Metta-for

Hunger is the worst of diseases ~ The Buddha

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Right Speech: See No Self-Harm, Hear No Self-Harm, Speak No Self-Harm (The Tootsie Roll Pop & 40 Licks)

See No Self-Harm, Hear No Self-Harm, Speak No Self-Harm. You may be able to see and hear, pretty clearly, that this is just another version of Right Speech, wisely turned inward.

As a child of the 70s, I want to point out that, in addition to Right Speech, this ceramic image is merely another version of the Tootsie Pop Owl. And it too carries a message for me; those Tootsie Roll Pops are, notoriously, an inside job. 



They never seem to go away, those stylized owls--they never will. Why? Because as sound carriers of a particular good message, they work. And choosing the Charm pop over the Harm pop is a wise factor in cultivating happiness for yourself and for others. 

You can think of Right Speech as a sweet nobility, at your fingertips and lips. It’s choosing, moment by moment, to use a sweet tongue over an acrid one because it’s just less harmful for us all. Our Speech, even in less-obvious ways, like the Prattle and Hum of idle chatter or gossip (a good litmus test I use with myself is, “Um, is this a conversation you would have with Bono, Stacia?”), can turn and stick us.

Like the Owl, "How many licks?” was the question for me then, as a 70s kid, and it’s the question for me now, as an adult in the new Milleni-yum.
How many licks will I take?--not just from the sticks and stones of the external world (almost none of which isn't in my control), but what about the sodden, cardboard-tasting and red-stained stick I turn back on myself with an impaling gesture?
The Buddha called this the second dart; Tara Brach (unintentional confectionary surname noted) calls it the second arrow, and here, it’s going to be called the second stick. 

The second stick is the one you wield yourself, at yourself, on top of the other damage: zzzzzzwing!
It comes in all kinds of insidious flavors: 
maybe I punish myself for both needing and possibly somewhat (gasp!) enjoying a sugar rush; she, who’s trying to eat clean. Maybe I beat myself up for ordering take-out four nights in a row for my family during those weeks when I have 64 papers to grade. Maybe I notice that my best flare jeans are tight and then I eat a despair cake, finished off with a Diet Dr. Pepper (I never drink soda anymore), followed by a self-stick and stoning. Get the idea?

Look, the Tootsie Pop Owl couldn’t make it past three licks before trying to get to the center—and neither can I. I don’t want to lick all around the artificially-flavored mulberry bush to get there, never have. I want to get to that sweet, chewy, flavor-condensed center its with implied inner peace. I also want to get over my self-harm (insert: self-starvation, self-poison, self-sabotage—whatever your stickiness), and I want it in three licks or less. 
Pretty much as fast as possible. Pretty much NOW.
1...2...3…Crrrrrunch!!!

Now.
Like grated carrot in a green salads, these things crop up into adult life and remind me of my unwise youth in a way that I can now use wisely. As fuel. 
Sugar is a darn fine fuel—don’t forget.  

My grandparents Viola and Boris had traveled the world, and I remember being frightened and transfixed by many of their artifacts, including a Japanese statue depicted the Three Wise Monkeys and this principle: See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil. 

As grateful as I am for the artifacts I grew up with, it wasn’t until I swapped out the word “Evil” for “self-harm” that I became integrate-ful:
It is said that the well-spoken word can only be the one that would not torment oneself nor harm others. 

As a methods maven, I can tell you that I can’t digest judgment words like “Evil” anymore. Something happens around 40 Licks. Yet there is is no judgment in a) what works and b) what is true. 

It’s true that I know a lot of self-harming recipes that all have the same ingredient—Speech. 

And it's also true that even an old cog-in-the-wheel can learn new licks. And I am. 

And, I am (savor the power of the "And").
Perhaps you’re near 40 Licks yourself (either literally or metaphorically). We expect we must take our licks as we age—but we rarely think that we can be in control of the gentleness and the intention of the licking. 
That intention, conscious or not, is to reveal our true, sweet selves.
I know this is true from my very center.

The minute you stop breaking your teeth trying to get to your own goodness, the world will do nothing less than conspire to show you its sweet, true nature, which is to lick for you and with you (trust me, much more gently than you’d do it alone).

Because consciousness isn’t a BIG crrrrunch! It’s more of a slow reveal. 

The good news is that you get to do a lot of taste-testing of your own goodness, as you go.
And you will use this taste of your own sweetness, which is like coming home, to realize that suddenly, one day, you can identify the same sweetness in everybody else.

And that really is the mother of all sweet spots.

And then you can toss (but recycle) the stick for other purposes. 

I’m giving the owl totem to my sister, Kara, as a belated housewarming gift. She’s starting a new, self-nourishing life and about to turn 40. She’s in the beautification industry (and um, there’s definitely a reason they call it “40 lashes”). 
Surely there is more than a 3-lick statute of limitations on such a thing, the wisdom of beautification from the inside, out. Of investigating what's under our wrappers. 


This is how we are meant to live, by the way, like the owls: nested on each other’s shoulders, tandem-shoring up each other’s forgetting so that we can reach ever up as we reach in for the natural sweet spot. 
Like a rainbow assortment of sweet and resilient gems, stacked skyward.


For you, my beautiful sister (imagine Billy Crystal gently holding a Tootsie Roll Pop for you, Meg Ryan): "And I'm going to be 40!" 
Someday. In ten years. And Now.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Shun-yata: The Knife Edge (& Growth Edge) of Emptiness--& Butternut Squash.

With great respect, I'm going to say that if you want to fully understand the Buddhist concept of Shunyata, or emptiness, you can just keep sitting there*. Because, even though words like void and thusness go down fine for me, I don't completely get it either. I get it just enough to be dangerous, which is exactly how it is with all cooking--and with all practices.

Because the truth is, all you need in the contemplative kitchen is a working knowledge of any cooking concept--and the sincerity to Be with it.
Add a pure love for "it" and the ever-expanding sense of spaciousness that comes from working with what you know in your heart will ultimately feed yourself and others, and you can almost stop obsessively Googling Buddhist-culinary-neuroscientific-Sanskrit terms that might overlap and come in handy someday in your practice.

Because we all have to come to terms with the terms: knowledge is not the same as wisdom, and recipes are just worn & spattered cue cards.

Wisdom, I am learning, is that which comes from all of your ahas and insights--from the paying attention and the Being Here that the cards could only cue you for. And it seems to come most from the times you almost cut off your finger along with the parsnips, precisely because you weren't paying attention.

Wisdom is the cut-to-the-chase (and possibly the ER) scene: a realization like, say, that more than just skin-deep-down, you actually reaaaaally believed it was going to be possible to micro minutiae multi-task the moments of your life using pure intellect (no matter what your hero Daniel Goleman has warned you for 20 years, most recently in his masterwork Focus).

You can't cut through a butternut squash with a butter knife, no matter what the terms "seem" to have in common.

Knowledge is the tool that slices through your illusion that, when it comes to love and to learning to eat at home in your heart, there is ever going to be anything substantive than the language of pure utility,
AND
Wisdom is understanding that you are everything on either side of the cut--including the blade.
You'll need a utility knife to help you get there, I know. We all need help cutting to the "AND."

To cut this in smaller bites for myself, I think on Shun-yata as the knife-edge of emptiness implied by the knife itself. One-pointedness, then, is this incredibly precise tool that can help wake us up so we can skillfully (not to mention, safely) understand whatever form we're slicing through: what it is AND what it's not. But above all, it's a tool whereby we see just what's actually there on the cutting board, no more, no less.

If "one-pointedness" doesn't work for you, throw whatever you have into the stock-pot definition: mindfulness, focus, attention, awareness. Being focused on the body and on psychological and emotional digestion--and having been numb & found being in my skin impossible for many years--I'm using the word "sensibility" a lot these days to describe my fledgling ability to bring full sensory attention to the actual beingness of being a human being.

It's commonly understood among cooks that a dull blade is much more dangerous to you than a sharp one. The reason is that a honed blade doesn't meet with resistance--and as we know, it's the reactivity of resistance to any form that will stick you, every time.

That being said, if you were here in this tiny farmhouse kitchen, where cats who believe themselves to be jaguars, spirited children in search of the next experiment, and adoring, well-meaning but long-limbed husbands are often under foot, cutting board, & meditation cushion, while I'm working to cut through the thick rind of one type of this or that gourd (so I can get out of the real one, my thinky head), you might be bracing against the image of me with a brand new Shun knife, the slicing sound of which is famous in cooking circles for its fabled Samurai-stealth sibilance: sshhhhhun! You might wonder how it is that Stacia, who regularly (yeah, fairly regularly) drops cast iron on herself, scalds tea kettles beyond recognition, and slips on literal & figurative banana peels as she navigates the art of becoming, could ever think about using such a famously dangerous blade.

The answer is this: I'm not busy (over)thinking about using it when I'm using it. Or worrying that it's too big a tool for my britches. I'm just using it.
Happily, that is the maven to my madness.

P.S.: You can also scoop seeds & pierce the flesh of squash with a
lowly, low-tech & less aggressive grapefruit spoon. Grapefruit spoons
were a great tool of my grandmother Viola's.
You see, although I have less "figured out" than I had last year at this time, I have finally honed in on something. In his 1709 poem "An Essay on Criticism," Alexander Pope observed that "A little learning is a dangerous thing"--and so it is with honing. And with honing learning.
The Growth Edge (I love this term, use it often) is this magical place that is well past cook-in-your-sleep comfort food territory, and just before the immobilizing no-clue terror of apocalypse without can openers and/or molecular gastronomy.
The Growth Edge is plainly discomfortable--a healthy discomfort that is highly underserrated.

I can tell you from teaching and learning to feed everyone from infants to Kindergarteners to college students to myself at 40, that this liminal space--between rigidity and abyss, form and formless, know and no-know--is the prime cut. Because it's the only edge on which we both learn to dance and dance at the same time.

When the Growth Edge is sharp, everything on either side falls away cleanly--there's nothing there any more.
In fact, the only danger is that this Shunyata might cut so deeply you might not even feel it. Like cutting through the air, through the ether, through illusion--and like cutting through nothing at all.

Hone Sweet Hone, gentle readers.

*However, Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche gave a typical rustically delicious and divinely digestible treatment of this in Glimpses of Shunyata

Friday, October 4, 2013

Astral Weeks & Lemon Pound Cake: The Tractor Beam of Love's Resonance


Love is a tendril of a cartoon smell that wafts out and lifts you (or yanks you) up, like a golden-white tendril of the scent of the lemon pound cake, currently baking in real time here in the peacefoodlove kitchen, in Connor's honor. Just because the boy loves lemon pound cakes. You've never seen the look of gratitude a single crumb of golden lovingkindness can elicit, until you've seen a face like that, one that says, "You made that for me?" (and he's 15, so wonder is no mean feat). 
Maybe you cook for people, and you know.

My ampersand-children (step isn't the right word) are coming, and I have a tendency to bake and clean myself into perfectionistic corners in anticipation of these infrequent visits.
In fact, it's been Astral Weeks since they've been here. 

I could write you 108 posts about this Van Morrison album. It's that beloved and it stretches across every experience I have had, in some way or another, since I was 20 years old, when I first heard and wore out the CD. 
Periodically, still, I pull it back to me--or me to it--when I need it. 

Love is a tractor beam of mutual resonance like that.
I must have needed it, because I was running around fiendishly vacuuming after putting in a lemon pound cake, getting pretty caught up in getting things "perfectly hospitable"--my biggest trap when I'm anxious about how things will go. 
Unfortunately, the very same methods you use to get you closer can be used to try to squirm away. Even your best methods can stick you!--I don't care how deeply you butter and flour the form. . .er, pan.


All of a sudden--maybe I was caught by the light or the cord or the way the smell of a cake unfolds and walks gently across the floorboards to you in a farmhouse--I happened to turn around and look behind me,  and see the cord, which had somehow twisted (or untwisted) itself into a perfect heart.
The cord, I tell you!
And don't even get me started on good-emptiness (which isn't a vacuum) and making space.

Some day, these mettāphors will stop surprising me--maybe. I don't think they'll stop spring up--or back, like a cake that's done.

And what came into my head were these lines from Astral Weeks, which apparently I have been mis-singing along with, quite ardently, for over 20 years, but only just now understand:
With your love behind you / and your eyes before you / there you go / takin' good care of your boy
I pretty much dissolved, just the way the tiniest dram of lemon juice will completely liquify powdered sugar and make icing. 
I'm pretty sure that all appliances and songs leave love notes for us to decode, but we're usually charging on ahead.
And this one said: taking care of your love isn't a zoom ahead with a Dyson and a perfect pound cake-type activity. It's a stop right here and now and here it is, the Now, iced in sweetly like being between two pieces of warm pound cake.

So I was pulled in here to the kitchen to try to recount it for you (okay quickly, with T-50 till arrival).

Could you find me?

Love will find you. It doesn't matter what you do or how hard you do it. You can't clean your way out of it, and I can tell you that you can try to eat the evidence of your own hunger for it, only to find another tender crumb you missed, on the floor of your heart.
You can do all your methods to get closer, or you can do them all to try to get away, and end up, right back around the plate. 

In silence easy / To be born again. 

Okay, not so much with the silence around here, but if you weren't born again, you couldn't hear the screaming coming from mudroom, Otto with gritty eyes from the sandbox, begging for the kind of help only you can give. Ava, crying over accidentally cutting a caterpillar in half while pruning the tomatoes.You couldn't see--or serve--the mettāphor.


“Smell is a potent wizard that transports you across thousands of miles and all the years you have lived”  Helen Keller

Friday, August 16, 2013

Breakfast Dishes Now with Boba Fett & Ram Dass: "Breackage" or Bounty?



We keep the natural guidance of characters close, and this morning, Boba Fett landed in the blackberries. 
These are probably the last of the "backberries"--those from the tree line at the edge of the back field, which mysteriously keep bearing in August.

Today after our breakfast and (I feel cleverly deemed) "A.M. That Is" meeting, everyone skipped out the door and left me with the breakfast wreckage--the "breackage."
They left to swing, chase after butterflies, and check on progress at the newly fashioned "Rabbing" station. 

To enjoy the last bit of summer, like egg quickly drying on a plate.

Explained to me during the materials request as "crabbing but with rabbits," (there's no intention to trap them), this experiment is kitchen string dangling mini carrots at various heights from tree limbs at the edge of the back field. 


The Rabbers are tied to the tree limbs with slip knots (don't ask me where they learned to tie slip knots, also called buntlines or slipped rolling hitches).

Depending on the tightness of the resulting knot (since these tighten under load), we may get information about the weight of the animal that received the meal.

I think this line of thinking is genius, by the way. 
Also, it's pretty much all we have to gauge life's phenomenon, which we usually try to do after it's passed, since we mostly miss the now of what's happening:

How tight are the knots now that it's over? How bad is the tension?
Just how big were the bites taken out?

However, these are only clues to the beast of burden that was.
The beast of burden that is is Now isn't actually a burden.

I love that there's no real intention to their Rabbing method, but to cast it out there and see what happens. 
They're not getting anything out of it--except to watch time mysteriously change a thing they set in motion, but is actually no longer in their hands. 
And, hopefully, to know the joy of feeding some being that wasn't asking to be fed, but surely needs and may appreciate the nourishment a from a shaded tree line we simply cannot see.


This is a lot like parenting. 
A lot like loving anyone, child, pet, self--human or…burdensome beast. 

The day-to-dayness of loving people and feeding them sometimes feels more feat than fête (or even Fett).
Even on the most perfect of sun-dappled, dangling days, I get myself trapped in the farmhouse kitchen--where I most love to be, but where there is so little space. As my office, yoga studio, and the whole family's HQ, it all needs to be cleaned up and set in order before moving on to the next thing.  
An endless cycle of scraping, scrubbing, washing, drying.
These are the things we do to remove the egg-yolk scrim, to unburden our plates so we can be closer to love, to become less "content-laden," as Ram Dass, who never fails to astonish me, says in his newest wonderful book, Polishing the Mirror.
We do it over and over, so we can both hold and offer more.
Drying the dishes, polishing the mirror--these are the same. 
The heart is a shining plate.

So, the research question is, do I stay inside and watch through the dulling screen of the door, feel "left" all alone to sit in the "breakage," convinced of all I have to do today?
Or do I step out into the All is well Now, into the flourishing cosmos, which has become a happy harbinger of bees?

 The milkweed is full of monarchs. 
And it's perfect swinging-toward-the-good weather (thanks, Rick Hanson, for this double-take on your eternal advice to swing for the fences).

I think Boba-fett gets kind of a bad rap, by the way. Like Darth Vader, it's just too obvious to completely disdain him (and you know I fear being obvious).
We are all after the bounty, whatever we perceive that to be. 
Maybe we're hired on for that job by the Dark Side of ourselves, but the innate goodness of ourselves and our shining, empty plate, that is the bounty.

Dishes will hunt you. Mess will hunt you. Clutter will hunt you. The end of summer and the cold winter ahead (okay, anything under 70 degrees) will hunt you. 
This means, though, you are the real bounty.

T.S. Eliot recommended that we do dare to eat the peach, and I think we should eat up all bounty as it comes. 
It simply helps us berr the weightless weight of imagined fears of the future. 

Highly recommended readings:
"The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot
Polishing the Mirror by Ram Dass with Rameshwar Das 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Mnemosynemon Rolls OR: Percy Jackson & The Sea of Monstrous Self-Doubt

Two weeks from today, school starts back up for all of us, and we've only done a fraction of the hopeful, absurdly noble things planned for mythical summers. Here is only one thing on that list, writ in august, disappearing ink:

"Explore Greek Mythology as a family this summer. AFTER reading Rick Riordan's second Percy Jackson novel, Sea of Monsters, and BEFORE the movie comes out in August, enlist the kids to make a Papier Mâché Medusa head light fixture cover or chandelier, with intrinsically glowing eyes and wafting, organically animatronic snakes. See sketches."

FAIL.
Okay. 
Only a partial fail, though.

Because Papier Mâché is French for "chewed paper," and I can see the way that even with more self-compassion, I still get spit-wadded up with everything I thought up, but somehow cannot execute because of time.

And, you know, mortality.

I get Cyclops-vision, you see, with creative plans: I train one big eye on the parts I didn't do (no matter how small), and completely miss the rest--all the good stuff in the periphery.
And one thing I'm learning is that there's a pretty big field of vision outside the negative--Titanic, in fact.

I didn't finish Sea of Monsters in time, but Ava chewed right through it, since she carries 4 books (one from each current series) around everywhere--but it didn't keep her from beaming, squealing in delight, and leaning over to whisper I love you through the whole movie, when all of us went to see it over the weekend. 

Sometimes, it's only important to have a beautiful, mythic vision of the structure for your days--which can feel long, and yet somehow nothing close to Olympic--whether or not they actually turn out that way.

To put things in perspective, I recommend National Geographic's Treasure of Greek Mythology. Its luminous illustrations and radiant storytelling make it a perfect breakfast or lunchtime (or while in the Charybdis-jaws of that whirlpool: "getting-breakfast-cleaned-up-just-as-lunch-is-on-the-table") read. 
You too can speak in a sibilant hiss, acting out Medusa over a plate of spaghetti, and spear imaginary foes with a three-tined fork--I mean, trident. 
You need a book like this. We all do.

Because just feeding people and loving them, meal after meal and day after day--especially on endless, steam-rainy days when you just want to Ju-ly down and cry because you're not getting anything "real" done, like painting the walls or attending to your own writing, and it's all Percy Jackson & The Sea of Monstrous Self-Doubt anyway--
IS heroic.

Yesterday at breakfast, we played "Celebrity Greek God You Most Resemble."

Ava: Mom, if you were a god or goddess, I believe you'd be "A-pro-fight." You know, the goddess of beauty and love? 

Me: Aphrodite?

Ava: Sorry, I don't know how to pronounce it, but it's true.

Awwwww, I think (for almost 3 seconds): She sees me that way! As a goddess of beauty! And she's almost 10! [Insert sickening fear and resistance to change] How long can this last?...Now wait a minute, why doesn't she see me as Athena? I want to be wisdom, not beauty. Isn't that what we're after around here? Doesn't she think I'm smart?

But Athena is not the goddess of needing to be told she's smarter than everyone else, because she's not so sure. 
She's the goddess of wisdom--which is the really the knowledge of truth, or true nature of things, applied. 
Wisdom is knowledge put to good use. 

Me: Who do you want to be?

Ava: Athena. Naturally.

THUD.

It turns out this is an invaluable exercise. Keeping Greek myths handy, so you can stop and consider with whom you most identify. Who you might turn out to be, while you eat. 

Because Aphrodite is the goddess of Love.

Which is, said another way, the knowledge of beauty (and ugliness), put to good use.
Nowhere do you see it all more clearly, than reflected in your own plate.

The great dancer Isadora Duncan once said: "Before I was born my mother was in great agony of spirit and in a tragic situation. She could take no food except iced oysters and champagne. If people ask me when I began to dance, I reply, 'in my mother's womb, probably as a result of the oysters and champagne - the food of Aphrodite.'"

Well, I was far too afraid of all I'd read-henned, in popular mothering magazines, doctor's offices, and the Internet to go anywhere near shellfish or champagne (though I struggled with my drinking before and after both pregnancies), but you get the idea here:
Whatever the food of beauty and love is, it makes us leap and spin. It gives us the the wings--and horns, and Achilles' heels--we're each born with. 
And that sensibility passes through, umbilically. 
Our bodies and minds are corded to our parents' issues and identities--for better and for worse--you can blood bank on it.

Science currently suggests that not only can we pass on our neuroses and mutated genes, we can pass along our neuroplastic-fantastic ability to embrace concepts like goodness, wellness, and heroism, as well.

We are all hyperlinked by the motherlode of our sensibilities, and quite frankly, we're all on a collective quest here, using our senses to help classify ourselves. To see and more importantly, feel, ourselves fitting into the structure.

Down in our bones we know this, and yet it feels disturbing and "discomfortable" (as Otto says) to view ourselves as heroic--at least to use the term out loud--or as something like an epic container for a concept like love.
I deal with this daily, like a multivitamin.

Actually, with my tendencies to clinging to my wordplay and to my past, the goddess I would have identified myself with (without Ava's reframe) is Mnemosyne, guardian of memory. 

It's funny no one remembers her--except maybe by her other name, "Hey, Nine Muses' Mom."

A Mnemonic device is any learning strategy that manipulates information to help you remember--which is all mindfulness is (they're often auditory--a classic example from my childhood is Potsie's "Pumps Your Blood" song, from Happy Days), and I've always thought it funny, as a teacher, that a chief obstacle to students's using mnemonic devices is that they just read about them in books about how to learn, often without guidance.
Then, because they are naturally disinclined to understand words they can't pronounce (much less attempt to use them or their more ineffable concepts), they suffer. 
You can only use skillfully what you first understand.

I find it fascinating that Ava, at 9, will keep at it--even when she risks being wrong, or misunderstood (two things I never like to be). 
Once, she told a platinum waitress that the pie, not made in-house, was okay, but just "blonde."

She'd read, understood, and never said the word bland out loud before. 
She was just making her best guess bringing it into the world.
Which is all parenting is. Which is all creativity is. 
Which is all any of us is doing, at any given moment, trying to understand and be understood.

For some reason when you're 7 or 42, it's fun (though incorrect) to pronounce "cinnamon" as cinn-ee-mon (it makes you feel like a genie bursting out of a spice bottle, which is another set of stories). It's okay to be deliberately incorrect if it helps you remember something else correctly, I think: 

Mnemosyne: If I say it this way, out loud: "Nem-o-cinneemon Rolls," and then hand you one, all covered with sweet, homemade icing, I can guarantee that you will get it--and never pronounce it incorrectly again. And you will no longer be afraid of that particular possibility for failure--if failure is not knowing how.
But you may end up asking for cinneemon rolls:

"Please make the cinnamon rolls," they say on the weekends. 

"I'll make the icing," Ava says.

"Do you know how?" I say.

"How hard had could it be if you just show me? I already know what's in it: it's just confectioner's sugar and a little water with some vanilla extract--I looked it up. But I'm going to add cinnamon."

Probably Mnemosynneemon.

If you want to make sense of things you don't understand, you need to allow for the fact that you don't know how, and that you might be wrong. Also (the crux of the learning curve), that you might never know.
You need to be able to let down to be okay with that. You need someone you trust, holding the possibility of all the miscommunication & mishap warm and fragrant for you on a plate, nourishing you into trying.

Now why is it that I can invite some other confused, hungry soul to sit at my table, and patiently offer (and re-offer, if necessary) the plate of my own mnemosynnamon-scented goodness, yet I cannot always eat my own words?

Because, although both sides of the plate may be the same, they don't always look the same (and they definitely don't feel the same).


Maybe I am neither my beauty nor my clinging, nor the words themselves, but a pantheon of possibilities, on any given day.

Maybe "She"--that mythical Other or Self in the Third Person--is simply my mnemesis. 

I've always loved a line from Pema Chodron: "Meditation practice isn’t about trying to throw ourselves away and become something better, it’s about befriending who we are."

Worldly life, then, is making friends with the myth (the many myths). 
Heroic friendship with oneself.

[licks fingers]

Monday, August 5, 2013

Lovin' Spoonful: Do You Believe In Magic Touching Science on Your Plate?

A lot of people can't stomach the word "magic"--especially not anywhere on the plate touching the word "science."

I don't have any trouble palating both; I believe there is only one good word--and it's love--it only gets parsleyed and parsed different ways on the plate.

I'm not a picky eater, but I am persnickety with my words, and as an English teacher, a mom, a wife, and most of all as a human being, I try to take care to incorporate them carefully into my communications. Because our most cherished recipes are nothing more than highly personalized forms of communication.
Recipes that are desperately seeking to incorporate and ultimately plate this one ingredient: love.

Even though, as child of the 70's, my experience with this song is directly related The Shaun Cassidy version, "Do You Believe in Magic?" was written by John Sebastian & released by The Lovin' Spoonful in 1965, and it's been adored and fought over since its genesis.
Just like love.
Magic? Can that be real? TOO hokey.  


I suggest you play this video immediately.

There is an eerie cast of Big Bang Theory thing going on here (you'll immediately recognize Howard Wolowitz, on the left). 
Magic's old, and so is this archetype: the scientist with the evolving understanding of his less-than-secret heart of liquid gold. 

My goal isn't to convince you that magic is real. It's only to convince you to listen again with fresh ears and have a look at the lyrics (which follow), which are relevant as ever today, because this song is gold. 
That's the alchemy of music. I don't have to convince you, I only have to press play--and if the music is groovy, you'll feel it. It'll make you happy in your body, a somatic belief that no one can convince you of, give you scientific proof for--or take away from you.
And ultimately, yes, that may free your soul.

You want to believe. I can feel it.
Ah so.

It's the same uncomfortable, save Tinkerbell-beseeching moment in Peter Pan or in a meditation hall, when people are inclined to open their eyes and start looking around to see if anyone else believes, too, before they jump (or stay sitting). 
And it's okay.

I had no intention of writing this post this morning. But I stumbled across this song when I was working on something else--and I will tell you it spun me from a state of disbelief in myself (and my own goodness) I've had going for the past 24 hours into a state of belief again.

I needed to see:
"How the magic's in the music and the music's in me."

So, yes. I believe in magic, and the power of a spoonful of sugar to make the goodness stay down.

PS: The label "Do You Believe in Magic?" was recorded on (or within) was Kama Sutra records. 

"Do You Believe in Magic" (John Sebastian)

Do you believe in magic in a young girl's heart
How the music can free her, whenever it starts
And it's magic, if the music is groovy
It makes you feel happy like an old-time movie
I'll tell you about the magic, and it'll free your soul
But it's like trying to tell a stranger 'bout rock and roll

If you believe in magic don't bother to choose
If it's jug band music or rhythm and blues
Just go and listen it'll start with a smile
It won't wipe off your face no matter how hard you try
Your feet start tapping and you can't seem to find
How you got there, so just blow your mind

If you believe in magic, come along with me
We'll dance until morning 'til there's just you and me
And maybe, if the music is right
I'll meet you tomorrow, sort of late at night
And we'll go dancing, baby, then you'll see
How the magic's in the music and the music's in me

Yeah, do you believe in magic
Yeah, believe in the magic of a young girl's soul
Believe in the magic of rock and roll
Believe in the magic that can set you free
Ohh, talking 'bout magic

Do you believe like I believe Do you believe in magic
Do you believe like I believe Do you believe, believer
Do you believe like I believe Do you believe in magic

[Fade]

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

All Is Well in the Cosmos: Pulling Weeds & Planting Seeds with Julian of Norwich

The cosmos has always been (not a huge surprise to myself, as a dark matter-of-fact Carl Sagan fan) 
my favorite flower.

It's now become my Official State-of-Being Flower.

I've just adopted it for myself, but since this land is your land, too, you're welcome to it.

In the kitchen garden of my grown-up mind, it was the first flower I planted from seed in my first house, in the light of a tiny 24"-square kitchen window with a claw hasp (which was the whole reason I bought that house, if I had to sum up).

That was years ago (13), and houses ago (2), but now cosmos come up wherever I am because I make sure I plant those seeds. What can I say?--they bloom well for me.

And they are facts!--my new favorite friends in living a life committed to seeing things just as they are, to reality--long, slender beautiful facts to surround oneself with: that there is a payoff to pulling weeds and planting good seeds.
No matter how scattered or random or chaotic the field may appear. The constellations are clear, as well as the relationship between effort and good fruits (or flowers).
And since I'm always stalking the wordplay, there is that too: there is the relationship between tending and cultivating tenderness in oneself.

I was drawn to cosmos then for reasons that only make sense to me now: this was before I considered myself a scientist in my own mind and in my own kitchen, before I started meditating or reading about consciousness, before I had a daughter who practically sprung from seed with the a sureness that she will be an astronaut. 
Before I realized that no matter where I am, I am and can be contemplative cooking.

14th C. Christian mystic Julian of Norwich (still mostly a mystery, and still uncanonized, for some equally mysterious reason) said, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.”

You may have heard this quote. T.S. Eliot, whom I love, copped it for his poem "Little Gidding," (which is one I teach and is a medicinal masterpiece, even if you're not a college writing student).

I have a little group of friends and we tend to use it when things seem insulatedly insurmountable: "All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well." 
Maybe just an email. Just a text. But a message like that can be like a flash-rain of goodness, can buoy your drooping stem (and is a very good use of technology).

My favorite thing about this quote is that she starts with "And."
Imagine, if we all started everything we said with that word. And.

These words are said to have been directly imparted to Julian from God. 

Since God is in the details, I make a note to myself to start using this with my children, especially my daughter. I wonder what it would be like if all parents answered more of children's real questions, always some form of: will it be okay?

Will all be well?

I can't promise them or anyone it won't change because all life (Buddhist, Christian, atheist, or flora) is impermanence, but for the first time in my life, I know I can promise it will be okay.
Not just okay, well.

The great thing about wisdom (and beauty and goodness) is that you don't have to know where it comes from for it to help you.

You don't have to research it to death or find the source--to source it in yourself.

And that line is "all manner of thing"--not things, incidentally. 
That's not a typo.
All and thing.
The everything and the One.

Because really, everything is all the same. All one.

And well, well, Now.