Friday, October 29, 2010

Just Pedaling Through

"Many of the things I’ve written about the cities might be said to be self-examination."   David Byrne

One of the greatest pleasures to me of thinking, and the joy of exploring, is the endless discovery inherent in the activity. Listening to David Byrne introduce (via podcast) his new audiobook, Bicycle Diaries, reminds me of why I enjoy his personality and why I’m glad he shares his thoughts and expressions so freely, even if so carefully crafted. I think about this level of sharing after the latest Joy of Health seminar I attended this past Sunday.  Kathy Oddenino’s passion for sharing wisdom is palpable and contagious. The dialogue was fun. The excitement built as the day went on. We continued as we went on to dinner after the seminar. The food was delicious, the company stimulating and warm. I didn’t really think much about “thinking” and speaking as our highest order of senses until I began to study Spiritual Philosophy. I’m reminded always how all of our senses are heightened by learning to consciously use them, with love.  It was a great day.

In his introduction, David Byrne talks about the joys of bicycling. He explains how he expanded his cycling adventures beyond Soho in New York, the neighborhoods where he lives and visits most frequently, to exploring big cities around the world. What a way to chronicle places, visions of how and where we live, what we live with and what we leave behind and change as we live and move on. 

I feel this way about the sky, and capturing pictures of clouds as the light and seasons change. I think this comes from my early fascination with clouds and their colors as I looked out of airplane windows as a child, crossing the Atlantic back and forth. Some of the visuals are still vivid in my mind – that heaving dark water so far below, the trails and wisps and banks of clouds as the sun set and rose. It was captivating, fantastic to me. The joy of just watching has come back to me now, after years of not really thinking as much about it. Looking at the weather map this morning on the news gave me a portrait of an “epic storm” and its path across the Midwest and then East.  Pictures of the aftermath showed up from different areas along the path. Tornadoes with hurricane-force winds! Here, today, the sun is shining brightly even as a breeze is blowing through the trees and big thick clouds build and then blow by. It is summertime-warm. I’m sweating. The windows are open and the fans are blowing. Tree leaves are changing color and the big oak that was hit by lightning a few months ago is withering  brown and grey, still statuesque.

I can relate these visions to the energy of personalities and how we change. It is a bit like looking at bellows, an accordion. I feel my cells living and breathing, from a small fractal into larger fractals, and I now recognize the personality patterns and how I have lived them/expressed them throughout my life. I see the patterns I’m working (thinking) through to change completely into new, loving patterns. Chrysalis to flight.

I think the heart of the lesson is this: sometimes when I am immersed in, or have a new dose of knowledge, of “medicine” as knowledge (such as a seminar), I am at first very excited, thoroughly motivated, energized by it. As the knowledge settles into my mind, my body, my energy fields, I accept it on some levels of energy and not as easily at other levels of thinking, where I have to acknowledge and BE the changes totally.  Like the weather, my energy patterns move and change! I react to the thought energy (of love, invitation to change, to BE love) at some levels that I am not immediately conscious of, and these are the levels that trigger my irritation, confusion ( resistance!) until known. As I make myself conscious of these energies, I can change them – as if spreading them out on a table. I feel the energy more intensely, and am also aware of the reality (truth) of my energy as I interact with others. The truth plays out as I Am, in that moment, always invited to change, to love. Love is the healing energy!

Friday, October 15, 2010

"Perfect Sheets of Rain" -James M. Turner's Beyond the Comfort Zone

I like the opportunities that “blog tours” offer authors and their potential audiences. I just read James Turner’s Beyond the Comfort Zone, and I hope lurking readers of my blog will visit his web site and re-think what “adventure” means and what motivates our choices in life and in death.  Listening to a CNN interview with Ingrid Betancourt fits with what I think about Jim Turner’s book. Betancourt’s book, Even Silence has an End, has just been published. She has an incredible story – as I listened to her and watched the video clips I remembered when she and her compatriots were released from captivity in Colombia, she after six years!  She talked about not being the hero she might have wanted to be in moments; that she and her fellow captives lived in “the mud,” emotionally too – but in the mud there were and are diamonds. She braved not only the terror of captivity and living in the jungle, but threats on her life by men, animals, elements, and the fatigue and fear itself. Obviously she has courage – she was a presidential candidate at the time she was captured. When she could bathe, she bathed in the river with piranhas and snakes and all manner of other creatures. The men were horrible, she says, not sensitive at all to a woman’s needs, and the jungle habitat exacerbated the insensitivity. What does it mean to be civilized? What does refinement do for us, and how do we evolve ourselves?

Last month I attended a two-day class on the Spiritual Philosophy of the Joy of Health, which helped me to think again more deeply about the Ethical Values and the behavior I (and we humans) live as an Ethical Being.  How do we define love?  What have I accomplished in my life? What have I learned?  Each life adds to our knowledge of what it means to live.  A friend talked about his early philosophy of life: do all and everything I can and need to do while I have the vigor – I reap what I sow! 

I used to think more in terms of having something physical to show for my efforts as the validation (success?) for my choices. I still feel this way, but my perception of what “having something physical to show for my efforts” has changed, deepened. Knowing what motivates me and why, and responding to such a deep call to “do something,” regardless of the perceived risk, shows me how well I “know myself.” This shows me also how well I know what it means to be human! If I don’t know what it means to be human, how can I help myself and contribute to the growth and joy of humanity as a whole, as an energy being?

James Turner offers a vividly told story (“memoir/thriller,” as one interviewer suggested) of his life experience which began in England and took him to Southeast Asia, a region he loves as his own. His love for the people and the energy of the place, the land, shows throughout. 

“The next day unable to sleep I awoke early, brewed a fresh pot of coffee and took it outside onto the balcony seating myself in my usual chair. In the distance monsoon rain clouds, inky black and laced with lightening, raced across the valley floor some forty miles away. Perfect sheets of rain, their edges crisp at that distance, fell from each group of black cotton candy and shafts of bright amber light separated each group of clouds. Like torch beams they illuminated swatches of the lush green rice paddies beyond the Hang Dong road all the way to Doi Inthannon. The golden singular spire of Wat Suan Dok rose majestically two blocks to the west seemingly painted in 3D relief against the shifting backdrop of the oncoming storm. It was an awesome sight.” (118-119)

Turner’s background, beginning with an interest in music that took him to a precipitous climb of a rock-star career, seems dizzying, exhausting, and thrilling. It led to his marriage breaking up, and to a re-evaluation of Now, what?

He describes the gravity of the situation – having undertaken an entire change of life, home, family, leaving behind what he had known as his life for an entirely new environment where he didn’t know the language and didn’t know a single soul. At first his isolation overwhelmed him. He quickly overcame this sense and took upon himself the education of the Thai culture – the language, the people, the smells, sights, customs, history, each nuance he could absorb and discover. 

“Tucking into the succulent handmade sausages and fragrant coffee, I allowed myself to remember a life before Burma, and wondered what life would be like post this tangential interlude. Hoping above all I had the fortitude to rise again, now that the shroud had been pulled from my own perceived reality. “ (294)

Turner is clearly an adventurer, someone who appreciates the flavors and beauty of life as he knows it.  I laughed out loud in places (such as the late-night “massage” place where they and other patrons stumbled over each other in their attempt to escape the police raid. The scene he describes is hilarious! You’ll have to read it to get the whole picture). Turner feels the compulsion to help these girls and boys who are trafficked, treated so inhumanely – and in the course of following his friend’s prompting too, he learns the complications of people in other circumstances and environments and what making each choice might mean to them. His own world-view grows exponentially.

“Had we, I wondered, done something important? I hoped the girls and that young boy would come to understand the chances we had taken, the reasons why the events of today had taken place. I hoped that they now stood a chance of some kind of future, and I wondered on the lives of the few we’d had to leave on the other side.” (349)

Jim answered some questions for me when we talked about his new book.

What are the responses you've gotten so far from your book? Have your friends and family read it?
Response has been outstanding so far, it really seems to resonate with people on a very personal level. I'm very grateful for that. As for friends and family, I learnt long ago in my life as a musician that you have to develop a sense of honest critique of your own work, after that the public will let you know soon enough how good or bad it is. Friends and family will seldom offer the candour you need to make creative decisions, they are really just a salve for the soul. The question you pose which may sound like 'What do you think?' should perhaps be re-phrased 'tell me how great this is, my ego needs it!' From the people I know personally who've read it the reactions vary from pride to incredulity, it is a ride quite far from the edge.
How do you define friendship? Are you and Franco still close friends?
It's difficult to define friendship because it operates on so many levels that are often unique to the individual. For me friendship is something that is earned through your interactions with others and is something offered without conditions. I'm not sure that what Franco and I had could be called friendship in the sense I defined it above because if I am honest, at the time, our relationship was a complicated transactional mix of friendship based on need. He seems to have disappeared back down the rabbit hole he appeared from, friends tend not to do that. But I hope I have portrayed him honestly, flaws and all. I certainly get asked a lot of questions about him 
How would you define integrity? Have you changed your definition of integrity since you made the choice to directly engage in interrupting "human traffickers"?
I think integrity is doing the right thing when the world may never know and having no thought of reward for your actions. I think my sense of what integrity is has remained pretty solid despite my encounters. Sadly it has also brought to my attention how much the world is lacking in it.  
What is your definition of humility? Tell us about someone you know who is humble, and how they live this energy.
Humility is always leaving the door open to the possibility that you may be wrong in your belief of a firmly held concept, and that everyone has something profound to teach you. I think anyone who says they are humble, probably by definition isn't.  
Who are some of your favorite musicians? Why?
Players like David Sanborn for defining a particular sound for an instrument. Singers like Al Green for moments of emotional perfection in a recording. Composers like Ennio Morricone for marrying music to picture in such an extraordinary way consistently over so many years. 
Why Southeast Asia?
It's a region I've been travelling to for many years (decades now) and it is steeped in all the aforementioned qualities of humility and a gentleness that has to be experienced to understand. Not to mention it has some of the most exciting cities and beautiful scenery anywhere on the planet - in my opinion anyway.  
Do you believe that as humans we live many physical lives?
It's a nice idea isn't it. I'm not sure that I believe it, but I do see that a belief in this (in certain cultures) creates a spiritual framework where there is little guilt directed by an omnipresent religious body - as in judeo christian beliefs. If you don't get it right, well just come back and try harder. I'm also reminded of a frequent sight on the fruit stalls of Thailand, where wasps the size of your thumb are being gently collected in a plastic bag or bottle to be ushered away to safety. I can't imagine that happening in NYC or London. I certainly like the way a belief in reincarnation encourages a respect for the personal right to live of every being - be it a cockroach or a humming bird. 
What does compassion mean to you?
You do ask some very difficult questions! I believe that compassion is the salient, acted upon belief that every human being has a right to a chance at a life of substance and meaning as they define it. And that people are flawed and fail, and should not be punished for doing so. Now,....on to the meaning of life......

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Field Experience

“Use your happy voice!”

“Do as I say, not as I do!”

Two things I want to write about while fresh in the garden of my mind. I drove to Alabama to attend the Nigerian Missionary reunion, as Mom was being “memorialized” and we knew she, and Dad, would want us to be there. I felt refreshed – the change of routine, driving in the countryside on beautiful days, listening to The Divine Idea (over and over), sharing time with my sister and family, meeting “old friends” who were part of another lifetime – all was a good experience which nurtured me in this time in my life. It felt good to remember Mom and Dad in that setting, too – as though the windows open on their life when they were our age, and before, as so many that they knew gathered in one place to honor their heritage, their history, and their lives together in a place they came to call “home.” 

An old friend we saw sent me an email saying how seeing us was probably the highlight of the weekend for her, and how it evoked many memories. She said she could still hear Dad saying in his gentle Southern accent, Margaret Ellen, use your happy voice! I love this story, this memory. It is so perfect for me to remember right now. I have been thinking a lot about sounds, about my voice, for the last few months as I am learning to modulate my own energy as a whole being. The hard-edged voice I had even as a child I remember sometimes like the sound of a scratchy record – disturbances in the field! It’s funny to think of this. The narrator in the book-on-tape (There are Gods in Alabama) that L. loaned me performs this level of “scratchiness” well, in the narrator’s character in the story. She is smart, defensive, and snarly at times. Her remembrance is as a young adult, telling the story of the ruining of her innocence as a mind, if she began with innocence. The tone cast by her boyfriend, a different and much more patient personality, beautifully shows the contrast in how they think, how they perceive themselves and the world. I think about how we create images of ourselves as we live day by day, beginning with our conception – having chosen our parents, our “destiny,” we plunge into “character” and begin the molding and shaping that energy beings must live as physical matter making their way in the world. 

I am learning to always use my happy voice, Dad! Thank you for the guidance you’ve given me, and continue to give me even in such messages as these from an old friend. Dad taught us, we are what we do and we are what we say.

After talking with a friend on Sunday, I have been thinking about the teaching/learning pattern of “do as I say, and not as I do.” She was telling me about her study program. They are taught some things because of the Boards, but taught to do things differently in the clinic. I remember Kathy’s talking about taking the real estate broker’s exam years ago after studying THE recommended reference book, with no experience “in the field.” This, compared to others’ extensive experience in the field, and perhaps also a fear of taking tests. Or being tested. The variety of experience, and potential of “unknown variables,” changes the way the information is applied – so those with more experience have more to “unlearn”? I keep thinking about the mentality of “will this be on the test”? “Do we need to know this?” I realize that Spiritual Philosophy, or philosophical thinking, is the foundation of learning. With this foundation of the Ethical Values as our Spiritual Design, and the design of our soul as dual (mind and emotions, male and female), we can apply all knowledge to its highest potential of being, and sense follows, appears, is made and enjoyed. 

This is because love, as the creative, healing energy, is always logical. Love as an emotion without true understanding of the mind and its place in the trinity of consciousness, is not safe in the world of strong-arm tactics and labile, immature minds. The senses cannot be fully appreciated when the mind is depressed and love is suppressed. The senses can be appreciated only to a limited degree – delightful though that degree may be. I think of the pleasures of swinging on vines, the total satisfaction and flavor of biting into sweet ripened fruit as its juice drips, the physical release as a cascade of “joy” runs through the body like electric currents of teasing pleasure. So much there is to appreciate and enjoy. Yet the mind is its own castle and ocean which opens into vistas beyond the cave that a physically focused mind relies on for shelter. Thinking is a gift which lifts us to the mountaintop, so we know the terrain for miles and miles – so we know the cloud patterns and what they bring, how they change. Watching the rescue of the Chilean miners has shown me this again beautifully. Though “suppressed” deep in the dark within the Earth, they thought through their situation, worked together, and “kept their spirits up” until other necessary parties enacted the plan to free them into the light of day. The emotions as they arrived from below, as their relatives greeted them, were irrepressible and absolutely a joy to watch and to share.

If we are taught well, we are taught to know the foundation of principles which illuminate the structure of the knowledge we are seeking, and every way the other details relate fall into place or by the wayside as we experience. Book learning as compared to “life learning.” Knowledge is easily applicable when we understand the structure of our creation as energy beings. I think that knowing the Ethical Values of us as an eternal being makes any learning easier, and any information more applicable, more relevant to our individual life experiences.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Trust Love

Today as we were talking about poetry, Kathy told me how excited she was as a very small child when she began to write very small poems. She would get so excited that she would take what she wrote and run to find her mother to tell her. Her mother also loved poetry. As Kathy describes it, her mother, who always wore dresses, hose, and heels, and an apron when she was at home, would stop what she was doing, sit in a chair to give her full attention, and fold her apron up so she could fold her hands over the clean part of the apron. Then she would ask Kathy to read the poem to her, as though she were reading it to her class. Kathy did, often acting out the few lines in full animation. She remembers this so fondly, and how her mother would clap, and then always encourage her to then “make it bigger,” “make it better.” My mother taught me to think, she said, “Now, make it better!”

I loved hearing this story, and it brought back memories in my mind about reading the World Books on our shelves at home when we were children; how our parents would encourage us to read, and many afternoons would find all of us in our various chairs fully engaged in our latest story (whether fiction or poetry or history). For some reason, I remember Mary Stewart’s Crystal Cave book, on my mother's shelf. I remember Go, Dog, Go (Dr. Seuss). I remember the excitement when we shared some tidbit from a book that made us laugh, or something sad that was new to our experience. 

I have not always been motivated to make things bigger and better.  At times in my early life I was caught up in the whirlwind of confusion in my mind, and I can clearly understand now how such a whirlwind of thoughts and feelings and reactions is only productive when a mind begins to understand the motion of the whirlwind, its causes and effects, and finds more than shelter from flying debris.  True encouragement to think is always a gift, even though it may take a mind a while to accept and appreciate that gift.  (Change!) I understand now that love always encourages, and encouragement always motivates when a mind is open. Excitement is contagious. Listening is a gift to a mind, from one person to another, and within ourselves and our many “voices” which echo so many memories which are there to cherish as we learn from them and expand them.

I love to think about poetry. When I read my brother’s poetry, for example, I am so taken with the images he creates, and I know his energy so well, that I feel we are holding hands or side by side as he is sharing these deepest of feelings and visions. The moments are timeless, as the words become visions. When I read Kathy’s poems, such as are in her book Sharing, I feel I’ve opened a window or door into a room where a conversation is in full swing, a song is being sung, sometimes with rain on the windowpanes, and always with the ocean of energy from which we come visible, absolute, and loving. Recently I read an early book of poems by Judy Hogan (Light Food). Her rhythmic expression in this book is tender, explorative, and expressive in a way which highlights a new-found level or images of love – with another, with and in Nature, and most of all, within herself. 

For my 18th birthday, so long ago, my boyfriend gave me a “book” of poems he’d written. They were beautiful, and there was much wisdom in them which I continued to learn from and appreciate for many years after. In one of them he finished, “let me be of you my summing up.” I read and re-read that line, and what it gave me was an understanding of how, when we love, we want to reflect the best of ourselves as we love each other. This is one expression of love. When I “miss the note” of harmony (love) in a moment, I miss the poetry! Trust love – the Spirit of us loves it!