Thursday, December 25, 2008

Silence and Me: Seeking the Sea

Poem Thirty-One

Silence is the sea, and speech is like the river.
The sea is seeking you: don't seek the river.
Don't turn your head away
from the signs offered by the sea.
Mathnawi IV, 2062-2063

[I have been seeking silence lately because she's a willing partner who leads me through my mind's whirlwind to peace: a welcome relief to sit with her and share burdens only I can shed from my heart. She understands.]

Poem Forty

Don't hide your heart but reveal it,
So that mine might be revealed,
And I might accept what I am capable of.
Mathnawi I, 2682

Saturday, December 20, 2008

expand the belly, rib cage and chest

Focus on the breath.
Expand the belly, the rib cage and the chest.

Notice where you feel relaxed and tense in the body. There’s nothing wrong with tension, but expand a feeling of ease into the areas of the body with stored pain, mental and physical.

Focus on the breath.
Expand the belly, the rib cage and the chest.
Open the heart.
Bow the head to show respect to the wisdom of the heart.

I'm practicing yoga again.

Saturday, December 06, 2008


“Do what you will with me.”
is a line from Alexis Harte's song by the same name on the CD Junebug.

When I think of trust, playful lust, emotional safety in romantic relationships, respect between lover and loved, and damn pleasing sex, that line says volumes in six words.

People fornicate for hundreds of reasons.

1. They want to forget an ex-lover and banish pain from their hearts.
2. They want bodily pleasures with no strings attached to responsibility for their lover’s state of mind.
3. They’re drunk and a naked opportunity arises in their hands.

But, to give yourself over to another in trust, allowing him to do what he will with your body and mind is earthy, sexy, and oozes the context I am looking for when I am pleased from head to toe.

Therapist and author Mary Pipher, who I wish were my mentor, opened a channel of self-awareness in her book Writing to Change the World. I realized after I read a paragraph in her book that in order to reach the level of trust where I can tell my lover: "Do what you will with me,” I must observe and practice this truth.

“Unacknowledged emotions do not disappear. They fester. Ignoring dark emotions leads to addiction or violence (or regret). In fact, most of the truly rotten behavior in the world comes from running away from feelings.”

Don’t run away. When I don't run, egos will disappear in a state of grace, so I am able to follow the flow and soar.

"...the process is right, and the neurons are snapping, so ideas will burst forth."

Monday, December 01, 2008

Three Day Beard: How would you re-write the song?

I heard the song “It’s a Great Day to be Alive” on my way to school, and thought, “Heck yes! If I were a man, I would grow a Fu Man Chu too.” Getting a new tattoo and cruising for three days on a Harley are avenues to happiness for some. I, however, would re-write the song’s lyrics as follows:

Well I might go get me a new tattoo
or take my old Harley for a three day cruise,
might even grow me a Fu Man Chu...
Oh Aww!

My Revisions:

Well might go get me a plane ticket to paradise
Or take my sweetest buddy on a trek through Peru
Might even grab me a fellow and dance the tango
A fellow who has a Fu Man Chu.

(A visual is provided from Google Images although he is not THE fellow I plan to grab. In fact, I do not know this man.) Does he resemble an archetype of evil criminal genius floating around in the lyrics of a red neck country western song?

I am curious. What words would you use to express the sentiment that it's a great day to be alive? Don't be shy because it's your turn. Let the inner song writer emerge.

Side Note: I was reading about the racial stereotyping of the Fu Man Chu character, but his mustache is one of his defining characteristics. I think it is interesting how a country western singer, Travis Tritt, uses this reference to a style of mustache as something that he wants to grow on his face when he is feeling high on life. Tritt also wants to go unshaven when he's feeling fine. Perhaps for Travis Tritt, altering his facial hair is a sign of shaking off societal conformity and expressing his own inner creativity. As a woman, it is difficult to empathize with growing facial hair on a great day. We usually pluck ours.

My favorite parts of the original song are below.
Artist/Band: Travis Tritt – It’s A Great Day to be Alive

Got a three day beard I don't plan to shave
And it's a goofy thing but I just gotta say
Hey I'm doing alright

Feelin’ pretty good and that's the truth
It's neither drink nor drug induced
No I'm just doin’ alright

Now I look in the mirror and what do I see?
A lone wolf there starin’ back at me
Long in the tooth but harmless as can be
Lord I guess he's doin’ alright

Sometimes it's lonely:
Sometimes it's only me
and the shadows that fill this room
Sometimes I'm fallin’
Desperately callin’
Howlin’ at the moon...

Well I might go get me a new tattoo
or take my old Harley for a three day cruise,
might even grow me a Fu Man Chu...
Oh Aww!

And it's a great day to be alive.
I know the sun's still shinin’ when I close my eyes.
There are some hard times in the neighborhood.
But why can't every day be just this good?

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Every Day: An Opportunity for New Beginnings

Treat every day as a new beginning.

If you need a break from winter weather, open to life's mystery with openhearted abandonment, and enjoy the support of community members who envision a more peaceful world, explore volunteer opportunities at Kalani on the big island of Hawaii.

I highly recommend the sunsets, black sand beach, clothing optional hot tub and vegetarian food. Here’s my plug for a lush slice of paradise.

Aloha to Health, Wellness, Forgiveness, Compassion, Kindness and New Beginnings.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

It’s Time

What time do you have?

“Time heals what reason cannot.” - Seneca
“One should count each day a separate life.”

“They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” - Andy Warhol

My personal favorite:

“There is no great genius without some touch of madness.”

Perhaps that gives me an excuse for disregarding the clock, often to my own demise. Thank you Seneca.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What does life mean to you?

Mental Negotiations

I have always been interested in how the mind negotiates with reality, fantasy, hallucination, desire and dreams, but I usually approach my fascination from a literary standpoint. After I read Roger Ebert’s review of the film “Synecdoche, New York," I realized I needed to see that film. Ebert spells out how life is supposed to work in his review, yet the hollowness of his definition echoes down the hallway of my doubts and uncertainties: Shouldn’t there be more to this entity that human beings narrowly define as life? I feel as if I don't get anywhere when I ask the question, but at the same time I can't escape the pondering.

“Synecdoche, New York"
(excerpts from a November 5, 2008 film review by Roger Ebert that enticed me to the theater)

Here is how life is supposed to work. We come out of ourselves and unfold into the world. We try to realize our desires. We fold back into ourselves, and then we die… The job, the name, the race, the gender, the environment, all change. The human remains pretty much the same.

Here is how it happens. We find something we want to do, if we are lucky, or something we need to do, if we are like most people. We use it as a way to obtain food, shelter, clothing, mates, comfort, a first folio of Shakespeare, model airplanes, American Girl dolls, a handful of rice, sex, solitude, a trip to Venice, Nikes, drinking water, plastic surgery, child care, dogs, medicine, education, cars, spiritual solace -- whatever we think we need. To do this, we enact the role we call "me," trying to brand ourselves as a person who can and should obtain these things.

In the process, we place the people in our lives into compartments and define how they should behave to our advantage. Because we cannot force them to follow our desires, we deal with projections of them created in our minds. But they will be contrary and have wills of their own. Eventually new projections of us are dealing with new projections of them. Sometimes versions of ourselves disagree. We succumb to temptation -- but, oh, father, what else was I gonna do? I feel like hell. I repent. I'll do it again. Hold that trajectory in mind and let it interact with age, discouragement, greater wisdom and more uncertainty.

Charlie Kaufman is one of the few truly important writers to make screenplays his medium. David Mamet is another. That is not the same as a great writer (Faulkner, Pinter, Cocteau) who writes screenplays. Kaufman is writing in the upper reaches with Bergman. Now for the first time he directs.

It is obvious that he has only one subject, the mind, and only one plot, how the mind negotiates with reality, fantasy, hallucination, desire and dreams.


[Synecdoche: A form of the metaphor in which the part mentioned signifies the whole.]

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I have nearly finished reading the book The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami (less than 50 pages of the 609 remaining). In addition to making me miss the neighborhoods of Tokyo, I am stunned by Murakami’s ability to capture the haphazard uncertainty, displaced sense of reality, disjointed spontaneity and humanity’s disconnectedness boiling brain recipe of fate and free will in each of the character’s movements through a thick paste of internal monologues, which become a large part of the setting.

The characters forced me to examine demons churning around in my own glob of energy- subconscious and conditioned responses- and ask myself the question: How does my free will intertwine itself around the thick and viable vine of fate swinging me for a ride in the night sky?

All of these questions. And where was that damn cat, Noboru Wataya, for an entire year?

I want to write the screenplay for this book. If I had only one scene to compose, it would be Lieutenant Mamiya’s story. Mamiya is a World War II vet who tells Toru, the book’s hapless hero, of the atrocities he witnessed on the Mongolian front including the skinning of his companion from shoulder to groin.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

pineapple-juicy groovy

Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes, Yes

countdown turned on to affirmatives

pineapple-juicy groovy

clothing-optional sunshine sweet

coqui frog-croaking dinner bell

and stars in my purr

I’m squishy with possibilities
in the Kingdom of Yes.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Where is your center?

I love the idea of restoring my life for balance and settling my day with meditation. I want to be aware of the powerful crouch of my cat while he waits for goldfinches to perch on dried coneflowers to nibble the seeds. I want to see the cotton candy gray clouds violating the blue optimism of the sky with threats of assault. I want to notice my world, rotate my tires and roll evenly through the world with eyes wide open.

November 14, 2008 - Tricycle's Daily Dharma

Settle Your Day

It is not merely enthusiasm that erodes when practice declines. Your body and mind can go out of tune. You are no longer a vessel of insight. The cardinal can sing; the wind can move the ironwood trees delicately; a child can ask a wise question--and where is your center? How can you respond? It is time to put yourself back in tune, to be ready for experiences that make life fulfilling. Take up the advice for beginners. Put your zazen pad somewhere between your bathroom and your kitchen. Sit down there in the morning after you use the bathroom and before you cook breakfast. You are sitting with everyone in the world. If you sit only briefly, you will have at least settled your day.

-Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words

from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

Thursday, November 13, 2008

assert your voice

I am reviewing assertive communication styles for my midterm exam, and I know positively that this is the style I want to add to my intellectual wardrobe.

An assertive communication style is:

appropriate to the situation;
responsive to my own best interests;
resisting of coercion;
AND, best of all

results in helping me build healthy, constructive relationships.

my journey: the catalyst

Catalyst to Dreams

My fellow reader Greg, who is also an intensely missed conversation partner of mine, is currently teaching at the American University in Cairo. Jim is jetting off for spiritual growth in India, and I am preparing for my body, mind and soul re-fueling mission. I’ve purchased the airline ticket, contacted fellow travelers who will be there as well, and I daily whip my body back into swimsuit shape.

Ms. Body is ever so grateful for her chance to shine and serenades me daily in appreciation for the cardio and fat-burn sessions. “Push me harder,” are three of her favorite words. “Feel the burn," she hums in delight as I peel off my sweat-soaked sports bra and toss it into my gym bag.

As I prepare for the trip, I ruminate on Barbara Coloroso’s words, which simplify my life and make my ethical decisions easier to execute in my relationships with others.

“Don’t manipulate another person’s behavior. Positively influence and empower others to be successful, to feel confident, to identify what they need in order to feel safe and secure in their world. Be a catalyst for their sense of self-discovery. “

That’s how I want to see myself today.

I am a catalyst for my own sense of self-discovery.

This leads me to a place where I am ready to cooperatively explore creativity and empowerment with others.

Monday, November 10, 2008

wet, slick and relaxed...

Anger Management in the Sauna at 80 Celsius

I have discovered that I have almost no anger or frustration festering in my mind and body after a cardio workout followed by weight lifting and about 20-25 minutes in an 80 degree Celsius sauna. Let’s hear it for sweat- slippery, slick and sexy! There isn’t any space left for negativity in my pores after that experience.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

forgiveness, feeling safe and letting go

Forgiveness is a tolerance of mistakes, the ability to forgive each other for defections. Everyday acts of forgiveness among people who know each other in the real world are incredibly common.

1. Human beings forgive people who make them feel safe. To forgive we must know that the offender can't and won't harm us again. (Personally, I have found this to be painfully true. If I don't feel safe, I can't forgive.)

2. We are prone to forgive if the relationship has value to us. It is easier to forgive than to destroy the relationship and start over again. (As much as I value a relationship, if I don't feel safe, I can't trust. Since trust is the essential ingredient for forgiveness, safety is the key to everything.)

3. If we want to forgive, we need to have a conversation with the person who harmed us. The conversation should be about reassurance that safety can be restored in the relationship. It's important to talk about practicing behavior that will restore respect. This conversation can get messy and emotional, and the hard work starts after the conversation ends as people begin to re-establish trust once again. "Forgiveness is a brawny muscular exercise that someone with a passion for life should take on," according to Michael McCullough.

4. So much of forgiveness is about interacting with the person who hurt us and seeing him or her in a different light. Without this interaction and discussion, forgiveness is more difficult.

From NPR Speaking of Faith, November 9, 2008, "Getting Revenge and Forgiveness"

Synopsis of the program: Michael McCullough, Director of the Lab for Social and Clinical Psychology at the University of Miami, describes science that helps us comprehend how revenge came to have a purpose in human life. At the same time, he stresses, science is also revealing that human beings are more instinctively equipped for forgiveness than we've perhaps given ourselves credit for. Knowing this suggests ways to calm the revenge instinct in ourselves and others and embolden the forgiveness intuition.


Buddha is not a personal name and the concept is NOT a man.

"Buddha" is not a personal name; it is a title, meaning "awakened," "enlightened," and "evolved." A Buddha's enlightenment is a perfect omniscience. A Buddha's mind is what theists have thought the mind of God [or the human mind at its height of perfection] would have to be like, totally knowing of every single detail of everything in an infinite universe, totally aware of everything--hence by definition inconceivable, incomprehensible to finite, ignorant, egocentric consciousness.

- Robert A.F. Thurman, Essential Tibetan Buddhism

Saturday, November 08, 2008

say NO to censoring the arts

Be it wholesome Christians, pure Muslims, pious Hindus or missionary Mormons, followers of diverse gods, goddesses, prophets and so-called saviors of the human soul fight for their right to censor artists in the name of the crusade. I ask you this question: Is an $11 million dollar reward for anyone's head really necessary?

excerpt from The New York Times online, October 8, 2008
"An Artist in Exile Tests India’s Democratic Ideals"

Mr. Husain [the painter of the naked Hindu goddess above] is a Muslim who is fond of painting Hindu goddesses, sometimes portraying them nude. That obsession has earned him the ire of a small but organized cadre of Hindu nationalists. They have attacked galleries that exhibit his work, accused him in court of “promoting enmity” among faiths and, on one occasion, offered an $11 million reward for his head.

end note:

I read in the November 1, 2008 issue of the Economist today that the Red Cross predicts that at least 17.5 million people may face starvation in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia. Where are our priorities people?

Who stole the cement elf?

Note to a Thief

My mother lives in speck on the map community in the middle of the United States- visualize corn, soybeans, and rural gossip- and one community tool that keeps the 5,226 people in town informed and united is a news/advertiser published every Wednesday. Inside the pages of this newspaper, readers discover who is selling a John Deere lawn tractor for $500, who will be having garage sales on Friday or Saturday afternoons, and what the special of the week is going to be at the local pizza place: a mini pizza and iced tea for $4.00 on Thursday.

In the Wednesday, November 5, 2008 edition of this newspaper, the following note to a thief appeared.


To whoever took our keepsake cement elf from our backyard in Dakota City, if not satisfied with it, please bring it back or send a thank you note!

H. & D. Dale
20 4th. St. So.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Two Random Thoughts

Two Disconnected Thoughts

1. I attempt to run away from cool temperatures and chilly winds. It’s true. I run because the cold hurts my skin, and when I breathe the nippiness into my lungs, I want to escape, so instinct urges me to run. I am certain that in my past lives I have not been exposed to bitter cold, snow or the wind’s chill, so I run. Do you run?

2. For those of you who were bullied in elementary, middle or high school, you might appreciate these research findings. According to the findings by Ballard, Argus & Remley, 1999 and Dunn in 2001, “Bullying is an early predictor of lifelong antisocial tendencies, often leading to criminal activities.”
Perhaps that unruly bully who made you pee your pants is now behind bars frittering away slow moving hours and bullying other prisoners.

Monday, November 03, 2008

what to tell inquiring minds about the Buddha

People often ask me to define Buddhism for them, and I can't do it. This lack of a clear, clean agreed upon definition of the practice is the reason I enjoy what Buddhism has to offer me; Everyone must interpret it individually. This means that people are required to think, actively engage with the text, and make their own decisions about the teachings.

Today, however, I found a passage that will help me explain why I practice.

Depending on which part of Buddhism you grasp, you might identify it as a system of ethics, a philosophy, a contemplative psychotherapy, a religion. While containing all of these, it can no more be reduced to any one of them than an elephant can be reduced to its tail.

--Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism Without Beliefs

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Miss U and her crazy umbrella

LJ - Journal Entry 6
Phonological Awareness
Unit 3 – November 2, 2008

Childhood is where an appreciation or disgust for letters all starts, and my love of language, literature and poetry today is partly due to Miss U and my alphabet book.

I remember the alphabet book that I made in first grade. I loved each of the 26 cartoon characters in that book with their individual personalities and bright colors. Miss U was an umbrella, and she had a rather reserved personality that I crafted in my head. Miss U was never wet, but rather shy and standoffish from the other letters, using her umbrella as a social shield. Mr. R and his arsenal of rubber bands was a rude dude who would pull each rubber band taut and fire it at the back of the other letters’ heads. Ouch, Miss U squeaked when she felt a sting near her hairline.

Each phoneme was more than a sound for me. Sounds, letters, words and books merged into a rich mosaic that flew off the page and interacted with my own internal emotional dialogue. Words were contextualized through my school’s reading program because I could imagine myself singing with each letter, creating joyous rhymes for our secret entertainment as we marched around my bedroom. By allowing each letter to personally shine, the letters were friends. Words united with visuals to blend the medley of literacy skills into thoughts inside of my head that organized my world. I loved it.

Even now when I read about building phonological awareness in children, I substituted my name in “The Name Game” song.


Lori, Lori bo Bori
Bonana fanna fo fori
Mee my mo Mori, Lori!

I don’t remember my teachers having any influence on my adoration of rhyme and word play, which leads me to believe that I was a devotee of literacy and linguistics when my father’s sperm met my mother’s egg. Even today, as I write a poem or compose a sentence in my journal, I recognize the pleasure of separating words into syllables to create a rhythm to my work, blending sounds into words that cause surprise or disbelief, and selecting words that start with the same sound to soothe or annoy my readers.

There is no stopping a true reader and writer.

Linda Hogan had this advice for writers, and I think she is correct: “If someone is going to be a writer, they'll be a writer no matter what they do. I don't think I have any advice. I used to think I did, but if somebody loves to write they will be a writer.”

Saturday, November 01, 2008

I could never see the Big Dipper and so what...

I never want to look for the damn Big Dipper because the sky is calling me. I would much rather appreciate the wholeness of the night twinkles, the chill in the autumn air and the sound of my companion's voice as we discuss life and our place in it. I'm glad I'm not looking for the Big Dipper because I would much rather experience the mindful whole.

Perception and Mindfulness

When perception is stronger than mindfulness, we recognize various appearances and create concepts such as "body," "cat", "house," or "person". . .

On some clear night, go outside, look up at the sky, and see if you can find the Big Dipper. For most people that is a familiar constellation, easy to pick out from all the other stars. But is there really a Big Dipper up there in the sky?

There is no Big Dipper up there. "Big Dipper" is a concept. Humans looked, saw a certain pattern, and then created a concept in our collective mind to describe it. That concept is useful because it helps us recognize the constellation. But it also has another, less useful effect. By creating the concept "Big Dipper" we separate out those stars from all the rest, and then, if we become attached to the idea of that separation, we lose the sense of the night sky's wholeness, its oneness. Does the separation actually exist in the sky? No. We created it through the use of a concept.

Does anything change in the sky when we understand that there is no Big Dipper? No.

--Joseph Goldstein, "Insight Meditation" from Everyday Mind

Friday, October 31, 2008

beware of red heads and mafia angels

written by LJ on October 31, 2008

Beware of Red Heads and Angels in Concrete Cowboy Boots

I feel moronic and heavy as if there is a misguided angel wearing cement cowboy boots sitting on my shoulder. Wouldn’t you know it? That’s the angel who would find me. He’s perturbed because his wings are out of service. Angel and I survey the landscape of humanity through a hole in the clouds, but he won’t talk about his mafia past, so I explain to him that I’m passionately drawn to the cocky redhead glowing above all the other men in the shuffle below. Alas, the redhead doesn’t acknowledge my distant wave. I try again extending both arms over my head and fluttering my fingers in what I hope is a Marilyn Monroe mid-air gyration, but he instinctively turns his shadow to my face.

Although I want him to join us on cloud 10, and I’m willing to boost him up to our level, I realize that I cannot NOT demand the minimum of what I require from his appealing form and electric intellect. Hot as a passionate desire can shout fornicate, a woman needs what a woman needs.

For me, communicating exclusively online is the kingdom of the socially retarded and the interpersonally deformed, so I wondered as the days passed if we would ever speak on the phone. The age-old question a modern woman phrases in a contemporary fashion goes something like this: Is he ever going to ask for my phone number and actually use it or am I deluding myself into thinking he is interested?

I started to see myself as an online cartoon character virtually grinning and strumming the alphabet song for his amusement, an animated figure he could dress up in outrageous red miniskirts that weren’t my style, clad in black leather hooker boots that hurt my feet: adding a sway to my hips at the touch of his mouse. I cried out to be real. I wanted to wear my blue jeans with a small hole in the buttocks. Couldn’t he hear me?

In her world, he was unwilling to break through the screensaver and hold the hand of a Midwestern girl who naively wanted to know him, desperately wanted to ask a million questions about what was churning around in his brain, from the mundane to the colossal, nothing about him was insignificant to that girl.

So much for building a mending wall; dismantling the barricade of mistrust cemented around her feet and rising to her navel. A redheaded masculine tone of voice exuding carbon dioxide was out of her environmental reach.

What does she do when she doesn’t see the eyes of the man on the other end of the Internet connection? She remembers them as being blue. She doubts his intentions and wonders if he’s an online super freak, that boy is super freaky. She hopes that isn’t the case but online communication compounds her distrust.

The red haired boy slips outside the circumference of the cloud peephole at the same instant Angel spots the man who designed his concrete boots. “That son of a bitch,” Angel hisses as his story begins.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

inspire those around you

In a high school English class, I worked with students on a tribute poem about Twister the stub-tailed dog, best friends and a mother diagnosed with colon cancer. I was surprised how their language seemed stuck in high school slang- hung out and chilled- and common word usage. We spoke about expanding their vocabulary and about how selecting the exact word to convey a specific meaning was critical in a poem because the poet has so few words to work with.

Teaching for me is not only about monitoring and assessing, it's about making secondary students aware of the potential clout and force of the words they select to sway their reader, giving them the influence to make their audience sob blood or to cause a stoic heart to beat to the time of the arrhythmia of their word choice. They need to know that it’s their voice, fluency and grace that blends words together to make meaning in the world.

Oral and written language are important for secondary students because they will soon be launched into the adult world where words are power; literacy and comprehending what they read affect the choices they make and these choices contribute to collective empowerment or collective ignorance of tiny communities and throbbing nation-states. Without words, who are we? How do we as teachers instill this love and awe of words into our secondary students' writing habits?

sadly, youth makes a whore of beauty

Excerpt from “Meeting Elise” in the collection of short stories by Nam Le in The Boat
Sadly, youth makes a whore of beauty.

Don’t get me wrong, I like kids- Olivia was thirty years younger than me. I even wanted to have some with her. The problem is there are just too many of them. You can’t throw a brick on this island without concussing one. I wish I had more restraint. But I can’t help but hate how they look at me, how they don’t look at me. I hate their interchangeable bodies, their mass-rehearsed attitudes, their cars that look like boxes, like baseball caps, like artificial enlargements, their loud advertising, their beeps and clicks and trings, I hate how they speak words as though they’re chewing them, how they assume the business of the world revolves around them- how they’re right- and how everywhere this cult of youth, the pedamorphic dumbing-down, has whored beauty- duped, drugged, damaged, pixilated it and everywhere turned it to plastic.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

i am at peace with the way things are

[Being at peace with the way things are leads us to peace.]

Scratching the Itch

It is hardest to cure a disease when the medicine we take itself causes the disease. We scratch the itch, and the scratching only makes it worse, we try to quench our thirst by drinking salt water, and we make ourselves thirstier. This is what happens when we believe that the only way to end desires is to fufill them. A different and liberating insight dawns when we begin to pay attention to this powerful energy in our lives.

-Joseph Goldstein, Insight Meditation

from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith

Sunday, October 19, 2008

just grandma

From: The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

(A Tribute to Grandmothers Everywhere)

And , yeah, my grandmother was smart and kind and traveled to about 100 different Indian reservations, but that had nothing to do with her greatness.

My grandma’s greatest gift was tolerance.

Now, in the old days, Indians used to be forgiving of any kind of eccentricity. In fact, weird people were often celebrated.

Epileptics were often shamans because people just assumed that God gave seizure-visions to the lucky ones.

Gay people were seen as magical too.

I mean, like in many cultures, men were viewed as warriors and women were viewed as caregivers. But gay people, being both male and female, were seen as both warriors and caregivers.

Gay people could do anything. They were like Swiss army knives!

My grandmother had no use for all the gay bashing and homophobia in the world, especially among other Indians.

“Jeez,” she said. “Who cares if a man wants to marry another man? All I want to know is who is going to pick up all the dirty socks?”

Of course, ever since white people showed up and brought along their Christianity and the fears of eccentricity, Indians have gradually lost all of their tolerance.

Indians can be just as judgmental and hateful as any white person.

But not my grandmother.

that space between the legs

Dangerous Spaces
Chicas, they are a distraction from the important things, and as Luis says, sometimes to go between the legs of a chica is more dangerous than walking under a bridge in a strange barrio.

The Boat, “Cartagena” by Nam Le

As Lori says, the same is true for going between the legs of a boy.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I heard something uplifting today.

The Gaelic language has about 14 words for love and hardly any words for hate.

BBC News podcast from 14 Oct. 08

Why can't we simply be nicer to each other? Would you rather be a novel or a poem? Think about it.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Where is Hercules?

What are heroes made of?
[Warning: a nursery rhyme stereotyping the sexes will appear.]

What are little boys made of?

Snips and snails and puppy dogs' tails.
That's what little boys are made of.

What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice and all things nice.
That's what little girls are made of.

Psyche's House

Ancient heroes from the neighborhood
gather at the corner pub
trading narcissistic strategies
for escape from the siren songs
too eerie to ignore.

Despite Tiger Balm and Tylenol
rubbed and guzzled with pints of golden calories-
it's impossible to turn Helen's head
and launch anew
odyssey at dawn.

Universal Achilles' heels ache in unison.

The Graces failed in their mission:
Outwit Three Fates, or else…
Belly up to the bar boys,
and totter home tipsy.

Hollow victories haunt Psyche's house.
Where's Hercules when you need him?

-LJ, Sept. 2008

Escape Artist

Collapse of the World Order

Rubrics escaped the classroom today
and went wild on spring break.

Each level of performance,
trapped neatly in an isolated square,
sprang off the page-
hit the ground running.

Hooking up with Scrabble bums and
mingling with synonyms of defiant.

Can you imagine?
No more performance anxiety.

The rubric provides those doing the assessment with exactly the characteristics for each level of performance on which they should base their judgment.

The rubric provides those who have been assessed with clear information about how well they performed.

The rubric also provides those who have been assessed with a clear indication of what they need to accomplish in the future to better their performance.

-LJ, Sept. 2008

What does karma mean?

I'm reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and it reinforces a message I find hard to hear. People do things to hurt others, and once the damage has been done- the pain inflicted, the torture experienced, verbal arrows released- it is too late. Throbbing memories fade and discolor, but the sharpness of the poke, the insult, the dirty deed remains like a stain at the bottom of a coffee cup: brown and scummy. It does not vanish no matter how much we wish to start over, begin again. Every action affects others, touches lives.

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a little seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: "Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain." Similarly he said: "Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel." Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed "by time, fire, or water." Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying from Everyday Mind


I had beans and rice for breakfast this morning while I was secretly desiring pancakes.

Carnal Cakes

Abstract pancake lover
syrup and honey sweet on the tongue
whet my appetite
with cake-like, crepe thin thinking
pancakes bubbling
over with salty butter
round layers tease my palate
gentle stabbing journey
between my lips
slippery hunger
why stop cravings for

LJ (a.k.a. Abstract) March 25, 2008


I saw a flock of pelicans, yellow-billed and droopy pouched, flying through Iowa skies. For those of you who don't live in Iowa, spying a flock of chunky pelicans is not an every day occurrence. Birds still fresh on my brain, I read this poem by Ondaatje on Sunday morning.

Is this itty-bitty poem worth sharing? That's for you to decide.

by Michael Ondaatje

Two birds loved
in a flurry of red feathers
like a burst cottonball,
continuing while I drove over them.

I am a good driver, nothing shocks me.


Jihad and Love

I finished reading the fictional novel "Finding Nouf" by Zoe Ferraris. The action takes place in Saudi Arabia where a 16 year-old Saudi girl has disappeared before her wedding.

I like this re-definition of jihad on page 275 in the hardback edition. It's not militaristic or combative; it re-defines jihad as a peace within, a recognition that fighting is not the answer.

"That was the true jihad, the giving up of goods, hopes, desires, when life demands it, when not to give up would lead to wrong."

Giving up strikes a chord in me and an affinity with my spiritual practice. Giving up things that have the potential to cause chaos in the world is a noble jihad. Here is another passage that moved me.

The 77 Words for Love

"It was disorienting to see such calculation amid such cloying romanticism. There was hubb, which meant love, and also seed; 'ishq, entanglement, and an ivy that strangles a tree; hawa, liking and error; fitna, passionate desire, also chaos; hayam, wandering thirsty in the desert; sakan, tranquility; and izaz, dignified love. Then the list grew darker, from captivation to confusion and affliction, even to depression, sorrow, and grief, culminating in fanna, nonexistence. The page stood out as a work of art…"

Horseshit or the Collective Unconscious

I have always liked the word serendipity, enjoying its carefree and spunky five-syllable trip down my tongue, so this after-sex shower scene from Michael Gruber's "The Tropic of Night" made me smile.

She kissed his neck.

"Serendipity that I called, huh?" he said.

"No, serendipity is when you're looking for something and you find something else that's even better. Penicillin. Columbus too, I guess. What you mean is synchronicity, which is when two independent variables happen at the same time, in a pseudo-meaningful way. Serendipity is scientific, synchronicity isn't."

"Why not?"

She tossed the book on his belly and slipped out of bed. "Read the book."

"Why should I when I have you? Where are you going?"

"The shower, where you can join me, if you promise not to get me started."

Under the lukewarm stream, he soaped her long back, while she held her braid away from the water. He said, "So tell me, why isn't synchronicity scientific?"

"By definition. And Jimmy, I want you to know that you are the first and only man I have ever discussed epistemology with under the shower."

"I appreciate that," he said.

"It was. In any case, science looks for causality. Event B only occurs after Event A, or is associated with it more than chance alone would allow. Lightning always precedes thunder, and so we assume that lightening causes thunder, and we look for a physical connection between the two events, and in that case, we find it, and science marches on. Synchronicity… proposes a linkage between two events that is meaningful without being causal or related in any reproducible or deterministic way… me wanting to get together with you and you happen to call me…"

"It's like luck."

"In a way. But it's supposed to be meaningful on the psychic level, too. The cosmos or the collective unconscious is trying to reach us. Horseshit, in other words." She looked down at him and let out a yelp. "Yikes, get that thing away from me," she cried, and hung a wet washcloth on it, then turned the cold tap all the way up.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

READS that I wanna READ

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami

The Hummingbird's Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea

The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia by Piers Vitebsky

Maps for Lost Lovers by Nadeem Aslam

Paris Journal 1944-1955 by Janet Flanner

Check out the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize winners and more...


Look deeply into yourself and come face to face with the primal "Huh?" -Andrew K. Davis (2001)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Family, Family, Family

If you don't include my two cats, Seymour and Sully, this is my immediate family, although Sully decided to go on a walkabout and disappeared several days ago.

But, my two cats are in my heart, even if they are not visible in this photo.

I know that it looks as if my sister is a ventriloquist and my mother is her prop in this photo, but I assure you that is not the case. My mother usually tells my sister what needs to be done.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Superintendent of Pubic Instruction: Really??

After looking through various educational equity policies on-line, I found a policy that was comprehensive and systemic.

The policy was created in the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction in the State of Washington. But be careful, one small letter turns that official into

The Superintendent of Pubic Instruction

What would the job duties be? I wonder. Overall, I'm glad I caught that typo.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Peanut: the spirit, the kitten, the freedom to play

This is Peanut.

He reminds me to keep my spirit open to positive energy and opportunity and use common household items, such as shoestrings, for play!

Keep the mind open and flexible always...

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Love Doesn't Stink: but fear does

the fear at the base of human existence

Intelligent practice always deals with just one thing: the fear at the base of human existence, the fear that I am not. And of course I am not, but the last thing I want to know is that. I am impermanence itself in a rapidly changing human form that appears solid. I fear to see what I am: an ever-changing energy field... So good practice is about fear. Fear takes the form of constantly thinking, speculating, analyzing, fantasizing. With all that activity we create a cloud cover to keep ourselves safe in make-believe practice. True practice is not safe; it's anything but safe. But we don't like that, so we obsess with our feverish efforts to achieve our version of the personal dream. Such obsessive practice is itself just another cloud between ourselves and reality. The only thing that matters is seeing with an impersonal searchlight: seeing things as they are. When the personal barrier drops away, why do we have to call it anything? We just live our lives. And when we die, we just die. No problem anywhere.

--Charlotte Joko Beck, Everyday Zen, from Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

are you ready?

This applies to all teaching and learning.
Well said Thich Nhat Hanh.

Even if the teaching is very valuable, if you don't make it appropriate to the person, it is not Buddhist [or productive] teaching.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

Saturday, June 07, 2008

a sleepy town on the prairie grows art

Arts Council on the Prairie

When I was a kid discovering what it means to be alive in the small town of Humboldt, Iowa- population 5,000 (visualize "Little House on the Prairie" with indoor plumbing and I'm Laura)- exposure to the arts was a rarity in the midst of Farm Rhythms and practical solid folks who followed the same routines of eat, work, watch some television, procreate and go to church on Sunday with slight variations.

The Humboldt Arts Council is making an effort to change art deprivation on the prairie. I sing the praise of the council members even though I don't always agree with the choices they make.

Staging "The Odd Couple" would not be not my choice for summer 2008, but there will be one more production in town this year than there was last year. Noted, only one production, but that is better than none.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

wild-willed and traveling clematis vine

With all my master gardening training, I have realized that I need to take time to research how to encourage a clematis vine to climb a trellis. My vine decided to snake its way across the top of my lupine and cone flowers and bypass the trellis that I wanted it to form a bond with for life.

This pink-flowering vine is a free spirit, and since it's not choking the plants below it to death, I watch its progress with some joy; I have also chosen to take a road less travelled.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

become porous: open to life

Let the barriers of your personality become porous and open to life.

The only way to achieve maximum openness is to arrive at every moment without a single preconception, judgement, fear or foregone conclusion, forget bias. We must step into the mystery of life naked and undefended.

We can learn to encounter life directly, without anything to mediate its intensity. When we truly hate what's happening, our instinct is to flee from it like a house on fire. But if we can learn to turn around and enter that fire, to let it burn all our resistance away, then we find ourselves arising from the ashes with a new sense of power and freedom.

-Raphael Cushnir, from 365 Nirvana, Here and Now by Josh Baran - May 10, 2008

I am spiritually digging the "open to life" theme of the recent Daily Dharma readings.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

identify & stop the delusions: Daily Dharma: May 7, 2008

May 7, 2008
Tricycle's Daily Dharma

Stop Pretending

The great teachings unanimously emphasize that all the peace, wisdom, and joy in the universe are already within us; we don't have to gain, develop, or attain them. Like a child standing in a beautiful park with his eyes shut tight, there's no need to imagine trees, flowers, deer, birds and sky; we merely need to open our eyes and realize what is already here, who we already are--as soon as we stop pretending we're small or unholy. I could characterize nearly any spiritual practice as simply being: identify and stop, identify and stop, identify and stop. Identify the myriad forms of delusion we place upon ourselves, and muster the courage to stop each one. Little by little deep inside us, the diamond shines, the eyes open, the dawn rises, we become what we already are. Tat Twam Asi (Thou Art That).

--Bo Lozoff, from 365 Nirvana, Here and Now by Josh Baran

Friday, April 25, 2008

Elimination Dance

Elimination Dance
(an intermission)

Michael Ondaatje includes an intermission dance between the two sections of his poems in the book “The Cinnamon Peeler”. His particular intermission is sparkling with humor, exposing miniature moments of life that surprise readers with an unexpected novelty separating the doers from the observers. Here are a few of the elimination dances. I encourage you to add your own moments to the intermission.

Those who (while visiting a foreign country) have lost the end of a Q tip in their ear and have been unable to explain their problem

Gentlemen who have placed a microphone beside a naked woman’s stomach after lunch and later, after slowing down the sound considerably, have sold these noises on the open market as whale songs

All actors and poets who spit into the first row while they perform

Any dinner guest who has consumed the host’s missing contact lens along with dessert

Those who have filled in a bilingual and confidential pig survey from Statistics Canada (Une enquĂȘte sur les porcs, strictement confidentielle)

Women who gave up the accordion because of pinched breasts

Those who have pissed out the back of moving trucks

The person who borrowed my Martin Beck thriller, read it in a sauna which melted the glue off the spine so the pages drifted to the floor, stapled them together and returned the book, thinking I wouldn’t notice

Anyone with pain

Here is one of my own.

anyone who has taken a photo of a performing chicken, a strutting cock, in one of the busiest squares in Africa, Djemaa el-Fna in Marrakech- (envision acrobats, snake charmers, date sellers) and screamed at the chicken owner that she would not pay him for the shot

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Thich Nhat Hanh: Speaking of Faith


Thich Nhat Hanh was a guest on the National Public Radio program "Speaking of Faith" this morning. Hanh is a Buddhist monk from Vietnam who administers compassion and forgiveness to the pain bodies suffering inside each of us.

His poem "Interrelationship" reminds me that I am connected to others, and that what I do to others, I do to myself.

Call Me By My True Names: The Collected Poems of Thich Nhat Hanh


You are me, and I am you.
Isn't it obvious that we "inter-are"?
You cultivate the flower in yourself,
so that I will be beautiful.
I transform the garbage in myself,
so that you will not have to suffer.

I support you;
you support me.
I am in this world to offer you peace;
you are in this world to bring me joy

Destiny, fate, chance or just life…

I stumbled across this article by Curtis Lang on the site and Lang’s ideas on self-love and ego were interrelated to the poem "Interrelationship". Destiny, fate, chance or just life…

Back to the Garden Part 3: Self-Love: The War Between the Ego and the Higher Self
by Curtis Lang
The Law of Resonance

The importance of Self-love as a lasting foundation for a successful love relationship cannot be overstated. Without true love of self, you have nothing to share with another but your own poverty of spirit.

According to the great ancient law of resonance and attraction, like attracts like.

To attract a great love in your life, you must have great love to share and that love must first of all be true Self-love, not egoistic love.

If you have not yet attained Self-love, by that same law of resonance and attraction, you will attract an egoistic lover who, like yourself, must work to overcome social and cultural conditioning, egotistical self-centered behavior, character flaws, mental misconceptions, emotional wounds, energy attachments and karmic limitations.

Self-love is the necessary prerequisite for all successful sexual relations.

Self-love is the first step up the ladder of love for any individual.

The second step is love for another individual human being, a spouse, a lover, or an intimate friend, a teacher, a brother or sister or child.

The third step is love for humanity, manifest as compassionate actions in the world.

The fourth step is a universal love that is beyond description, a mystical Unity with the Source of all creation.

So if you wish to learn to love others, and to love God fully, first love yourself. Love is giving. By giving love to yourself, you give yourself permission to love others, and to be loved.

Note: is a community website focusing on alternative health and healing, healthy relationships and global news. Satya means truth in Sanskrit. The Satya Center is in Hudson, New York.

Friday, April 11, 2008

leave the yellow bark dust on my pillow

This poem is an intimate sensual understanding between two people that is earthy and understated; I smell cinnamon every time I read it.

The Cinnamon Peeler
- by Michael Ondaatje -

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under the rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.

Friday, April 04, 2008

The Mating Mind: Choosing Mr. Right

Men Court, Women Choose

Geoffrey F. Miller visualizes our ancient sisters in his book "The Mating Mind."

"When you picture ancestral females facing predators, do not imagine Marilyn Monroe whimpering and cowering. Imagine Steffi Graf brandishing a torch in place of a tennis racket."

One of the premises of the book is that men court (dance, give gifts, advertise and flaunt their talents in the arts and sciences) and that women choose the most desirable partner during the mating process. Fitness indicators such as height, physical fitness, kindness, generosity, witty conversation, intelligence and a sense of humor are clues to the quality of a man’s genes; Women respond to these indicators and this has helped shape the course of human evolution.

He has this to say about the male penis:

"The large male penis is a product of female choice in evolution. If it were not, males would never have bothered to evolve such a large, floppy, blood-hungry organ. Ancestral females made males evolve such penises because they liked them… larger penises led to better orgasms by permitting more varied, exciting and intimate copulatory positions."

Miller questions the traditional view that females needed males to protect them from predators because females moved around in larger groups than males while they were foraging for food. He writes that women had "many eyes and many hands to offer mutual vigilance and protection. An ancestral female would be much safer in a group of a dozen sisters, aunts, and female friends than with a single man in a nuclear family. The same group-protection effect would have guarded females against sexual predators."

The book explores fascinating possibilities involving the evolution of the human mind through sexual selection and our choice of partners. If Miller’s ideas are valid, we have the power of choice my sisters, but haven’t we always understood that reality in our heart of ancient hearts.

Miller received his Ph.D. in cognitive psychology from Stanford University and adapted his dissertation on how sexual choice shaped the human mind for a mainstream audience.

Finally, a male biologist who attempts to see the clitoris from a woman’s perspective: 

The inconspicuous design of the clitoris

"combined with its exquisite sensitivity suggests that the clitoris is important not as an object of male mate choice, but as a mechanism of female choice. It helps to select for males who provide pleasurable foreplay, copulation, and orgasms, and such discriminative power is just what we should expect from an organ of female choice."

From a sexual selection viewpoint,

"clitorises should respond only to men who demonstrate high fitness, including the physical fitness necessary for long, energetic sex, and the mental fitness necessary to understand what women want and how to deliver it. The choosy clitoris should produce orgasm only when the woman feels genuinely attracted to a man’s body, mind, and personality, and when the man proves his attentiveness and fitness through the right stimulation."

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Excerpt from "Yes"
by Muriel Rukeyser

Open your eyes
Dream but don't guess
Your biggest surprise
Comes after Yes

Say yes today!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

carnal cakes served here

I had beans and rice for breakfast this morning.

Carnal Cakes

Abstract pancake lover
syrup and honey sweet on the tongue
whet my appetite
with cake-like, crepe thin thinking
pancakes bubbling
over with salty butter
round layers tease my palate
gentle stabbing journey
between my lips
slippery hunger
why stop cravings for

written by LJ Runkle, March 25, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

the meaning of work

I have been thinking a lot about work: why we do it; what rewards we seek from it; the joys of work beyond monetary benefits- because money is not what motivates me to get out of bed and go to work.

Today, March 24, I read Tricycle's Daily Dharma, and now I have another book to add to my "want to read" list about the meaning of work.

Tricycle's Daily Dharma: March 24, 2008
Dharma and the Dollar

Awakening entails economic pursuits that foster self-respect and self-reliance and that serve to integrate, rather than disperse, the energies of the local community. From the perspective of the Dharma, economic goals include not only production and profit, but also their human and environmental impact. The conservation of material resources, their humane use, and their equitable distribution are taken as preeminent concerns.

--Joanna Macy in Mindfulness and Meaningful Work by Claude Whitmyer

I would add that the collective attitude of the people working together is important, as well as the positive energy that we have the ability to create in the world when we strive toward a shared goal we believe will make the planet a better place for other humans, sentient beings and the environment. This is what I call community. This is what I want to be a part of throughout my life.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Inspire: Faces of Social Entrepreneurship - NYT

"You are taught to depend on the councilman, and you are taught to depend on the senator. You pay them with your tax dollars to do things for your community. But sometimes you have to create your own government. . . . The best way to predict the future is to create it."

Divine Bradley, 25, Team Revolution, New York

The New York Times Magazine

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Just an idea on my mind today

Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent.

William Shakespeare, "Much Ado about Nothing", Act 2 scene 1

Excerpts from Jeanette Winterson, Written on the Body

Louise’s tastes had no place in the late twentieth century where sex is about revealing not concealing. She enjoyed the titillation of suggestion. Her pleasure was in slow certain arousal, a game between equals who might not always choose to be equals. She was not a D.H. Lawrence type; no one could take Louise with animal inevitability. It was necessary to engage her whole person. Her mind, her heart, her soul and her body could only be present as two sets of twins. She would not be divided from herself. She preferred celibacy to tupping.

Note: When tup is used as a verb, it describes copulation by a ram with a ewe (female sheep).

When I say ‘I will be true to you’ I am drawing a quiet space beyond the reach of other desires. No-one can legislate love; it cannot be given orders or cajoled into service. Love belongs to itself, deaf to pleading and unmoved by violence. Love is not something you can negotiate.

Molecular docking is a serious challenge for bio-chemists. There are many ways to fit molecules together but only a few juxtapositions that bring them close enough to bond. On a molecular level success may mean discovering what synthetic structure, what chemical will form a union… But molecules and human beings they are a part of exist in a universe of possibility. We touch one another, bond and break, drift away on force-fields we don’t understand.

The most reliable Securicor, church sanctioned and state approved, is marriage. Swear you’ll cleave only unto him or her and magically that’s what will happen. Adultery is as much about disillusionment as it is about sex. The charm didn’t work. You paid all the money, ate the cake, and it didn’t work. It’s not your fault, is it?

You never give away your heart; you lend it from time to time. If it were not so how could we take it back without asking?

Lori's Note: This is my first experience with Jeanette Winterson’s writing, but I am relishing this book. That passage about Louise was amazing. Has anyone else read her books? What do you think? I want to read “Sexing the Cherry” next.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A New Earth: New Thoughts

I am watching podcasts every Monday night- insert a brief commercial for my iPod because I do love the information it brings to my ears, eyes and consciousness- of Oprah and Eckhart Tolle discussing his book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. Although some of the information in the first two podcasts is a review of what I have already read in Buddhist literature, I realize that I need to continually remind myself of the value of living in the present moment. Knowing and actively practicing are two different states of being, and this book acts as a swift kick in the pants, encouraging me to actively practice what I preach.

Here is a condensed spoonful of the bowlful of discussion material from the first two podcasts.

The ego lives in human thought processes and confuses owning and amassing material possessions with a sense of being, the simple essence of life, the formless awareness of positive energy in the world and the recognition of these things inside ourselves. The ego interprets life though comparison and ranking of the individual among other women and men in that individual's path. This continual comparison and ranking process leads to feelings of superiority, inferiority and insecurity- a constant state of imbalance.

We are not the "I" we have invented for ourselves. The definition of "I" is simply a story we tell to create ourselves based on past memories.

There is no life other than now. Make this moment the primary focus of life. Resisting the moment is creating negativity in our lives.

When we no longer feel the life force pumping and surging inside of our bodies and minds, we fill life up with ego. We visit the gas station and fill our minds and bodies with too much food, sex, shopping, noisy stimulus and unproductive thoughts; 98 percent of our thoughts are unhelpful and repetitive and lead us to experience suffering and sadness.

Explore the podcasts at this site.

A New Earth download

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wisdom and Time

[My friend Susan sent this to me, and I want to share it with my female and male friends.]


Girls want to control the man in their life.
Grown women know that if he's truly hers, he doesn't need controlling.
Girls yell at you for not calling them.
Grown women are too busy to realize you hadn't.
Girls are afraid to be alone.
Grown women revel in it-using it as a time for personal growth.
Girls ignore the good guys.
Grown women ignore the bad guys.
Girls make you come home.
Grown women make you want to come home.
Girls leave their schedule wide-open and wait for a guy to call and make plans.
Grown women make their own plans and nicely tell the guy to get in where he fits.
Girls worry about not being pretty and/or good enough for their man.
Grown women know that they are pretty and/or good enough for any man.
Girls try to monopolize all their man's time (i.e., don't want him hanging with his friends).
Grown women realize that a lil' bit of space makes the 'together time' even more special-and go out with their own friends.
Girls think a guy crying is weak.
Grown women offer their shoulder and a tissue.
Girls want to be spoiled and 'tell' their man so.
Grown women 'show' him and make him comfortable enough to reciprocate without fear of losing his 'manhood'.
Girls get hurt by one man and make all men pay for it.
Grown women know that was just one man.
Girls fall in love and chase aimlessly after the object of their affection, ignoring all 'signs'.
Grown women know that sometimes the ones you love, don't always love you back-and move on, without bitterness.
Girls will read this and get an attitude.
Grown women will read this and pass it on to other women and their male friends.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

the butterfly effect

Flapping Wings

I rarely write a blog entry with the singular purpose of recommending a book, but here is such an entry fellow readers; I want you to read The Painter of Battles by Arturo Perez-Reverte.

I have been listening to this book on compact disc while driving long distances in my car, and it has caused me to ponder human cruelty and human-created chaos in the world. The story revolves around conversations between a war photographer and a Croatian soldier whom he photographed during the War in the Balkans. The image of the Croatian soldier appears on the covers of popular news magazines and impacts the life of his family in ways that the photographer would not allow himself to imagine.

One central idea that the reader is directed to consider in the lives of the two men is the butterfly effect. Perhaps it is easier to quote a concise definition of the butterfly effect from Wikipedia than explain it in my own words.

The phrase refers to the idea that a butterfly's wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately cause a tornado to appear (or prevent a tornado from appearing). The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system, which causes a chain of events leading to large-scale phenomena. Had the butterfly not flapped its wings, the trajectory of the system might have been vastly different.


Replace the word "butterfly" with the word "image" or "camera" and you then begin to see where the story takes the reader's mind.

If something as gentle as the flap of a butterfly's wings; as soft as the click of a camera shutter, or as effortless as the pull of a trigger has the potential to release a tornado of chaos into the atmosphere…

The thought seems sensible enough to be plausible.

In the midst of the conversation, the photographer is painting a mural on the wall of a lighthouse. The mural encapsulates his experiences with war. He calls upon his own memory of photographic tragedy as well as artistic images of battles by Goya and Picasso and historical events such as the Trojan War to complete his portrait of human madness.

If you have time, I urge you to consider adding this title to your reading list.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A New Earth

It’s my responsibility to find and address the dysfunction within myself. My negativity contributes to the collective energy field in the world, so it is my job to use self-awareness to positively resolve my anger, jealousy and hatred by not allowing those emotions to control me.

The contents of A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle is so Buddhist. I don’t think its messages are all that new. The ideas in his book have been around for a long time.

I did realize while thinking about the book that I need to return to the Buddhist group to discuss. I miss all of those folks in that group.

How do I shed the years of conditioning, the old thought processes and the habitual reactions that manipulate and control me?

Abstract Image of Cat and Girl in Yellow

This photo reminds me of our unsubdued minds and the Daily Dharma from March 4, 2008.

If we let a wild elephant loose in a populated area it will cause massive destruction, but the uncontrolled wild mind can cause much more harm than such a crazed beast. If the deluded, wild elephant of our mind is not subdued, it will create much suffering for us in this life and will cause us to experience the sufferings of the deepest hell in the future. In fact, if we investigate we can see that the creator of all the sufferings of this and future lives is nothing but our unsubdued mind.

Many benefits follow from taming our mind.

- Geshe Kelsang Gyatso, Meaningful to Behold from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


If you are falling around and about the emotions of LOVE, this poem by June Jordan may reach through the turmoil and tap you on the shoulder. The poem shoved me to the ground. I still have dirt on my pants.

June Jordan

A Poem for
Haruko 10/29

it’s about my anger
because your stillness
kills simplicity
and chills
this willing ardor
swept back
into realms of doubt
and ordinary feats
of regular and unimpassioned
sensible retreat
wherein an ending to my love
for you
will stretch its scaly
full length into light
that shrivels
and warps the silent mouth
of adoration
into bitten
Oh! If you would only walk
into this room
again and touch me anywhere
I swear
I would not long for heaven or
for earth
more than I’d wish to stay there
and touching you

Monday, February 25, 2008

Destination Unknown

The Human Condition

How can he explain to this impatient young man what it has taken him forty-five years to learn- that loss is an essential part of the human condition. That even as we are moving on down that long lonesome road, destination unknown, there is always something we are leaving behind. He has been trying all morning to compose a song about it.

Strawberry Fields, Marina Lewycka

write a book about it

structure a poem about it

Monday, February 18, 2008

ricardO's Valentine to his friends: dance

sweet love to you this day... Feb. 14, 2008


We have come to be danced
Not the pretty dance
Not the pretty pretty, pick me, pick me dance
But the claw our way back into the belly
Of the sacred, sensual animal dance
The unhinged, unplugged, cat out of its box dance
The holding the precious moment in the palms
Of our hands and feet dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the jiffy booby, shake your booty for him dance
But the wring the sadness from our skin dance
The blow the chip off our shoulder dance.
The slap the apology from our posture dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the monkey see, monkey do dance
One two dance like you
One two three, dance like me dance
But the grave robber, tomb stalker
Tearing scabs and scars open dance
The rub the rhythm raw against our soul dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the nice, invisible, self-conscious shuffle
But the matted hair flying, voodoo mama
Shaman shaking ancient bones dance
The strip us from our casings, return our wings
Sharpen our claws and tongues dance
The shed dead cells and slip into
The luminous skin of love dance.

We have come to be danced
Not the hold our breath and wallow in the shallow end of the floor dance
But the meeting of the trinity: the body, breath and beat dance
The shout hallelujah from the top of our thighs dance
The mother may I?
Yes you may take ten giant leaps dance
The olly olly oxen free free free dance
The everyone can come to our heaven dance.

We have come to be danced
Where the kingdoms collide
In the cathedral of flesh
To burn back into the light
To unravel, to play, to fly, to pray
To root in skin sanctuary
We have come to be danced! We have come."

~ by Jewel Mathieson

promise of spring; Cub Cadet lawn tractor

I was delighted to see this lawn tractor outside of the Dayton Community Center at the Ag Expo in Dayton, Iowa in Feb. '08. Spring, we await your delicate arrival with roses and wine.

Monday, February 11, 2008

I am the mover of betweens

…for I am a mover of betweens. I slip among classifications like water in cupped palms, leaving bits of myself behind. I am quick and deft, for there is no greater fear than the fear of being caught wanting to belong. I am a chameleon. And the best chameleon has no center, no truer sense of self than what he [or she] is in the instant.

Andrew X. Pham, Catfish and Mandala

Saturday, February 09, 2008

I Love Klimt

Who Should Paint You: Gustav Klimt

Sensual and gorgeous, you would inspire an enchanting portrait..

With just enough classic appeal to be hung in any museum!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

It Hurts

I'm reading "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" and it reinforces a message I find hard to hear. People do things to hurt others, and once the damage has been done- the pain inflicted, the torture experienced- it is too late. Throbbing memories fade and discolor, but the sharpness of the poke, the insult, the dirty deed remains like a stain at the bottom of a coffee cup: brown and scummy. It does not vanish no matter how much we wish to start over, begin again. Every little action matters, affects others, touches lives.

In simple terms, what does karma mean? It means that whatever we do, with our body, speech, or mind, will have a corresponding result. Each action, even the smallest, is pregnant with its consequences. It is said by the masters that even a little poison can cause death, and even a little seed can become a huge tree. And as Buddha said: "Do not overlook negative actions merely because they are small; however small a spark may be, it can burn down a haystack as big as a mountain." Similarly he said: "Do not overlook tiny good actions, thinking they are of no benefit; even tiny drops of water in the end will fill a huge vessel." Karma does not decay like external things, or ever become inoperative. It cannot be destroyed "by time, fire, or water." Its power will never disappear, until it is ripened.

- Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying from Everyday Mind

Friday, January 25, 2008

birds in yellow

If the sun won't shine, I will increase the hue in Photoshop until a warm yellow light washes through my mind.

Two birds in the sun...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Silence in the World

Mind Numb Me

Claus, a friend from Copenhagen, strongly suggested that I read Catfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam. I was wise to heed his advice. An excerpt of a paragraph from the chapter "Catfish Dawn" describes the silence inside of a Viet Cong death camp.

I, too, have been exploring the sounds of silence in the brutally cold environment of an Iowa winter, nothing compared to a death camp I know, but both climates bring a razor sharp awareness to human mortality and fragile flesh and muscle.

Of his last days in the death camp, Thong remembers the silence most. It was a thick creature that sat on his chest and lodged its fists in his throat. In the Viet Cong prison hut, he heard only his heart.

Andrew X. Pham

Taha on the potty

I wrote the original blog that accompanies this photo in November 2007. At that time, I had problems uploading the photo from my location in Rabat, Morocco, so Taha on the potty is featured in this month's news.

Magic moments of life come to us when we have our eyes open and our cameras at hand. I love this kid even though he could behave like a "complete asshole" on many days- those are Evi's words- but I would have to agree with her.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

the unaware shot

This was taken on the last day of our desert trek in Morocco in Nov. 2007, when we had tea with Mubarak's family.

Monday, January 21, 2008

a blind pigeon: Buddhist suffering in creative non-fiction

People and Animals: The Blind Leading the Blind

I found this essay in "High Country News," for people who care about the West. (That's what the publication's blurb says anyway.) The personal essays discussing human involvement with nature in that pub are some of my favorites. I've been exploring works of creative non-fiction lately, and appreciate Laura Pritchett’s ambivalence toward suffering. Here's a teaser to help you decide if you want to read on:

My short tenure with a blind pigeon
January 21, 2008 by Laura Pritchett, "High Country News"

There is a blind pigeon - a pigeon born without eyeballs - living in my house, and I’m not very happy about it. It’s my mother’s fault; she has a new habit of adopting these eyeless creatures, which are hatched in the barn rafters at my family’s ranch. When the mama bird is done feeding her brood, she kicks everybody out, and the normal ones fly away to start their normal pigeon life. But this year, several babes have been born with feathers where the eyes should be.

Support Public Radio

I have always loved public radio.

With the purchase of my new iPod, I serendipitously discovered podcasts for “Morning Becomes Eclectic” at KCRW in Santa Monica, California. I am now branching out to explore additional programming at the station.

Here are my favorite music picks that Nic Harcourt, the host of the show, recommended from 2007. Don’t miss the “Once” soundtrack!

1) Jesca Hoop, Kismet (Columbia)
2) Federico Aubele, Panamericana (ESL)
3) Once, Original Soundtrack (Sony) / I LOVE IT.

Supporting your favorite local public radio station financially is a GREAT idea.

KCRW, a community service of Santa Monica College, is Southern California's leading National Public Radio affiliate, featuring an eclectic mix of music, news, information and cultural programming. The station boasts one of the nation's largest arrays of locally- produced, nationally-distributed talk program content. extends the station's profile globally, with three streams featuring web-exclusive content: all music, all news and the live station simulcast, as well as an extensive list of podcasts. The non-commercial broadcast signal reaches 550,000 listeners weekly and is supported by 55,000 member/subscribers.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Spirituality in Algona, Iowa

The Day I Met Fran in Algona, Iowa

I have been thinking about spirituality in the midst of the brutal cold and wind chill of an Iowa winter. I saw this sign cheering for Jesus in Algona, Iowa and I had to photograph it. As I was putting my camera into its bag, Fran herself approached my car.

Fran firmly grasped my upper arm just below the elbow and began to tell me all of the reasons why she was a Christian. When I finally admitted to her that I prefer the principles of Buddhism to Christianity, she asked me if Buddha shed his blood on the cross for mankind.

That question was not relevant to my own world view, but the intensity in Fran's cloudy 73-year-old eyes and the firm pressure she applied to my upper arm told me that the answer mattered deeply to her.

It was at this moment that I made up an excuse and escaped. I had a dental appointment suddenly. I am still thinking about spirituality.

Note: I used a mosaic filter in Photoshop while working with the Fran's Praise Shop photo.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Iowa Thaw

My soul is telling me that it wants to live in the tropics!


How do you make reservations for an afterlife?

Monday, January 07, 2008

Homo Politicus

Reminder: read this book, "Homo Politicus" by Dana Milbank

Read a review at the NPR site.

Homo Politicus


...all we need to do is unveil our own nature, and we will find an inexhaustible source of wisdom, compassion, and power. It is nothing we need to acquire, from anywhere or anything. It has always been there. Seen in this light, the Buddha-nature requires no additions. One does not have to memorize sutras, recite prayers or accumulate virtues to create it. All one needs to do is unveil it.

-B. Alan Wallace, Tibetan Buddhism from the Ground Up from Everyday Mind, edited by Jean Smith, a Tricycle book

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Secret Service and The Press: Obama Rally Dec. '07

I enjoy watching the secret service agents and the members of the press doing their jobs at the pre-caucus campaign events just as much as I enjoy hearing the candidates speak about the issues.

Photo by LJ Runkle

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

You understand what I am saying??

Now you know why I was distracted from John's political message for most of the afternoon.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle with love and care

More than Edwards

Surprise For My Eyes

I was watching this photographer work at the rally for John Edwards. In fact, I was distracted from John's political message for most of the afternoon.

His hands were smooth. His eyes were sharp, and I thought he was beautiful. I couldn't stop watching him.

The slow and gentle way he removed his fuzzy gray scarf sent chills up my spine, and the way he handled his camera was a joy for this woman to behold.

His presence reminded me to appreciate beauty in this world wherever I find it, including during a campaign speech by John Edwards on a cold and breezy Iowa afternoon in January.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle with love and care

John Edwards in Iowa

His Message

When he arrived, not a hair was out of place. His plan, as I heard it, was to confront the status quo in Washington, fists swinging.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle

John Edwards in Iowa

Cold Caucus Season in Iowa

It was a cold and blistery winter evening when we went to see John Edwards speak in Fort Dodge, Iowa on January 1, 2008. Sun rainbows were hanging in the sky. Elizabeth Edwards introduced her husband, who was running about 25 minutes late.

January 1, 2008 - shot by LJ Runkle

About Me

My photo

What do I do? That’s a question with more depth than the deceiving three-word construction would lead us to believe.

I live on planet earth with other folks, and I’m involved in the field of education and learning. I’m a life-long learner with a passion for knowledge and the process of bending bits of ideas into new constructions of beauty.