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Wednesday, July 20, 2011, 10:31 PM
I've been away. Nearly all my family lives in New York-- my daughter, her husband and their boys, as well as my siblings and cousins and aunts--so every summer I journey north for a visit. I love spending time with family, and I enjoy the (somewhat) cooler weather, the culture, the food. There's never enough time to see everyone and do everything, so I always leave wanting more. But I also take a particular joy with me when I depart.
Much of that joy is given to me by my grandsons, Max, almost five, and Eli, almost one; I also spend time with other children, those of relatives and friends, and I come away with a renewed appreciation for the soul-nourishing vitality of childhood. Being with children, sharing their games and stories and dreams, is like imbibing the shrinking DRINK ME potion in Alice and Wonderland (which I watched with Max): one is suddenly made small, acutely attuned to the environment.
Much (arguably too much) has been made of the "inner child" everyone carries, but what I like most about being with children is the appearance of my outer child. When I am with Max, I play child games and talk in child voices, I eat (good) child food and keep child time. I get on my hands and knees, I hide under the covers, and I splash water out of the tub. In short, I live the sort of life otherwise long past, and it is exhausting and it is energizing and it keeps us close when we're apart.
Children are masters of the moment. They are almost always completely in the now, focused with mind, body and spirit on whatever they happen to be doing or wanting or being. Such an existence is not always pleasant--often enough there are tears, laments, consequences--but it is almost always fully engaging. How often, I ask myself, am I completely and fully engaged in my adult life? Sadly, not enough.
Life is brief, childhood briefer still. But moments of childhood are timeless, energetic connections of blood and love.
Wednesday, July 6, 2011, 12:57 PM
I am packing for a ten-day trip to New York to visit my daughter, grandsons and other family. I am excited to see them, especially since my youngest grandson, 10 months old, has grown so much since I saw him last at Christmas. (Thank the universe for video chats!) I am very happy to be taking this trip, but I do have to say preparing for travel takes its toll on me. Add to the arduousness of packing and finishing up tasks at home, my usual travel anxiety--will I get to the airport on time? will I forget anything? will the plane land safely? etc.--and the result is sleep difficulty.
Packing has always been time-consuming for me, and much thought goes in to choosing the right clothes and accessories for a variety of occasions as well as deciding what not to bring. (Should I pack a sweatshirt just in case or borrow one from someone up there?) I select clothes that I not only like but that will be comfortable and easy; then comes washing, ironing, folding/rolling, and arranging efficiently--well, you know. And then there are gifts to bring and airline weight and other considerations.
Today the thought occurred to me, what if I were packing my suitcase (it's a pretty big one) knowing I would never be able to return to the rest of my belongings; what would I choose? A silly game with myself, but also an attempt at self-awareness. What would I find out about what is important to me?
Turns out, I choose nothing. That is to say, I would take take whatever it is I would take anyway. Those include a tablet computer, crappy cell phone, cameras, and a bunch of light summer clothing. If I knew I wouldn't return I would take my best jewelry because it's small and valuable and sentimental. But I can live without or replace any possession. Nothing is truly important to me except people and experiences. That was not always the case. I adore having pleasing objects around me and I have spent a fair amount of time in my life thinking about and embellishing my nest.
Although I have divested myself of much "stuff" since I moved into a smaller house, my rooms are still filled with things--furniture and art and books and seashells and rocks and crystals and flowers and knick knacks--and I don't claim enlightenment. As I get older, I just do not need the kinds of things I once thought necessary: all those Christmas decorations, for example.
I am still not finished packing. But I know that whatever I bring or don't bring will be fine. I can let go of baggage anxiety. I am going to visit my daughter and sisters and we always share. (We don't mind shopping either.) The point is, my baggage is all good. I'm going home.
Today's link: Envirosacks. Great bags to have on hand!
Monday, July 4, 2011, 10:38 AM
Do you say a prayer before a meal? Before every meal? Just dinner? Just holidays? Do you give thanks, ask for blessings, recite something?
I don't, usually, though I keep meaning to do so. So let me say belatedly I give thanks to the universe for the other night's Ben & Jerry's Jimmy Fallon's Late Night Snack, featuring vanilla bean ice cream with swirls of caramel and chocolate-covered bits of potato chip. Yummy thanks.
I didn't need to eat ice cream, of course, though I could make an argument to the contrary. [Note to self: Have students practice persuasive writing by arguing in favor of--or against, if fools they be-- eating ice cream.] But eating it made me happy, and I am thankful.
But there is another reason, in addition to expressing gratitude, for saying words over a meal and that is to bless the food itself. In other words, ritual prayer is meant to fill food and drink with blessings --with grace--which one then imbibes. Such a ritual, as it turns out, may be more than superstition or symbol, especially when it comes to drinking water.
You see, according to the researh of Dr. Masuru Emoto, water can be affected on the molecular level by intentions and vibrations, including music and written messages. In 1999 Emoto published the first of several volumes of a work titled Messages from Water, essays and photographs of frozen water crystals that were imbued with 'words of intent'. Photgraphs of crystals of water containing a message of the symbol for the chi of love, for example, are beautifully symmetrical, while crystals from water containing words of hatred and anger are chaotic and unappealling.
Emoto's work was featured in the new-age documentary "What The Bleep Do We Know!?" He has been criticized for profiting from sales of water products purporting to contain healing properties, but his ideas and work remain compelling. After the recent tsunami and nuclear power disaster in Japan, Dr. Emoto began a world-wide positive intention campaign (seen on Facebook) for the waters of the Fukushima Daiichi plant. As I like to say, it can't hurt.
Sending focused positive energy to others certainly does good for the sender. We do reap what we sow. So I will send some good thoughts to the oceans, rivers and containers of water in the world, as well as to my next glass of water, and I will drink with gratitude.
PS: I figured out how to embed links. :-)
Sunday, July 3, 2011, 4:05 PM
For almost eight years, I have lived in Savannah, Georgia. I moved here from Atlanta, where I lived for twelve years, and to which I had moved from Long Island, NY, where I was raised. Having grown up on a long, narrow island surrounded by water, i have always been a "beach person." During my married years in Atlanta, I also became a "mountain person," as we spent a good deal of time in the North Georgia and North Carolina mountains beside rivers and creeks and waterfalls. Then, for the last six years in Atlanta, I lived on a lake fed by the Chattahoochee River. I had a little dock and a rocking chair and a garbage can filled with pellets to feed wild-pet ducks and catfish and turtles. I had a canoe and a kayak. So I remained connected to water.
Though Atlanta is land-locked, we took frequent trips to Lake Lanier and various beaches, whether a family vacation to the Caribbbean or Florida, a trip to Maui courtesy of my ex's job at Coca Cola, or a month each summer back up north, including a week in Montauk (which became the setting of my first novel), or my in-laws' house overlooking Gardiner's Bay on Shelter Island (the setting of my second novel). Listening to, gazing at, swimming in water is important to my spirit. To everyone's, I imagine. Water and the spirit are aligned.
Water is baptism, birth, rebirth, transformation in many traditions. Taoists say water takes on the form in which it is held. For the Greeks, water was a symbol of metamorphosis. For many native peoples water represents life.
After my divorce, I moved to Savannah partly because I wanted to live near the ocean again. Or, as I like to say, to live betwixt the ghosts (in the historic district) and the sea (off Tybee Island). I thought I would live as close as possible to the ocean (not all that close, as it turned out, but not a bad drive). The ocean nourishes my vitality, lights up my creativity, soothes my mind. I know I am not alone in this. The ocean compells most humans, it seems to me. For artists and scientists alike, the ocean is bewitching. It reflects sky. It is a repository of life forms. And it is a place where storms and waves gather and gain force.
The ocean inspires, feeds, begets and destroys. The ocean is trecherous and powerful: a heavenly grave. Water disasters seem, to me at least, to be occuring with more and more frequency. Hurricane Katrina, the Gulf Oil spill, flooding across the nation, and of course the tsunamis in Indonesia and Japan, resulting in the nuclear plant tragedy. Our oceans are dying as their temperatures rise, and the glaciers continue to melt. Then there are the droughts--the water shortages and crop failures and wildfires. What is happening to humanity's relationship to water?
The ocean calls to our blood, to the fluid in our bodies, and many women will tell you they can feel the moon affect them like a tide. In dreams, the ocean represents the unconscious. I dream about the ocean, and when I do, I am always at least partly happy. Shades of blue fill me with joy. The ocean connects the earth to the sky.
I spent yesterday at the ocean at North Beach on Tybee. It was my partner's birthday, and the day felt celebratory. Dolphins jumped and spun and splashed their tails against the water, not too far from the line of swimmers. A show for the human audience that oohed and aahed. At Tybee, in July, you can just walk into the ocean without much hesitation, it's that perfect. Refreshing, but warm. Yesterday the ocean was new-Cancer-moon gentle. I am grateful to live in a place where I can swim in a warm sea.
Today during meditation I had the thought that the mind is fluid, like the ocean. Like the ocean, it reflects, it creates, it destroys. The mind can move foreward and pull backward and swirl and collect and dilute and swell. And like the ocean, perhaps the mind can connect with other oceans, other minds. The collective unconscious, or perhaps the unconscious of other individuals (have you ever entered a partner's dream?), or perhaps the universe itself.
The mind is an endless sea.
Saturday, July 2, 2011, 10:04 AM
A number of years ago, my then seven year-old niece collapsed in church, was rushed to the hospital and diagnosed with a dangerous brain tumor. My brother and family were stunned and frightened, and we turned, as people in such situations do, to medicine and spirituality. While Natalie's doctors operated on her brain, my family solicited prayers, intentions, and energy from people all over the world; my own requests were aimed primarily toward the Zoetrope on-line writers group (one of the first and longest-lasting social networks). Natalie recovered completely and is now a lovely, healthy teen-ager. I am very grateful to her doctors, but I don't discount the power of combined positive vibrations aimed at her from all directions.
I have long been fascinated, in a somewhat scattered way, about the connections between the physical and the spiritual, the emotional and the material, in particular the ways in which positive or negative emotions affect health and relationships. I keep a copy of Louise Hay's Heal Your Body at hand, and I look up underlying causes and affirmations for ailments.
A few years ago, I became a reiki master. I believe that focused energy and hands-on healing can be profoundly therapeutic, and I found the ritual attunements to be spiritually uplifting. I use reiki in my daily life.
My reiki trainer used crystals during my attunement; I also collect crystals, for their aesthetic appeal as well as their various vibrations and properties. I keep crystals around the house and garden, and I use them in focused healing from time to time.
Pagan and native rituals for seeking enlightenment or spirit-remedies are another of my interests. Through a variery of traditions and approaches, focused intention is the key to spiritual and sometimes physical transformation.
Though I practice meditation and follow basic Buddhist philosophy, I was raised a Catholic and still sometimes recite Catholic prayers. I take a rather eclectic, integrated approach to spirituality, as do a number of people I know. As the world shrinks and the planet itself is in peril, an open-minded, open-hearted approach to peace and health seems called for.
One thing I can say about positive, focused thinking, whether one name it prayer or meditation, intention or white light, it can't really hurt! Scientists may argue whether time is an absolute, two dimensional, or an illusion, but the experience of a human life is brief by any measure; why waste any of it feeling bad if there is another way?
Today's link: Louise Hay html_removed http://www.louisehay.com/about-louise/
Friday, July 1, 2011, 11:00 AM
We have all heard of the mind-body connection, but what is it, really, and how can an ordinary person develop a healthy awareness of its subtleties?
Imagine you are a young woman in your twenties who has recently gone through a romantic break-up. You are someone who harbors deep fears about dying from cancer. In the weeks following the break-up, you are besieged by negative emotions: you miss your boyfriend, you feel unlovable, you blame yourself, you are afraid you will never find love. A mole on your skin starts to bother you. It gets bigger and begins to hurt. You go to the doctor and your worst fear is confirmed.
Have you given yourself cancer? Have your negative emotions and deep-seated fear somehow activated the cells in the mole? Isn't this kind of thinking counter-productive, to say the least? Not only did your negative thinking (possibly) make you sick, now you hate yourself for hating yourself, a truly vicious cycle.
How can that cycle be broken? This is a question I think about often. How can one go from being her own worst enemy to her own best friend? There would seem to be a simple answer--love yourself--that is however less than simple to achieve. Too easily, such advice can flip into the realm of blame: you didn't love yourself enough, you brought bad upon yourself, you failed.
Is the idea that we have any control over what happens to us mere wishful thinking? Is The Secret, for example, merely a New Age twist on the Puritan Ethic: a singular focus on the hard mental work necessary to achieve personal salvation?
There is a good deal of evidence to support the idea that our minds affect our physical beings, and vice versa, but I believe that connection is a part of a much larger, highly complex set of connections--with the environment, with other beings, with the universe. How does a lay person who is not a psychologist or a neuro-biologist or a shaman sort it all out?
This is what I will be thinking out loud about in this journal over the next month. I'll also share links of interest.
For today, have a look at a Psychology Today blog which argues that the mind-body dichotomy is a flawed construct: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/shift-mind/201001/beyond-the-mind-body-connection