Our minds are all we have. They are all we have ever had. And they are all we can offer others. This might not be obvious, especially when there are aspects of your life that seem in need of improvement— when your goals are unrealized, or you are struggling to find a career, or you have relationships that need repairing. But it’s the truth. Every experience you have ever had has been shaped by your mind. Every relationship is as good or as bad as it is because of the minds involved. If you are perpetually angry, depressed, confused, and unloving, or your attention is elsewhere, it won’t matter how successful you become or who is in your life— you won’t enjoy any of it.
Most of us could easily compile a list of goals we want to achieve or personal problems that need to be solved. But what is the real significance of every item on such a list? Everything we want to accomplish— to paint the house, learn a new language, find a better job— is something that promises that, if done, it would allow us to finally relax and enjoy our lives in the present. Generally speaking, this is a false hope. I’m not denying the importance of achieving one’s goals, maintaining one’s health, or keeping one’s children clothed and fed— but most of us spend our time seeking happiness and security without acknowledging the underlying purpose of our search. Each of us is looking for a path back to the present: We are trying to find good enough reasons to be satisfied now.
Acknowledging that this is the structure of the game we are playing allows us to play it differently. How we pay attention to the present moment largely determines the character of our experience and, therefore, the quality of our lives.
I should feel the air move against me,
and feel the things I touched,
instead of having only to look at them.
I’m sure life is all wrong
because it has become too visual -
we can neither hear nor feel nor understand,
we can only see.
I’m sure that is entirely wrong.
— D. H. Lawrence, Women in Love.
I am all for aha!! moments and other peak experiences,
but my most lasting transformation happened in the subtleties,
in those private moments of decision as to which path to walk.
In every moment, there is a choice:
Will I open, or close?
Will I take responsibility, or blame?
Will I download the learning, or deflect?
Will I go to my edge, or fall back to safety?
Will I honor my intuition, or listen to the world?
Thousands, millions of moments of decision that inform who we become.
Getting out of Unconscious Prison is a life-long journey.
True path is built with choices.
I choose authenticity.
~ Jeff Brown
How do we forgive ourselves
for all of the things
we did not become?
~ David “Doc” Luben
Thursday. September 18.
I’m up at 3:00 a.m., and operating on four and a half hours of sleep. Even this Bull-Head understands that this, This, is unsustainable.
Insomnia. A discipline, unlike dieting, I’ve perfected. I now understand, her words, Marina Tsvetaeva, and their meaning.
“After a night of insomnia
the body gets weaker,
Becomes dear but no one’s —
not even your own.”
I look out the window. It’s not dawn but pre-dawn. Moonless. Dark. And Still. Me, the crickets and the hum of the electrical current running the overhead lamp.
I rifle through my schedule for the day. 6:00 a.m. train. Breakfast and lunch with colleagues. A team dinner in the evening. Calls and meetings jamming all white space in between. 18 hours from now, I can take my suit and shoes off and crawl back into bed. I blink my eyes. Once. Twice. Three times. I cannot clear the blur. I close them and rest for a moment. Give me 20 minutes and I’ll be good – – fully functioning. Just 20 minutes.
The day landed as expected, full, including two nightcaps for this teetotaler after dinner. I pull the maraschino cherry from my cocktail and drop it in my mouth, when a colleague lets fly: “V.O. Manhattan, huh? My Father used to drink those.” I smile, proud not to have taken the bait. How socially acceptable and behaved you’ve become. There was a time you’d come across the table and level the score and then some. An eye for an eye, a leg, and an arm. [Read more...]
The weight of my old dog, Hattie –
thirty five pounds of knocking bones, sighs, tremors and dreams –
just isn’t enough to hold a patch of sun in its place, at least for very long.
While she shakes in her sleep,
its slips from beneath her and inches away,
taking the morning with it –
the music from the radio,
the tea from my cup,
the drowsy yellow hours –
picking up dust and
dog hair as it goes.
~ Ted Kooser. December 14. Home from my walk, shoes off, at peace.
Walking by flashlight
at six in the morning,
my circle of light on the gravel
swinging side by side,
coyote, racoon, field mouse, sparrow,
each watching from darkness
this man with the moon on a leash.
~ Ted Kooser. November 18. Cloudy, dark and windy.
Using models’ faces as canvas, Russian make-up artist Valeriya Kutsan recreates famous paintings in collaboration with photographer Alexander Khokhlov and expert photo editor Veronica Ershova. Kutsan Valeriya is a stylist, image-designer, hair-dresser, make-up artist and international class master. She was born in Tomsk, Siberia (Russia). She was a make-up artist – from 1996. A Hair-dresser – from 1999. An Image-designer – from 2011.
Check out more of her amazing “2D or Not 2D” collection at her website: Kutsan Valeriya – Weird Beauty.
And don’t miss this video of Kutsan Valeriya as she works in her studio:
At first light,
The bare trees sway,
but not together.
Shifting their weight from side to side,
they are like a crowd
that has waited all night for a gate to open.
~ Ted Kooser. February 13. Breezy and pleasant.
Source: Themetapicture.com (Thanks Susan)
…I’ve never seen anything as strong or as stubborn,” he says.
And I think,
how do you tame a wild tongue,
train it to be quiet,
how do you bridle it and saddle it?
How do you make it lie down?
~ Gloria Anzaldua, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue“, From Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza
Pamela Druckerman interviews Walter Mischel, a professor of psychology at Columbia, in Learning How to Exert Self-Control:
…Self-control can be taught. Grown-ups can use it to tackle the burning issues of modern middle-class life: how to go to bed earlier, not check email obsessively, stop yelling at our children and spouses, and eat less bread. Poor kids need self-control skills if they’re going to catch up at school.
…Adults can use similar methods of distraction and distancing, he says. Don’t eye the basket of bread; just take it off the table. In moments of emotional distress, imagine that you’re viewing yourself from outside, or consider what someone else would do in your place. When a waiter offers chocolate mousse, imagine that a cockroach has just crawled across it. “If you change how you think about it, its impact on what you feel and do changes,” Mr. Mischel writes.
…He explains that there are two warring parts of the brain: a hot part demanding immediate gratification (the limbic system), and a cool, goal-oriented part (the prefrontal cortex). The secret of self-control, he says, is to train the prefrontal cortex to kick in first.
…Self-control alone doesn’t guarantee success. People also need a “burning goal” that gives them a reason to activate these skills
Read the rest of Druckerman’s column here: Learning How to Exert Self-Control
Find Mischel’s new book at Amazon here: The Marshmellow Test: Mastering Self-Control.
Image Source: Foodspotting
This is to say nothing against afternoons, evenings or even midnight.
Each has its portion of the spectacular.
But dawn — dawn is a gift.
Much is revealed about a person about his or her passion, or indifference,
to this opening of the door of day.
No one who loves dawn, and is abroad to see it,
could be a stranger to me.
— Mary Oliver, from Long Life: Essays And Other Writings (Da Capo Press, 2005)
Good news: Our friend Mr. Polar Bear is taking us on a soothing, rhythmic swim in the frosty arctic waters.
Less good news (and defeats the entire zen purpose of this post: Climate change is pulling the sea ice out from under polar bears’ feet, forcing them to swim longer distances to find food and habitat. Long-distance swimming puts polar bears at risk of drowning due to fatigue or rough seas.)
Source: Kangaroo sleeping and eating via biomorphosis
8:06 p.m. on Friday evening.
I’m getting off the train returning home from a long work day in Manhattan.
Susan and Zeke greet me at the train station for our walk home.
Zeke’s tail is wagging wildly, his head on a swivel searching for a present to bring to Dad.
“Eric had a bad day.”
I’m still winded from walking up the stairs from the platform.
The weight of the work week lifts, and anxiety flushes in.
My pulse starts to race. I’m gulping for air.
Bile rolls up my empty stomach and sits gnawing in my throat.
No. Please, no. Not my Son.
“He went to a bull fight with his friends.”
Panic begins to ease. Ms. Drama’s overstatements, or my fatigue misinterpreting degree of “bad day”?
“They left before half. He said there was one bullfighter. The matador has six ‘assistants’, 2 mounted on horseback, three flagmen and a sword servant. Six men looking to kill a single bull. He said it was barbaric. Sickening. He had to get out of the stadium.” [Read more...]
“… to read, we need a certain kind of silence, an ability to filter out the noise. That seems increasingly elusive in our overnetworked society, where every buzz and rumor is instantly blogged and tweeted, and it is not contemplation we desire but an odd sort of distraction, distraction masquerading as being in the know. In such a landscape, knowledge can’t help but fall prey to illusion, albeit an illusion that is deeply seductive, with its promise that speed can lead us to more illumination, that it is more important to react than to think deeply, that something must be attached to every bit of time. Here, we have my reading problem in a nutshell, for books insist we take the opposite position, that we immerse, slow down.”
- David L. Ulin, The Lost Art of Reading
SMWI*= Saturday Morning Work-Out Inspiration. Source: Moneygoround
Rabbit Island in Japan (via Themetapicture.com). Read more on Rabbit Island at the Guardian: Rabbit Island: A Japanese Holiday Resort for Bunnies
Traffic is building.
I turn the corner to the I-95 on-ramp. Man in coveralls is standing next to his graffiti stained Seafood Delivery truck. He glances up at me, pauses briefly, and then continues to flick through a bulging wad of bills in his right hand. (You declaring that income, Friend?)
There’s a semi truck in front. A Friendly’s ad adorns its back door: “Eat More Ice Cream.” (What kind of cruel joke is this? You friend, need no more ice cream. Saliva begins to build up, quicker than the traffic flow. I’m worse than Pavlov’s dog. I could use a tall, thick Coldstone Vanilla shake. Right now. I’d skip lunch if I could indulge. I would. I might.)
I come up on a gargantuan, two-trailer Fed Ex semi. Driver sitting up high. The truck gleams in the morning sun. (Bucket list: Need to drive a Semi cross-country. Is he delivering new iPhone 6+s to Manhattan Apple Stores? Gadget man starts to twitch.)
…after a long day, you need to hug a big kitty.
and don’t miss a look at this fella’s paws. Incredible… [Read more...]
This morning, I shared a gif of a parrot taking a shower.
I then check my emails and receive this message, the first of the day.
Good morning. I am very sorry to tell you that Birdie passed away this morning. She had been just fine until about 6 months ago when she began having occasional seizures. We are assuming she had one last night. Jessica found her at the bottom of the cage this morning and it seemed like she was hanging on for her to get home. She died shortly after Jessica picked her up. She spent most of every day on Jessica’s shoulder or inside her shirt during the winter months. Jessica is devastated. She lost her best animal friend.
In case you missed the original post on the background of Birdie and our family, you can find it here: “I Miss Birdie.”
Sad Day. Yet, what incredible joy this little creature brought to our family.
All the variety,
all the charm,
all the beauty of life
is made up of light and shadow.
~ Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
R. Dass: “Everything changes once we identify with being the witness to the story, instead of the actor in it.”
6:31 am. September 6, 2014.
76° F. Humid.
He’s wearing black shorts, above the knee.
He has two bands on his left wrist. Both black. A Garmin GPS, tracking time and distance. A Vivo Fit, another Garmin tool, tracking his step count. His head bobs, no, it tics, checking progress on his devices every 30-40 seconds.
His shirt is canary yellow, sleeveless. The sweat stains are darkening his shirt, spilled black ink creeping down his chest.
His running shoes are off-the-shelf new, with hyper-green florescent laces, tied with symmetrical bows on each foot.
His head is down but for the presence of oncoming traffic, when he’ll steal a look up, and offer a wave to the driver who gives him wide berth.
He’s heavy footed. Solemn. A hulking, Dutch plow horse, blinders blocking out peripheral vision. The furrows behind him, turned and plowed over and under and over again. [Read more...]
Just when you’d begun to feel
You could rely on the summer,
That each morning would deliver
The same mourning dove singing
From his station on the phone pole,
The same smell of bacon frying
Somewhere in the neighborhood,
The same sun burning off
The coastal fog by noon,
When you could reward yourself
For a good morning’s work
With lunch at the same little seaside cafe
With its shaded deck and iced tea,
The day’s routine finally down
Like an old song with minor variations,
There comes that morning when the light
Tilts ever so slightly on its track,
A cool gust out of nowhere
Whirlwinds a litter of dead grass
Across the sidewalk, the swimsuits
Are piled on the sale table,
And the back of your hand,
Which you thought you knew,
Has begun to look like an old leaf.
Or the back of someone else’s hand.
—George Bilgere, “August,” The Good Kiss (Akron, 2002)
Why must people kneel down to pray?
If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do.
I’d go out into a great big field all alone or
in the deep, deep woods and
I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky
that looks as if there was no end to its blueness.
And then I’d just feel a prayer.
— L.M. Montgomery
Lucy Maud Montgomery (1875-1942) was born in Clifton, Prince Edward Island. Montgomery, was a Canadian author best known for a series of novels beginning with Anne of Green Gables. Montgomery went on to publish 20 novels as well as 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays. Most of the novels were set on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and places in the Canadian province became literary landmarks. She was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire in 1935.
Her mother died of tuberculosis when Lucy was 21 months old. Stricken with grief over his wife’s death, Hugh John Montgomery gave custody over to Montgomery’s maternal grandparents. She was raised by them in a strict and unforgiving manner. Montgomery’s early life was very lonely. Despite having relations nearby, much of her childhood was spent alone. Montgomery credits this time of her life, in which she created many imaginary friends and worlds to cope with her loneliness, as what developed her creative mind.