Gathering Data

He or she stands aside from society, in order to observe, in order to understand what the “game” is that is going on. A writer, an artist moves from the position of “in the game” and then “out of the game.”

There is a certain solitude that is both a gift and a curse. It is like watching people eating poi in a joy filled ceremony and thinking, “That looks delicious.” However, after tasting the culturally infused dish, the artist is reinforced in the separateness. Poi is tasteless, joyless, unsatisfying.

So making the decision to be at peace with not being at peace is vital. Disabusing oneself that the idea of being “in ” the circle, or “out” of the circle of inclusion is the answer is an important step.

Byron Katie in her systematic analysis of thoughts calls it “The Work”. The important moment is when a person stands facing another and in that moment knows clearly what it is the individual wants from that other person.

to see the small details

I frequently ask: What are my expectations for being in my society; what are my expectations for being a cultural anthropologist who simply observes the behavioural choices?

So the being able to see the down to earth, the actual, the spinning out of actions based on the story of a culture is central to an artist’s life.  There is a deep feeling of loneliness that all artist-observers experiences. But it is a necessary vantage point in order to create out of a disengaged truth.

the underpass

It is frequently the artist/seers who were most out of tune with their own culture who propelled the society forward. Matisse was vilified. His vision became the norm.

Artists/writers/seers move in and out of society. Their lives cycle from boredom, to risk and excitement. They come to trust the inner compass more fully as they mature.

One has to trust that the path is created by the step forward. And there are always those well lit places with flat land where the group gathers and shares their maps. There are those inspiration stops where the exchanging of ideas are vitally energizing.

Finally, the question of “Do I fit in?” becomes irrelevant. And the question, “Who am I now?” becomes the call to clarity. The relationship with self calls for the practice of compassion in movement, or in stillness. All is correct. Just observe and witness.

Exhaustion and Anxiety

I am repeatedly grateful for the CBC and the information it brings into my little attic hideaway. This morning they featured a show about the book Exhaustion: A History.

 

 
The concept of exhaustion being a contemporary post-modern experience is one held far and wide in today’s culture. The exhaustion that takes contemporary focus is the Chronic form of psychological fatigue triggered by bio-chemicals in a fight or flight syndrome. Or that is what contemporary specialist believe it to be. So we buy into this definition.
However, Anna Katharina Schaffner, the author points out that the pervasiveness of weariness is nothing new.
Galen writes about it in antiquity. The Medieval period called it acidia or an excess of acid in the body which created a condition called melancholia. It was considered a sin and sloth was the result.
Hans Seyle who is the father of the research on stress and resultant depression was stressed himself when he could find nothing measurable about energy. He came to a standstill when he asked, “What is energy?” The only answer that has presented itself in the scientific field in Western science is the measure of calories.
What has been woven into the psyche of the modern cultural Akashi record belief is that there is ‘something out there that will steal our energy’.
The bottom line of the historical focus on the depletion of energy is, according to Schaffner, a belief in the waning of efficacy; a falling away of energy and vitality as we age.

But the real anxiety is about the approach of death.
So historically philosophers, medical scientists, social scientists, psychologists have danced around the changing presentation of exhaustion. For medieval times it was thought to be the humours; during the Victorian Era a blanket of lassitude was the result of invention, modernization and education of women.

wet, tired
Certain periods in history allowed only leisure classes the luxury of exhaustion and depression. However, today the world wide sense that this is the first time, this is the worst time for exhaustion with a sense of personal powerlessness is in error.
The fear of diminishment has been a constant in Western Culture since the age of Antiquity.
A big difference between Western Culture and Eastern Culture is the concept of a mechanistic “battery of energy” that loses its charge. In contrast to Eastern belief that Prana or Qi are replenishable sources.

Grounding in order to grow

Grounding in order to grow

 

The person who is feeling a diminishment can go to a practitioner and reconnect with source. Or the individual can go to a movement/breath practice mode which revitalizes the body and mind.
For me, the most interesting concept in the interview is that each person; each decade; each cultural moment is so intensified that we lose perspective.
The issue of facing one’s death, of having a healthy supportive connection to one’s body and of knowing we are not unique means that we can release the victim mode. We can see how connected we are to all who are alive on the earth and to all who have lived.

Once we understand that, we are able to move in the world with more compassion for ourselves and for others.
Thank you, CBC.

Hinges and Hindsight

When I shut the door to my garden shed, I noticed two of the four hinges are not firmly screwed into the wood. The seam in the plywood was opened and the screws just kind of float in the space between the sandwiched wood.

 

 

Yard of flowers
I push the door up and into place to close it. Every. Time. I close the door.
I know it is needing to be reseated. I know I need to take all of the screws out and find another place to establish a firm connection. And yet, I get out my screwdriver and simply sink the screws back into the space that is not working, where there is no grip, no security, no future.
This is life. The work-arounds are usually about not solving a problem. The small surrenders to that which is failing are a type of disbelief in self.
If I trace the weakness back to the source I see two statements which my ego uses to keep me in a state of competent dysfunction. There is no time. Right now I do not have the time.

 

chained to thoughts
Isn’t that rich. Isn’t that genius. “Right now I do not have the time.”
There is no time right now. There is only anxiety, pushing ahead, living in the future. Hoping as an antidote to doing.
There is no time right now. The ego is brilliant in its ability to distract me from growth.
The second seduction is the statement: You are too tired to take action.
This one leads me into the hours of entertainment addiction that goes on each night.
Ego says, “It is dark. You are now tired. You need to stop and just lay down.”
And so I walk away from the hinge having only temporarily, partially, incidentally made it functional. Later tonight, when I have finished my time anchored tasks it will be night. And “It is dark. You are now tired. Just lay down.” will start playing in my head.
How do we become unhinged? Because we allow it to happen, slowly, one decision at a time. The ego sings to us. It knows how to Infomercial hard sell to me a life of low grade, barely operating at competence level.
When we turn and look at our past, when we have hindsight, we can see the thousands of things that could have been prevented… if we had only had Time and were not Tired.
Maybe it is time to just reframe our concepts. We have time and we have a beautiful ever flowing energy if we stop dancing to egos tune, we can do a bigger, more effective dance. And maybe sing while we are doing it.

The Dragonfly on the lock

One day recently, I stepped out onto my bubble gum pink front steps and turned automatically in order to push the lock button. It rests at the centre of the keypad. As I distractedly moved my finger into place, I felt something soft and structural against my finger tip.
I looked to see that a dragonfly had rested across the pad.

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It laid and stayed. It’s body was spread diagonally, organically contrasting with the metal plate. Quickly, I pulled my hand away and stopped my mind. I came to. I focused. I zapped into my body. I astral returned from whatever graphic novel scenario I had been sketching taking me out of my life.
In that moment, I was absolute. I stood on the bubble gum pink stairs and felt the bottom of my feet the strength of my legs; my being, my physicality, my existence, my particularly manifested form.

I stood and looked at the dragonfly and it waited for me.
It waited for me to return from my deadened walk, blind eyed, drooling idiocy, color commentary method of seeing life as some kind of game. I stood on the step with my finger lifted in the air and I remembered how the dragonfly felt to my touch.
I have never touched a dragonfly before. I am over 70 and I have never touched a dragonfly before.

 

Relax into life

Relax into life

I wonder how many new experiences I am having each day that I am not having. Because I do not see them, I do not see me.
The dragonfly waited for me. It was patient. And then my mind pulled focus, the 1st camera assistant did her job. How clear. The detail of its structure, its beauty, the iridescent wings were so clear. And for a moment, I forgot to breathe.
So many things have been stuck, broken, inhabited by technological gremlins lately that I have become resigned to the no progress scenario.
I sit meditation, chant, let the darkness of recycling doubt move through me. I have not been insistent. I pray for patience, I pray for guidance, I pray for a sign daily.
Today, a dragon fly laid across my door lock and would not move.
When I looked up the significance I learned it is a sign of mental and emotional maturity.

All of the careful reformation of my mind, my body, my resetting of intention in the world has been guided by something outside of me. I have trusted that I would find a way to live with more grace in the world.

 

signs of love

signs of love

Today, a dragon fly laid across my door lock and it would not move until I received it.
I am grateful. Thank you, beautiful messenger.

Sisters at the Well

In 1997 when I visited Rome, I had a transformative, informative experience. In the center of one section of town there was a stone well. It was at the heart of the neighbourhood. And it was here that the women came together to work the stains, dust and dirt out of their family’s garments. It was here that women used the narrative woven by wagging tongues which maintained civil order. Women warned one another what would happen should the undisciplined urges be followed. A tongue lashing was not trivial.
Gossip is a powerful manner of structuring mores and habits which are the foundation of any society. The cultural threads that make the fabric of society were woven, mended and attended while the women worked together on their laundry.
Side by side, they rewarded or castigated certain forms of behavior. While a woman repeatedly rinsed, and twisted her husband’s clothes, she could hear what would happen if she dared to indulge the secret flirtation she felt toward another man.

The heart of the sisterhood, the public laundry.

The heart of the sisterhood, the public laundry.

Alliances were formed. Problems were worked out. Questions could be asked and answered by those with more life experience. The repetitive actions of the hands, arms and backs were strenuous and soothing. There was a place where connection was customary and expected.
Today, we have lost the power of the women at the well. All too frequently the closest we get to one another is via text or sitting without speaking next to another in a coffee shop.
Or it is an artificially arranged, special occasion when women plan a networking meeting for some pre determined goal. But the habit of the women meeting at the river or at the public laundry allowed for the comfort of contact in a way we no longer experience today.

 

women meeting at the river

women meeting at the river

Women do better in all aspects of their lives when they are in contact with other women. The terms ‘connectivity’ and ‘social capital’ are used in sociological studies which show the benefit of women having frequent, anticipated interaction with other women. These women are healthier. They live longer. They are more cheerful. They are more likely to discover alternative methods of solving problems and thus thrive more easily. They meet challenges with a more relaxed, creative mind because they know they can seek advice.
And last of all, they are more light spirited. Because who doesn’t like to tell outrageous stories while doing repetitive, necessary daily drudgery!!

And, lasty, when society is mirrored back to us from advertising and media, women feel overwhelmed with choices, confused about the very manner of being a woman, a wife, a mother, a friend and a sister. The background anxiety is like the sound of violins in a scary movie.

How do I fit in? Where is my place in the world? Who am I as a woman?

The old, restricted cultural choices are rapidly disappearing; however, women still need their sisters to mirror back to them who they are to be in the changing world. We need to work it out at the well, or the river. We need support and advice.
I think society is much the poorer since the central meeting place for women is no longer a feature of daily life. But thank goodness, we no longer have to do laundry by hand. In addition, we have made progress by allowing greater choice and freedom in discovering what it means to move into the world as a woman. And for that I am deeply appreciative.

I just wish there were some middle ground upon which women could meet face to face in order to bond and prosper. Meeting at the well is no longer for the purpose of restricting our choices and locking us into a place in society. Now it would be an occasion to discuss and expand our individual version of who we wish to be. The companionship, advice, feedback and habitual contact is still necessary, however the world changes.

 

Dealing with Stress at Christmas

Since November 6th my life has held many changes and surprises for me. So often we walk along a clearly marked path. There is a rhythm, a predictability to the days. It can become boring, comfortable, unchallenging. Sleep walking through the routine, one feels less than human.

I left Kelowna on November 6th to fly to Calgary and from there to the Netherlands. The clouds were layered over Amsterdam like puffy cartoon crop fields of whiteness. The consistent distance, size and even distribution made the vista outside the plane window appear as a cartoon depiction of a fantasy land.

netherlands skyAfter a brief stop, I was on the plane hop to Leeds.

The journey to Leeds left me puzzled standing on a sidewalk trying to find where I could find a bus to York and discover the whereabouts of my airbnb “home”. I did not understand the UK money so when I bought something, I simply put my money on the shelf of my flattened hand. I was frequently lost and disorientated. Having stumbled about York for two days, the next step was to go by train to London across recumbent open land that at times looked remarkably like Washington State except for the structures of the heritage stone buildings.

Stone city of York my mother's relatives.

Stone city of York my mother’s relatives.

 

Wandering around London for two days gave way to hopping the Train to Paris. Again, I did not understand the money. And by now I was used to the feeling of being lost and disoriented. The Paris Attacks occurred on the very street where my apartment was. I saw wounded. I heard death and machine guns. I walked next to pools of blood the next day. I used all of the skill I had as a meditator to keep myself centered.

From Paris, I hopped a plane to Zagreb and then to Dubrovnik where I was again unfamiliar with currency, the lay of the land and in addition, I was surrounded by people who did not speak English. When I arrived in Dubrovnik it was the day of lighting lanterns along the streets to commemorate the victims from Vukovar and Škabrnja on 18 November…

Lanterns to remember those killed. War. Remembrance. Grief.

Lanterns to remember those killed. War. Remembrance. Grief.

The ancient city of Dubrovnik, Croatia

The ancient city of Dubrovnik, Croatia

Once I returned home, I was tired and my body allowed the entry of  a virus. Lowered resistence lead to ten days in bed, miserable nights and dizziness from an inner ear infection.

As soon as I began to feel better, I got a call to report to the hospital for my colonoscopy  with laproscopic surgery. Every five years I must drink 4 liters of what I think is one of the most foul liquids I have ever experienced, go without food and go through the cutting out of suspicious bits. It is what has prevented a recurrence and kept me alive for 18 years after a very established cancer.

I crawled home, lay in bed and thought about all of the changes, challenges, instances of loss of control, the shifting time zones, the lack of sleep that had flashed through my life in the last 47 days.

Sometimes it makes me think of a kaleidoscope. There is a clear, reflected pattern that the eye grows accustomed to. One is accustomed to the sharp definition of shape. The comforting selections of colors mirrored back at one another.

And then, you want to shake it up. You are bored and feel stuck. I set out to walk in my ancestors footsteps in York and in Dubrovnik and I learned about war and invasions. I learned about slaughter, resistance, bodies stacked blocking the gates of towns.

My family’s roots were in war torn stone built fortresses. And then in Paris, I saw the modern war being waged based on ideology and religion and wounded hearts.

Blood on the Paris street of the murdered.

Blood on the Paris street of the murdered.

 

I watched myself rise to challenges that I had set and anticipated and also to even greater challenges I could never expect. When I returned home, I was irritated with myself for allowing myself to fall ill. I was disappointed with myself for once again becoming depressed over Christmas. I was curious about my fearful approach to the cancer screening and the surgeon told me it is PSTD. The body that has gone through a long illness with cancer reacts. She said it is basically imprinted trauma.

And I thought about the imprinted trauma of war that has passed through my DNA from York and from the Balkans.

My dreams and goals are to get beyond the programming. But, I am only human. And sometimes the explosions of too many challenges in a short period of time will just cause grief, sadness, and shutting down.

I can see that I have a long way to go before I can forgive myself for simply being human.

There is always more to learn. When I get greater distance, I will see more clearly what the lessons were over the last 47 days. It will be like stepping back and looking at a mural. Oh! I will say. That is what was being drawn for me.

Picking Threads

I am systematically working on building new habits. Researchers have said that we are nothing more than a bundle of habits.

patterns

 

We believe ourselves to be this face, this body, this story, this history, this actor, this receiver, this age, this cohort, this tapestry of threads woven into our energy field. We believe ourselves to be conscious and operating from the Executive decision function section of the frontal lobe.

All brain studies point to this assumption as flawed.
We are in the thrall of habit mind. If 95% of what we are telling ourselves throughout the day is simply old drama that is recalculating and interpreting current data, then it is no real surprise that the movie, the plot we are enacting is the same story. However,  this time the narrative is in a different setting. We are the same being only this time wearing as a costume a slightly altered body.
Did I mention, I am systematically working on building new habits.

 
I have a notebook. I have set up a grid. I am checking off squares.
What this does is it releases me from the interpretive dance of what is or could or would or should or will or did happen. The Loie Fuller scarf dance of swooping justifications, lyrical rationalizations, slight of eye, feign of hand, performances of inner dialogue music that normally occur.
I either check off the square or I don’t.

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I admire my ego self. It is so stalwart.

I hover my pen over a square saying, “Well I did walk around in the mall. That is exercise.” The creativity is admirable. The translation is not unlike that on Babble Fish. In one field I put the words and in the other a strange, otherworldly version appears. Breathing is exercise. Napping is physical. Sitting and reading about exercise is working toward my goals. Shopping for an exercise outfit is focus on that desired outcome. Right. Right? Right!
How I untangle the threads is with alertness. I have set up my reticular activation system to recognize successes. I have checked off doing weight for three days in a row because I do not have a vague goal of “exercise”. My goals are specific habits which I am entraining: yoga, weight lifting, and walking for no purpose.
Walking for no purpose gets rid of the “automatic out,” that ego tries to create. Mowing the lawn is walking. But it is not walking unleashed from a secondary goal. I cannot ingrain a habit without the recognition of the very habit which I am constructing.
That way lies madness. Or strange babblefish translations of ego talk.
I could be “burning calories” by eating with an incredibly heavy fork that I need to place 500 yards away and run back and forth to take that satisfying chomp of food.
All I have done is entrain eating.
Oh, the ego monster is sooo tricky.
For now, I am happy with my list. I am pleased when I put down a check mark and I stay in a place wherein I know who I will effortlessly be after a three month focus on building those particular habits.
Because, it ain’t magic. It ain’t a tragedy. It ain’t a heroic struggle to climb out of an awakening volcanic cone to the tiny pin light of the surface.
I am just a bundle of habits.
Did you follow my thread?