On my knees.

I’ve discovered it is pretty easy to pray while I’m working. My job really only requires part of my attention when I’m off the desk. I can pray or meditate or be receptive to what the Spirit wants me to receive. This is where and when and how I get most of my ideas for this blog.

Today I was out in the stacks pulling paging slips. We are part of a large library system and we get requests for books to be sent to other branches. Sometimes I’m the one who goes and pulls them from the shelves. I was back in the biography section and was praying about my calling. I want to be on the right path, but I also want to know how close I am to seeing it fulfilled.

Yeah, I’m trying to make that tadpole into a frog again.

The Spirit said that it was already happening, that it has already started. The Spirit has said this before. I’m having a hard time believing this because I don’t see it yet, but I’m feeling more content about this.

Then I felt compelled to go to my knees. Right there. In thanks.

This is really weird. But I’m pulling these books and I think it wouldn’t look out of place for me to kneel down in front of this shelf as if I’m looking for a book. I kneel, feeling obedient but silly and a little self conscious. I give thanks.

It was a small moment. When I looked up, I noticed a book was facing me. It was titled “Nowhere But Up”. I took it as a further affirmation.

I wouldn’t have noticed this little bit of encouragement if I’d remained standing.

Sometimes we have to get on our knees to know we are on the right path.

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Like

I’m really trying to resist telling the lady in the waiting room at the car dealership that the reason people think she is so young is because she acts young. Young as in immature.

She says “like” way too much. “And I was like…” “And she was like…” “And they were like…”

How did we get to the point that we can no longer conjugate verbs?

“Like” should be used as a comparative. The Mini is like the VW bug. The Ford F150 is not like a Honda Civic. “Like” can be used to say that you are in favor of something. I like Italian ice, but I don’t like hot fudge sundaes.

“Like” should not be used as a substitute for “said” or as a prelude to a description of someone’s behavior.

She’s telling her story very loudly to another stranger in the waiting room. She says that everybody assumes she dropped out of high school. That everybody assumes she is in her teens. From her story it sounds like she is 24. She acts like she is 16. She also dresses young. Converse. Jeans. T-shirt. She wears no makeup so her acne is openly visible.

I’m trying to be good. I’m trying to be kind. I’m not doing very well, but I’ve not said anything to her yet.

I remember one time I was in water aerobics class. I’d been going for over two years. This new lady starts showing up, 10 years older, fake tan, scratchy, twangy voice. Barbara had obviously spent a lot of time working out. She had no fat on her. She wasn’t muscular though. She worked out very hard in the class.

But I can’t stand her. She’s uncouth. She’s grating. She’s loud. She thinks it is funny to dunk people. I hate being dunked. She hasn’t done it to me, but I’m wary. I’ve got my eye on her just in case she gets too close.

One day she was near me when we were doing a move we’ve done many times before. And when I say we, I mean me and everybody else. She is an interloper. I’ve never seen her do this move. Maybe she has been in other water aerobics classes. I don’t know, and I don’t care.

Because she felt that it was her place to tell me how to do the move.

I ignored her. And I started disliking her more. And I kept on doing the move the same way I’ve always done it. Maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe her way is right. But I don’t care.

Right now, I’m trying not to be Barbara.

I want to tell this girl that at a minimum she must stop saying “Like” all the time. But she doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know that I have a degree in English. She doesn’t know that I’ve tutored students from kindergarten to college for over ten years.

She doesn’t know that I too have had a problem with people assuming I’m a lot younger than I am.

I want to fix her.

Really, I want her to stop yammering.

Really, she reminds me of me when I was that age.

So I sit here, and write, and pray, and hope for redemption and healing, for myself and for her. I wasn’t planning on having this kind of emotional turmoil while sitting in the waiting room getting my car fixed, but when you are stuck some place for 7 hours, anything can happen.

Fiction

People want a happy ending. This is why many people read fiction and watch movies. They want the lovers reunited. They want the killer caught. They want resolution. They want to know that everything is going to be OK. We use fiction and films as escapes from reality.

But this isn’t real. And the more you read or watch, the more your own life will seem miserable. There isn’t resolution or conclusion or ending all the time. Sometimes things just happen and that is the way they are and you just have to deal with it.

Hollywood films all have happy endings. Everybody makes up. Everything is fine in the end. Foreign films rarely do this. There is ambiguity. There is unfinished business. There are more questions at the end than answers.

Persian films are the best at this. As one friend said, in Persian films somebody is crying, or somebody is dying. They don’t end up well. They reflect the irregularity, the unpredictability of life.

But here’s the advantage – if you watch a foreign film, especially a Persian one, your own life seems much better by comparison. Your own mess is far tidier. Your own relationship squabbles are far cleaner. Your job is easier. Your future looks bright.

I had a friend who took acid. Most people try to have a really good trip when they do this. Not David. He would have the worst trip possible. He wanted to see demons. He wanted to be chased and attacked and hunted. He wanted everything horrible to occur in his head for eight hours. His logic- his own life would seem that much better by comparison.

I’ve read the idea recently that instead of going on vacation; why not create a life you don’t have to escape from?

So, extending that further, instead of reading fiction and watching movies all the time, why not create your own life to be what you want – or learn how to accept the “what – is”?

The more you escape, the more the problem increases.

Time to decide. Spend your life awake, or asleep?

Flux (the only constant is change)

I wake up hot at 2:30 or 3 these days. Hot in body and mind. I’ve done this before. The first time was three years ago. I was afraid I was having heart problems. Turns out a racing heart and mind is part of perimenopause.

But this is also really cool. I get ideas at this time. I get ideas on things to write about. Ideas come together, ideas that I’ve been chewing on for years and never seen the connection. I had an English teacher in college who would inspire the same kind of connections. This is that, but without the tuition fee and way too early in the day.

I’ve noticed that “Oh Mani Padme Hum” is the same as “Namaste”. It is a greeting or acknowledging of energy. It is noticing potentiality. It is acknowledging that now isn’t always. What you see isn’t what you get.

I had a vision of a small girl in my dream tonight. She came up to me, with raven black hair falling past her shoulders. She smiled an open smile and held out her left hand to me. In her hand was a glass vial, maybe an inch long. I looked and I saw two brown coils, like tiny brown worms, like strands of chromosomes, flex and twine in their pulses. I understood this. All is in flux, all is movement. The only constant is change.

I remember that it is essential to not define something as “good” or “bad” – it just is. We see it as one or the other based on our human perspective, but we don’t have the whole picture. We can’t. Ever.

God is the Alpha and Omega and we cannot fully comprehend that. We want absolutes, yes/no, yin/yang. Yes, God is the beginning and the end, so God is bigger than we can comprehend. We are just a blip, a speck.

But it also means that God is dual natured – God is also unified.

Out divided selves cannot comprehend this. We don’t have words for it and we can’t experience this.

It is satori.

It is stopping time. It is Zen. It is the right now and being OK with things as is, with no definition. No definition means no words, but it also means no boundaries – it all gets a little fuzzy around the edges, because there aren’t any edges any more.

Sometimes things are clearer if you take off your glasses.

There is a bird’s nest at the top of the hill in my back yard. I noticed the nest the last time I was trimming the shrubs up there. I looked at the nest and the eggs over the course of a week and they looked abandoned.

I was sad about the eggs in the trees when I realized they weren’t changing. I wanted them to change, to become birds. I feared that my cutting the brush in that area had caused the parents to abandon the nest. I felt that it was bad energy, especially for that area.

That area is special. It has a small patio area that my husband put in. It is a place to sit, just big enough for two. It isn’t quite big enough to do yoga. Yet.

These are the star stones. This is in honor of Madeline L’Engle’s “Wrinkle in Time” series. This is where I sit to talk to God when I am at home, outside, just like her characters did.

Dead birds, unborn birds would be bad, right?

But the “bad” of Judas betraying Jesus was preordained. It was what had to happen. It the same as Rumi’s “The Guest House”, it is the same as the Chinese story of the man, the boy, and the horse.

It just is.

And it is all energy, “good” and “bad”.

How human of us to see things only from our perspective, from how it benefits us.

I recently found a pale blue egg away from its nest, dented, alone. It would become welcome food for ants and other unknown creatures. And it caused me to stop and think, and grieve a little.

Decay leads to new life. It can’t all be all go go go.

Yoga has rests built into it. The music is the space between the notes.

We can even learn from the exhale. We can’t always breathe in.

The only constant is change.

Tuesday Buffet

There is a difference between seeing and noticing. We see all the time. We rarely notice. We rarely take the time to slow down and really look at what is going on. We are often in such a hurry that we take a glance and then go on, missing most of everything.

It helps to look at stop-motion animation or to take pictures of things as they are growing. I had a project once. I took a picture of the same tree, from the same spot, at the same time every Tuesday for a year. I saw the tree change and evolve, grow and decay from one season to the next. I stood in rain and snow. I changed a little when I did that project. I’d wanted to do it for a long time, and then I finally decided that it was time to start. Then I was committed to it. I posted the weekly picture on my personal Facebook page, and it turned out that my friends looked forward to it.

There was something personally transforming about that project. I don’t know whether it was because I finally got over my inertia (a common malady) or I finally actually noticed that tree, or both, but I changed. I started to look at everything this way, and wonder what else I was missing, and wonder when I was going to start other projects I’d thought about for a long time.

I almost missed being able to complete that project. The tree, a Bradford Pear, was on the lot of a Chinese buffet that I went to. I’d gone there for at least a decade. It was a fixture of the community. It was just something that was always there. Until it wasn’t. I was three-quarters through my project and they closed. They had bought the competition and moved. Now, I could no longer go to lunch there and just walk out afterwards at 12:45 on a Tuesday and take the picture. I had to go eat quickly elsewhere, and then drive over there to get that shot.

I was committed to that time, and that place, and that day. The project depended on being consistent.

I contemplated cancelling the project. I was almost done. It was good enough. My friends changed my mind – they’d come to look forward to that tree, in the same way that I had. I redoubled my efforts and completed the project.

If I’d waited a few months longer to start the project, it would have been that much more difficult to finish. There could have been a bad storm and the tree could have been damaged, or it could have succumbed to rot and been taken out. I could have missed the whole thing before I even began.

Other things happened as well, to me. I’d suddenly had to buy a different car, and I’d had to have surgery to remove a precancerous spot. I started going to the Y. I started journaling again. Perhaps it was all linked – I started paying attention.

Here is a selection of the pictures for you. (I’ve made another change – I’ve edited this to have ALL the pictures. This is a meditation on how we can always go back and fix things. Our work doesn’t have to be “perfect” at the start.)

The first picture, 7-27-10

7-27-10

8-3-10
a8-3-10

8-10-10
a8-10-10

8-17-10
a8-17-10

8-24-10
a8-24-10

8-31-10
a8-31-10

9-14-10. Missed a week because we were on vacation in North Carolina, before my surgery.
a9-14-10

9-21-10. The day before my surgery.
a9-21-10

9-29-10. A Wednesday. Not allowed to drive for a week after surgery, this was the first time I went out.
a9-29-10

10-5-10
a10-5-10

10-12-10, a touch of fall
10-12-10

10-19-10
a10-19-10

10-26-10. Raining hard.
a10-26-10

11-2-10
a11-2-10

11-9-10
a11-9-10

11-16-10
a11-16-10

11-23-10
a11-23-10

11-30-10. My birthday. My husband drove. The restaurant owner bought my lunch.
a11-30-10

12-7-10
a12-7-10

12-14-12, a tiny bit of snow. There was a Christmas luncheon at work, so I ate quickly and then drove here to take this picture and do the recycling chore.
12-14-10

12-21-10
a12-21-10

12-29-10. A Wednesday. I was off for the Christmas holidays and forgot that yesterday was Tuesday.
a12-29-10

1-4-11. This would have been my Mom’s 70th birthday. She died at 53 from smoking cigarettes.
a1-4-11

1-11-11, dreary day, with snow
1-11-11

1-18-11. Just found out that Peter, the owner of the buffet, has bought the competition that is a block away. This location will be closing. How will I continue this project?
a1-18-11

1-25-11
a1-25-11

2-1-11. The Tuesday buffet special price has been discontinued, now that there is no competition.
a2-1-11

2-8-11
a2-8-11

2-15-11
a2-15-11

2-22-11
a2-22-11

3-1-11
a3-1-11

3-8-11 The buffet has closed. I ate quickly somewhere else and then made a special trip here.
a3-8-11

3-15-11. The Bradford pear is just beginning to blossom. I parked out of frame to reference the fact that the buffet is closed now and things are different.
3-15-11 closed

3-22-11 If I’d stopped going I would have missed this glorious display of beauty.
3-22-11

3-29-11
a3-29-11

4-5-11. While here, I saw another car in the lot. A lady went into the building. A new owner?
a4-5-11

4-12-11
a4-12-11

4-19-11
a4-19-11

4-26-11. There was a bad storm recently and the Bradford pear has lost a branch.
a4-26-11

5-3-11 The place isn’t being taken care of – a branch that had fallen is still there and the grass needs cutting.
5-3-11

5-10-11
a5-10-11

5-17-11. A “cartoon” version from last week. I was home sick, and next week we plan on going on vacation to NC. I didn’t want my friends to miss that much so I created this.
a5-17-11

6-7-11. Three whole weeks missed. Sick, vacation, and then a going-away party for someone at work. I was starting to think about cancelling the project. The place was sold and it was hard to get here on time every week now.
a6-7-11

6-14-11. Back on track. Recommitted.
a6-14-11

6-21-11
a6-21-11

6-28-11
a6-28-11

7-5-11
a7-5-11

7-26-11 -and we are back around to the beginning. Not a lot looks different, but a lot has happened.

7-26-11

———–
Edit to add – This is the most recent picture, taken at the same spot, or as close as I can determine.
last 040116

The lot is now a Zaxby’s. I’m standing in the drive-through lane. The entire building was torn down and the foo-dogs were removed, much to the chagrin of the the former owner, who wanted them back. They cost $10K each. This picture was not taken on a Tuesday at 1 pm as all the others were, because I can’t get here at that time anymore because of where I work now. This was around three on a Friday. Yet another change. My father always said “You just adjust and adjust and adjust, and then you die.”

Here are more pictures of that area, taken after the buffet had closed.

The building
110

111
112

Through the windows
144

The foo-dog guardians under the Bradford pear, in bloom.
115116
117118119120121

Yoga lesson (surprise)

On Friday I performed a headstand and a handstand in yoga class. I surprised myself. But that is part of yoga. You push yourself and stretch yourself. You find your edge. It isn’t about hurting yourself or falling over that edge. It is about stretching, both physically and mentally. It is about unkinking yourself too – getting rid of rigidity in thought and body.

I’m in a process of self improvement. I’m in a process of body modification, but piercings and surgery aren’t involved. I’m transforming myself from the inside out. I’m not interested in the quick fix or the short term. I plan on walking on this path for the rest of my life.

American society doesn’t teach this. It teaches mindless living. It teaches eat whatever you want and take a pill to fix the resulting health problems. It teaches live for the moment and don’t plan ahead. It teaches that somebody else will save you, fix the problem, make it better.

Eating well and exercising and being creative are some of the most counter-cultural things you can do.

It has taken me a year of yoga and three years of water aerobics to be able to perform those moves. Either I needed all that work to be physically strong enough to do them, or I needed all that time to feel confident enough to try. Or I needed a teacher to suggest them to me and show me how. Or all three.

I’ve made a habit of writing every day, and now I’ve added in drawing every day. Everything worth having starts in such simple ways. Who knows where this is leading to? What will I surprise myself with a year from now, three years from now?

Apples, or how to get quality through focus.

I read once about how the Japanese grow such amazing apples. They look at the small apples when they are just beginning to grow and they pull off the ones that they don’t need. All the ones that look a little scraggly or misshapen they pull off. Because of this, the other fruit gets the energy that was going to them. So instead of having 10 good apples and 10 ok apples, they get 10 amazing apples. Quality over quantity.

I think it would be a good idea for us to apply that concept to all of our activities. In this, I’m specifically thinking about hobbies, or things we do for fun that we would like to get better at.

Rather than getting scattered trying to do too many things, select the ones that look the most promising. Pick those that look fruitful, if you will.

What do you enjoy doing most? What do you think you would like to spend more time on and get better at?

We have only so much time in our days and in our lives. It is wiser to pare down and do two things amazingly well than 10 things only ok.

I’ve read that the difference between an average artist and an amazing one is practice. The main difference is time – specifically 10,000 hours of time – spent honing your craft. This applies to music, to writing, drawing. It is the same for a seamstress or a surgeon. Want to get better at it? Do it. A lot. Make a regular habit of it.

Some natural aptitude is helpful, but the real difference is work.

Nobody starts off an expert. Of course your first attempts look wonky. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else – they aren’t you. What is important is that you hone your craft, your skill.

There is a Chinese saying that the best time to plant a tree was 100 years ago. The second best time is today.

Get going.