Monday, November 30, 2009

More Time to Chaplin


I wish I had more time to watch Chaplin films.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Divine Inspiration


Four Arms Embrace Me

Saraswati, the goddess of arts and knowledge, represents the free flow of wisdom and consciousness. She has four hands representing the four aspects of human personality in learning: mind, intellect, alertness and ego.

[The ideals of this goddess reside in my heart. She turns my head with her musical charm because I also desire the free flow of knowledge and consciousness in my own life.]

The Natural Laws of Good Luck


Tiny Bubbles: Slippery Luck

I found this reference to translations of Antonio Machado’s poems by Robert Bly in Ellen Graf’s memoir The Natural Laws of Good Luck: A Memoir of an Unlikely Marriage.

Soap bubbles are transitory and fleeting like all human life; Treading softly on humble ground goes Machado. This encourages me to consume more of his blue skies and memory lanes.

I have never wanted fame
Nor wanted to leave my poems
Behind in the memory of men
I love the subtle worlds,
Delicate, almost without weight,
Like soap bubbles.
I enjoy seeing them take the color
Of sunlight and scarlet, float
In the blue sky, then
Suddenly quiver and break.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Heart of Darkness: Assorted Thoughts


Teaching Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness is never uplifting and usually leaves me depressed- about as low as one human mind can sink. Listening to an interview with Francis Ford Coppola about the making of Apocalypse Now, a modern portrayal of the themes in Conrad's novella set during the Vietnam War, didn't elevate my mood any higher despite the fact that I admire Coppola greatly.

After listening to the interview and preparing discussion questions for the last half of the novella, my mind drifted to the Richmond High School gang rape that happened in the picnic area of the school grounds circa October 2009. Picnic areas are supposed to be places where people relax and chat with friends. In this case, a 15-year old girl was allegedly gang raped by ten young men while ten bystanders, who had been somehow desensitized to the violence, watched for more than two hours.

Parallels to Heart of Darkness:

Setting:

* The Belgian Congo in the late 1800s was destroyed by Belgian's exploitation of the area's natural resources and the murder of 8-10 million Africans who died working in a slave labor system.
* Inner City American High Schools in 2009 are destroyed by violence, the breakdown of community support, drugs, and a culture of hopelessness leading to high drop out rates.

Theme:

* Entering the heart of darkness = Realizing and exposing the depth of human cruelty and violence in all its forms through the ages is the job of every human being.

Characters:

* Victims- Africans in the Congo / A 15 year-old rape victim in Richmond, California
* Rulers- King Leopold and the Colonizing Belgians / Twenty young people inflicting sexual violence on the victim caught in the workings of a larger political, social, and economic system, which turns a blind eye to their problems
* The System- The Company run for profit above humanity / The United States ignoring festering problems in inner cities
* Money Makes the World Go Round- The Accountant carefully tends to Company profits / The Government slashing education funds in poor inner city schools

Ideology Fueling the Darkness

* Africans are inferior and Europe is bringing illuminating light into the continent's ignorant dark interior
* Americans should pull themselves up by their bootstraps and out of poverty / It's all your fault mentality!

Richmond High School Gang-Rape: Suspects Wear Bulletproof Vests at California Arraignment

One bright spot on the horizon of human nature: Art exposes the heart of darkness and helps us heal the wounds. This story was on National Public Radio's Weekend Edition this morning and explores the trafficking of women in the global sex trade. I would like to think that there is the prospect of a bright future for a 15 year-old girl in Richmond, California who has a long road of recovery to travel on her personal experience though the heart of human darkness.

Emma And Elena, Exposing The Sex Trade Through Art

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Is it really Oct. 17, 2009

Times, Days: Here and There and the Cat

I have been busy during the month of October, so I haven't had sufficient time to think, process or reflect on life. I enjoy the aforementioned activity of being productive- the motivational tension of work dynamics- because I subscribe to the philosophy of working hard in order to play hard when my goals are successfully behind me. You better believe I am looking forward to playing hard in a few short months.

Leading the discussion and an analysis of the film Rebel Without a Cause, teaching excerpts from the Malian epic Sundiata Keita, and preparing to teach Conrad's Heart of Darkness in the bleak season of autumn are where my time and attention are currently directed.

When I am in the play phase of my journey through life, I will have more time to blog, but felt the need to voice some of my thoughts at this moment.

And the cat...

He is growing fat and lazy with the coming of the cold weather. He cuddles about my head at night and keeps my ears warm.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Papaya Power



Reject nothing as ordinary- When my neighbor gave me half of a papaya for breakfast, I saw a star inside the sun glistening with seeds of promise.

Work

When you see ordinary situations with extraordinary insight it is like discovering a jewel in rubbish. If work becomes part of your spiritual practice, then your regular, daily problems cease to be only problems and become a source of inspiration. Nothing is rejected as ordinary and nothing is taken as being particularly sacred, but all the substance and material available in life-situations is used.

- Chogyam Trungpa, The Myth of Freedom (Shambhala Publications)

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Artists' Colony: A.K.A. The Snake Farm


Life on the Snake Farm




I ask the taxi driver to take me to the snake farm: Finca Serpientes por favor.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Don't Join Me in Bed Please




Before I went to sleep, I had a talk with the spider on my wall. We agreed that she could roam freely around the apartment while I slept, eating smaller bugs, just as long as she did not join me in my bed. The spider kept her promise.

Visitor in the Night: Window Walker




In Costa Rica, I never know what type of visitor will arrive at my doorstep or attach to my window glass each night. Reptile, amphibian, insect, ant and mammal have all made an appearance.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sunshine at The Academy for Peace



Peace is as important as the sun to me, so when I visited The Academy for Peace in Santa Ana, I took a photo of the sunshine bench in the garden. Give peace a chance!

The Academy for Peace is a project of the Rasur Foundation.
Transmitting the practice of BePeace from generation to generation
Piedades de Santa Ana, Costa Rica

Monday, July 13, 2009

His Holiness


We should remember that if a situation cannot be changed, there is no point in worrying about it. If it can be changed, then there is no need to worry about it either, we should simply go about changing it.

–His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, from The Dalai Lama’s Little Book of Inner Peace

(I love this guy.)

Friday, July 10, 2009

Costa Rica's Dog Flop



In the heat and humidity of the rainy season, dogs in Cost Rica become floppy furry sleeping machines that resemble the fetal pig I had to dissect in ninth grade biology class. These dogs; however, are alive and breathing, although we humans may not think so when we study them in their lazy sleep cycles.

While I was in La Fortuna in early July, I began photographing street dogs because there are so many of them and each one has his or her own distinct personality and story. Limping, skipping, shuffling or carousing on the streets, each dog is his or her own individual canine with a paw print to match no other.

Gratitude to the Hummingbird



Gratitude

I would like to thank this enchanting hummingbird for flying into my frame on July 8, 2009 while I was photographing the flora and fauna on the grounds of the Hotel Villas Visa Arenal in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. Gracias little friend. Please come again and tease my eyes with your florescent fluttering.

Like a hummingbird, the world is florescent when our minds are open to all possibilities.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Creation, Trauma and Joy


Struggles with my art/creativity/writing are often riotous internal battles that leave me maddened and frothy of spirit because in order to fully access my imaginative potential and generate writing that originates from my true self, I must travel to the place in my mind that connects my consciousness to the totality of emotions and experiences eventually released on the page. This requires a great amount of emotional intimacy and pure white honesty in my relationship with words. I am teaching myself not to fear the process and to enjoy immersing myself in the depths of the trauma and joy.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Internal Reference Point of Spirit




This organic composition in my path in Costa Rica relayed to me the same message that Deepak Chopra arranges in words in his book The Spontaneous Fulfillment of Desire. I want to live from the internal reference of spirit immune from criticism and praise. What a joy to reach that mountain top view of the lush valley and pulsing flow of all life, connected and in tune with the universal hum of spirit. Chopra writes that:

We are all multidimensional, omnidimensional. Everything that exists somewhere in the world also exists in us. When we embrace these different aspects of ourselves, we acknowledge our connection to the universal consciousness and expand our personal awareness.

True power comes from within, and it has a spiritual rather than a material foundation. It is permanent and does not die with your body… With self-power, identity comes from listening to the true self, and power comes from the internal reference of spirit.

When you work from this internal reference, your sense of self is clear and is not affected by external factors. This is the source of personal power. When external factors fail to influence your sense of self, you become immune to criticism or praise. You also understand that we are all equal, because we are all connected to the same conscious intelligence flow. That means that you understand that as you move through life, you are beneath no one and superior to no one. You don’t have to beg or plead or convince anyone because you don’t have to convince yourself.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Guess Who's Coming to Breakfast




I received a shock this morning when I opened my front door to let the sun shine in to my workspace. I had company peering at me through two waving antennae resting near my door handle. The grasshopper who greeted me was quite calm during her/his entire photo session this morning. I suspect s/he thought camouflage brown attire would be unnoticeable to my human eyes. About thirty minutes have passed since we first spied each other and the grasshopper is still hanging out on my door. Good company I say.

Notes on "Rethinking Karma" by David Loy


Karma Chameleon

I agree with David Loy when he quotes Fromm and celebrates the dynamic nature of spirituality in his article on rethinking karma in Tricycle magazine.

“By emphasizing the inevitable limitations of any cultural innovator, Fromm implies the impermanence—the dynamic, developing nature—of all spiritual teachings.” [and academic and vocational and, and, and…]

This approach to education is humble and dynamic rather than condescending and dogmatic.

“In the Kalama Sutta, sometimes called 'the Buddhist charter of free inquiry,' the Buddha emphasized the importance of intelligent, probing doubt. He said that we should not believe in something until we have established its truth for ourselves.”

Spirituality should teach young children to think independently while at the same time encourage all members of the community to practice self-awareness of our interconnectedness to other living beings. Loy expresses it nicely when he writes,

“When your mind changes, the world changes. And when we respond differently to the world, the world responds differently to us. Insofar as we are actually not separate from the world, our ways of acting in it tend to involve feedback systems that incorporate other people. People not only notice what we do; they notice why we do it. I may fool people sometimes, yet over time, as the intentions behind my deeds become obvious, my character becomes revealed. The more I am motivated by greed, ill will, and delusion, the more I must manipulate the world to get what I want, and consequently the more alienated I feel and the more alienated others feel when they see they have been manipulated. This mutual distrust encourages both sides to manipulate more. On the other side, the more my actions are motivated by generosity, lovingkindness, and the wisdom of interdependence, the more I can relax and open up to the world. The more I feel part of the world and genuinely connected with others, the less I will be inclined to use others, and consequently the more inclined they will be to trust and open up to me. In such ways, transforming my own motivations not only transforms my own life; it also affects those around me, since what I am is not separate from what they are.”

Tricycle: Rethinking Karma

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Best of Days



On the best of days, all I need is a beer and the sunset. It's possible to reach up and finger paint the clouds, rearrange them in the sky, and mentally recline in a fluffy meditative space of peace.

(the sunset from our terrace at the Vista Serena Hostel in Manuel Antonio on Thursday, June 25, 2009)

-photo courtesy of Michelle Piano

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pink is Pink and the Mango Tree



I was surprised at the pink pinkness of this flower. There were many rotting mango fruits near the tree, but my landscaping supervisor in Hawaii thinks the tree is a variety of Mountain Apple. I searched Google images of Mountain Apple flowers, and I agree with him, but I also sent the photo to a national park guide who works at Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica to ask his opinion as well.

The Terrain of Counter-Cultural Ideas



The American Way of Life?


I found an on-line journal today publishing writing that appeals to my innate habit of challenging what Scott Russell Sanders calls: "the reckless binge known as the 'American way of life...'" I enjoyed the interview with Sanders, who teaches English at Indiana University, in Terrain.org. The excerpt below was inspiring because I am always looking for counter-cultural allies too.

"Among the general run of American writers, as in our society as a whole, there is relatively little regard for other species, little awareness of the dire condition of the planet, little concern with envisioning a more humane, peaceful, conserving, and spiritually rich alternative to our consumer culture. So anyone who sets out to challenge the reckless binge known as the 'American way of life' is apt to feel mighty lonely, unless he or she can find allies."

Interview with Scott Russell Sanders

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bugs



My neighbor found these insects in her apartment in Ciudad Colon, Costa Rica, so she microwaved and mounted them. I hope I don't have similar guests come to visit me at my place.

Pollen and Beauty on My Trail


(Before Alicia left for New York, she gave me a copy of this poem. Alica is 80 years old with a mind set of eternal youth.)


All day long, may I walk
Through the returning seasons, may I walk
Beautifully, will I possess again
Beautiful birds, beautiful, joyful birds
On the trail marked with pollen, may I walk
With grasshoppers about my feet, may I walk
With dew about my feet, may I walk.

With beauty before me, behind me, above me
all around me, may I walk.


In old age wandering on a trail of beauty
lively, may I walk
It is finished in beauty
It is finished in beauty

- Navaho Prayer

Friday, June 19, 2009

Drops From Her Umbrella


in adulthood
I can still count on her
my mother
taking my jacket from me
and shaking off the rain


do I want bells on my balloons
the store clerk asks me
and it's a cheerful day all around


on my way
to return library books
-at a red light
reading that sentence
one last time


Drops From Her Umbrella, Laura Maffei

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Flowers and Coffee



Flowers and Costa Rican coffee are two things I appreciated on first sight/taste.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Banana Flower Outside My Door





On June 17, I explored downtown San Jose on foot. The bus fare from Ciudad Colon to the city was 305 colones (.75 cents) and the bus dropped passengers off at the Coca Cola bus stop in town. The city offered more than I expected because the guidebooks I had read described San Jose as dirty, grimy and bleak. In other words, I had low expectations, so I enjoyed the day. This is a common occurrence in my life.

Nine hours of walking took my traveling companion, Michelle, and me through the city from the central market to the National Museum of Costa Rica. At the market, I saw shark corpses protruding from a large plastic container that looked like our garbage can at home in the United States. After witnessing this sad site, I must admit that I did try some of Michelle’s ceviche (a form of citrus-marinated seafood appetizer, which is popular in Latin American countries) even though I am a vegetarian most of the time. I had three small bites of the mixed fish dish with my coffee. This is my confession.

I bought a Spanish/English dictionary at a bookstore downtown. The people we have met in the country are so helpful that learning the language is a pleasant undertaking. Being a vegetarian is also inspiring me to learn food-related vocabulary so that I can discuss my eating possibilities with waiters and waitresses.

I realized tonight that it is completely dark in the central valley of Costa Rica by 6 p.m. and that Costa Rica is only 8 to 10 degrees north of the equator. This means that there isn’t much variation in the times of the sunrise and sunset throughout the year.

I made my first Skype call to the United States after I returned to my apartment, and Oprah is correct. She did an entire show celebrating the perks of Skype, and after using it, I must agree with her positive assessment of this online phone service. It is easy, inexpensive and connects people who are continents apart. Three cheers for Skype.

Pink Palace



My apartment is pink like the petals of a late spring rose or the underside of your tongue.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Create, Love, Commune, and Live


I arrived safely in San Jose, Costa Rica at the scheduled time of 9:01 p.m. and took a taxi to the Julia and David White Artists’ Colony. After I arrived, I met my neighbor, Alicia, from upstate New York. Alicia is a painter and a writer and was kind enough to invite me in for a cup of peach tea. I am so sleepy now, which means it’s time to shower and sleep. I hope to go grocery shopping tomorrow in the nearby town of Ciudad Colon. I can’t wait to meet everyone in the morning light.

Here's a link to the Julia and David White Web site.

Julia and David White

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Working on Being Myself


June 11, 2009 - Tricycle's Daily Dharma
Be Who You Want to Be

Happiness is possible when you are capable of doing the things and being the things you want to do and to be. When we walk for the sake of walking, when we sit for the sake of sitting, when we drink for the sake of drinking tea, we don’t do it for something or someone else. Awakening means to see that truth—that you want to know how to enjoy, how to live deeply, in a very simple way. You don’t want to waste your time anymore. Cherish the time that you are given.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, Answers from the Heart (Parallax Press)

Monday, June 01, 2009

ZEN & Business = Harmony


Patience requires that we fully and directly face our difficulties, that we embrace and learn from situations and from our feelings about them. Owning and transforming our pain and disappointment can be a tremendous challenge, as well as a tremendous gift.

–Marc Lesser, from Z.B.A.: Zen of Business Administration (New World Library)

[from the June 1, 2009 Daily Dharma]

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Rumi's Field: I'll Meet You There



[I think there is an angel sitting on my shoulder and his name is Rumi.]

Out beyond the ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn’t make any sense.

- Rumi

Zen Weeding in Hawaii


Bodhisattva of Compassion: Tara in Tibet and Kwan Yin in China

I took this photo of a peaceful Kwan Yin at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat located in the Puna District on the big island of Hawaii. I was working on the landscaping team during the winter of 2009 and was assigned the job of weeding Kwan Yin’s flowerbed and the circle of rock around her feet. It was a rainy day when I did my Zen weeding, carefully pulling even the smallest of vegetative intruders out by their roots. Weeding gave me the time I needed to mentally pause, reflect, and commune with Kwan Yin in a simple fashion, while giving the moss roses in the flowerbed an opportunity to blossom.

[As many gospel songs explain to the suffering masses, “Every woman and man needs a place to lay awkward burdens down on the road of living.” Kwan Yin is a welcoming haven from life’s unpredictable twists and turns. Taking steps to forgive and love ourselves brings us closer to enlightenment.]

Indian Master Bapuji’s Celebration of Compassion and Self-Forgiveness

My beloved child,
Break your heart no longer.
Each time you judge yourself, you break your own heart.
You stop feeding on the love, which is the wellspring of your vitality.
The time has come, your time.

To live, to celebrate and see the goodness that you are.

Let no one, no thing, no idea or ideal obstruct you
If one comes, even in the name of “Truth,” forgive it for its unknowing
Do not fight.
Let go.
And breathe- into the goodness that you are.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Dynamic Duo Recline on the Cat Sofa

LIFE = Broken, Messy, Mysterious, & Vibrantly Alive


Radical Acceptance: It’s harder than you may think!

I’m in the midst of reading the book Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach, and the truths in the book have moved me closer to behaviors and actions that reflect my authentic self. A colossal claim for a piece of non-fiction I know, but… read on.

Brach’s message: “to embrace life in all its realness- broken, messy, mysterious, and vibrantly alive” is something many of us don’t do because we are too busy hiding from the pain.

Who wants to embrace a messy, broken mysterious beast with body odor and halitosis? Sounds like a dragon from the days of yore to me, and people in the myths ran like hell from those fire-breathing menaces. But embrace flaws and scars we must if healing is to begin.

Brach quotes Carl Jung when he describes what happens when women and men run from the ogres in our origins who will never stop chasing us through the terrain of unstable intellect. It’s clear: “The unfaced and unfelt parts of our psyche are the source of all neurosis and suffering.”

Right on Carl Jung!

Denying our pain- and what Brach calls human rawness- leads us to put our lives, minds, hearts, bodies and spirits on automatic. We enter a trance-like state to protect the rawness of our hearts from being judged as pathetic and feeble. We defend ourselves against the doubts and demons in our minds because others might call us crazy. Unexamined and unrevealed fears are in control of our lives.

Facing and feeling the fear and shame awakens us from the trance and is the pathway to healing. “Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something that wants our love,” poet Rainer Maria Rilke reminds Buddhists who work hard each day to reveal more and more of their authentic selves.

Be prepared as you read this book: You may just recognize a few of your own habitual behaviors sticking their tongues out at you mockingly. When Brach reminds us that it’s time to “open up new and creative ways of responding to our hopes and fears,” listening to her professional advice leads us to a small slice of enlightenment pie and that's yummy.

I was a bit horrified and humbled to see myself lost in what Brach describes as pursuing substitutes because she writes that, “when we can’t meet our emotional needs directly, the wanting self develops strategies for satisfying them with substitutes. Like all strategies underlying the trance of unworthiness, those aimed at winning love and respect absorb and fixate our attention.”

Like Brach, my drive to be productive is a strategy for pursuing substitutes that my wanting self uses to gain approval and to demonstrate to the world that I am worthy of love and respect. For example, I will be in a trance-like state when I want to produce something to prove my human value: clean the kitchen until it sparkles like diamonds; write a hugely popular article that will win me accolades; exercise until my buns are like steel… and the list doesn’t stop.

In the past, I would push myself to excel so I could feel accepted and admired by my community members. In the process of producing, I would overlook personal relationships in the race for professional accomplishments that never made me feel whole or happy. I never felt content, calm or satisfied with my accomplishments because I had to wake up every morning anxious about what needed to be produced on that day. I couldn’t stop the demented dance. I had substituted accomplishments for my real, authentic self. I was strangling the voice of my deepest self because I was insecure, afraid of rejection, and not listening to the messy, broken song of my life. What a horrible, self-destructive pattern I had fallen into in my quest for validation and approval from those around me.

Brach quotes D.H. Lawrence who wrote: “Men [and women] are not free when they are doing just what they like. Men [and women] are only free when they are doing what the deepest self likes.”

By hiding from my deepest self, I made myself insecure, melancholic and neurotic. I was going nowhere on the path to Nirvana until I realized it was time to forgive myself, show some self-compassion, and let my deepest self articulate her "I Have a Dream" speech.

My accomplishments are not me!

Let me stop here because I don’t want to reveal everything this book has to offer. Moving closer to our inner selves is a life-long task that involves self-discipline and the courage to confront our inner demons, something I do when I mentally process the content of Brach's writing.

If you are ready to slay dragons, I recommend you read Tara Brach’s book.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Travel Beyond



Leo’s horoscope for May 12, 2009 and every day:

When you hit the road, you feel like a free spirit- liberated, a rebel on the move. This is true even if you're just going to the grocery store; however, your stars support you in traveling far beyond.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Inner Children Emerge

Pathogenic Beliefs and Sex
LJR - May 7, 2009


American culture relegates sexual fantasies to wayward and wicked categories labeled as naughty, pornographic, or even too obscene to articulate, yet sexual fantasies- when revealed and investigated- can often help men and women understand themselves on a deeper level.

Dr. Michael J. Bader’s book, Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies, proposes that sexual fantasies are not simply about sex. By analyzing the sexual fantasies of his patients in psychoanalysis, Bader explores the significance of the sex fantasy and the sex act and their connections to managing insecurities and fears that arise for couples in intimate relationships.

We are all flawed and fearful children at heart- and at certain uncomfortable moments- inner boys and girls decide to throw colorful tantrums. These tantrums are even more likely to occur when we have sex.

Naked and vulnerable, we are exposed.

By showing compassion to ourselves and others in regard to understanding human sexual fantasies, we acknowledge our childhood baggage, baggage that often inhibits us from experiencing sexual pleasure.

Here are some excerpts from Bader’s book that shed light on a subject that has been kept in the dark for too long.

People use all the resources at their disposal to defend themselves against and transcend painful childhood beliefs.

Sexual fantasies illuminate and explain non-sexual problems that we are having.

…to the extent that earlier parental relationships contained elements of worry, guilt and shame (which most of our childhoods did), those feelings will enter our love life even more than they would most other aspects of our lives.

Nowhere are adults more dependent than in the relationship they have with their partners, and at no other time was this dependency as strong as it was in childhood. Therefore, the normal emotional dependency in long-term relationships inevitably contains echoes of these earlier attachments. There is an old joke that says when two people have sex, there are six people in the bed: the two lovers and the parents of each of them… intimate sexual relationships necessarily open the psychic doors to the repetition of our own original parent-child relationship.

Sexual compatibility is determined by the extent to which our pathogenic beliefs negate or reinforce those of our partner- and vice versa. And it is in intimate sexual relationships that our pathogenic beliefs about ourselves and others have the most direct opportunity to be confirmed or disproved… Our sexual partners, therefore, have to perform the same function as sexual fantasies, namely, to establish the conditions of safety necessary to allow sexual excitement to emerge.


Bader’s definition of love/chemistry/sexual compatibility is not at all poetic or idealistic.

With his new definition in mind, the lyrics to a famous Beatles’ song change slightly.

“All you need is love” becomes: “All you really need is someone to negate your pathogenic beliefs.”

A revision to Shakespeare’s lines in the comedy “Love's Labour's Lost” would look something like this.

And when Love speaks, the voice of all the gods
Makes heaven drowsy with the harmony.

And when Love speaks, the voice of inner children
Makes earth secure with fears put to rest.

Bader goes on to say that:

Human beings cannot tolerate helplessness for very long. They [either] shut down, fight back, or find some way to pretend it doesn’t exist.

The reason people resist change is not because they’re deriving gratification from being sick, but because they’re trying to ensure their own psychological safety.


According to Bader’s professional experience with his patients, satisfying sexual experiences involve establishing a sense of psychological safety in the bedroom for everyone involved. Reinforcing a partner’s negative, painful, pathogenic beliefs does not lead to first-class sex; it only leads to more shame, guilt and unhappiness.

This book led me to ask myself the honest question: What do I need from a partner to feel psychological safe?

Sorting out and exploring our sexual fantasies is a wholesome step in the process of identifying what we need in order to establish safe and intimate relationships both inside and outside the bedroom.

Sexual fantasies are not all about sex.

Bader, Michael. Arousal: The Secret Logic of Sexual Fantasies. St. Martin’s Press, 2002.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Seymour's First Video / (My cat thinks he's a film star!)




I do believe I have uploaded my first blog-posted home movie of my cat Seymour enjoying some good loving. Last night, I wanted to re-acquaint myself with my Mac camera and iMovie, so this video is the result. Seymour says hello to all his adoring feline and human fans: Meow!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Find Me



Visit The Tricycle Community


[I must admit, it was fun making my first badge even if the badge is a small bit of advertising for the magazine.]

Why do some guys do this on a date?


Setting: The lobby of a movie theater

Characters: A man and a woman wait. They are on their second date.

Exposition: The pair arrive early for a movie and decide to wait in the lobby and eat some popcorn. The man is on-call and must have his phone turned on during the film.

Dialogue:

Man: "Oh, I should set my phone to vibrate."
Woman: "That's a good idea."
Man: [Turns his phone to vibrate and puts it in his pocket. Smiles luridly and says:] "I lodged it up next to my sensitive bits."
Woman Thinking: [I will never go out with him again.]

Friday, April 24, 2009

Do you know about Zoom?

If you search your own name on Zoom:

http://www.zoominfo.com/

you may be surprised by what you find: I know I was.

When I entered my name, I found a three jobs listed on my employment history with a photo attached of me taken informally when I was enjoying my time in Hawaii. The information in the Zoom profile included some of my past employment history and was unclaimed, which meant that anyone who wanted to claim my history and photo could have logged in to the site and done just that.

I don't like the idea that information about me, including a photo, is let loose on the Internet when I am unaware of its existence.

Is this legal? I claimed my information on Zoom, but wasn't sure if I wanted it published. I didn't have a choice in the matter.

How does this happen? I am concerned.

Birth Control Malfunction


20 to 29 year-olds at risk
LJR – April 24, 2009

About half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended according to a February 2009 report from the Guttmacher Institute.

This means that more than three million pregnancies in America each year are a surprise.

The last U.S. census found that seven out of 10 unintended pregnancies happen in young women between the ages of 20 and 29 according to a National Public Radio report on “Why Accidents (The Pregnant Kind) Happen.”

The average heterosexual American woman who wants only two children spends about 30 years of her life concerned with avoiding an unwanted pregnancy.

The intellectual process of choosing to be responsible about reproductive health involves wading through a list of oral contraceptive side effects that include bleeding between periods, breast tenderness, nausea and vomiting and weight gain.

The vaginal ring is left in place for three weeks and then removed the last week of the month.

Pills must be taken daily, often at the same time, while the relatively new implant Implanon is about the size of a cardboard matchstick and inserted under the skin of the woman’s upper arm.

The cervical cap is a silicone cap shaped like a sailor’s hat, as described by the Planned Parenthood Web site, and is inserted into the vagina and over the cervix.

The Guttmacher Institute, which studies sexual and reproductive health worldwide, also reported that of the 66.4 million American women of reproductive age (13–44) in 2006, more than half (36.2 million) were in need of contraceptive supplies and services.

Why don’t men have an equal smorgasbord of pregnancy prevention options to protect their partner from an unwanted pregnancy?

A vasectomy/reverse vasectomy for men who wanted to start a family would be an ideal family planning choice from the female perspective, but get real. It’s clear that American society and the medical establishment expect women to be the responsible party in the bedroom.

While I believe in taking ownership of my sexuality, I can only imagine a culture that supports my decision. My vision would look something like this.

It’s a sunny morning when Americans wake up to discover that societal norms regarding sexuality have been transformed. A non-coercive, non-exploitive, mutually agreed upon creative exploration of body, mind and spirit occurs only when people freely agree they are ready for sexual intercourse.

The process of agreeing involves taking responsibility for a partner’s physical and mental wellbeing and selecting a form of birth control together. Parents, friends, churches, the state and the medical establishment all play a supporting role.

Contraceptives are provided to all women and men at pharmacies across the nation at an affordable price and with a smile. There is no shame in purchasing a pack of condoms or emergency contraception.

Alcohol and drugs are used to enhance sexual experiences of responsible couples- not as substances imbibed to promote anonymous drunken hook-ups leading to unwanted pregnancies and STDs. In other words, sexual decisions are made with sound minds and full and honest disclosures. All details of encounters are remembered in the morning.

Abortion is available at all hospitals in the nation and viewed as a normal medical procedure. Doctors who perform abortions are respected. Women feel safe and supported if they choose the procedure.

All men and women are encouraged to keep condoms, lubricant and emergency contraception in the medicine cabinet when they reach reproductive age.

The vast majority of upstanding American citizens realize that religious dogma and abstinence education do not prevent young adult pregnancies. Citizens of all ages are educated about their bodies.

The cultural mindset that reserves sex for marriage disappears.

Judging people because they engage in a normal and pleasurable human behavior is now a thing of the past.

Men and women are socially empowered to practice safe and responsible sex.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Most Precious

I enjoy reading "Tricycle" magazine. The magazine staff blurbs all the soy-meaty parts of books I don't have time to read.

The Buddha said that once we realize that we are the closest and most precious person on Earth to ourselves, we will stop treating ourselves as an enemy. This practice dissolves in us any wish we might have to harm ourselves or others.

–Thich Nhat Hanh, from Teachings on Love (Parallax Press)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Art Washes Away the Dust



"That which is static and repetitive is boring.
That which is dynamic and random is confusing.
In between lies art."


- John A. Locke (1632-1704)
English Philosopher

"Shall I tell you what I think are the two qualities of a work of art?
First, it must be the indescribable,
and second, it must be inimitable."


- Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1914)
French Impressionist

"Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life."

- Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)
Spanish Artist

"We must never forget that art is not a form of propaganda; it is a form of truth."

- John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
U. S. President (Oct. 26, 1963)

[I was surfing on the Iowa Area Education Agency (AEA) Discovery Education Streaming web site, when I came across a critical thinking lesson plan titled: "What is Art?" The activity and questions in that lesson plan generate multiple answers and diverse perspectives, a refreshing approach to stimulating the mind. I found the quotes I'm posting titillating.]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Practice Some Metta in Your Life


I joined a community of Buddhist-minded spirits who also enjoy reading "Tricycle" magazine. Lewis Richmond, the leader of the Aging as a Spiritual Practice online discussion group I joined, sent this message to the members. What a great way to begin the week!

As promised, I would like to suggest a spiritual practice for this week, a form of Metta, or Friendliness, practice appropriate to our developing online Sangha. First of all, a little background: Metta (friendliness) is one of four compassion practices common to all schools of Buddhism. These are Friendliness, Compassion, Sympathetic Joy, and Equanimity. Metta can be practiced in various ways, but the way originally recommended by the Buddha in the Metta Sutta is an aspiration prayer whose simplest form is:

May I be happy
May each of us be happy
May all beings be happy

It is important and significant that you address and include yourself in the prayer. You are a being too, and the happiness you seek is the same as the happiness all beings seek.

I also encourage you to smile (or half smile) before and after you recite the prayer. Every Buddhist statue is smiling; there are no frowning Buddhas. Smiling itself is a venerable spiritual practice, as taught by Thich Nhat Hanh and others. We practice not just with words, but with the body.

Try to do this once a day for the next week.

Let’s see what happens! (that was another of the Buddha’s spiritual instructions, in the Kalama Sutta).

-Lewis

Practicing friendliness can make this universe of ours a more blissful place. If you want to join the community, here is the link.


http://community.tricycle.com/

Tricycle Community

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wallflowers Make Me Cry


Book Review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky, Pocket Books: 1999

Multiple Stars

The Perks of Being a Wallflower made me cry. Charlie often cried, and I liked this about his teenage male character. He was ultra-sensitive to his connections to people and the world, and he brought me- as a reader- into his mental space. Charlie took me back to my own high school years and the pain of trying to navigate a world filled with insecurity and self-doubt. Charlie's letters said to the reader that no one is alone with pain, anguish, uncertainty and self-loathing. We all experience these emotions even if we won't admit it. Through an intuitive link to Charlie’s written world, I could empathize with human suffering and our need to question the meaning of life and its purpose. Sadly, adults go through the same motions.

The opportunity to explore young adult literature has opened my eyes to different forms of writing that authors use to tease out themes and exposed me to the vulnerability of body, voice and mind oozing from teenage characters. My literary hero for today is Charlie, the wallflower.

November 12, 1991

Dear Friend,

I love Twinkies, and the reason I am saying that is because we are all supposed to think of reasons to live...

Love always,
Charlie

Monday, April 13, 2009

Truth according to LJR


Life is managed; Life is NOT solved.


I tell myself this every morning as I set out to manage the challenges that are waiting for me- sometimes in ambush, sometimes in plain sight- and then off I go.

Balancing past, present and future


[Lately I have been thinking about our connections to the past- its hand in the meaningful shaping of who we are in the world today. That's why this reading hit the intellectual and spiritual hot spots in my brain and collided pleasantly with some of these thoughts.]

Grow Forward


Growth means not only continual change and transformation, but also continuity; and it is this continuity that gives an aim and sense to change and transformation. Continuity cannot be achieved by clinging to the past or what is transitory, but only through the conscious direction of our forward march, in which, out of the organic connection with the past, there grows an understanding of the present and a meaningful shaping of the future.

–Lama Anagarika Govinda, from Buddhist Reflections (Weiser)

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Celebrate National Poetry Month


Now is the month for readers, public library patrons, school kids, and poets around the country to intellectually dance and sing the praises of poetry.

Because, in 1996, the Academy of American Poets crowned April National Poetry Month!

I pulled this poem out of a bowl at the public library. The note attached to the bowl said:

"Help yourself to a poem..."

What a great idea. I would encourage you to do the same.

APRIL RAIN SONG


Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night-

And I love the rain.

- Langston Hughes

Oh, This Moment

This Moment: I am always struggling with this moment.

Dharma practice means dealing with what is happening in our mind at this moment. Instead of dreaming of conquering future attachment, let’s deal with the craving we have right now. Rather than drowning in fears of the future, let’s be aware of the fear occurring right now and investigate it.

–Thubten Chodron, from Taming the Mind (Snow Lion Publications)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Emotional Closure


Forgiving the Son; Forgiving the Self


Jay McGraw, the author of the self-help book Life Strategies for Teens, had almost no professional credentials he could tap into while writing his book about how to assist teens cope with life’s traumas other than his family ties.

His father is Philip C. McGraw, a.k.a. Dr. Phil.

Despite that fact, I did find some redeeming concepts in the chapter "Life Law Nine: There is Power in Forgiveness."

Here is a passage worth sharing from the book.

“The best thing for you is to forgive. When you forgive a person, you thrive in spite of him or her. You blossom. As the old saying goes, ‘Living well is the best revenge.’ You are the only person who has to know about this forgiveness because this is something that takes place within you and for you.”

McGraw goes on to write that, “What you want is emotional closure. You want to be able to say honestly that you have no unfinished emotional business left with the people you have been focused on. To be really free, you have to forgive.”

When anger, hurt or resentment flow out of human hearts: love, forgiveness, light, hope and optimism flood in to take their place. I'm nurtured with all the emotional vitamins and minerals my body craves. The warmth of sunshine physically floods me with this positive energy, and I like to visualize upbeat life forces charging through my veins when the sun’s rays penetrate my skin.

I feel really free today!

Light Bulbs from Life Law Nine - Paraphrased by LJR

1. Realize that emotional wounds scar like physical wounds.
2. Remember that withdrawing emotionally can affect you physically.
3. To hold on to previous hurt poisons all potential relationships.
4. Forgiveness is a choice that is beneficial to you.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Underpinnings of the Global Economic Crisis



Reflections on the spiritual underpinnings of the global economic crisis
April 3, 2009 - LJR


In Christian Sunday schools across the United States, boys and girls learn a golden rule from the Book of Luke that goes something like this: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Simple and concise, but do most world religions, including Christianity, lack spiritual direction on how to incorporate ethical practices and moral principles into the workplace?

Host of American Public Media’s radio program Speaking of Faith, Krista Tippett, interviewed eight experts working in the fields of religion, science, industry and the arts on the subject of the spiritual underpinnings of the global economic crisis.

Swiss banker, Hindu, and follower of Jesus, Prabhu Guptara, and religious historian, Martin Marty, encouraged listeners to examine Christianity’s role in capitalistic corporate America and to explore the disconnect between Christian morals and the American business model.

Both Guptara and Marty emphasized that many world religions, including Christianity, lack spiritual guidelines for incorporating morality, integrity and ethics into the workplace. In other words, Christianity united with the capitalistic economic system practiced in the United States, will not generate an ideal climate for facilitating a prosperous and healthy social and economic global environment.

Due to the decisions made in large part by businesses in the United States, over 53 million people living in poverty worldwide are experiencing the added pain of coping with the devastating effects of a global recession according to a February 12, 2009 report from the World Bank.

“New estimates for 2009 suggest that lower economic growth rates will trap 46 million more people on less than $1.25 a day than was expected prior to the crisis. An extra 53 million will stay trapped on less than $2 a day. This is on top of the 130-155 million people pushed into poverty in 2008 because of soaring food and fuel prices,” the World Bank report states.

Christian teachings stress the glory and jubilation wealthy businesspeople are supposed to experience in heaven if they provide for less fortunate members of their community here on earth. Yet these teachings seem to be forgotten in corporate offices and daily business decision-making practices in the United States when blue-collar jobs and pensions are cut drastically while corporate executives’ bonuses are paid religiously and without fail.

Valuing companies on the basis of their economic fundamentals without regard for human consequences is taught in nearly every MBA program across the country. It’s a principle that’s solidly hardwired into America’s economic belief system- a belief system that goes unquestioned until a mortgage crisis ensues and confidence levels in Wall Street crumble.

The bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers and the near collapse of investment bank Bear Stearns were a product of greed and excess in the Christian nation of the United States. A worldwide recession is the price the global community must pay for linking their economies to the American business model, a model that operates on promoting self-interest and profit motives as guiding belief structures.

The 2009 annual meeting of the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women focused on the global economic downturn and its impact on women worldwide. Some participants at the conference said the financial crisis could undo ten years of progress in a single year.

This is because women in Asia, Africa and Latin America are often the first to be fired during a recession when global demand for textiles and imported goods decreases in countries such as the United States, Europe and Japan. Incidents of domestic abuse and violence against women also increase as financial worries play out brutally on the home front.

The Lord states in the Book of Jeremiah that he will send his destroyers to punish evil rulers and unjust kings because woe is the price leaders will pay if they build their palaces through unrighteous and unjust means.

Thus commands the Lord in Jeremiah 22:3, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also, do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan or the widow…”

The Christian God punishes but also forgives, so if this is the case, will God forgive repenting chief financial officers and managers of investment banks for their sins?

According to “The Tibetan Book of the Dead” published by Shambhala Publications, “The concept of sin, for instance, is inevitably associated with original sin, guilt, and punishment, which have no place in most Eastern teachings. Instead, Buddhism looks for the basic cause of sin and suffering, and discovers this to be the belief in a self or ego as the centre of existence. This belief is caused not by innate evil [that simplistic Western dichotomy between good and evil that defines sin] but by unconsciousness, or ignorance of the true nature of existence.”

World religions and spiritual teachings provide powerful tools for deconstructing and critically questioning American business practices rooted in ego, greed, and an unquenchable desire for material possessions. Whether we use these spiritual tools to critique a faulty economic system that got us into this financial mess in the first place or ignore these tools altogether is left to personal choice.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Trapeze Me Sliver Please: I Want to Fly


“A Silver Trapeze” by Alice Schertle

A silver trapeze of my own: I dream of it nightly.
A slim silver bar at the end of a rope I seize
and am lifted, carried, I’m flying above the ground lightly.
A silver trapeze.

Down and around and up on the crest of a breeze
I swoop, I soar through a cloud, hesitate slightly,
then loop the loop like a pinwheel and hang from my knees.

Up through space I race on a bar shining brightly,
touch the tip of a star whenever I please,
kick off from the moon, sweep soundlessly down, holding tightly
a silver trapeze.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why Does Romance Happen in the Dark?


Why Does Romance Happen in the Dark?

[I am trying to live in reality in romance and in my life! This passage reminds me to be self-aware.]


Why is it that romance happens in a darkly lit nightclub, or at an intimate dinner by candlelight, or at night under the moonlight? It is because, in those situations, you can’t see all her pimples, or his false teeth. But under candlelight, our imagination is free to fantasize that the girl sitting opposite could be a supermodel, or the man has the looks of a movie star. We love to fantasize, and we fantasize to love. At least we should know what we’re doing.

–Ajahn Brahm, from Opening the Door of Your Heart (Lothian Books)
March 19, 2009
Tricycle's Daily Dharma

Friday, March 20, 2009

"Landscape with Flatiron" from After the Quake


That Bewitched and Enchanted Space Between Imagination and Intellect

Presenting ideas through language is something individual writers conjure first in that bewitched and enchanted space between imagination and intellect. The result is a sentence, paragraph or story that becomes a roadmap for leading readers to revelations regarding partially developed thoughts or fully blooming memories churning within.

Haruki Murakami’s short story “Landscape with Flatiron” opened a memory inside of me, an orange and glowing memory of fire builders and bonfires crackling on humid nights in the Field of Dreams on the big island of Hawai’i.

If you search for the Field of Dreams on Google maps, you won’t find it in the middle of the Pacific. It’s a place within a place on an island in a chain of islands.

The Field of Dreams is an open field at the Kalani Oceanside Retreat where volunteers go to talk, relax and gaze into crackling bonfires that have been slowly and precisely built and tended by the men of the landscaping and maintenance departments, burly men with strapping chests and sun-kissed skin. In the sky, the stars perform their nightly dance on twinkling toes as the human beings below spin and twirl to the night’s tropical beat.

In “Landscape with Flatiron,” Murakami explores the social significance of community bonfires, places where people have gathered for centuries to feel the comfort of knowing they were part of something bigger than just themselves. Junko, a young woman in the story, describes standing in front of the fire like this:

“The spread of the flames was soft and gentle, like an expert caress, with nothing rough or hurried about it- their only purpose was to warm people’s hearts. Junko never said much in the presence of the fire. She hardly moved. The flames accepted all things in silence, drank them in, understood, and forgave. A family, a real family, was probably like this, she thought.”

At the same time, Murakami interprets the meaning of fire for human survival when the character, Junko, recalls reading the short story “To Build a Fire” by Jack London.

“As usual, Junko thought about Jack London’s “To Build a Fire.” It was the story of a man traveling alone through the snowy Alaskan interior and his attempts to light a fire. He would freeze to death unless he could make it catch. The sun was going down. Junko hadn’t read much fiction, but that one short story she had read again and again, ever since her teacher had assigned it as an essay topic during the summer vacation of her first year of high school. The scene of the story would always come vividly to mind as she read. She could feel the man’s fear and hope and despair as if they were her own; she could sense the very pounding of his heart as he hovered on the brink of death. Most important of all, though, was the fact that the man was fundamentally longing for death. She knew that for sure. She couldn’t explain how she knew, but she knew it from the start. Death was really what he wanted. He knew that it was the right ending for him. And yet he had to go on fighting with all his might. He had to fight against an overwhelming adversary in order to survive. What most shocked Junko was this deep-rooted contradiction.”

As we all know, human beings are large, walking, talking bundles of contradictory energy, but when we come together around a well-tended fire on a warm island night, the beauty of community nourishes the spirit. The thought of death stands apart momentarily alone and tongue-tied when we humans celebrate our powerful connections to family.

end note: [I am sure a woman could have accepted the job of fire starter smoothly and without a hitch, but during my time at Kalani from December through early March 2009, the celebration of masculinity bubbled forth in front of the inferno.]

Charlatan Comics and the Word of God

No Discipline Neuters Love???

I had no idea I was listening to a Christian radio station because an unknown voice was discussing things his dog shouldn’t eat that the dog seemed to enjoy eating, which I assumed meant poop. I have known other dogs who do that in their spare time. That's why I came to that conclusion. He never said it directly.

Christian radio is something I almost always avoid, but on the 4-minute drive to the library, I heard a man who made me laugh, a better than average comedian.

The charlatan stand-up comic described how he would sit down with his dog, who couldn’t look him in the eye after such an incident had occurred, and offer words of stern discipline on why the particular substance consumed by the dog was not beneficial for his well being.

Comic; pastor; man of God: whoever he was said,

“You destroy and neuter love if there is no discipline.”

Now, I am left thinking about it.

Wild rides in the mind occur at unforeseen moments, like it or not.

Monday, March 09, 2009

The American Media: Where to start...

Addressing subjectivity reveals truth
June 30, 2008

Journalists must disclose potential biases behind their positions

Opinions themselves are not treacherous, but hidden opinions presented as the news offer readers a slanted view of the world. Full disclosure of a journalist’s personal agenda reveals the powerful punch of individual biases that contribute to shaping the news.

Hard news published in credible newspapers is based on the lofty assumption that a reporter’s neutral voice is revealing the truth in each story. But fair and balanced coverage in newspapers and on television has taken a bloody beating from modern-day media barons such as Rupert Murdoch.

Murdoch brazenly uses the media outlets he purchases including the Fox News Channel and The Wall Street Journal as mouthpieces for his own political and social agenda.

The slanted worldview that media moguls like Murdoch present to their audiences pushes gullible news consumers off-balance in their every day decision-making prowess by presenting them with misinformed and biased interpretations of national and global affairs.

In the case of an opinion writer like me, full disclosure is my way of revealing the voice behind the words. Full disclosure gives you- the reader- the knowledge that you require to recognize the origin of many of my positions on the issues.

Full disclosure is necessary because no opinion emerges from the darkness of a void into the light of day in a heartbeat. The code of beliefs we each live by and the boundaries of cultural constructs we map out in our minds were formed over years and years of living in the world.

The social, cultural, geographical, religious and economic circumstances that I have been exposed to throughout my lifetime affect my writing.

As Canadian philosopher Lorraine Code said, “Objectivity requires taking subjectivity into account.”

In his April 18, 2006 blog post “Goose Meet Gander: Answering The Times’ Questions,” Jeff Jarvis discusses the disclosure questionnaire that The New York Times requires freelance journalists to complete before they begin work at the newspaper.

Jarvis writes in that blog entry that if a reader needs information about a journalist to judge the credibility of his or her story, “We don’t need to litter stories in sparse print and airtime with every such disclosure; it could reach an absurd though amusing extreme… But we should not shy away from such disclosure when it is relevant.”

And Jarvis doesn’t shy away from exposing information that might affect his slant on a story including his religious, business, media, financial and political ties. He also answers some of the Times’ questions on the personal disclosure page of his BuzzMachine blog. The questions inquire about current and previous employers, volunteer work, lobbying and any financial ties or connections.

At the 2008 National Conference for Media Reform in Minneapolis, journalist Bill Moyers condemned media consolidation as the root cause of what he described as “journalism in extreme crises.”

He referred to the mainstream media as accountable to corporate boards and profits but not the public.

“As conglomerates swallow up newspapers, magazines, publishing houses and broadcast outlets, news organizations are folded into entertainment divisions. The news hole in the print media shrinks to make room for ads, celebrities, nonsense and propaganda, and the news we need to know slips from sight,” he told the audience at the conference.

In a world where corporations and media barons control both the content and ideological perspective of the news, Moyers warned the American public against becoming an unconscious and indoctrinated people fed by the mighty armada of power and influence in the dominant and dumbed down media.

For me, being an opinion writer is not about irresponsibly using this space to ignorantly and egotistically broadcast my own agenda to unconscious and indoctrinated readers.

For me, being an opinion writer is a process of using writing to publicly explore my preconceived notions about day-to-day life and engage in some mind-bending discussions with you: the readers.

I openly disclose that I wouldn’t mind possessing the riches that Rupert Murdoch enjoys, but that I wholeheartedly disagree with his personal news agenda.

I want readers to build a bridge of communication with writers that will assist us all in engaging in a robust and informed discussion about national and world affairs.

Full disclosure is the first step to reaching that goal.

Looking for My Path in 2009

[I wrote this editorial when I was in the Teach for America Program during the summer of 2008. I decided not to sign the contract with the Las Vegas Valley school system after completing my training in Watts. My path involves teaching talented and gifted and college bound students. I know that now.]

Education
July 28, 2008

Children in low-income neighborhoods deserve more adequate public school systems

A police helicopter was buzzing above the school grounds, drowning out the instructors’ voices inside of their classrooms at Markham Middle School in Watts, California on July 9.

Markham Middle School is a series of nondescript buildings near the Jordan Downs Housing Project. It’s a public housing project where residents experience the fallout from gang violence and a high crime rate on a level that profoundly affects the future opportunities available to the students who were sitting restlessly at their desks in front of me.

Los Angeles Times writer Sandy Banks described Jordan Downs in a 2006 article entitled “Injunction Has Community Feeling Handcuffed,” describing it as “a notorious public housing project in Watts considered by the Los Angeles Police Department to be so dangerous that officers are allowed to conduct ‘foot beat’ patrols from the safety of their cars and the department is installing outdoor surveillance cameras to monitor crime.”

I faced my students and wondered how their lives were different from mine.

I was a new 2008 Teach for America Corps member sent to Markham to teach summer school for the month of July. I was placed at Markham as part of the organization’s mission to close the educational achievement gap in the U.S.

When I sat down to join my small group of summer school students in our math and literacy class on the third day of school, I asked a student named Noe to tell me about his neighborhood.

Noe looked at me earnestly and said, “Miss, you don’t want to be in Watts at night or you’ll get raped and killed.”

I then asked Noe to advise me on things I should see or do while I was in Watts for the month of July.

“You should see the Watts Towers, Miss. It’s made out of garbage,” he said.

When I saw the Watts Towers for the first time, I wanted to appreciate this series of towers as optimistic expressions of art. In fact I visualized the towers as exuberant monumental pieces of urban art constructed from steel, concrete and found objects such as bed frames and bottles. Noe had told me, however, that the towers were made of garbage. Was I being overly optimistic?

Markham’s high school graduation rate is less than 50 percent, and the discipline problems I faced in my classroom were severe. I taught a group of extremely intelligent students who had created a classroom culture of misbehavior and bad choices that slowed down their learning process.

One of my students spent most of the hour using his hands to ball up his notebook paper and throw the balls across the room. Another student fidgeted restlessly and checked the cell phone in his pocket every few minutes, while another student completely turned around in his chair to chat with his neighbor.

This was not Iowa, the state where I had studied during my middle and high school years. Things were definitely different at Markham.

It was my job to create a space for learning. In the Teach for America literature that I read in order to prepare for my teaching experience, I re-learned what I already knew. An educational achievement gap exists in the U.S. To put it simply, where children grow up determines their life prospects.

According to the government’s National Assessment of Educational Progress 2005, a national assessment of students’ knowledge and skills, 9 year-olds living in low-income communities are three grade levels behind their high-income peers.

Of the 13 million children growing up in poverty, about half won’t graduate from high school. Those who do will perform on average at an eighth grade level according to the same report. Markham students were no exception.

After working with my students for only one week, I knew that the one thing I wanted most for Gilbert, Keynay and Jessica was for them to have an opportunity to learn and a chance to go to college, so that when they were 30 years old, they would be closer to realizing their dreams. And my kids had big dreams.

After reading their journal entries, I discovered that Gilbert wanted to own his own company and work with cars when he was 30. Keynay wanted to be married to a beautiful woman and have a good job, while Jessica wanted to get good grades in all of her classes and graduate from junior high and high school.

If, as the data suggests, only one in 10 students from low-income communities graduates from college, I still believe that a relentless pursuit of academic excellence in the classroom will result in my students at Markham beating the odds.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Evolution of the Species at Burning Man



Evolution, the Year of Science and Burning Man
Current mood: sleepy
Category: Art and Photography

[I am planning to go to Burning Man this year with Ana, Susan and Marina, and our plans began to take shape this afternoon on the road home to Kalani.]

Burning Man Update: The Jack Rabbit Speaks
Volume 13, Issue #12
February 5, 2009



Don't know if you're aware of this, but this month is the 200th anniversary of the birth of one Charles Darwin, and the 150th anniversary of his seminal book "On the Origin of Species" being published. (You could say it had a bit of an impact on things.)

Combined with the fact that 2009 is officially the Year of Science (yes, for reals: http://www.yearofscience2009.org), and that science is poised to retake its rightful place in governmental priorities, and that this year's Burning Man art theme is "Evolution", well ... our minds are about to explode with sciencey goodness!

So break out a beaker, fill it up with your libation of choice (be it a mixture or a solution), warm it up over your trusty Bunsen burner(if you're partial to hot toddies) and offer up a toast to the wonders of logic, reason, and science. And, heck, fanciful whimsy too, while you're at it ... because why not?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Unblock the Mind, Heart, Body and Spirit Flow


Blocked


[I am trying to unblock myself Pema. I wish that you were here to give me some mentoring from the heart! I need it.]


The river flows rapidly down the mountain, and then all of a sudden it gets blocked with big boulders and a lot of trees. The water can't go any farther, even though it has tremendous force and forward energy. It just gets blocked there. That's what happens with us, too; we get blocked like that. Letting go at the end of the out-breath, letting the thoughts go, is like moving one of those boulders away so that the water can keep flowing, so that our energy and our life force can keep evolving and going forward. We don't, out of fear of the unknown, have to put up these blocks, these dams, that basically say no to life and to feeling life.


-Pema Chodron, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. I, #1

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Girls Got Balls


Thought Provoking Quotes

From: The Gay Quote Book by Brandon Judell

To hell with the missionary position! (I don’t agree with this message 100 percent, but it has a rebel yell ring to it that shakes the status quo boat. That, I like.)

“I don’t think there is such a thing as a precise sexual orientation. I think we’re all ambiguous sexually.” Tennessee Williams

“Love can read the writing on the remotest star.” Oscar Wilde

“This morning even my pencil’s got your tooth marks.” May Swenson, writer

“Poison kills the body, but moral poison kills the soul.” James Douglas, Editor of the Sunday Express, 1928

“Girls got balls. They’re just a little higher up.” Joan Jett, musician

Learning Nudes

Title: Abdomens & The Chihuahua
Current mood: working
Category: Art and Photography

Non-Conform


The bubbly electronic music playing in the background was accompanied by 40 mile-an-hour winds blowing through the coconut palms and lauhala trees. The gusts and bursts of power from Mother Nature caused the Chihuahua sitting in my lap to twitch nervously from his Batman cape ears to the tip of his rat-like tail. After making ten to twelve attempts to snooze in my lap, he yawned wide-mouthed and decided to investigate the light-blue sweatshirt balled up in the corner of the futon. First, he sniffed the medium weight cotton thoroughly, and then he drug one arm of the sweatshirt into his territory.

Biting and sucking the fabric, he growled when I tried to reclaim my possession. Wrinkling his brow and powering his stick-like hind legs into high gear, the little brown bundle of nervous ticks pulled the sweatshirt to the middle of the futon where he could dominate and make love to it doggy fashion.

I put my sketches and pencils down so that I could address the situation, but once the sweatshirt was out of the little rascal’s jaws, my raincoat became his desired mate. Gently setting his four paws on the wooden floorboards, I returned to my drawing.

When the dog was no longer a problem, I realized that I enjoyed gazing at Neil’s flat muscular stomach. The first part of a man that catches my eye is his abdomen if it’s exposed, and here in Hawaii, exposed male abdomens abound aplenty. If I were to work on a sculpture, Neil’s well-defined abdominal muscles would be the body part that I would chose to isolate, knead and caress- spreading clay erotically through my fingers to replicate an adoration for that part of the male anatomy.

Neil was about five feet six inches tall, mildly hairy from his lower calves to his upper thighs, smooth on his back and topped with brown curly tresses sun kissed yellow. The hair under his arms was not too thick; sexy due to its sparseness and soft texture. Neil held his poses from one minute to twenty- twirling, spinning and yoga posturing until he found a comfortable position to freeze for our interpretations.

The music was changing, picking up tempo, lifting me spiritually higher off the futon’s cushion. The wind spun through the ceiling, rocking the metal supports with creaks and groans while the large-eared Chihuahua temporarily slept peacefully in my lap after I had hidden my excess clothing from his view. I realized that there is no right or wrong way to represent our physical world on paper. As I looked around the studio at various easels, I saw Neil represented in skin tone, passion purple, tingling teal, pencil, watercolor and oil: the consciousness of the artist whose energy brought the drawing to life hovered above each hand.

Step away from the binding constructs of right and wrong, left and right, homo and hetero and into your own being. Slip into the present moment’s teaching and the act of living itself. Step outside cultural conditioning and find your own space: the personal heart, mind, body and spirit comfort zone that gives you bliss.

The dog slept for perhaps two to three minutes in my lap, only to wake, turn his head 180 degrees, reshuffle his protruding bones into a new position and search again for the peace of slumber.

Wind chimes flavored the air with smells of dew kisses and honey.

The model relaxed the pose, stretching his stiff limbs with a sigh.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Law of Growth

Each day at work in the landscaping department at an eco-resort on the Hilo side of the island of Hawaii, I witness greedy vegetation reach for the sun at the expense of what slouches and festers beneath the surface. As lava rock cracks and ohia trees and sword ferns emerge from the black ground, sensitive plants and morning glory vines root in the fertilizer of fallen leaves and rotting lehua flowers. The cycle of volcanic activity and the reclamation of lava by plant life is an organic process that transforms the landscape from the barren, rocky playground of Pele to lush swaths of variegated green growing at amazing speeds. The lovers Ohia and Lehua continue their love story high in the branches dropping life on the ground below.

I agree with Louise Erdrich, who in her collection of short stories “The Red Convertible,” describes the law of growth like this:

“In the woods, there is no right way to go, of course, no trail to follow but the law of growth. You must leave behind the notion that things are right. Just look around you. Here is the way things are. Twisted, fallen, split at the root. What grows best does so at the expense of what’s beneath.”

Monday, January 05, 2009

Seek Pleasure

Bliss and the Adventurer

Increasing pleasure was the focus of a day-long workshop I attended in January '09 at Kalani Oceanside Retreat in Pahoa, Hawaii. Stewart, the pleasure workshop facilitator, described himself as a serious student of bliss. That's the best job description I have heard to date.

One of the assumptions I embraced from Stewart's teachings was that the universe wants me to be happy because it's a place filled with excitement and joy. These are five points from the workshop that I want to remember in my own personal quest for pleasure.

1. My body is my friend.
2. When in doubt, forgive. Always be in doubt.
3. Say "yes" over and over again as the body accepts this promise of openness to possibility. Yes is an affirmation to the universe.
4. Integrate mind, body, heart and spirit. (The most important point for me!)
5. The following affirmation makes life more pleasurable: "I refuse to endure discomfort and pain, and I give myself permission to experience multiple daily pleasures in pursuit of a life complete with delight and harmony."

Of the eight steps to increasing pleasure that Stewart discussed at the workshop, my personal favorite was adopting the spirit of an adventurer. I have followed the adventurer's path for most of my life, and if I were to lead you on a tour of that path, it would look something like this.

An adventurer accepts risks, including the possibility of feeling pain, showing vulnerability, seeking out intensity and successfully handling challenges. A curiosity and sense of awe for the unfamiliar and unexplored territory define the adventurer's state of mind. Flexibility and openness to exploration and change are personality traits we cultivate. We allow curiosity, imagination and wonder to be our inspiration for action as our imaginations lead us to greater pleasures. We know how to manage expectations of ourselves and others and enjoy variety, contrast and novelty.

My advice is to adopt the attitude of an adventurer if you haven't already and bliss out at least once today and every following day.

About Me

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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.