Riding Metro North. Don’t Sit Here.

You, yes You, are standing on the platform waiting for the next train. The train approaches.  You flip open an app that displays which seats are open and…the app flashes a profile of your seat mate. Profiles are pulled together using a composite of the individuals’ blog posts, google searches and social media activity. So, what you have here is a form of seat match-making, with no names or addresses disclosed.

You, yes You, see that there are only two seats open. You scan the first profile, and you move to the second, mine, needing to quickly decide where to sit as the train pulls into the station. [Read more…]

He looked down, she just gave him a little lick, and suddenly I couldn’t stop him from crying

Zereeseis Player, age 12: “They taught me how to be respectful, they taught me how to listen, they’ve taught me not to be disobedient to others, and treat people like they want to be treated.”
Farrah Akbar, age 8:  “I would say, if you’ve never seen a horse or touched a horse, just touch it. Because if you touch it, then you’ll feel the soul.”

At equine-therapy programs like Compton Jr. Posse in Los Angeles, inner-city adolescents find a refuge from drugs and street-gang culture by developing equestrian skills and learning to regard the knowing gazes of 1,000-plus-pound horses and guide their beguiling power. In return for striving in school, the program’s participants, ranging in age from 8 to 18, are taught to ride horses, groom them and clean their stables. These experiences keep them within the horse’s “personal circle.” Horses have a profound effect on humans. “Whether they have a physical handicap or an emotional handicap or a mental handicap, when you’re around a horse,” Akbar says, “the energy is so powerful that it tunes the body up…

Something extraordinary occurs when we’re in the presence of a fellow sentient being. When we let go of language’s tacit conceptual constraints and judgments, we allow ourselves a kind of time travel toward our own inner animal. Science is revealing the ways that the physiology of our psychology can be found across species: the common neuronal structures and attendant nerve wirings that we share in varying measures with a startling array of both vertebrates and invertebrates, including fellow primates, elephants, whales, parrots, bees and fruit flies. Animal therapy makes us aware of this cross-species interconnectivity on the purest, subconscious level…It has been established that the tactile element alone in animal therapy releases endorphins, so called feel-good hormones that counteract the trauma hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.

…therapists involved in such programs speculate that their benefits actually derive from shutting down for a time some of our brain’s higher and sometimes cacophonous cognitive functions…Rather than augmenting higher-level consciousness, a substance like psilocybin actually shuts down our brain’s ego center, which, under duress, can confer crippling fear, guilt and insecurity, and instead allows people access to their unfettered emotions and sense of childlike wonder. Allows them, in other words, a mind-altering walk in the wood with no names…

“He looked down,” Martin recalls, “and she just gave him a little lick, and suddenly I couldn’t stop him from crying. Just that connection set free all of this stuff inside of him. She was the catalyst. There’s that ‘Some Enchanted Evening’ thing that happens. That’s real.”

~ Charles Siebert, excerpts from Why Close Encounters With Animals Soothe Us (NY Times, May 18, 2017)

 

I just don’t want to dodge any of it. I just want to stand there, shirt open, and take my hits and see, and see

(Many) Excerpts from a remarkable interview where Brad Pitt Talks Divorce, Quitting Drinking, and Becoming a Better Man (GQ: May 3, 2017):

Pitt is the first one to acknowledge that it’s been chaos these past six months…he seems absolutely locked in one moment and a little twitchy and forlorn in the next, having been put on a journey he didn’t intend to make but admits was “self-inflicted.” …Any of my foibles are born from my own hubris… I often say the wrong thing, often in the wrong place and time. Often. In my own private Idaho… I don’t have that gift. I’m better speaking in some other art form. I’m trying to get better. I’m really trying to get better. […]

I can’t remember a day since I got out of college when I wasn’t boozing or had a spliff, or something. Something. And you realize that a lot of it is, um—cigarettes, you know, pacifiers. And I’m running from feelings. I’m really, really happy to be done with all of that. I mean I stopped everything except boozing when I started my family. But even this last year, you know—things I wasn’t dealing with. I was boozing too much. It’s just become a problem…Don’t want to live that way anymore… And I’m really happy it’s been half a year now, which is bittersweet, but I’ve got my feelings in my fingertips again. I think that’s part of the human challenge: You either deny them all of your life or you answer them and evolve…

You strip down to the foundation and break out the mortar. I don’t know. For me this period has really been about looking at my weaknesses and failures and owning my side of the street…I don’t know where it comes from, this hollow quest for justice for some perceived slight. I can drill on that for days and years. It’s done me no good whatsoever. It’s such a silly idea, the idea that the world is fair. And this is coming from a guy who hit the lottery, I’m well aware of that. I hit the lottery, and I still would waste my time on those hollow pursuits. […] [Read more…]

Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Do you have a personal mantra?

You should.

Research shows that thinking of a word or phrase that affirms our values—and repeating it over and over—produces powerful physiological changes. It can lower our cortisol levels, enhance endurance and reduce perception of effort during physical exertion. Perhaps even more compelling, a mantra can quiet the mind…This isn’t a bad thing—as long as we’re thinking thoughts that are beneficial. But too many of us beat ourselves up, ruminating on the same negative beliefs.  Mantras can create and strengthen new neural pathways that are positive and not toxic. And that can make our brain much calmer and happier…

The earliest mantras appeared 3,500 years ago and were repetitive prayers or hymns. By the time meditative yoga developed, in the last few centuries B.C.E., mantras were being used to calm and control the mind. Modern mantras are still a sort of a prayer—for what we wish to be. They’re effective because they’re repetitive and simple, making them easy to turn into a habit. We don’t have to search for the positive thought to call up; we already have it.

People invoke mantras during times of stress…Some are just one word: “Breathe.” “Shine.” “Love.” Others are phrases: “This will pass.” “You’ve come this far, now push to go further.” How can you choose the best mantra for you? Not just any clichéd motto—“Just do it!”—will do. [Read more…]

Does just asking the question make you feel ill?

Try to pinpoint the last time you took a purposeless walk through the late spring breeze, when there was no itch in your hand to reach for a mobile device, and you felt like the wind and sky around you had nothing to disclose to you other than the vast and mysteriously sympathy of existence itself. Was it 2007? Or as far back as 1997? Does just asking the question make you feel ill?

~ Michael Brendan Dougherty, from I write on the internet. I’m sorry. (The Week, May 1, 2007)

 


Art: Eiko Ojala with “I found my silence“. The Estonian artist famous for his paperwork released a new personal project with no clue on what media is used in it. This could be a beautiful mix of paper, photography and illustrations but we are gracefully confused, but incline to paper. The only thing we know – it is beautiful (via DesignCollector)

Lightly child, lightly.

When you become a personality through having thoughts like: feeling sorry for yourself, views and opinions, self-criticism and so forth, and then it stops — there is the silence. But still the silence is bright and clear, intelligent. I prefer this silence rather than this endless proliferating nattering that goes on in the mind. I used to have what I call an ‘inner tyrant’, a bad habit that I picked up of always criticizing myself. It’s a real tyrant — there is nobody in this world that has been more tyrannical, critical or nasty to me than I have. Even the most critical person, however much they have harmed and made me miserable, has never made me relentlessly miserable as much as I have myself, as a result of this inner tyrant. It’s a real wet blanket of a tyrant, no matter what I do it’s never good enough. Even if everybody says, “Ajahn Sumedho, you gave such a wonderful [inspiring talk]”, the inner tyrant says “You shouldn’t have said this, you didn’t say that right.” It goes on, in an endless perpetual tirade of criticism and fault-finding. Yet it’s just habit, I freed my mind from this habit, it does not have any footing anymore. I know exactly what it is, I no longer believe in it, or even try to get rid of it, I just know not to pursue it and just to let it dissolve into the silence. That’s a way of breaking a lot of these emotional habits we have that plague us and obsess our minds. You can actually train your mind, not through rejection or denial but through understanding and cultivating this silence. So don’t use this silence as a way of annihilating or getting rid of what is arising in experience, but as a way of resolving and liberating your mind from the obsessive thoughts and negative attitudes that can endlessly plague conscious experience.

Ajahn Sumedho, from “Intuitive Awareness” (from: ijourney.org)

 


Notes:

  • Quote Source: Thank you Beth @ Alive on All Channels. Photo: via Your Eyes Blaze Out
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Swirl it around and find it

Set aside 10 minutes before you go to bed each night to write down three things that went really well that day. Next to each event answer the question, “Why did this good thing happen?”

Instead of focusing on life’s lows, which can increase the likelihood of depression, the exercise “turns your attention to the good things in life, so it changes what you attend to,” Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman said. “Consciousness is like your tongue: It swirls around in the mouth looking for a cavity, and when it finds it, you focus on it. Imagine if your tongue went looking for a beautiful, healthy tooth.” Polish it.

~ Julie Scelfo, excerpt from Get Happy: Four Well-Being Workouts (NY Times, April 5, 2017)


Photo: Pinterest

Lightly child, lightly.

I
am engulfed,
I
succumb…

~ Roland Barthes, A Lover’s Discourse Fragments

Notes:

  • Photo:  Noell S. Oszvald (Self portrait!!!!!) via Your Eyes Blaze Out
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Lightly child, lightly.


I exist.
It’s sweet,
so sweet, so slow.
And light:
you’d think it floated all by itself.
It stirs.
It brushes by me,
melts and vanishes.
Gently, gently.

— Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea


Notes:

  • Photo:  Nima Chaichi. Quote: Hidden Sanctuary
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”

Walking Cross-Town. With a Note to Todd.

It’s Sunday. Sun’s up and it’s warming. Squirrels are foraging, birds are pecking at the feeders, others chirp overhead in the trees, still bare and free of spring shoots.  Dickens had it right: “It was one of those March April days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”

Day of Sabbath. Day of Peace (should be). Several hours remain, and they are leaking fast – Monday’s calendar is already bullying its way in.

So why go here?

Because it goes where it wants.

It’s Friday afternoon, and voila, the appearance of a fortituous gap in the calendar. The elevator is racing down from the 39th floor to the Lobby.  I check the train schedule, 1:04 pm departure, 24 minutes to walk across town to Grand Central. Doable.  Fingers, eyes and mind skitter from the Metro North App, to iMessage, to Work email to Gmail.  The mental box continues to drop, one eye is on the floor indicator, like it might not stop on the ground floor and keep going. The stomach does a wee backflip and settles. Otis Elevator Man has this under control. How all this sh*t works is lost on me. Best I don’t know.

I step into the lobby and then onto Times Square.  A ZOO, even in the drizzle. I glance right, left, and across the street, the scene is Same – the jeweler on break for a smoke, the Construction worker with his florescent vest, the driver of the double decker tour bus, the traffic cop pausing between lights – all have their heads are down inside smart phones, and outside the World.

Me too.

I wait for the Walk sign, and it’s back to Gmail.  I pop open a WordPress notification from Todd’s blog – Bright, Shiny Objects, with the post titled: “Why?” I click the link, wait impatiently for the cell service to catch up, thousands of others doing the same at the same time, the rain, the overcast, the tall looming skyscrapers block satellite reception – it clears.  I chuckle, and whisper: “Truth.”  I punch out: “Great“, hit send, and the gremlins grab it and race off to Algoma, WI.

The signal turns to Walk.

I walk.

Six minutes later, my phone buzzes, the gremlin’s have raced back from Algoma with a reply from Todd:

How do you do it?[Read more…]

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