Showing posts from November, 2013

The Quantitative Self Movement

With the emergence of popular high tech gizmos, the Quantitative Self Movement encourages entrepreneurs of all stripes to come up with new and improved devices to measure human activity. And hard data, as we all know, provides the gospel truth for modern day man, adding or detracting from the holy books with bottom line facts.

Quantifying one's behavior and its measureable impact on the body and mind is not a new idea in the brave new world of 21st century technology. Leaving aside scientists from past millennia -- in a brainless example, the average bathroom scale tells its owner how much weight one has gained, lost, or maintained as often as the person with the poundage would like. With an explosion of the iPhone-carrying species, the Nike + iPod App can quantify every twitch and how many calories it burns. (As for this app which refuses to leave the phone's desktop, if you live in Los Angeles, home to freeways and a multitude of cars, one could well use this feature; a farme…

Fathers and Families

During Thanksgiving dinner last night, a discussion arose about the role of fathers: the good, the bad and the ugly. All of the "children" at the table were adults ranging in age between 25 to 37 years old. Their maturation process had given them distance and perspective, unlike the tender years of 0-3 when parental energies imprinted heavily on the wide open young soul - or when the hormones of adulthood started churning around in the bodies and minds of burgeoning teenagers. 

Father issues may erupt with volcanic intensity if the formative years are filled with good intentions gone wrong on the part of the father. (This is not meant to be a father-bashing blog as mothers do their fair share of positive and negative actions, but our discussion last night happened to be about the males of the species.)

In the group assembled at our table, the wattage of love, understanding and attention doled out to these young adults from their fathers varied; three out of four had different…

James Ray Has Nowhere to Sleep

The rise of "New Age" philosophy in the last five decades can be viewed as a positive phenomenon. The gestalt of self-help, motivational psychology, holistic health and a distillation of global religions into a secular western approach fit our evolutionary pattern as we enter into the Age of Aquarius. Thomas Aquinas, roll over.

The gurus of the New Age offer a mixed bag of goodies: many ideas and the tools laid forth on the table of delights do have some usefulness in prying the western mind out of narcissism and self-doubt. But the price of grazing from this table comes at a cost, usually from one's bank account, but sometimes in a more horrific form.

James Ray models a worst-case scenario of faux teachers whose business savvy catapulted him to New Age stardom. His pricey $10,000 weeklong seminar ended with the death of three people in an overly heated sweat lodge. Literally roasted alive, they expired in the midst of a group motivated to expand their consciousness. (The …

Better Than the Alternative

A few years before my father passed way at the age of 94, we planned an outing to a park on a bluff overlooking the sapphire blue Pacific. Despite the meritorious effort to get out and about on a gorgeous spring day, it turned into an ordeal.

First he had trouble going down two steps to the garage to get into the car; a walker is not designed for anything other than horizontal surfaces. Then he couldn't get his right leg into the vehicle as his polished stiff leather shoe got caught in the car door. After I hoisted his weak limb into the proper position, he clucked like an old rooster being shooed from a doorstep. Not something a proud man felt proud about.

After arriving at the park and doing the reverse routine getting out of the car, he slowly shuffled to the park bench closest to the car. As I helped lower him down onto the bench, in slow motion so that his frail bones wouldn't meet the hard wood with a bruising velocity, he sighed deeply, "I'm getting so old and st…

Better Seats for the B-52 Bomber?

As reported in the Los Angeles Times recently, a US military navigator decided to bring rubber seat cushions on board a B-52 bomber to provide extra comfort for a long-range flight. This creative fellow, knowing the agonies that a stressful bombing mission would inflict on his ass, stored the cushions underneath his seat to be used at the opportune moment.

Alas, they were too close to a heat vent. The cushions caught on fire and the bomber wound up crashing. Small detail: it was carrying nuclear warheads which could have wiped out a good portion of our homeland, not to speak of the fact that it went down within close range of a vital top-secret military base.

I would like to know why the Defense Department doesn't make nicely padded seats for the backsides of its brightest and best when they are on these kill missions? Or maybe they do have great seats, like first class commercials airlines, but this particular navigator had special needs with regards to his sits bones.


The Chill of Indifference, the Warmth of Embrace

A corner spot on my terrace gets so much sun that this past summer, the chaise that lives there went unused. Only a rattlesnake or a person in search of a sauna could bear the intensity of the heat. But even in the mild year-round weather of Southern California, seasons do exist; on this late November morning, that very same chaise provides a cozy spot to be kissed by the sun in a warm and impassioned embrace.

Lying in this life-giving love, my thoughts drift back to an evening on the Paris metro. The car was packed with somber people in winter gear, all robed in shades of gray, black and brown. One man stood, cup in hand, and started speaking loudly. Urgently. Not understanding the language but getting the intensity of his cry, I asked my husband for a translation. 

"He's homeless."

As this shouting man waded down the aisle, no one looked up; he passed through the swaying car as if he were a ghost who could not get the attention so desperately needed to move into a happie…

International vs. Global

One can depart from a landmass with unique climates, customs, languages, flora, fauna and political systems -- and in less than 24 hours travel to another spot on the globe that seems like another planet. The speed of airplanes makes this cultural dislocation possible at an astonishing pace, including a topsy-turvy effect on the body clock.

Currently cruising at 30,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, a two-tiered humongous iron bird flies over an expanse of water that belongs to no one except the creatures of the deep. Within a time span stretching from breakfast to dinner, France is fast becoming a memory as California begins to morph into real time consciousness.

A corner of my mind eagerly awaits the sunshine that was smothered by the gray clouds of Paris. But better weather notwithstanding, home also means a pile of bills, disorganized pockets of house clutter and a return to the sedentary life style of car-driving Angelenos. The magnificence of Paris architecture, the divine twinkle…

France Day 10: Synchrony in the City

A mugger lurks in an alley, sizing up passersby and watching for the perfect victim to appear. He will spring with the agile ferocity of a tiger to snatch his meal ticket; perhaps a purse, wallet, iPhone, briefcase, or any other trappings of value on the unsuspecting person.

A tall, male Olympian athlete will probably be overlooked by an adversary, but what about less formidable  human beings who are not overtly weakened by severe old age or disease?

Apparently, the relationship between the energy wattage and joint mobility of a person has a lot to do with the likelihood of attracting unwanted attention. Those who project vitality and whose joints move like well oiled ball bearings need not have excessive concern. But for the young or old who exhibit vulnerability or walk with a limp, the likelihood of being singled out by a predator rises dramatically.

Being aware of these statistics, but lacking well oiled joints, my tack when walking the streets of Paris or riding the metro late at n…

France Day 9: Fare Thee Well Dr. Mackenzie

Most of you will have no idea who Dr. Mackenzie is, or was, to be more accurate. But I would like to write about him today because he represents so much that is good about humanity.

He was recommended as the consummate dermatologist that might help a persistent radiation burn beat a retreat. After waiting over an hour in a small examination room, he sauntered in with a ziplock bag full of ginseng roots. "Take a handful," he said, generously offering the precious substance.

Most doctors would not greet a new patient with a bag of goodies to munch on, let along a Chinese herb of eastern medicinal origin. But Dr. Mckenzie was no ordinary Los Angeles dermatologist, although he had his fair share of "A list" celebrities getting their wrinkles removed in his private operating room. He never afforded himself the plethora of treatments at his disposal, as at 77 years of age, his bright blue eyes and imposing physique more than made up for a few folds on the face.

He had an en…

France Day 8: Metro As Psychic Melting Pot

As an avid people watcher, riding the Paris metro provides an endless source of material for my inquisitive eye.The melting pot of ethnicities, hair styles, clothes, age ranges, body types, facial expressions, shopping bags, umbrellas and shoe wear all form a melange of eye candy as interesting as an exhibition at a museum -- life as art.

Each person's presentation to their exterior world makes a distinct statement, conscious or otherwise. An intuitive person, I am inexorably drawn to look deeply into a person's eyes, check their body language, make note of other oddities that might reveal clues to their nature and how they evolved to become their expression of now.

Although the metro provides the ideal environment for such scrutiny, not unlike a jungle for birdwatchers, the main problem is that people are not birds or other forest animals. If you stare at them, it will evoke a response not particularly inviting, simply because that penetrating look is an invasion of their psych…

France Day 7: The Nude Male

A popular art exhibit currently showing in Paris, entitled Masculine/Masculine, provides an interesting peek into the history of the male nude in art. The first and most amusing aspect is that a man's most vulnerable private parts (the trinity on the front side) are usually chastely covered, perhaps with a petite leaf, small ribbon, or cloth. Or, the painter discretely blurs the features, not unlike a modern day photographer using an out of focus technique. Granted, for every rule there is an exception in the historical works, but the most blatant in-your-face male frontal nudity comes from painters whose work dates post 2000. When in doubt, use shock value.

For centuries upon centuries, the art world exalted the male figure replete with a six pack, broad shoulders, chiseled musculature and a general ambiance which Abercrombie and Fitch poster boys of today model perfectly. Who knew that the Greco-Roman ideal still haunts today's dream of the perfect male physique? 

The below mo…

France Day 6: Polarity

Polarity creates a vibration pervading all existence. For example, our Mothership has North and South Poles that orient us up or down or upside down. Male and female create the movement between union and opposition, not to speak of male and female parts in a hardware store. Even our nuts and bolts exhibit this relationship of two-ness.

In a perfect world of governance, the political right and left would differ only in perspective but not in a common unified goal for the good of all. Alas, this is not the case when ego clouds the eyes and false beliefs are fomented, begetting a power struggle that serves no One.

It is theoretically possible for the right and the left to enlighten each other in a delicate ballet of balance. If only our leaders and elected officials understood both poles as part of the same universal creation, our very cells would do the cosmic boogie.

France Day 5: Notre Dame a.k.a.Our Lady

Virtually all cultures celebrate the feminine in religious and secular ways. For the pious or the spiritual (distinctly different gestalts), icons mirror each other despite cultural differences: the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadeloupe, the 21 Taras, Yeshe Tsogyal, Mandarava, Kwan Yin, Kali, Radha and others.
In the secular world, the female goddess morphs into a sex symbol for men to dream about -- the most beautiful ones possessed by power brokers in the Lucky Few Club. Women movers and shakers in politics and business usually twist themselves into more manlike postures and clothing to fit in, thus diminishing their femininity in order to bust through the glass ceiling.

Sadly, despite an abstract exaltation of women, both divine mothers and divinely regular women are stopped at the door of the boy's club when it comes to true parity. Never mind that the Catholic church is replete with women saints; the hierarchy refuses to allow women the rank of priesthood. Never mind that women i…

France Day 4: Ruinations of War

In 1430, Joan of Arc was imprisoned in the town of Saint Valery, her misfortune commemorated by the placard above the ancient stone walls where she was once confined. Her discomfort must have been great; if my nose turned into an icicle in mild November weather, those unheated earthen prison floors and stone walls must have made for a frozen hell on earth -- the polar opposite of her eventual fate, burned at the stake.

Our host, who lives in the neighboring village, took us on a tour of the area, frequently pointing out ruins with the explanation that "bombings during the war" caused the destruction of what looked like former architectural beauties. Some cathedrals have been rebuilt, but other buildings were left as a grim reminder of the apocalyptic past.

A forest sprouts new growth after a fire, and it seems that humans do as well. The people of France managed to find the spirit of courage to rebuild, but they never forgot the slaughter and mayhem that took place on their la…

France Day 3: Palestine

Most Americans never see the abundance of world cinema existing outside their borders.Thus, it was pure pleasure to see a film at the Amiens Film Festival made by by a Palestinian who lives in Jordan -- not by choice but thanks to Israeli security forces who barred her from returning home to the West Bank; a punishment for making feature films about the lives of Palestinian refugees. 

The central character is a scrappy twelve year old living in a refugee camp in Jordan, determined to go back to his home in Ramallah, an impossible dream. Without going into the details, suffice it to say that what Americans watch on the news is strictly controlled and only gives a brief picture of refugee life. This film delves deeply into the suffering of a people who no longer have their land, their homes and now live in the dusty poverty of tent camps.

My ancestors came from the shtetls of Eastern Europe, persecuted and poverty stricken. And then of course the Holocaust. So as I watched this film abou…

France Day 2: Epiphany

The first guilty pleasure of the day is a chocolate croissant with cafe au lait. In Los Angeles, one must scour the city for a bakery that has mastered the art. In France, a delicious, fluffy croissant is as commonplace as a loaf of Wonderbread at a Seven-Eleven.

But more pressing items occupy the day than a gourmand's trip through culinary delights. God for one. We are attending the 33e Festival International du Films d'Amiens, where my husband's involvement spans 25 years. This eclectic festival hosts films from cultures worldwide, and the city is home to several famous Gothic cathedrals. At night they evoke thoughts of demons and poltergeist, a natural association considering the cathedral's relationship to organized religion.

A belief in the grandeur of God and ecclesiastic materialism inspired these ornate structures. In comparison to the utter simplicity of a Hopi kiva, these convoluted structures seem over the top. But the presence of the elephantine monuments, in…

France Day 1: Arrivals

No honeymoon, shopping spree, or tourist adventure has brought me to France for the next twelve days. By the luck of the draw, I married a bona fide Frenchman many moons ago and he still maintains strong business ties with the Motherland -- which means that he graces her shores frequently.

For the first twenty-odd years of our union, we made beaucoup trips together. So many, in fact, that I used to say, "Oh God, not Paris again. Why can't we go somewhere else for a change, like Borneo or Prague?"

Times change and it's been five years since I last heard that incomprehensible language spoken unilaterally. (Did you know that Japanese and French are the most difficult languages to learn?) Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder, because it feels almost homey being back on French soil.

For my first day, I offer the below photos as proof that the French are masterful beings, at least when it comes to artistic savoir faire. This is the lady's bathro…

The Law of Attraction

Yesterday, I was the passenger in a car with a person whose driving record is less than stellar; one more ticket for a moving violation and her license will be suspended for a year. Anyone who knows Los Angeles can well appreciate the horror of this potential fate. Thanks to a gasoline lobby in the 1930's, the Red Line rail system was dismantled and plans for a modernized version were scuttled. Henceforth, Angelenos would have to rely on cars or lousy, inefficient bus routes to traverse the city's long distances.

The speedometer needle kept creeping clockwise until it registered the car hurtling down the freeway 15 miles above the legal speed limit. Thinking ahead to the disastrous consequences should a policeman spot the car, I spoke up in a forceful voice laced with incredulous undertones; the one steering the ship was flaunting the Sword of Damocles!

The driver, not happy with the reprimand of the back seat driver in the front seat, retorted, "Don't put those thought…

Loving People

People are amazing. Whether encountering the supermarket check-out lady, the garage attendant, an erudite scholar, a child, an old friend, a co-worker, or a complete stranger on a street corner, they all have a story with thousands of intricate twists and turns that have brought them into our moment of connection.

One could extract a life story from anybody and make a good movie out of it. Where there is life, energy expresses itself in unique albeit sometimes bizarre expressions. We simply need to ask questions and listen to what our attention draws forth from those humans. Even the ones who are significantly damaged have a rationale that provides a labyrinth of fascinating links to the now. 

And then the other side of the story: most people possess a variety of annoying character traits, ranging from mildly irritating to an intensity that intrudes on one's psyche like a smothering wet towel wrapped around the entire head and face. While it's hard to keep one's cool as the …

The Texas Madrasa

One of the most hotly contested issues of the US Civil War was States Rights versus Federal government control. The rationale that local areas know their particular needs better than an overarching government has some merit. But the perils outweigh benefits when states control vital human services such as welfare, health care and education. Just imagine -- if the southern states had their way, slavery might still be the economic engine driving their gravy train. Often, local thinking yields to a global shrinking of the common good, as it encourages a form of tribalism that shuns "the other."
Texas provides us with a stunning example of why education should not be a state mandated function. In the oxymoron of the century, their ruling body calls themselves The Citizens for a Smart Board of Education. The president of that body, recently retired but with high hopes for future control, remains steadfast in his belief that the earth is 6,000 years old and that dinosaurs walked h…

Warm Fuzzies

Back in the 1960's when I was a bona fide hippy that protested against the war in Vietnam and marched in favor of civil rights, "the fuzz" were decidedly not my friends. Baton wielding, helmeted, leather booted fellows in blue frequently had me on the run. If the batons didn't reach my fellow marchers and me, tear gas certainly did.

But violent protest has always been foreign to my nature, so when I found myself caught up in a crowd of thousands smashing their way down Wall Street with rocks and bricks, I decided to take another path. Although the military-industrial complex remains to this day an inextricably linked marriage from hell, still, breaking bank windows didn't seem like the logical solution. And so I left the movement and headed out west to San Francisco, the mecca of flower children.

Behaving as hippies tended to behave, fuzz paranoia continued to be a constant companion. The police hated long-hairs and as dope (cannibis) was always around somewhere, o…

A Spiritual Communista

Since the term communista appears in the title and it closely resembles another word, comunista (or communist in English), let me first address the NSA in the event that their cyber brains register a match of similar words.

Dear NSA,

I have never been, nor will I ever be, a member of the Communist Party. My last trip abroad was for the consecration of a monastery in Bhutan. If you would like to tap my phones or read my emails, knock yourselves out. You too, like my friends, might get sick of hearing about the latest herbs to boost red blood cell production, the perils of film production, or mother-daughter conversations that ramble on and on about girly things.

Yours truly,

A member of the Happiness Party

And now for the subject du jour. In almost every religious and spiritual community, a wickedly nonspiritual hierarchy exists where the guru, imam, priest, roshi, lama, shaman, medicine man, rabbi, professor, yoga teacher, light-worker, psychic or whoever are regarded with an awe of thei…