Friday, January 23, 2015

A lovely story

A Hasidic rabbi, talking about daybreak, the time for certain holy prayers, asked his pupils how they could tell when night had ended and day had begun.

"Is it when you can see an animal in the distance and know whether it's a sheep or a dog?"

"No," answered the rabbi.

"Is it," asked another pupil, "when you can clearly see the lines in the palm of your hand?"

"No," answered the rabbi.

"Is it when you can look at a tree not too far away and tell whether it's a pear tree or a fig tree?"

"No," answered the rabbi.

"Then what is it?" asked his pupils.

"It is when you can look on the face of any man or any woman and see that they are your sister or brother. Until then it is still night."


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Shades of my younger years

Around 1980, I got hooked on the soap opera General Hospital. I was still a graduate student and I'd teach in the mornings and then have the afternoons free to study. But every afternoon from 3 to 4, I watched GH. I even gave this habit to Frankie, the main character in my upcoming novel, When Your Mother Doesn't. But I was never a Dallas or Dynasty fan; the back-biting antics of the rich and famous didn't interest me. That is, until I recently discovered Revenge.

In this just barely plausible TV series, a beautiful young woman of unlimited means takes on avenging her father's wrongful imprisonment and death for laundering money for terrorists. The guilty are the most prominent family in the East Hamptons of Long Island. I'm hooked on the show for a couple of reasons. It has the most amazing plot twists and it's a superb fashion show: all the women characters wear some stunning new item in every scene.

I'm on episode 20 and I keep myself on a leash: my limit is three episodes a day. But I do find it fun to be so wrapped up in this other world.

Monday, January 19, 2015

On Limitations from Leo Babauta

Posted: 14 Jan 2015 09:18 AM PST
By Leo Babauta
We live in a world of abundance, often to the point of excess: we can buy anything anytime, consume as much of the Internet as we want, eat anything all the time, work as much as our bodies will allow.
With so much available, it can become overwhelming, unhealthy, unbalanced.
I’d like to propose a few limits.
Instead of unlimited time online and on the phone, what if you limited yourself to two hours a day, not including time spent on work tasks? You’d now have space in your life for other things: exercise, reading, meditation, cooking healthy food, cuddling with loved ones.
Instead of working from the minute you wake up until you’re going to bed, what if you only worked six hours a day? Or four hours? That would be dependent on what kind of job you have, of course, but in this hypothetical situation, you’d probably use that limited time better, with more focus, and get your important tasks done first. And you’d be better rested and therefore have better focus and energy when you did work.
Instead of eating as much as you can, what if you only ate during certain predefined times? For example, if you only ate between 12-1 p.m. and 6-8 p.m., you’d probably eat less. Or what if you only could eat whole foods, nothing pre-prepared or with sugar, white flour, or weird chemical names? You’d eat less and your health would improve.
Instead of being able to buy things all the time, what if you could only buy things (other than groceries and toiletries) on the 1st of every month? You’d probably buy less, and your debt would decrease and savings and investments would increase.
What if you could only do 3 tasks a day (besides responding to emails)? You’d pick the important tasks.
What if you could only sit for a total of two hours a day? You’d move around more, do some work standing up, drop some of your back problems, and lose some weight.
These limits, of course, are only arbitrary. It would take some experimenting to figure out what would work best for you. But you can see in these examples that limits can be powerful, because they force us to choose, to focus, to go from excess to healthy moderation.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Poem #6

On I-5 South of Seattle

The water rose off the road
As if it were a river
Evaporating in noonday sun
Instead of rain off patterned rubber
Each vehicle shrouded in mist
Color, size, model obliterated
By fog, steam, movement
Each of us a swift cloud
Scudding along a black top sky
Gathering and separating
Hurrying to some meterological home

Thursday, January 15, 2015

My 2015 creative challenge

Each year during the New Year's retreat, I spend some time making a list of creative ideas for the coming year. I make an impossibly long list of ambitious ideas because it's not a to-do list but rather a list of possibilities to consider.And then I spend a little time listening for what really sings to me from the list, what will I most enjoy doing.

One of the ideas that really appealed to me for this year is to write a lot of poetry. I have two books half-completed and I know I will finish them up. But with both, I'm at the rewriting stage, not the imaginative stage, and I wanted a way to write fresh most days. So my challenge to myself is to draft 300 poems this year, basically one a day with 65 days to slack off. And of course, nothing keeps me from writing a second poem in a day if I feel so inclined.

I wrote poem #15 last night and what I'm discovering is that I am beginning to pay attention to what happens in each day that might invoke a poem, a reflection. What have I seen, felt, said, heard, tasted, experienced that deserves deeper consideration? Since a second challenge this year is increase my level of consciousness, of paying attention, this is a great choice.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Accidents and choices

I had lunch yesterday with a woman I knew vaguely nearly 50 years ago. We both went to the same college and lived near each other in the dorm one year. I came across her name in a research project I was doing about a month ago and discovered she lived here and had been an academic like I was. So I emailed her and we got together.

It was interesting sharing our life stories, which are considerable at our ages, and I was struck by how life gets shaped by accidents and choices in the moment, rather than long-term goals and plans. She had planned to be an actress in LA or New York and fell into a university graduate program for acting instead. She worked on the stage a short while in Seattle and then got offered a temporary job at Reed College where she stayed. She acted some and directed some but mostly she was a teacher.

I had plans to be a high-school teacher but put them on hold when my boyfriend at the time got a job as an abortion counselor in Texas in the early 70s and I went with him and did that work for a while. Later I went back to school but fell into a Master's program and then chose to get a PhD instead of high-school teaching. In 1994, I took a leave from my college teaching job to return to Portland and care for my parents and I never went back, choosing instead to develop an editing business.

 Buying the book Life's Companion: Journaling for the Spiritual Quest in 1992 changed my life: I bacame a writer. Buying the book, the Artist's Way in 1997 changed my life as well: I became a painter.What accidents and choices have shaped your life? 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Moving from line to spiral in understanding food addiction

For the last seven months, I've been writing a personal inquiry into recovery from food addiction. One of the things I've come to see is that unlike recovery from alcoholism, which can have a linear trajectory (stop and stay stopped), the complications of food addiction (we cannot abstain from food entirely) make recovery more of a spiral.

Most of us follow a pattern of abstaining from foods that lead us to binge for a period and then eat them again and begin bingeing and then after a few months or years "come to our senses" and abstain again for a while. This seems to be a wheel of good/bad, do/don't that goes on forever. But I've come to see that that is only a function of our tendency toward black and white thinking, our either/or-ness, and not necessarily a reality that we must espouse.

Instead of a wheel, I think recovery can be a spiral, two steps forward and one step back, that recovery can be progressive wtih diminishing periods of food free-for-all.