Archive for February, 2014

Being Present

February 23, 2014

As I woke this morning, three little puffs of cloud – the only ones in the sky – were framed in the window at the foot of my bed. I lay watching them through the leaves of a night-blooming cereus plant, waiting for the sun to come up above the eastern hill and finish lighting the sky. The clouds seemed immovable, virtually unchanging in what is obviously a windless day. Then, just as the sun began to shine directly into the east window, the puffs merged into one larger pillow, rising up and out of my sight. When I got up to look for what remained of them, the white fluff had thinned and was disappearing against the lighted blue background of a clear morning sky.

I’ve reflected on snow, and last week on the howling wind. This morning of remarkable stillness seems to be a special invitation to stop and consider the hectic pace of my recent weeks, not only of work but in my private and inner life as well. Never one to rush into new situations, new relationships, I have been meeting three to five people (clients) a week, and getting to know them and their family members quite intimately. Drawn into helping them access services which will resolve serious problems they are facing, I am exposed to the challenges and rewards of life in a very personal way that reveals how nothing stands still, even when we feel as though nothing is changing.

First gifts

First gifts

Several small birds have appeared in my long picture widow, flitting around one juniper tree, and two neighbor dogs have just trotted into the pasture, sure to initiate a barking greeting from my ever-vigilant min-pin Doodles and his woolly poodle companion, Warrior. The sun now slants directly into the window at my side, forcing me to lower the shade in order not to be blinded. Small changes – an inch of rise of the sun, a flutter of birds – and the day has shifted. A contrast to the experience of focusing on a single issue – such as finding a job, or getting a driving license – when it can seem as though nothing changes day after day because the single object of focus and desire is not obtained.

One of the greatest gifts from my MasterPath instruction has been an increasing ability to notice the small differences and changes occurring during periods of waiting for some larger event. My Teacher speaks of the need for certain karmas (external situations) to exhaust themselves in our lives, stressing that spiritual growth need not be delayed until after XXX (I get sober, I am able to retire, I find a job). How one views one’s days and the way one approaches the occurrences of each day are both the means and the opportunity for growth. In that light, the AA injunction of “one day at a time” is an important reminder that life is lived, and changes evolve, not in some distant future, but here and now, day by day.

Wisdom of my Teacher

Wisdom of my Teacher

It seems as though my recent spiritual lessons have emphasized not just one day at a time, but one hour, sometimes one minute – bringing out how malleable time, or one’s perception of time – can be. I began with a comment about the hectic pace of my recent weeks, yet that pace only seems hectic when I look at how few days I’ve spent entirely at home, compared to pre-job weeks of days when I didn’t leave the house. If I count how many trips I’ve taken to different communities, how many new clients I’ve met, how much driving around the countryside has filled my recent weeks, I can feel as though there has been no time for me, no time to reflect, to write, to evolve. On the other hand, I remember that I noticed snow geese amongst the Canadians by the pond near town; watched a hawk catch a rabbit on the prairie outside Roy; learned more about Cameroon from stories shared during some of the longer drives; observed the relaxation of a tense body as a harried son who gave up his job last fall, to care full-time for his disabled mother, learned from me that he could have income within a month, being paid to provide that care. I remember these small moments, and time stretches.

Hectic, for me, is when I feel as though events have been rushing at me with no time to consider them, to notice details, to organize and structure experiences or – related to my new work – to prioritize what must be done. From that perspective, my commitment to myself to continue to post weekly is a commitment to limit the hectic pace the job could demand. At least once a week I must stop and reflect, and in this moment’s case, realize that I also stop and reflect frequently throughout each busy day. Noticing the geese, the hawk, the easing of tension are moments of reflection, of being present rather than reaching forward to an as yet non-existent future.

Only Canadians, no Snows

Only Canadians, no Snows

My mind has challenged the idea of being present with the moment when that moment is perceived as difficult, painful, scary or otherwise negative.

Why would one want to be fully present in a recent day of flu-induced aching and nausea? The lesson mind needed to learn was that during that day, other things were also occurring worth noticing, worth being present with. During that day, my one large dog, a retriever-cross named Blackjack, stayed on the porch and insistently close to me rather than spending his time as he usually does, out in the pastures. During that day, cotton tails appeared three separate times in the pasture. During that day one Christmas cactus put forth a single white flower, though the plant had never bloomed before.

On a recent day when I was physically exhausted but nonetheless had to drive 80 miles of winding roads on an urgent visit to a client, I was gifted to have a companion for the drive, and to receive the encouragement of expressed appreciation for my effort, from both the companion and from the client. I also saw multiple frozen waterfalls glued to rocks in the canyon through which I drove, and remembered and shared the story of a triple rainbow that had filled one field when I traveled that road in the past.

Little things to be present with. Little things which, accumulated, become large, become the frame and the tone and the import of each day. Again, my Teacher instructs that we are always free to choose what we give our attention to. Attention is food – what is fed grows. I choose to feed appreciation, present moments, what is. In such small steps, with present moments of attention, what can be is also fed, given form, and enabled to appear.

Baraka bashad.
Amen.
May the Blessings Be.

Letting the Wind Blow Through

February 15, 2014

A friend just mentioned he’d enjoyed my reflection on snow, bringing to mind the gorgeous silence of that recent morning, a stillness in dire contrast with the roaring, shaking, blustering, hollering wind blasting my home tonight. Gusts over sixty miles an hour have been hammering at us for five hours now; fortunately the general temperatures were warm enough today that the blasts are not unduly chilling. At least not chilling in temperature. But those who are made uncomfortable by wind can find our New Mexico spring weather intimidating. Tonight’s blasts are not unusual. A little early in the year perhaps, and lasting later into the night than normal, but very familiar nonetheless.

When I was fifteen I wrote a poem about standing up to wind, not a very good poem though the underlying thought was worth the effort. It had been triggered by standing on the edge of a precipice, at Les Baux in southern France. The town sits atop what here in the southwest we’d call a mesa, overlooking a broad plain called the Val D’Enfer. Reputedly the Dark Ages lords of Le Baux forced trader traveling through the valley to pay tribute – often exorbitant tribute – for safe passage, making the traversing of the plain a veritable descent into hell. My poetic effort attempted to recognize the strength it takes to stand up against a powerful wind, and the strength it took for travelers to risk passing near Les Baux.

I’d prefer more quiet tonight, to assure a better night’s sleep. It’s been a very long, productive but tiring day. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride… so says the adage that echoes in my mind wherever I let myself dwell on what isn’t. So instead, I’m using the blasting wind as a motivator to write this week’s post. We’ll have to see how the essay turns out! Smooth and slick, or choppy and irritating? The wind is both at once – will my essay mimic the wind, or express its essence?

“Love me, love me, say you do.
“Let me fly away with you.
“For our love is like the wind,
“And wild is the wind, the wind,
“Wild is my love for you.”

The most recent theory, from a study in Germany, of why older people take longer to respond to memory tasks, is not that ability fades with age but rather that there is so much more stored in an older person’s brain, it takes longer to sort through everything to find the relevant bit of information. I like that explanation, not just because it is more flattering. I like that explanation because it takes into account all the bits and pieces of song lyrics, like the one above, that pop out of the storage cabinet at mostly – but not always – appropriate times.

Say the word English, and I’m apt to begin quoting, “Her English is too good,” he said, “which clearly indicates that she is foreign. Whereas other people are instructed in their native language, English people aren’t.” And on and on, in Rex Harrison’s voice. I learned the entire performance of My Fair Lady when I was eight. Don’t ask me why, and don’t ask me why it’s still all there in the lumber yard storage of my brain.

That’s the term that was used, disparagingly, by the wave of neurologists who discarded “old” brain storage theories in favor of computer-link images that propose an entirely different set of rules for how our brains perform our thinking and memory functions. That new set of rules is the one that posited an eroding of capacity with age. One more reason I stand in opposition to all the supposedly “better” connectivity and computer-based emphasis of our “modern” world.

Inventors create a new toy and suddenly scientists see everything through the lens of that new technology. Wisdom of centuries is derided, practiced ways of relating to the world and to one another are treated as out-of-date. All theories, all explanations must fit the new paradigm.

Until a brave soul stands up and says “no” to forced conformity to what is new. Until a study from Germany says older brains are just as efficient as younger ones, but they have more data to process, more varied possibilities to consider, and so take longer to come up with answers. Until I suggest to a friend, who has been angered by a phone call wakening him at 3AM, that he can, in fact, turn his cell phone off when he wants to sleep.

What a novel idea to the ethos of today – to be disconnected!

In the midst of the wind storm, I am barraged with sound. Fortunately, I know the storm will pass and it will become quiet again. I really can’t conceive of living in the middle of a non-stop gale, any more than I can relate to those people who live constantly connected – mobile phone always on, always at hand, computer permanently turned on with multiple pages open, Youtube, Facebook, LinkedIn and Skype all demanding attention.

There are reasons to be available to others. If one is living far from home and family, computer connections bridge time zones and allow relatively inexpensive contact. The nature of my present job is such that I must be reachable in emergencies. That doesn’t mean all clients can call me twenty-four hours a day, however. They call a central, toll free number for triage. Only the true emergencies are put through to me in the late, or early, hours of a day.

Connectivity, like the wind, has its season. I do hope that before the passing of all those of us who have lived when (or where) there was not a phone in every home, those born to the age of connectivity will have tired of disrupted sleep and life in a fishbowl. I do hope for an opportunity to teach the continuing values of concentration, of solitude, of silence, of windless days and of attention to one thought, one person, one experience at a time.

*****

Awakening this morning, I first register the silence. The storm has passed, the wind abated. A new day, and new environment surround me. I appreciate the renewed quiet, the ability to focus inward before joining the network of souls who will make up my work day. And I’m happy to think that, now that a research study has been published which respects older brains, perhaps some of the thoughts and beliefs dwelling in those older brains will also be given new respect.

Wouldn’t that be a novel and pleasant experience!

A Snowy Contemplation

February 9, 2014

Have you noticed the unique silence that accompanies a fall of snow? The white blanket covering the ground somehow muffles ordinary noises of a country stillness, so that the world is – for a short time – truly quiet. I see birds at the feeder, fluffing themselves to shake dampness off their feathers, but they are not noisily jostling as they were yesterday. Even my dogs lie in, enjoying their heated porch rather than running barking at the rising sun.

From my Window

From my Window

Not much snow fell, not much more than a promise of wetness to our parched land. But the sky is still grey, except where the rising sun has broken through a cloud bank to paint a few slashes of peach and gold. Perhaps a few more drops will bless the earth from the clouds in the west. That is the direction our winter wetness comes in from. In summer it is often the reverse – systems stretch up from the gulf off Texas to give us summer rains. This past year, Texas did not share, and after a good start in late fall, the weather gods have chosen to send all the moisture either north of us into Colorado, or farther east where the blizzards and cold have caused major havoc.

Have you noticed how people’s temperaments are affected by the climates in which they dwell? It is an almost universal truth that cultures in hot, wet environments become gregariously noisy, even in Asian regions that one tends to think of as possessing a pattern of restraint. The silence of traditional Japanese people passing each other in public (it snows in Japan you know) is vastly different from the voluble street harangues of Vietnamese pedestrians in a country where the difference between hottest and coldest weather is less one of temperature than of moisture – monsoon season, or “dry” season when the humidity is perhaps 60% rather than 85%.

I knitted my first sweater in Saigon, when I was fourteen, and wore it twice on “cold” dry season days. Not days really suited to wearing a sweater, but I did so want to show it off. By the time I arrived in a cold enough climate to need a sweater, I’d outgrown it. A pretty dark cherry red pullover, with cap sleeves and a mini-turtleneck, the sweater went with me on to college and to Boston and eventually here to the desert, where I finally gave it to the daughter of a friend to be worn during what used to be our very coldest weeks of January. Used to be – it got down to 30 below at night and not much more than 5 for a daily high over at least a couple of weeks each January, even as recently as 20 years ago when I moved to my present home. For the past ten years, the night time temperature here has not dropped below minus 10, and the sun has warmed us comfortably every day. Pleasanter living than the mid-west’s polar experiences, but dire for our drought.

A snowplow has been by, and the school bus’ flashing lights indicate it has picked up my neighbor’s boys. I see cars making their way down the road that curves toward town, heading into the start of another workday. But still it is silent here around me, in a way only snow produces. It won’t last, neither the silence nor the snow, so I cherish it.

Have you noticed how people’s expressions of temperament change with their circumstances? A man courting a woman asks cautiously will she do this, would she help him to do that. Having won her, he issues orders – we will do this now, you must do that. The woman still has choices. She can simply agree, or she can learn in what way to express her own preferences so that she is heard. It is not significantly different in non-traditional relationships – we learn each other’s ways of being and how to express ourselves to influence the nature of the relationship. We learn how to help one another grow, and sadly, we also often learn how to block or stifle one another in an expression of frustrated, never-outgrown teenage envy.

Have you noticed how, entering a new relationship, there is a tendency to ask oneself, “Should I trust this person? How far? With how much of the truth about myself?” Past personal history of support or betrayal, extent of confidence in one’s self, willingness to risk, curiosity about different life styles, what a friend of mine simply calls open-mindedness, can all blend together into a force that shapes how a relationship develops. That is the common way.

How differently the issues of trust, of exploration and communication and growth of understanding unfold, if one considers a new relationship from the perspective of why the Divine ( God, or Fate, one’s Master, one’s karma, one’s wise inner self, or a Higher Power) “has brought this person and this experience to me at this time.” All the ambiguities of trusting in another person are released to the trust that we are alive for a reason, and that we can understand that reason, learning and thriving in our understanding.

Like the rare silence of a snow-covered early morning landscape, achieving an understanding of ourselves in relationship is a blessing. The moments of silence are brief; I woke early to enjoy them. The opportunities to intuit “what we’re here for” are also brief. I wake early to contemplate them.

The line of cars I see driving to work has warmed the thin snow covering on the road, and it is already turning to splashing slush. My big dog is out and barking to let the world know he has started his new day alertly. His two little companions romp patterns into the snow of my long, curving driveway. Outside, and in, the world is no longer silent. A new day of life has begun. What will I learn? What will I hear? What will I come to understand? What will I teach? What will I give, and what will I receive? Soon enough, I’ll have answers. Soon enough, too, I’ll have another opportunity to practice trusting that what is, is so, for a reason I may or may not be able to fathom. In trusting, I live. To cease trusting would be death – and I’m a long way from ready to die!

Across the Pasture Gate

Across the Pasture Gate

Another wave of snow clouds is sweeping in, flecks of white are drifting across the window. I will delay, just briefly, starting my own work day. Because I can do so, I choose to savor for a few moments more the regained silence (dogs still, birds quiet, no cars passing on the road), the blessing of extra drops of precious water, and another opportunity to consider why I am where I am, and for what inner purpose my outer life has taken on its latest form. Thank Thee, Master, for these gifts!

Friends

February 2, 2014

There is nothing intrinsic to my speaking French that excludes women.

There is something significant to the pattern of my friendships, which were primarily with males until I was well into my adult and professional life.

I had one close girlfriend as a small child – Sara Harwood – whose family moved away from Washington DC when I was about nine. I ran away ten blocks to her house after one particularly horrible encounter with my mother. Her mother sat me down with milk and cookies, listened to me, then called my home to say I was invited to spend the night with my playmate. The next day Sara’s mother drove me home. I have no idea what she said to my mother – but nothing changed in how I was treated.

I also played with a neighbor – Keith Fleming – until my family moved away from Washington DC when I was twelve. Keith had a wonderful playhouse her father had built in their back yard. We were both only children; neither of our families was comfortable with the other, limiting our interaction to the hours we spent building fantasy lives in the playhouse.

From the time we moved to Vietnam, as I turned thirteen, I was a loner – or had friends who were boys and, as I grew older, a sequence of boyfriends. I missed out on slumber parties. Not allowed to attend, and my mother steadfastly refused to take on responsibility for anyone else’s children so I never had friends over to visit in my home. Without the opportunity to reciprocate, I became uncomfortable spending time in other homes, reinforcing my loner path through my teens.

In the arms of the Leper King - Angkhor Wat

In the arms of the Leper King – Angkhor Wat

Undoubtedly the difficulties of life with my severely emotionally disturbed mother produced subtle bias against forming relationships with women. By contrast, I received affection from the one grandparent in my life – my Grampa – and at least intermittently from my father. Not surprising, therefore, that I was more comfortable with boys than with girls – and consequently not surprising that my memories from my French-speaking life are of interactions with males.

Overlooking Athens

Overlooking Athens

Not surprising either – perhaps – that for much of my early career I worked in male-dominated areas, encountering relatively few women from amongst whom to find friends. Clinical research in Boston, employment testing and then wildlife management planning in Santa Fe, then teaching in the New Mexico penitentiary… surrounded by men, in some cases the only female professional in the group. It wasn’t until I reached my mid-thirties that I developed close friendships with several women. Interestingly, they remain my friends today – thirty some years later. So once the barrier came down, friendships with both sexes became my norm.

Sivan at Mesa Verde

Sivan at Mesa Verde

Come to think of it, those first friendships with women had a common thread – all of us had had difficult relationships with our mothers. We were mature enough to not feel the need to vie, as teens so often do, for “who had it worst” (or best, or easiest). Absent that competitive tone, we could learn from each other and bond over our shared solutions to the psychological slings and arrows we had endured. Just a week ago, one of those friends commented to me that she’s always thought of me as sexy although she’d never mentioned the trait to me. I am surprised – it’s not at all how I think of myself, although I do enjoy and embrace that aspect of life. Reflecting on her remark, I realize that there is still a corner of my psyche that accepts my mother’s strictures against behaving improperly – i.e. in a sexual manner. And believe me, she saw sexual innuendo everywhere!

A meal with Leon at San Felipe

A meal with Leon at San Felipe

I don’t. And where I do see it, I am not offended nor embarrassed, nor do I think of myself as improper because I enjoy all aspects of my being. My female friends, I suspect, do the same, though that is not a subject we’ve found it necessary to discuss. Instead we talk about our careers, balancing personal with professional life. We share excitement over new endeavors, and commiseration over frustrated aspirations. And, with those who are, like me, followers of MasterPath, we share the outward manifestation of our inner spiritual discoveries.

It no longer seems to matter to me if a friend is male or female – the nature of the bonding remains the same. Shared values, interest in new aspects of life, finding ways to be useful and to be appreciated, these are my building blocks for any constructive relationship. I’m pleased to know that my early misdirection away from females has been overcome; now I just need to encounter some French-speaking women to bring full balance to my language-dictated relationships.

A happy Khin

A happy Khin


Neurodivergent Rebel

Rebelling against a culture that values assimilation over individuality.

Quartz

Quartz is a digitally native news outlet for the new global economy.

The Beauty Along the Road

Discovering Beauty in the small details of our lives

KURT★BRINDLEY

WRITER★EDITER★PRODUCER★CONSULTANT

Glitchy Artist

Screenshots of the Universe

Flowerwatch Journal

Notes on Traveling with Flowers

1eclecticwriter

Wide-Ranging Commentary

Spirituality Exploration Today

Delving into the cross roads of rationality and intuition

O' Canada

Reflections on Canadian Culture From Below the Border

smilecalm

Life through mindful media

San'in Monogatari

Legends, folktales, and anecdotes from Japan's San'in region

Immaculate Bites

African and Caribbean Recipes Made Easy

wild life weeks

your weekly nature and travel blog

Ray Ferrer - Emotion on Canvas

** OFFICIAL Site of Artist Ray Ferrer **

aka The Versatile

Food | Fashion | Lifestyle | Beauty | Finance | Fitness | Education | Product Reviews | Movies | Doodling | Poetess

Aging Abundantly | Women Over Fifty | Empty Nesters | Caregivers | Aging Gracefully

Finding Joy at Every Age with writer/philosopher Dorothy Sander

TIME GOES BY

Wide-Ranging Commentary

ARTZZLE

Helping with the Pieces in Life's Puzzle of Art and Design