With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Harry Potter

The Harry Potter area of Universal Studios was all that I imagined - and more! To see a real replica of Hogwarts, and then the village of Hogsmeade (crossed with Diagon Alley) was a real joy. Universal re-created the Three Bromsticks pub, the Hog's Head, Ollivanders Wand shop, Gladrags Wizardwear and, of course, HoneyDuke's sweet shop. We bought Bertie Bott's EveryFlavor beans from a woman also from Denver and purchased two rounds of butter beer from  a bar maid who wouldn't sell FireWhiskey to muggles. We didn't ask for Firewhiskey but witnessed a chap from Australia trying to do so  (at 10:00 in the morning, no less). The children were delighted, I was delighted, and all the adults and kids around me were similarly enthralled. To witness the power of a good writer and her imagination was incredible. It was the highlight of our day, and I could have sat in the Hog's Head all day reading JK Rowling and soaking up the atmosphere. Instead we proceeded to the Seuss area, the Hulk ride, the Spiderman / Marvel hero section, the Lost world and Jurassic Park. I felt increasingly disoriented as the day went on, but fun was had by all. Here are a few photos:

Friday, October 25, 2013

To Autumn

My poetry instructor said that my latest piece reminded him of Keats' "To Autumn" so I am publishing that poem below. I still need to do revisions on my own poetry before posting it to this site or submitting it anywhere else. I was reminded of how rough my own work is when I read Keats.  One last note - we will be in Florida next week and though I will bring my laptop I may not post as frequently. Cheers, all!

 TO AUTUMN
                                            1.
    SEASON of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
        Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
    Conspiring with him how to load and bless
        With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
    To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees,
        And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
            To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
    With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
        And still more, later flowers for the bees,
        Until they think warm days will never cease,
            For Summer has o’er-brimm’d their clammy cells.

                                            2.
    Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
        Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
        Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
    Or on a half-reap’d furrow sound asleep,
        Drows’d with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
            Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
        Steady thy laden head across a brook;
        Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
            Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

                                            3.
    Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
        Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
    While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
        And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;
    Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
        Among the river sallows, borne aloft
            Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
    And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
        Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
        The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
           And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.


- John Keats

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Forever Now

Forever is composed of nows.
Emily Dickinson 

The soul should always stand ajar, ready to welcome the ecstatic experience.
Emily Dickinson 

A nun friend of mine once told me that Colorado is so close to God it's a local call to heaven. Again today,it feels like that is true. Yet the day started  as it often does, in a rush of stress, lateness and lost objects. Aden asked me to help her study last-minute notes for social studies, Daniel hated the snack I packed and couldn't get out the door for Reading Together, and William misplaced a Battle of the Books book that he needs to find and finish by - wait for it - tomorrow. When I finally completed dropoff this morning my heart rate was up and the hamster in my brain was sprinting away on its wheel. 

But I made time for a swim, and during the repetitive laps I got my brain to slow down, to focus on one thing at a time. I remembered a quote from Eknath Easwaran's Passage Meditations: "A mind that is fast is sick. A mind that is slow is sound. A mind that is still is divine." Easwaran attributes the quote to Meher Baba, a mystic of India, and it reminds me of the quote "go slow to go fast." So I slowed down and focused on one thing at a time. I have yet to get to my poetry reading or my packing (or finding William's book) but I made cookies, had a gorgeous drive up to the Middle School, and spent a lovely lunch hour watching Aden's guitar concert. Afterwards, she was in a rush to get to science but waited for me at the bottom of the stairs where I had gotten pinned against the railing by a horde of 8th graders. She patiently explained that she was going to student council today, and then - in the midst of rushing middle schoolers - she lifted her face for a kiss goodbye. I couldn't believe that I didn't embarrass her - that she wanted me there and would even share an embrace in public. That moment was my forever now, my ecstatic experience. I'm so glad that we both slowed enough to share it. No task seems to large after that sweet moment. May we always go slow enough - and leave the soul ajar - to catch moments like these.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Awake to our Life

"We travel to see. We vacation to relax. There is a difference in intention, that is all, which separates the two things. When we walk through our lives we must be travelers, whether we mean to relax or not. We must always be awake to our surroundings, those rooms and streets and neighborhoods and cities which permit us to reside within or pass through." - Matthew Siegel

No one would want to leave Colorado this week. The perfection of the day is almost too much to hold in a wheelbarrow. Perfect strangers have called out to me, "how great is this?" and nearly given me high fives out of the joy of our sunshiny, Crayola day. Today place inhabits us, grabs us by the collar and refuses to be ignored. What a gift to be jolted out of to-do lists and mind games to recognize the gift of this high-altitude desert.

Rob just returned from a ten-day trip to India, and his observations of that trip have led him to a new awareness of how blessed we are in this country. The infrastructure - roads, electrical production and distribution, water - does not exist in the same way in India. I think one of the most outstanding memories Rob has of his trip is watching a fuel truck park itself in a river. When he asked what the truck was doing, befouling the wash-water and potentially drinking water of those downstream, the driver answered, "Oh, he's just washing his truck." And the truck driver proceeded to scrub and rinse his truck in the river. The air pollution was also notable for Rob, who noticed constant low lying smog on his trip out to the Taj Mahal (on a corporate - owned road). I know that he appreciates this place even more on his return.

Crazy as it seems, we are planning another trip: this time to Florida for fall break, and many of our friends also have trips planned. I hope to travel with intent and notice the different sights, tastes and smells, and the kids' reaction to all of the same.  We're excited for Harry Potter, lukewarm about Mickey Mouse, hoping to catch some time at the beach, and certainly some days to just relax. On days like this when I can't imagine leaving home for any length of time for any reason, this quote from my Stanford instructor helps me prepare to be excited to travel, to really notice and not be too busy in my head to take in all the wonders that exist. I also thought of a dear friend who is moving next week, and though I will miss her desperately, I know that she will be awake to her new surroundings, intentional and open to what comes. I hope she will relate her experiences to those of us back 'home,' and then, of course, I can't wait to visit. We can be awake every day as we travel through our lives, but sometimes the change of scenery is a good shot of coffee to our intentions.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pumpkin as Metaphor, Redux

I took the kids to our local pumpkin patch yesterday and snapped a few photos. I was also reminded of this blog entry from three years ago, which still receives a fair share of hits from readers, so I posted an edited version below.

“What would you rather have my friends
A chance to shine, or die here on the vine?
The better way seems very plain to me/
You will have eyes to see, and for that night, you’ll be
A bright lamp burning in the darkness”
- From “John’s Garden” Music and Lyrics by Peter Mayer
I took my eight-year-old daughter to her first real concert on Friday. Peter Mayer, a folksinger with incredible vocal and guitar skills, was the star and solo act. She and I sat enraptured while he worked his guitar-string magic, tuning the instrument as finely as a mother might comb and braid her baby’s hair. Many of his songs are humorous and many contain moral queries and speculate on life’s big questions, such as “is it better to go big and flame out or slowly fade away?”
The song above, “John’s Garden” addresses this question in a pumpkin patch on the eve of Halloween, when farmer John comes to tell the pumpkins that their lives will soon change forever. The big moment, the climax of their existence, is at hand and though it may be unfamiliar it will be glorious. When John leaves the pumpkins call a meeting and most are confused, scared and reluctant to become the jack-o-lanterns John has planned. One boldly speaks out and calls the promised eyes and candlelight a lie, a trap that will not be worth the sacrifice. Another counters with the verse I included, saying that their moment of glory will encompass splendor and vision (maybe even starlight!) and be worth any sacrifice.
On the way home I asked my daughter which were her favorite songs. “John’s Garden” was at the top of her list, and I asked her what she would decide if she were a pumpkin at Halloween. She quickly and decisively replied that she would want to die on the vine. Hmmm. She did not ask which option I would choose and I held my counsel, pondering instead her perspective. I asked why, and she said, “I don’t want to be carved.” Perhaps I would have answered the same way when I was her age, withholding my promise and potential from the mere thought of endings, of fading away, of bruising and carving.
Now, at what I hope is the midpoint of life, I tend to favor the road of the jack-o-lantern. I know life will carve me up (there are a few slices already), and if either original or reflected light burns within me, I’d opt to have it shine through the cracks. Hopefully the candle within is long and slow-burning as opposed to the short and stubby blackened nubs that we usually place in our carved pumpkins, but I have no wish to die slowly and peacefully on the vine. Who knows, if my jack-o-lantern self is not too bruised and blackened at the end of the party I might even be used in a pumpkin pie.

Friday, October 18, 2013

End of Passion

No, not really the end of passion but certainly the end of this week's writing on the subject. The word has lost some of its meaning, as the word 'shank' does when you say it out loud over and over. After reviewing some of the quotes and opinions that I included this week, I may be cautious about using the word passion, being passionate myself, or being drawn in too close to fiery, passionate people. The flame burns, fellow moths. Instead, I prefer to think of myself as energized and enthusiastic about central things in my life; Rob and the kids, my extended family, friends, writing neophyte poems, playing beginner guitar, climbing mountains (albeit slowly) and eating a good chicken on brown rice tortilla.

I hope you have a weekend full of good  fall fun and plenty of occasions to get enthusiastic about life. I have a water polo game and a flag football game lined up,a fall festival on Sunday, and the - oh joy! - we get to pick Rob up at the airport on Sunday evening. So I'll be feeling good for all of you and grateful for you, too.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Referencing Shakespeare and Emerson

I was checking up on what Shakespeare has to say about passion, and again we have multiple perspectives. For example, "Passion, I see, is catching."  It's quite true in my experience that passionate people are the most interesting to be around, and that their energy can be contagious. But following passionate people, their energies and their causes can also be dangerous, especially if they are lacking in judgment, or mercurial in temperament. Shakespeare has praise for those who are not overly swayed by passions or their senses:

 "Free from gross passion or of mirth or anger/
constant in spirit, not swerving with the blood,/
garnish'd and deck'd in modest compliment,/
not working with the eye without the ear,/
and but in purged judgement trusting neither?/
Such and so finely bolted didst thou seem."

Shakespeare also gave this warning about passion: "What to ourselves in passion we propose, the passion ending, doth the purpose lose." (Hamlet, act 3 sc 2) It seems that the nature of passion allows it to flame and fade away, and if we want lasting effort or success we need to turn our energies and enthusiasm to the long effort rather than the volcanic short burst. As always, Shakespeare gives a nuanced and shaded perspective to one of humanity's most interesting emotions.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Feeling Deeply

"When we lose a beloved friend, wife, husband, child, parent, or maybe a possession or a job, we feel it is okay to feel deeply. But we must broaden that. We’ve got to find a passion that is also experienced when we have it, not just when we’re losing it. And we have it all the time." - Adapted from Radical Grace: Daily Meditations, p. 282, day 293
(Available through Franciscan Media) Father Richard Rohr

Last year when I lost the ability to do just about anything: laundry, shopping, cooking, cleaning, kids' homework help, I realized how much work people do on a daily basis and how deeply I wanted to return to doing the work of caring for my family. I remember telling a friend, "all I want to do is take care of my kids."  Now, a year later, I am not totally "well" but I can take care of all the daily tasks required of a mom of three, and I don't embrace them with the same passion that I expressed a year ago. The strength and ability to accomplish the daily routine has already been taken for granted, and I feel that I am not doing enough, instead of being grateful and joy-filled because what I can do, and be.

Rohr's statement returns us to the idea that passion, or feeling deeply, is from God and should be a constant presence in our lives. This application feels gentler than my initial concept of passion - feeling deeply is less threatening that the idea of a tidal wave overmastering me. But the effort to recognize our gifts while we are in the midst of them, of feeling each moment as it comes without being overpowered by our feelings, still feels like a huge big deal, which maybe can only be accomplished through a lot of time and practice.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

More Passion

Yesterday I rather indirectly compared eastern religious ideals of nonattachment and freedom from suffering to western religious concepts of the passion as necessary suffering and deep ties and commitments as a way of life.  Things are not that simple, certainly, but the difference in ideals can be striking. I still wonder if we can have the best of both worlds; being passionate about efforts and about the love we put into relationships while detaching from the results, the reactions of others, our need to be right.

Here's another quote on passion for your consideration, which separates passion from detached reason in a different manner:  "Man is to be found in reason, God in the passion."       -G.C. Lichtenberg.
This quote suggests that our passion comes from God and ties us to the spirit / creator energy. I struggle with this idea. If passion is from God then why does it lead to conflict, pain and suffering? Is there a pure essence of passion that comes from God that man corrupts and twists into darker forms? I find that when I calm my rational mind through meditation I emerge calm and passion-less, yet mystics say that we are closest to God at that time.

Just a few more ideas to struggle with; please post or email with your own thoughts!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Playing with Passion

Full Definition of PASSION (from www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/passion)

1
often capitalized
a :  the sufferings of Christ between the night of the Last Supper and his death 
b :  an oratorio based on a gospel narrative of the Passion
2
obsolete :  suffering
3
:  the state or capacity of being acted on by external agents or forces
4
(1) :  emotion passion
 is greed> (2) plural :  the emotions as distinguished from reason b :  intense, driving, or overmastering feeling or conviction c :  an outbreak of anger
5
a :  ardent affection :  love b :  a strong liking or desire for or devotion to some activity, object, or concept c :  sexual desire d :  an object of desire or deep interest


This week I am going to tackle a subject that has been dancing around my mental periphery for some time: passion. I have always been a passionate person, pursuing relationships, sports, school, and volunteer work with vim and vigor - sometimes to my detriment. After last year's bout of overtraining to the point of hospitalization, I have been reading about, and practicing, techniques to be centered, focused and calm. Activities like meditation, yoga, practicing guitar, writing poetry populate my daily routine, and they seem to be helping to alleviate definition 4b - when passion means the feeling or conviction is overmastering. I don't want to eradicate intense feelings but I don't want them to master me.

Growing up Catholic, I always identified the word PASSION with the sufferings of Christ, and with suffering. It's interesting that Merriam Webster considers definition 2 (suffering) to be obsolete. I believe that passion can be equated with suffering, particular in terms of relationships or desires that are not achieved or do not manifest in the way we want. It's one of the facets of passion I want to eradicate. In reading Buddhist works, I've learned that the basic principle for that religion is non-attachment. Gretchen Rubin discusses this idea in The Happiness Project:

"But although I admired many of its teachings, I didn't feel much deep connection to Buddhism, which, at its heart, urges detachment as a way to alleviate suffering. Although there is a place for love and commitment, these bonds are considered fetters that bind us to lives of sorrow - which of course they do. Instead, I'm adherent of the Western tradition of cultivating deep passions and profound attachments; I didn't want to detach, I wanted to embrace; I didn't want to loosen, I wanted to deepen."

So ponder along with me the possibility of pursuing relationships, ideas, causes, pursuits with passion, while detaching from results. Is this possible? Can we have the best of both worlds? To be continued . . .



Friday, October 11, 2013

The Fall

"No pain, no palm; no thorns, no throne; no gall, no glory; no cross, no crown."
-William Penn

You cannot avoid sin or mistake anyway (Romans 5:12), but if you try too fervently, it often creates even worse problems. Jesus loves to tell stories like that of the publican and the Pharisee (Luke 18:9-14) and the famous one about the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32), in which one character does his life totally right and is, in fact, wrong; and the other who does it totally wrong ends up God’s beloved! Now deal with that!
Such a down-and-then-up perspective does not fit into our Western philosophy of progress, nor into our desire for upward mobility, nor into our religious notions of perfection or holiness. “Let’s hope it is not true, at least for me,” we all say! Yet the perennial tradition, sometimes called the wisdom tradition, says that it is and will always be true. 
 - Richard Rohr - Adapted from Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life,p. xx-xxi

Autumn is my favorite season. This time of year shakes out its best dress and beckons you to the fire sale of all the goods your senses want to feast on: glorious colors, misty mornings, apples in season, the cool bite to the air. But the name "fall" has me thinking about other topics this year. Richard Rohr has been writing daily about the necessary fall/break/collapse that comes to each of us in our life and is required for the passage to wisdom. I struggle with that requirement  - and I usually love to fulfill requirements - and the idea that it's true makes me quite sad,  not only for myself but for everyone.
Yet I wonder that the season of fall, death and decay does not strike me in the same way. I enjoy the transition time of autumn even though the death of winter is on the way, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that the wheel will turn and bring green life again. If I could just have that belief about my own life, and the others, perhaps the fall and descent through illness, pain and suffering would not seem so bad.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Example

When our older son, William, got home from school yesterday he told me his day was good, "except for one bad thing." I inquired as to the nature of this bad thing, expecting a yellow slip (late work), bad test grade, recess malfeasance, or other injury. He refused to tell me right away, and such is the busy nature of our evenings that I actually forgot about it. Right at bedtime he emerged carrying a handwritten letter. His handwriting, his wrongdoing. Apparently he had instigated some monkey-business in class, caused a ruckus, and had to sit down and write an apology.

What he did was not so bad, but what worries me is that he started the fuss because two boys were laughing and chatting loudly. "Was it about you?" I asked. He said he didn't know, though they often discuss people. Of course, my adult brain says "who cares?!" but I know as  fifth-grader in pre-adolescence, people talking can be threatening. For better or worse, William's temperament matches mine and our imaginations can run wild with our emotions following just a split-second behind. I worry, because split-second overreactions have not served me well in life, and they won't help him either.

So I sat down on his bed last night and we talked about breathing, about finding an mantra that he can repeat to himself to calm down or distract himself. These are things that I do, too, but not always successfully, especially if it's during the witching hour between dinner and bedtime or in the morning trying to get everyone (ie Daniel) out the door. So I am left with the feeling that I had better work hard to improve my command of emotions and reactions to model this for William. Kids need to develop interior strength and control to get through middle and high school, and he needs to do the emotional weight training now.

On another note, Rob heads to India tonight for ten days. It's the longest we have been apart in 15 years, so I am preparing best I can, but if you have a chance, please say a prayer for his safety and my sanity.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

True Self

I found myself in Boulder this morning, peering through solid old trees at a charming cottage where I was to meet my new spiritual director. I was apprehensive and unsure of what to expect, but we had a delightful first encounter. Dominie told me that she wanted to provide a "spiritual bounce' and give me work to help develop resilience in this area, which will be valuable after the draining and unsettling events of my illness.

Within the first twenty minutes, Dominie referenced a "secret, undamaged self" which, she explained, is a nondenominational way of describing the God self, the true self or Buddha nature. The concept enchanted me; is it really possible to have a secret self, one that is teflon-coated to all my mental, physical and emotional mistakes?  As we developed this image further it only got better. The true self is vast. warm, unlimited, and it can provide the font of energy and resilience for all that we do.

Can you imagine having an unlimited source of energy that does not spring from coffee, the morning workout, lazy nap time or a charged relationship? I constantly feel that I may run out of energy for the kids, for Rob, for myself. The measuring - out of energy and calculations required to determine how to replace it are exhausting in and of themselves. The idea of having access to an unlimited supply bubbles up the same feeling delight I got when I learned a new yoga pose called "cow face,"  just a sense of 'no way, you've got to be kidding, how great is that!'

 May we all find the 'secret undamaged self' within us and let that self provide us with all that we need.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Poet's Corner

I just finished another chelation treatment so my mush-brain does not have a lot to offer. I give you instead this poetic enchantment on October, from one of my favorite poets, Robert Frost.

October

BY ROBERT FROST
O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow’s wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes’ sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost—
For the grapes’ sake along the wall.

Monday, October 7, 2013

"Full Effort Is Full Victory"

Gandhi said that, and I put his words on the refrigerator to support me in efforts that seem to be failing. For example, I had to stare at them for a few minutes this morning to bolster my spirits after I once again struggled through twenty minutes of meditation. Meditation is one of the most difficult activities I have every undertaken; I would compare it with marathon training, Crossfit workouts, college examinations and getting through the evening homework grind with three children.

I have tried all manner of meditation: Christian centering prayer, yoga, walking, focus on the breath, focus on an image, and now focusing on a sacred text. I am using the Prayer of St. Francis, which I had to memorize first. One difficulty with this text is that I know the hymn by the same name from childhood, so the words dance around with the lines from the song, bowing and circling together in their own little dance in my mind. My brain itself is haughty and resentful of my attempts to tame it. It takes me off on tangents every few seconds. For example, I thought "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace," and my brain went "peace, piece, like a piece of pie I need to have tonight. Or cheesecake. I really miss cheesecake," and before I know it I am reviewing the menu of the Cheesecake Factory in my head instead of the prayer.

Yesterday morning I meditated for twenty minutes and could barely fight off sleep. Afterward, I staggered over to the couch for a quick rest  - and woke up an hour and fifteen minutes later with full sun in my eyes and Daniel playing minecraft on the computer. Seems I have a lot of work to do in this arena, but I'll keep you posted on my uneven progress. 

Friday, October 4, 2013

Hunting and Pecking on Writing

Hooked up to the IV and hunting and pecking with my left hand. I’m tempted to ask the busy doctor to edit the latest draft of my poem, but I’m not sure he would appreciate either the poem or the use of his time. In the meantime I’ll ponder the fact that I come to the IV equipped with all modern forms of communication: cell phone, kindle and laptop. In the past I resisted the acquisition of each, but now I may as well hook myself to the cell phone as to the IV.
Though it’s quite a contrast to writing poetry, I greedily turn to text-messaging for its ease of communication. It would be hard to get my whole family on Skype or the phone, but last night all my sibs and both parents went on a massive text messaging jag, inspired by the news of Tropical Storm Karen in the Gulf.  My sister made the connection between her own tempests and the storm and since she started it, we devolved into a free-for-all. And though I did just use the phrase “she started it,” I try to kick in some witty texts.
Yet…we are losing creative writing forms in our need to shorten messages into bite-sized morsels. We have ease and brevity, but do we have wit or beauty? Here’s a marvelous quote from author/poet Anna Journey, who responded graciously to questions from my poetry class:
I think texts, tweets, and e-mails are the enemies of style. They’re often fired off immediately, without nuance or deliberation; they’re packed with ready-made bits of language and marred with cliché. They’re packages of disposable language—unlike poems. “

So whether or not you agree with Ms. Journey, consider style, individuality and caution in your next written message. It’s not as easy, but it could be more rewarding.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Hung Up

I have a post-chelation hangover today, feeling oddly drifty, a bit chilled, a bit pissed-off. I went to the pool but found that my energy was better spent examining the state of my fingernails in the hot tub than in lap-swimming. To vent some of my random existential rage, I wrote a poem for my class this week entitled "The Things You Did Not See." It tackles the subject of my illness and the sense of frustration and abandonment that I felt and some of my friends felt as I 'disappeared.'  My problem is that I don't have a character to play the role of "You."

So I'm muddling about with my computer, trying to re-write the piece and figure out who to be mad at, when I took a little time out to read  Eknath Easwaran's book on Passage Meditation. After about three minutes I received this little lightning bolt from the universe:

"For most of us, conditioning - habits of thinking, feeling, and acting - flows through our days like a powerful river. Understandably, we usually lie back and float downstream. When a river of anger rises, for example, it is so easy, so apparently satisfying, to let it carry us along. Just try swimming against it! Your teeth will chatter, your breathing will become labored, your legs will grow weak. But the spiritual life requires that we do just that: reverse our conditioning and swim upstream, like salmon returning home."

Now I'm not sure whether my chattering teeth and weak legs are derivatives of my anger issue or of my chelation therapy, but it looks like I better jump back in the pool and start swimming upstream. I'll see you all at the salmon ladder . . .

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What's Inside

Today I learned that I have toxic levels of lead and mercury in my system, with high levels of cadmium as well. Strangely, arsenic also makes an appearance - though it's "within reference" (whatever that means - is there a proper reference for arsenic?), I wonder if Rob is just sick and tired of me and started 'seasoning' my food with poisonous elements?  Anyway, the treatment for getting rid of the metals is to go through chelation therapy, roughly translated 10 sessions of about 1.5 hours each with an IV of the chelating agent pouring into your veins. It's a big time commitment, but not painful, and at least I don't have to collect urine afterward. Carrying your own 2-liter jug of urine can be quite awkward and cumbersome, as I found two weeks ago when I dragged it to the gym and to Daniel's testing office. There's not a cute bag on the market for urine collection!

Hopefully I can get some work done while hooked to the IV. Today I only chatted away with the nurse/receptionist at the office; we're good friends now that I've spent a significant portion of the last year in those confines. But I do get to do some reading and I wanted to share a great quote from a new book on meditation:

"Compared to the immense capacity for spiritual awareness latent in the human being, the great majority of us can almost be said to be living in our sleep - dreaming that if only we could have a million dollars, win the Nobel Prize, get our portrait on the cover of TIME, or marry the screen star of the day, we would be happy. This is like chasing the horizon, because happiness does not lie outside us. It can only be found within - a most elusive realm which the modern world, with its overwhelming emphasis on sensory experience, has effectively  hidden from our view."

-Eknath Easwaran, Passage Meditation


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Warriors

This morning I met a wonderful woman who has just finished her descent through breast cancer treatment, and commences now on her ascent to full health and transformation. I had the privilege of meeting Pam because she was nominated to receive a medal from Medals 4 Mettle, an organization that I volunteer with. Pam's dear friend, who lives in Texas, had nominated her for a medal because of the wonderful sense of humor and strength of spirit that had carried her through major surgery and six rounds of chemotherapy. Yesterday was the last chemo treatment.

After I presented her with a marathon finisher's medal and certificate, Pam told me a little about her treatment. She noted that when she walked into MD Anderson, in Houston, she immediately felt like she was in a "roomful of warriors." She also noted that an illness like cancer forces you to find another dimension of yourself, which she, like many thousands of men and women, has found.

When I left Denver and headed for the gym I ran into another indomitable friend in the locker room. My dear friend Chris, who had a catastrophic compound fracture in her ankle last May, is now up and walking with only one crutch. She has come through two serious surgeries and many, many discouraging days; not only is she close to walking again but she has finished a full-sized portrait of the David and done many other art projects while she was laid up on her couch. When I noted that new challenges help us pass the time and stay motivated while we are ill she said, "that, and we have only touched a fraction of our potential."

The human spirit is flexible, resilient, amazing. Life can be harder than one can possibly bear, but we bear it. My heart goes out to everyone fighting their way through the valley and up the mountain, and to their caregivers and families as well. You are warriors, and you will find your other dimension.