Sunday, January 27, 2008

You Don't Have to be Good at This

Meditation, that is. That’s what my teacher, Russell Delman, says. “You don’t have to be good at this. At a deep level meditation is already here.”

I sit in meditation almost every day. Usually just before daylight. Twenty minutes sitting, ten minutes walking, five minutes sitting. It’s a mini version of what we do during the Embodied Life retreats. Sometimes I start reading e-mail and then a few blogs and then make some comments on those blogs and then Sam gets up and I sit for ten minutes or not at all. Consistency is more important than a marathon once a week, but there are really no rules. Today I noticed I was thinking about what to say in this post. But my breath was still there and, eventually, I remembered. The breath is really dependable.

I used to feel like sitting meditation was a digression from my real life: reading, fixing breakfast, walking to the gym, checking the movie reviews, etc. Recently I’m beginning to recognize that sitting and noticing my breath are also real life. Perhaps even more real because I know I’m doing it. That’s called “mindfulness” and after years of sporadic practice, I’m beginning to notice when I’m noticing. Not much to brag about, but I’m satisfied.

I revere Russell. He is a kind and astute teacher. Wise and funny. The SoulCollage card pictured is made to honor him and his teaching. His CD’s offer both guided meditation and Feldenkrais movement instruction.

Another site I recommend is Life is Round – a visual delight. They feature mediation instruction that reflects the idea: the media is the message.

To see a fab SoulCollage card made by my friend Leslie visit SoulCollage talkabout.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Woe Is Me

This is the kind of blog post I vowed never to write. A list of woes is quite uninteresting for folks who have their own troubles thank you very much. So why am I doing it anyway? Because it’s the truth of the moment. Sometimes I forget I am (according to all the spiritual traditions that make sense to me) much bigger than this little, isolated, finite self. This week I’ve felt small. I’ll bullet the complaint list so one may skim.

  • I have a cold and my head feels like it's full of, well, what it is full of.

  • the Democratic primary contenders are bad mouthing each other

  • the Asian market are dropping now too!
  • I'm reading about people losing their homes and losing their jobs and moving in with their parents, guys in their 40's and 50's

  • it's cold out (duh!)

  • the usual violence is occurring hither and yon

  • Sam, my beloved, is scheduled for radiation on his prostate tumor sometime very soon

I'm sure it's the last that is contributing the most to my heart-heavy outlook. I belong to an e-mail list of prostate warriors. Last week two reports came in from men who had very serious symptoms from their radiation series. Statistically this likelyhood is low, but hearing actual stories is haunting. I worried a lot before Sam began his ADT (androgen deprivation therapy). If you don't count the high blood pressure that has resulted, he has weathered his "therapy" pretty well. His attitude and mood have remained up-beat even as his strength and libido have waned. He is still taking 40 mile bike rides and spinning twice a week. What a guy!

So the truth is that my bleak mood is fingering every negative issue. It's not the markets or the elections or even my aching head; it's my inability to control the outcome of Sam's treatment. Good to know. Thanks for listening.

There are a lot of resources for men (and their wives) regarding prostate issues. Here are a couple: Us Too and Prostate Cancer Research Institute

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Books, Not Bombs

I am reading Three Cups of Tea. It is the story of how Greg Mortenson built a school in Korphe, Pakistan, a hamlet at the foot of the Karakoram mountain range. Dr. Greg (as the villagers call him) isn’t wealthy, nor did he have academic degrees. He is just your average Joe. Okay, your average Joe with the will, stamina, and desire to make it almost to the top of K2. Still, what Mortenson did, and is still doing with his Central Asia Institute, is a reminder that individuals can make a huge difference.

I felt inspired reading this book. Inspired to do what I can. To trust that, even though my contributions may not be big, they could be essential and life giving. In fact it reminded me to find and reread a precious memento from my high school teaching days, a stapled bundle of papers handwritten on lined notebook paper. By today’s glitzy presentation standards it is rather humble—but it means a lot to me. Senior Becky Goff summarizes what she learned in my class. This is Becky's final paragraph:

I have always thought that one person could not make a difference in the world, so why try? But this class stresses personal individuality and I have learned that I am as important as everybody else. As my opinion of myself altered, I felt better and more self-assured. So if I had to narrow down all the positive aspects of this class to the most important, it would be my individual gain to becoming a more independent person.

Global Studies Summary, per. 7, Nov. 1, 1988

If I were still teaching Global Studies today, Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin would be the perfect textbook. We would learn of the wisdom of Haji Ali, nurmadhar of Korphe village. We would learn of the dreams of his granddaughter, Jahan, to become a doctor. We would take in the stark beauty of the mountains and the challenges of crossing the wild Braldu River in only a hand cart. We would learn of Muslim hospitality and the great value placed on friendship.

A country, Pakistan, known mostly through lurid headlines, becomes a place not nearly so different from our own. Many customs differ, of course, but our desire to see our children safe and educated is identical. Mortenson believes the war on terror will be won by books, not bombs. I believe him.