Monday, December 21, 2009


These past few weeks I have been struggling with the idea of head knowledge verses applied knowledge. Some ideas make so much sense when I read them or think about them, but when I need to apply them to a problem in my life, I don’t feel very smart.

A tangible way to illustrate this is to talk about my experience trying to make a beaded icicle. I knew that I needed to gradually increase the circumference of the icicle, create some sort of spiral effect, and have variegation. After my first attempt, I also discovered that I needed to make my object stiff. Even thought the finished icicle is fairly abstract and freeform, I needed four attempts to come up with something that “worked.”

I am beginning to believe that much of life is an artistic endeavor. My parents were so hell bent on “getting it right the first time.” In truth, most of life is just stringing one bead at a time, with a few basic principles in mind, and seeing how our efforts turn out, knowing that we can try something a little--or a lot--different the next time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Multiple Levels of Change

I become frustrated with people who are condescending toward their charges who need to make changes in their lives. Often I think that people misjudge where the real change needs to take place. Robert Dilts, in Beliefs, does a wonderful job of describing change:

Change is a multilevel process…
We make changes in our environments; Changes in our behaviors through which we interact with our environment; Changes in our capabilities and the strategies by which we direct and guide our behavior; changes in our beliefs and value systems by which we motivate and reinforce our guidance systems and maps; Changes in our identity of which we select the values and beliefs we live by; Changes in our relationship to those things which are bigger than us, those things that most people would call spiritual.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


A few weeks ago I mentioned that I wanted to see what the country would be like in the future. In some ways, my request was answered in the guise of Metatropolis, five short stories edited by John Scalzi. Five authors created a not too distant future, where the governments of the United States and other major countries have collapsed. What are left in their places are pockets of cities centered on green technology and high tech communications.

Several concepts fascinated me. I have been interested in the concept of memes. One of the stories describes a city that is disbanded so that its ideas can be transmitted around the world. Conversely, another story describes “turks” for covert activities. Basically people are paid to do one tiny task, such as walk a package a few blocks, without knowing their part in the larger scheme. They can never be successfully interrogated or held accountable, because they just don’t know. Another concept is mobile societies, like the nomads of old except connected by technology. My favorite concept was a virtual world laid over a physical world using technology embedded in glasses. It begins as a sort of video game, but towards the middle becomes much more complex, representing a true society.

The world the authors created was fascinating to me, neither bright nor dreadful. It did open up my mind to new possibilities, which to me is the reward of enjoyable science fiction.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Counter Clockwise by Ellen J. Langer is a provocative book on health. Langer encourages us to question our assumptions about health diagnosis and aging, as well as about other areas of our life. She introduced me to the concept of priming. According to Wikipedia:“Priming in psychology occurs when an earlier stimulus influences response to a later stimulus.” Here is Langer’s description:
Much of what we have learned…was learned mindlessly as we uncritically accepted information without thinking about it, often because the information was given to us by an authority or was initially irrelevant. Even if it is to our advantage to rethink the information at some point, it simply doesn’t occur to us to do so. This makes us vulnerable to the effects of priming….The way priming works is to trigger ideas we have mindlessly committed ourselves to without awareness…

Saturday, October 31, 2009


I just finished reading The Englishwoman in America, which was first published in 1856. Isabella Lucy Bird describes her trip to America. How life has changed in a century and a half! She traveled by train, steamer, carriage, and clipper. She talked about the 400 daily newspapers published in the 32 states of the United States. Slavery was still legal in half the states. Neither women nor blacks had the vote. Cholera was epidemic in both Canada and the United States, taking thousands of lives. She had to dip her pen in ink to write her journal.

What would Isabella say in her blog if she suddenly appeared in 2009? The newspapers are almost extinct. We’ve been traveling by car and plane for almost a century, and we can teleconference with relatives in Europe. We have a black president. People text while commuting. We have vaccines for our latest epidemic.

What would the world be like if we were suddenly sent to 2162? Will we transport in nanoseconds? Will the United States, or even countries, exist? Will we communicate instantly with each other via implants? Will we be able to “download” programs that will instantly vaccinate us for new diseases like we do computer viruses? Will the truly amazing changes be, not in the areas of technology, but in how we think about ourselves, our fellow human, sentient beings, and the world? Sign me up, I want to know.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Virus of the Mind

I recently read Virus of the Mind by Richard Brodie which discusses the concepts of memes. “A meme is a unit of information in a mind whose existence influences events such that more copies of itself get created in other minds.” According to the book ideas replicate not because they are good or helpful but because they are good at replicating.

Since reading the book, I have found myself looking at my thoughts and beliefs. Am I thinking something because it is helpful to me or because I am just used to thinking that thought? According the Brodie:

The word pay in “pay attention” is quite apt. As conscious beings, attention is our most precious commodity. Attention is a piece of our consciousness, a slice of our human life. When we direct our attention at something, we are spending a piece of our conscious life. How many of us consciously direct our attention toward whatever is most important to us?
Brodie’s book is like Tamiflu for the consciousness.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Changing Perspective

I read The Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo last weekend.
The following was a sign that a number of the characters tried to read:

So many times in our lives all we need to do is alter our perspective a tad and everything will make sense.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

New Path

From The Secret Daily Teachings:
When a big change occurs in your life it forces you to change direction. Sometimes the new path may not be easy, but you can be absolutely certain that there is magnificence for you on the new path. You can be absolutely certain that the new path contains things that you could not have experienced otherwise.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Being Seen

Today I feel slightly haunted by the book, The Book of D’ni, which I finished last night. I had expected it to be a fun read when I picked it up at the library, especially since it is based on a video game. Instead I find myself mulling over the moral lesson. In the story some people of D’ni are transported to an idyllic world. Near the beginning of the story there is a cryptic scene when our protagonists meet one of the residents of Teranhee, who asks “Can I see you?” Near the end of the book we find out that this world is dependent upon millions of unseen slaves. The people that the D’ni originally met had been trained to not see these slaves.

What haunts me is that I think many, if not most, of the people in the United States are like the people of Teranhee. Most of us don’t know where are food or clothes come from. We aren’t aware of the conditions that people in other countries are working under to produce our goods. The recent high unemployment rates have made many of us painfully aware of the high cost of low priced goods produced in other countries. Last week I read that some teachers were imported from the Philippines to teach students in the US. These teachers were basically treated as indentured servants. What is that teaching children?

I was running late for church this morning as I was thinking about the book. This definitely isn’t my day to save the world. What we really need to do is sit back and think about what we need as a planet of people, especially with all the changes created by global warming. But, before we can do that we need to “see people.” We need to see the people who produce our goods, see the people around the world who are victims of genocide, see the people who have had their homes and families destroyed because of floods and earthquakes. We need to see them as people, see them as “us.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Lost Art of Gratitude

I am so grateful for what Alexander McCall Smith continues to teach me about writing and about being human. In the world of adrenaline pumping television dramas and novels, The Lost Art of Gratitude is a welcome change of pace. Nothing much happens in the story, but so much about life is conveyed. The descriptions of Isabel’s feelings toward her lover Jamie and her son Charlie are priceless. The storyline about Brother Fox connects us to what it is to have compassion and to love. Here is one of my favorite quotes from the book:
“Books are not mute, she thought; they have things to whisper…”

Monday, September 21, 2009


Alexander McCall Smith’s first chapter of the second “book” of Corduroy Mansion begins today on the internet, and a new chapter will be published every weekday through early February. Reading the opening sentence, I am quickly reminded why AMS is one of my favorite authors:

William French wine merchant, Master of Wine (failed), somewhere in his early fifties (hardly noticeably, particularly in the right light), loyal subscriber to Rural Living (although he lived quite happily in central London), long-time supporter of several good causes (he was a kind man at heart, with a strong sense of fairness), widower, dog-owner, and much else besides; the same William French looked about his flat in Corduroy Mansions, as anybody might survey his or her flat in a moment of self-assessment, of stocktaking.

Two weeks ago I started writing Kata’s Cadence, which is essentially an extension of what I have been writing for our church the Sundays that I conduct the service. Each day I write a prayer, affirmation, blessing, or brief observation. Like the rhythm of my life, the tone can vary from day to day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

A Bookfilled Journey

Life presents us with all sorts of marvelous opportunities for journeys. In recent years I had become concerned that I was reading too many self-help books. I rarely read fiction. When my aunt went into assisted living I began to send her books, mostly novels, but I was somewhat concerned about what I was sending her. For good reason!! I didn’t know they could print some of this stuff without a warning on the cover!! One of the benefits of my reading books before I gave them to my aunt was finding the works of Alexander McCall Smith and other wonderful authors.

So, when I made my New Year’s resolutions for 2009, I decided that I would read at least 52 novels. In February I added to that resolution that I would also read at least one author for each letter of the alphabet. As I have finished each book, I have listed the title and the author in my small notebook. Not only have I been reading books this year. I have also been exploring the imaginations of over 26 authors.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Directed Change

Sometimes, when we don’t have the courage to change, everything changes around us to direct us to a new path. You cannot stop yourself from growing—evolution requires it.
The Secret Daily Teachings

Monday, August 31, 2009


A few months ago, I wrote that if people were really concerned about global warming causing Washington DC to be under water in the future, they should take out their pencils and start redesigning the Capital now. I found a website on Seasteading. It has some interesting ideas for ocean living. The pictures are fun to look at, but I’m not sure if any of them include the New White House.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Substitutes for Self-confidence

In The Ordeal of Change, Eric Hoffer talks about how to overcome that awkwardness that most of us feel when we begin something new.
Faith, enthusiasm, and passionate intensity in general are substitutes for the self-confidence born of experience and the possession of skills.
I sometimes imagine opening up my arms wide and just flinging myself with mindless abandon.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Learners and Change

In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.

Eric Hoffer

Friday, August 7, 2009

The Gift of Change

The greatest gift from God to man is a growing mind, one that expands from day to day as the light of truth breaks upon it. Were it otherwise, were our ideas fixed and changeless, life would be intolerable and existence a sterile waste.
Abel Leighton Allen

Friday, July 31, 2009

Birthday Shout Out

Today is my cousin's, David Ward’s, 50th Birthday.

So many changes have happened in his life and in the world in the past half century. I can only begin to imagine what is in store for the next 50 years!

We better darn well get to Mars in the next 50 years, and hopefully a lot sooner.

Many, many, many, many, many blessings!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dog On It

One of my New Year’s resolutions for this year was to read 52 novels. This included reading the work of at least one novelist for each letter of the alphabet. Recently I had made my way to the Q’s and was having problems. No author whose last name began with Q made my chimes sound. Finally, I put Q into the library search engine, which would have been a disaster for any other letter of the alphabet, and out popped Spencer Quinn’s name. I went a bit over the river and through the woods to find the book, which evidently doesn’t spend much time sitting on the shelves, but I am so glad that I did.

Dog On It is a detective novel written from the dog’s perspective. His point of view drives the novel. As a reader I experience the strong priority he puts on relationships, his frustrations at not being able to communicate the important information he knows, his fears, his fascination with scents, his joy of life. The novel would not be the same told by another perspective. I am so glad that I needed to find a "Q" book!

Monday, July 20, 2009

When Everything Changes

When Everything Changes, Change Everything, by Neale Donald Walsch, is an excellent book on dealing with change. I am on my third time through. Here is one of the opening quotes:
The changes in our life are not going to stop…What can be changed is the way you deal with change, and the way you’re changed by change.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Time Traveling

I finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger late last night. What a marvelous book. Some of the scenes from the book are still floating through my mind. I am beginning to read and write poetry again. In many ways the novel is a very long poem, scene by scene illustrating the metaphor of memory.

Lately, my life has resonated with the story of the Time Traveler’s Wife. My father died at 51, my mother at 84. I have been cleaning out their house. I look at old pictures, read old letters. Most of the people are gone. A few weeks ago, I was telling my last surviving aunt that it feels so odd to look at these pictures that were taken long before I was born. It feels odd to look in on their lives. I am the time traveler.

On June 5th 2009 I read the introduction to the Dore Lectures on Mental Science, which was written on June 5th 1909. I felt like Thomas Troward was sitting in the living room with me, speaking those words that he had written a century ago. How did he know that I would so desperately need those ideas? It was as though part of him had traveled to the future.

Life is much more asynchronous than we realize. The Time Traveler’s Wife does a beautiful job of helping us to think about that.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Fearless Fish

Robin Fisher Roffer’s The Fearless Fish Out of Water balances celebrating uniqueness with giving practical advice on how to deal with being different. This is one of my favorite quotes from the book:

Accept yourself and others will follow. Apologize for who you are and others will see you as someone to pity. Saying you’re sorry for your imperfections puts doubts in people’s minds about your value.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Michael Jackson

Although I am not a big music fan, I still feel touched by the passing of Michael Jackson. He wasn’t just a celebrity. His music composes the soundtrack of so many people’s lives. In the movie of my life, you would hear his music during the long commutes I once did, during the early mornings when I listened to the radio waiting for the caffeine to kick in, and during some of my aerobic workout sessions. His music is intimately woven into the fabric of the lives of a number of generations. For those who are music fans, I would imagine his death is enormous, a time for grief, remembering, and even self-reflection. We have lost an icon.

Monday, June 22, 2009

A Better Day Tomorrow

I collect quotes about change like other people collect stamps or bird figurines. I found this quote in a novel I read over the weekend, Welcome to My Planet by Shannon Olson:

“Your father,” says Flo,” Always felt that tomorrow would be better. Tomorrow would be a better day. That everything he couldn’t be and do today would magically happen tomorrow. The thing he never understood,” she says, “is that you have to make those changes, you have to take steps to change things, or the next day will be the same,” she says, “with all the weight of the day before on top of it.”

Friday, June 19, 2009

Saying Good-bye Again to an Analog Father

Last week, when TV stations officially stopped broadcasting in analog, I sobbed, despite the fact that my old TV had been digitally compatible for over half a year. I couldn’t figure out why I was so emotional. I felt like I had lost something precious.

When my mother passed away a few years ago, I felt like we had been riding in a car together and she had gotten out. I kept on looking at her in the rearview mirror, each day her image getting smaller and smaller. I kept on wanting to somehow turn the car and go back for her. She was no longer there chatting with me in the car. We were no longer making memories. More and more of the world that we had known together had changed. I know some religions refer to the term Summerland as the afterlife. Part of my brain took this literally, as though Summerland were a summer camp where I could send letters to my mother. I thought about writing her with the latest news. “Dear Mom, a new Walgreens and custard stand just went up on the corner.” “Dear Mom, we just elected our first non-white president, and I know you’d just adore his wife’s clothes.” “Dear Mom, Gary just passed away. Ellen is taking it hard.” The point is that I can still think of telling her things that would have seemed relevant to her.

My father died when I was a wee thing. He loved technology, but unfortunately didn’t live to see CD’s, PC’s, and definitely not the Internet. He would have embraced all those technologies and more. If he had lived long enough, I am sure he would have Twittered and had his own video blog. Dad loved science fiction so maybe he somehow experienced those things in his imagination. I can only hope so.

On the day of the digital conversation I felt like I crossed a huge chasm that now separates my father and me. My dad has now become a fossil, someone from a totally different era. It was as though my father had driven a horse and buggy, never even seen a car, and now I was in Detroit during the glory years. Or, I was going to the theater ever week and watching movies in color when my father had never even heard a talking picture. I only knew one of my grandparents and only briefly before he passed away. To me my grandparents are just old black and white pictures, ghosts in stories my mom used to tell me. My father now seems like a ghost in the frame. All these feelings just from someone flipping a few switches at some television stations.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Trying Again

I think most new Tai Chi students would benefit from this quote from Linda Myoki Lehrhaupt from T’ai Chi as a Path of Wisdom:

…t’ai chi has nothing to do with perfecting technique. It has nothing to do with mastering oneself, if by that we mean controlling our feelings or thoughts. It is, rather, the practice of the student who, frustrated and angry at not getting “it,” starts to walk out the door but then returns to her training place and vows to try once more. Being able to say “I’ll try again” is one of the deepest expressions of faith in oneself.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Memorial Day Blessing

Donna, the minister of our teeny, tiny church, will be out of town for the next two weeks, and I will be conducting the services. I have a Memorial Day theme planned for tomorrow. Donna said that in the decade that she has been minister she has never focused on Memorial Day. Somehow it seems important to me this year. I’m not sure exactly why. Perhaps, it is because my Uncle Lefty, who served in both WWII and the Korean War, passed away in December. Perhaps it is because I have been watching so much NCIS on television this past year that I somehow feel more connected with the men and women who have fought for this country. Perhaps it is from feeling proud to be an American after the first African American president was sworn in this year.

I usually end the services with a blessing. I wrote this one for Sunday:
May you revel in the first weekend of summer,
Feeling the joy of being alive.
May you also experience a quiet moment of gratitude,
Honoring the men and women who gave their lives
For this country.
May you feel a gentle connection with loved ones
Who have passed before you,
Always remembering that Love never dies.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


I find this quote from The Steerswoman by Rosemary Kirstein thought provoking:

The books and charts are just the means to hold on to what you learn, in a way that makes it easier for others to learn from you. They’re a way to add up learning, to accumulate it past your own lifetime….Facts, ideas fit together. It’s the fitting, the paths that connect them, that matters. The pieces can change, but the fitting lies beneath it all. The world is made of such fittings.

Friday, May 15, 2009


I like this quote from the The Heartmath Solution:

Don’t fall into the trap of feeling as if things will never get better or telling yourself, “I’ve tried, but it’s just not working.” That period between making an effort to change and actually registering the results is when most people stumble, lapsing back into old behaviors.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day 2009

This blog is moving in a different direction than I had originally intended, but I will be open to change myself. This will be my Aunt Ellen's first Mother's Day since Gary passed away. Here is a poem I wrote for the 30 Day Poetry Challenge.
“Mother’s Day 2009”

Last year two.
This year one.
One phone call
One bouquet
One card
One “I love you”
Not two
Last year two
Two sons.

Oh, his back hurt in summer.
It had for years.
She should have never let him
Why hadn’t she stopped him?
Let him move her boxes
When she moved into assisted living.

In fall he had the surgery.
A mother always worries.
Rods, pins, braces
He looked so uncomfortable.

The beginning of winter
He said the word
The word that changed
Her worry to terror:

She prayed and prayed
Called everyone she knew
To pray.
They promised
To pray.

In late winter he went
Into the hospital
For the treatment that might
Change everything.
But not in the way
She had prayed for.

Now one.
Not two.
One bouquet

Friday, May 1, 2009

New Poet Laureate

My 30 day poetry challenge ended yesterday. As an unexpected present, I just read that Carol Ann Duffy has been chosen as the first poet laureate in the UK. Sometimes change is good.

According to the AP article:
She (Duffy) said poetry "is a place we can go to for comfort, celebration, when we're in love, when we're bereaved and sometimes for events that happen to us as a nation."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Poetry Challenge

I was an English major, belonged to an off-campus poetry group, and wrote a poem nightly for the first few years after graduation. I am not sure when I stopped. All I know is that I have written only a handful of poems in recent years.

This month I have been participating in a poetry challenge. Each day the moderator gives us our topic or form, and we are to create a poem and post it.

My first surprise was how much emotion I had bottled up. I wrote my first poem and cried. Since then I have had many mornings of releasing long pent up feelings.

My Tai Chi friend Elizabeth regularly participates in poetry slams, unfortunately I only see her briefly when her class ends and Liuhebafa begins. For the first two weeks of the month I couldn’t connect with her to tell her about the challenge. As I waved my hand weakly in her direction, I told a number of other women about the challenge. What surprised me was how interested they were. I hadn’t expected that at all.

Poetry feels so new to me. I supposed it is another example of “Beginner’s Mind.” One of the many things I am enjoying is how my attention has been changing. I pay more attention to small sensory experiences. I notice a squirrel, the details of a cup, the juxtaposition of objects in the lawn. I have been reading novels by Christopher Fowler lately and am amazed how small details draw me into his stories. The same technique is true for poetry writing.

I think we all need something like the poetry challenge. Too often we feel impotent in our lives. The latest news story is the Swine Flu Pandemic. We can feel totally powerless. “Wash your hands.” Yea, right. I literally had someone sneeze in my face earlier this winter. But when I wrote my first Sestina this morning, I felt powerful. Maybe I only felt that way for an hour, but I felt it. I am sure my immune system, my emotions, and my fight or flight reflex felt that too. I will miss the challenge once the month ends.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

Christopher Fowler has a fun quote in The Water Room. An 80+ year old detective has been sloshing through water, trying to solve a series of murders during one of the wettest periods in London’s history:
Global Warming. We’re getting pissed on night and day just so mums can drop kids off in SUV’s.

For many people, Global Warming really didn’t register in their brains until we began to experience all the wacky weather around the world.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Atmosphere for Change

I found this wonderful quote in Why Talking Is Not Enough, by Susan Page:
…people change, not in an atmosphere of criticism, complaining, or demanding, but in an atmosphere of love and support.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Sympathy for Pain

While I was shopping at a large grocery store yesterday, a small child screamed at the top of his little lungs. He would have put many an opera singer to shame with his lung capacity. We could hear him throughout the store. The sound literally hurt our ears. I had to move a few aisles down just to get away from him, and he was already several aisles away from me. A woman near me said that she was getting a head ache.

The mother stayed calm. She didn’t yell, slap or threaten him. She didn’t take him out of the store. At one point she did apologize that he was a bit cranky because he hadn’t had his nap. In retrospect I wonder whether he had mild autism or a physical problem that was fueling this huge surge of sheer emotional expression: “I am in pain, and you will all know it!!!”

Yet many of us have known the pain that the child expressed. My childhood classmate Susan expresses the pain of losing her husband so well in the blog that she has been keeping for over a year. My friend Lyn just keeps on getting sick, her only way of expressing the pain of seeing our friend John deteriorate from dementia. I know the night terrors of waking up at 2:00 in the morning and thinking life cannot possibly worth all the hassle. I can add to that all the people I know who have chronic health conditions that leave them in considerable pain.

I wish I could have been the white knight on the horse and rescued the mother. I know a tiny bit about some acupressure techniques that could have calmed him down for a bit, but I am just learning how to do them on myself. I wouldn’t have known where to start on someone else. I sent up a little prayer instead. At the same time I felt the little boy was screaming for all of us in the store, expressing the pain that we so seldom can.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Where Am I?

Last Saturday, I arrived at the Liuhebafa class twenty minutes early, hoping to join the Tai Chi class for the run though of the form. They are close to the end of semester, so I was hoping to get my practice in for the day plus spot any points where I had started to go astray while practicing alone. When I got into the gym, over twenty faces were pointed in my direction! Bob had reversed the orientation of the class! Instead of everyone pointing to the back wall, they were all pointing to the front wall. Front was back, and back was front. That also meant that all the movements that we had practiced for a decade facing the water fountain now had to be done facing the benches and chairs. I jumped into a spot in the front, right corner of the group, which was now the back, left corner of the group. They were already in the middle of the form, so I had to not only figure out which movements came next, but I also had to figure out where we all were in space. This was not easy. I found that I did better forgetting the gym entirely and instead imagining where I would be if I was practicing the form in my living room at home.

After finishing the form, a little voice in my head thought, “Bob is mean.” It was a small, whiny voice that wished I had gotten to the class earlier so that I could have been a trifle more prepared. My second thought was that we should have been doing this a long time ago. Everyone seemed uncomfortable. Everyone seemed to have spots where they were confused. We had all depended upon the visual cues in the gym. The cues were great for initially learning the form, but after awhile we really didn’t need them. They sometimes contributed to us sleepwalking through practice. Well, I definitely woke up for this practice.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Future

I found The Victoria Vanishing on the seven day shelves at our library. Christopher Fowler is a new author for me. One of his characters echoes some of my feelings about the future.
When I was young I fantasized about the future….Now that I’m living it, I find it all a bit tatty. I was expecting us to be on other planets by now. I wanted genetic transformations and orbiting cities instead of Internet porn and small improvements in personal stereos.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Words of Comfort

My cousin, Gary Ward, passed away on Wednesday after a seven month battle with Multiple Myeloma. I found this beautiful poem to help comfort those who are struggling with the loss of loved ones this week.

A long time I have lived with you
And now we must be going
Separately to be together.
Perhaps I shall be the star
To guide your uncertain wings
So that you have direction in the night.
Perhaps I shall be the fire
To separate your thoughts
So that you do not give up.
Perhaps I shall be the rain
To open up the earth
So that your seed may fall.
Perhaps I shall be the snow
To let your blossoms sleep
So that you may bloom in spring.
Perhaps I shall be the stream
To play a song on the rock
So that you are not alone.
Perhaps I shall be a new mountain
So that you always have a home.

Nancy Wood in Earth Prayers

Monday, March 16, 2009

Irish Blessing

For every petal on the shamrock,

May these three blessings come your way:

God grant you love health and happiness

Today and every day.

This blessing is from the Irish Culture and Customs website. Last week at the end of the church service, I handed out shamrocks with love, health, and happiness on the back of the three leaves.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Monkey Mind

A few days ago I was trying to do a short mediation before practicing Tai Chi for the day. My mind would not focus. It wasn’t all over the place. It just kept on wandering back to things I had done earlier in the day. While I certainly could have practiced the form like that, I would not have benefited as much as I would have were my mind more focused. I was reminded of the term monkey mind. My mind was like a monkey that kept on picking up objects as he walked to his destination, annoying but not too harmful.

Monkey mind isn’t always so benign. I am reminded of the chimpanzee in the news a few weeks ago who tore off a woman’s face. Obsessing about bad things can cause depression, anxiety, heart disease, and even cancer. Thoughts of jealousy can lead to domestic violence, as we too often see in the news. Run away fear by consumers is leading to worsening economic problems in the United States.

The solution for monkey mind begins with awareness. Is the way we are thinking contributing to our health and happiness? If not, we need to ask ourselves what we want to be thinking?” So often I have no intention as I go about my day. In the case of my daily Tai Chi practice, my intention has slowly changed over the years and even from day to day. At first I just wanted to practice what we learned in class. Lately, I want to focus in on one particular principle, such as having my body in alignment. Some days what I want is to use the practice to get grounded after having an upsetting experience. In another example, today when I walked to the mailbox I wanted to be thinking about my love for the people to whom I was sending St. Patrick’s Day as well as about using the walk to keep my body healthy. I found that my posture improved by focusing my mind, and I am sure I looked a lot more friendly.

We can use the visual reminder of monkey mind to change our behavior and to be a little bit happier from day to day.

Friday, February 27, 2009


I have been feeling more than a tad uncertain lately. I found this quote from Ernest Holmes in The Voice Celestial:

I want to know and know that I know.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Dragons Wild

This weekend I read Dragons Wild, a fun fantasy novel about a young man who upon graduating from college and looking for a job finds out that he and his sister are really dragons. In some way, I suppose the novel is about change and growing up. I found one quote that gives some perspective on this idea of change.

“Now ‘change’ is a pretty nebulous word. It could mean for the better or for the worse. Of course, for those who are comfortable with things the way they are, change is something they look at with distrust if not outright fear. The odds of change improving things for them aren’t nearly as high as that it will really mess things up.”

I think the author, Robert Asprin, was a wise soul.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I normally don’t consider myself a wordsmith, but every so often a word will give me pause. Today I was reading an affirmation by Ernest Homes in The Science of Mind “…the Good, the Enduring, and the True are Eternalities in my experience.” Try saying that phrase a few times fast. Every time I tripped over the word “Eternalities.” I wasn’t the only one who had problems. Microsoft Word flagged it as a misspelling, but would let me look up Eternality: “Something that lasts for all time without beginning or end.” The pop up window even gave me some clues as to how to pronounce it.

The word “Eternalities” is like a neglected child in a large extended family. It has five syllables in a world of short words. It describes a very, very long period of time in an era of short attention spans. It describes something very spiritual in an era of consumerism, though the era may be ending. Yet, “Eternalities” seems to be invaluable to anyone who wants to think of the Divine. It is like the kid with insomnia who wakes up the family when he smells the gas leak. He finally gets a little respect.

Now all I need to do is use it three times in conversation and the word will be mine forever—or so the theory goes.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

City of Ember

The title of on article posted on Yahoo! today exclaims, “Antarctic Meltdown Would Flood Washington, D.C.” My first response was “well, I guess we’ll just have to move the Capital then.” I was slightly annoyed. “Do you think things always stay the same?” Given the context that cities around the world would be flooded at that point in time, moving the Capital would be one of the least of everyone’s worries. For those with a natural inclination for visualizing or long term planning, I suggest creating a folder on their computers or taking out pencil and paper and start noodling on this idea now.

In January I read the Books of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau: The City of Ember, The People of Sparks, The Prophet of Yonwood, and The Diamond of Darkhold. Three of the four books in the series take place in a post-apocalyptic society. According to, the reading level is 9-12 year old and, the series is aimed at the 10 to 14 year old group. This is all rather deceiving. Adults could benefit from the series just as much as kids.

I told my 84 year aunt about the books, and we wondered whether they were good for children. “Won’t they worry about their future? Won’t they have nightmares?” Yet in the days since I have read the books, some of the “take home” messages have been floating around in my head. “We make a lot of assumptions about the future, thinking it will be more or less like the present.” “In all probability, one way or another, the world will probably change radically in the next generation or so.” “People are resourceful.”

Change is a given. Radical change is highly probable. The sooner we can accept that, the sooner we can move on to working from an attitude of resourcefulness. Lina, the little girl in the Ember series, kept on drawing her vision of a city of lights. This is DuPrau’s message of hope to tweens and adults alike. It can give people a context when reading about predictions for the future.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Obama’s Inauguration: A New Brand

After watching Obama’s Inauguration on television yesterday, it is back to “chopping wood and carrying water” for me today. As an intense introvert, I confess that I couldn't always relate to all the hoopla yesterday. I do know that I like how Obama thinks. I like how he solicits information from multiple sources and synthesizes it. I like how he defines his goals. Of all the candidates who ran for president, I think he is the best one to lead the United States at this point in time.

This morning as I was waking up, I was thinking about the strong power of symbolism. Older white males have come to symbolize so much of what is wrong with the United States right now: corporate greed, untouchable arrogance. They have almost become as much of a brand as Campbell’s soup or Pepsi Cola. (I am in no way saying that I agree with the stereotype.) When people looked at President Obama yesterday, they saw something different. Part of people’s hope yesterday was related to seeing a different brand of elected official.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Techno Sensei

Ron recorded Bob doing the first third of the Liuhebafa form and gave each of us in the class DVD copies. The form is complex, and I appreciate the ability to look at it at home. One couple loaded the video onto their I Pod. I loaded it onto my computer because I don’t own a DVD player. This weekend Ron told me that I can actually slow the video down. So, now some of us have “Little Bob.” I now am enjoying “Slow Bob.” What fascinates me is that we are using current technology to master an ancient martial art. We are also naturally being proactive in our learning. I think most of us have a high degree of motivation to learn the form.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What Is Dancing?

On Sunday, NBC premiered Superstars of Dance, a program with dance routines from around the world. Some were what people traditionally think of as dance, but some pushed the definition. A number were martial arts routines. The judges didn’t know how to score them. Yes, it was an incredible routine, but was it dancing?

I have fond childhood memories of dancing in the living room of my parents’ home. At night I would use the picture window as a mirror, not so different from my ballet class. I was an adult before I ever found out that some of the neighbors used to watch me. I would have been horribly embarrassed. Instead I just remember the joy of moving to the music.

After much internal debate, I registered for the second semester of Liuhebafa, an internal martial art. Yes, I am uncoordinated and the slowest one in the class. Yes, a number of times in the first semester I wanted to sit down on the floor in tears because I was trying to figure out which hand was my right and which was my left when everyone else was asking detailed questions about movements. Yes, I have just a fraction of the martial arts experience of the other students in the class. But, when I go home and practice what little of the form I can remember, I feel like I am dancing, just like I did when I was a little girl. While I get a great deal of satisfaction practicing Tai Chi, the flowing movements of Liuhebafa often make me feel joyful. Right now that feeling is worth the struggle.