Dad has given me a priceless gift, helping me to understand and appreciate the gift of life itself and its many levels of change. Dad knew my constant quest to "understand everything," and he both supported and questioned me always, as I lived this quest, even when our perceptions were different. His was a mind always questioning, and always coming up with faith and hope, and the simplicity of love in action. These observations and feelings were repeated by many at the service in celebration of his life, and in many of the cards my mother has received.

For Dad, life was only worth living when love could be actively lived and expressed. As he once wrote in reference to the more than 200 funerals he gave when asked, life is about quality not time.

"As a normal sequence of events, truth will shine like a beacon of light as the scenario develops, because the truth will find its own form of revealment." (Kathy Oddenino, 11)

As we waited in the nursing home for the funeral home to come and "remove the body," I looked at and felt his face, and I knew, again, the reality that the spirit energy is what animates us, gives life to our matter. He was smiling a little, a familiar smile, and his matter, his lifeless body was "left behind." Him and not him. In this way I understand better how we leave imprints of energy behind as we grow and change, and that these ripples of energy that we create as we live and die affect all. With my brothers and sister, and other friends and the attendants there, I felt the energy change as absolutely and beautifully real. A tear as in fabric, and my tears spontaneous and full, and in acknowledgement of what I love and will miss forever in him as "here" – and as the perfection of freedom and the constancy of change, the power of love.

I love you a bushel and a peck, too, Dad -
(For the last few years Dad used to say this to us all the time, and for the longest time I didn't know where the line came from. I remembered again recently that it was a lyric written by Frank Loesser for Guys and Dolls (1950).