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Showing posts from 2014

Let's Hear It For the Cats

I recently saw a "Huffington Comedy" video that made me laugh like a two year old on crack. A montage of video clips culled from You Tube, it showed cats and dogs in their proverbial war - only this time it was the cats who intimidated the dogs.

Shot by homegrown videographers with pets of both the feline and canine species, time and again the dogs were too terrified to pass the family cat, whether it be on a stairwell, in a hallway, or through a doorway leading to another room. The cats were all about the same size but the dogs ranged in potency from large boxers to little dogs of indeterminate parentage. 

Every dog that has ever entered my house has gone after my beloved cats with a vengeance (even my very own beloved dog Jade, since passed on). Thus, the sight of a cat terrifying a dog - simply by its lounging about presence - evoked hilarity and a sense of poetic justice.

However, when I browsed through hundreds of comments on the "Huffington Comedy" site, I was h…

Droplets from the Heart

Spoken by Garchen Rinpoche, a great Tibetan lama who was imprisoned by the Chinese for 20 years:

"In prison Khenpo Münsel Rinpoche taught me this. The extent of your realization will be known when you encounter difficult circumstances. You will not know the extent of your realization when things go well. 

When you find yourself in a troublesome situation, when you are in great pain, when an intense emotion arises, only then will you know where you are at with practice.

Adverse circumstances will reveal your hidden faults. If you are able to hold awareness unwaveringly during such a time, and thus if you are not carried away by the force of the emotion, it is a sign that you have gained experience in practice.

If you were to practice mindful awareness with great diligence for just a month, if you were to recognize even the slightest thought and not allow your mind to wander off into delusion for that time, even in such a short time you would witness great changes. 

Fierce …

Ask and It Will Be Given

Imagine sitting on a hilltop overlooking a crystal clear lake; a gentle breeze moves through mountain grasses and rustles the tree leaves while a chorus of birds send their harmonies throughout a vast and cloudless sky. All troubling thoughts seem to dissolve into the peace of the Mother naturally, simply.

Then out of nowhere, storm clouds gather on the horizon. The gentle breeze morphs into a sharp, biting wind and the birds take flight; sweet songs replaced by the ominous rumbling of distant thunder. As if rooted to the ground by a mighty force of gravity, you cannot move, helpless as the storm rolls in and pelts the physical with cold rain.

If the mind follows these external conditions like a loyal dog with its master, then peace will be followed by misery. Longing for the sweet past will torment the mind as it resists the more challenging landscape.

Yet so many brave people of history have described riding out tormenting storms by maintaining an inner balance that never wavers despit…

The Social Animal

Yesterday, three diverse family groups gathered for a Christmas Day lunch. In all three cases, one or more individuals comprising their nuclear families were not present for a specific reason - death, divorce, or relocation.

At one point or another during the afternoon hike, a key family member expressed that they had woken up depressed because their nuclear family was split apart this year. For all three groups, it was the first year of separation from the loved ones with whom they had been accustomed to being with for so many Christmas' of yesteryear.

In all three cases, the depression evaporated as we all gathered together with laughter, wine (or Martinellis) and great food.

What social scientists proclaim is indeed true. We are social animals. Our cultural and familial preferences actually come second; what comes first is being accepted into the company of warm and loving human beings.

The rest is icing on the cake.


Surprise!

Surprises are a double-edged sword. When an event reveals itself spontaneously - unpredictably - human reactions span the entire range of the emotional spectrum. Good surprises and bad surprises - which ones do we prefer?

Although the obvious answer is "good surprises," life often does not co-operate with our desire for an ever-upward spiral of unexpected wondrous events. Actually, the odds present a 50-50 scenario. What goes up must come down, and what goes down must come up (especially if you follow the stock market).

Preparing for the vagaries of life is one of the most important skills sets necessary for survival. Like a swimmer in the ocean, one must learn to navigate the waves. Floating as if the sea were calm when the intensity of the waves pick up courts disaster. Learning how to dive under them delivers triumphant results - even pride in knowing that there is a way to handle any challenge that presents itself.

Today is Christmas - a day that many adore and a day that m…

Will the Real Santa Claus Please Stand Up?

Santa Claus, sometimes called "old Saint Nick," is a legend born of a Greek mystic between the 7th-8th Century. Saint Nicholas' gift-giving attributes arose from a story that he gave a sack of gold to a poor man whose daughters would have otherwise been sold into slavery but for this handsome dowery.

Saint Nicholas was described as "fiery and wiry," spending many years in prison as a persecuted Christian during the bad old days of the Roman Empire. 

Hold on. Fiery and wiry? Of course traditions, like language, evolve over time. Our jovial, obese Santa Claus of today might have put on an extra 100 pounds thanks to the prevalence of preservatives and transfats in our modern diet.

However, the real truth about Saint Nick's metamorphosus from gaunt, wrathful mystic to euphoric tubby lies in a more ironic twist of fate. The image of Santa Claus known to modern man had its genesis within the marketing department of Coca Cola circa 1920. An artist created Santa as he…

The Three R's

In the olden days, the 3 R's stood for "reading, writing, and arithmetic," the foundational skills taught in school. This ditty did not bode well for American education, since "rithmatic" bastardizes the legitimacy of the King's English. Off to an inauspicious start perhaps, considering that American education now ranks 36th in the world of nations?

In a new tactic having to do with socialization, a community organization from the inner cities has adapted the 3 R's for a new cause. These letters stand for race, religion, and respect, an abbreviation born of a desire for better relations between the police and the people on their beat. 

Everyone knows that people of color are still targeted by police. Everyone knows that equality on paper has not translated to equality in real life. Everyone knows that  despite the election of a real African-American President, race relations have not forged ahead.

This morning, CNN featured a discussion between the not-so-…

Lucky

Is there truth in a name? In the case of Lucky the cat, it seems so. People who take up residence in the Santa Monica Mountains know that cats are at high risk of becoming cat meat for the coyote and owl populations residing in those hills and dales.

Owls, predators of cats? Yes indeed. They may not have jaws but they have claws that lift cats to soaring heights and then release them, using gravity as the death weapon. Smokey disappeared after the hoot of an owl proclaimed victory. 

Sparkle left this earth trying to escape up a tree, unfortunately not fast enough for a threesome of coyotes. Her son Sugar was snagged right in our driveway by a lone coyote who simply snapped his neck with one mighty chomp.

Other pet cats met their fate for different reasons. Blue, the ever-wandering cat of the Russian Blue breed, got his comeuppance from an automobile one rainy night. Chase and Little Guy both disappeared at sunset - here one minute, gone the next. Something of mighty stealth got them.

Lacy

The Puzzle of Boundaries

Boundaries exist at all levels of life and they are either respected or violated. What defines a boundary is a somewhat mystical question: if we are all interdependent with no real beginning or end, then in a sense there is no such thing as a delineating line between entities.

Yet, in this relative world boundaries appear real and if crossed, trouble ensues. Bypassing the issue of political boundaries such as the town, the county line, the state, the country and the geographically birthed ones, not to speak of those artificially drawn by victors of war, consider the capsule called "self." 

The cause of disharmony or the ingrediants for harmony lie in this intangible psychological bundle of thoughts and emotions called "personal boundaries." And these so-called boundaries are dependent on subjective perception and common consensus. Thus, the complications and confusion.

One of the favorite places for boundary-deficient people is Alanon, where the missing boundaries of …

The Ups and Downs of Interdependence

Interdependence, a foundational tenet of Buddhism, was not something the Buddha dreamed up - even if his realization and its articulation were key. A law of nature, it means that no one thing can exist without another set of factors contributing to its existence.

For example, we experience ourselves to be independent identities, captains in charge of our body-mind vessel, yet if one traces our existence on planet earth, its validity exists only as an intertwined phenomenon: egg met sperm, mother met father, and the karmic twists and turns that magnetized them together drift into infinity.

Segway to the world of cyberspace. "Houston, we have problem," to quote the line from a famous movie. Our virtual reality, which runs the world these days, seems to have an Achilles heel. The very technologies that have made our lives so convenient could also be the very thing to wreak havoc on the world as we know it.

The news media is all over the story of North Korea hacking into vital part…

Anthony Bourdain's Downhill Spiral

Anthony Bourdain was once my favorite host/commentator/chef/ethnographer, even ranking as the subject of two glowing blogs during his previous season. Alas, as the kitchen television blared his new show in Sicily and the merry widow made dinner, his statements were such a turnoff that the god-of-truth-speaking fell off his pedestal.

For the appetizer, he touted that he was too depressed to stay sober (thanks to a dearth of live swimming food in the water) so he sashayed off to a café and proudly admitted that he was so smashed that he doesn't remember the evening shoot - dinner at the "chosen" restaurant. The Italian resteranteur who had dreamed of this break must have experienced a nightmare.

For the main course, Bourdain admitted deep shock from a second bad experience shooting a show in Italy. His desire: to lay on his hotel bed, watch porn, and take handfuls of prescription pills. Sadly, his hotel did not have a television although he probably travels with a stash of l…

True Justice

" I know the temptations to dehumanize and mistreat, even kill. My sergeant in Uganda knocked my arm away from a murderer's head who I was about to shoot after he and his gang had set fire to the village chief's compound and thrown the chief, his family and every living creature into the flames. I nearly became a murderer and then remembered that the cop's job is to apprehend a suspect. NEVER to judge, NEVER to punish. Everyone is innocent until proved guilty - human rights are what democracy and our civilization stand on. The USA today faces a massive human rights issue."

These words were written on my Facebook page, publicly, as a comment to the blog "Dick Cheney, War Criminal." I pondered them because after all, the cop who was about to shoot the murderous gang leader had no doubt as to his guilt, having witnessed the crimes against humanity firsthand. One might not find fault with an on-the-spot execution under such horrific conditions.

But th…

A Living Memory

I was recently introduced to a woman whose husband died of liver cancer at age 57, leaving her with four teen/college-aged children. A number of years had passed since his death, yet grief still wracked her on a daily basis.

She finally asked to see her spiritual teacher, one who is in such demand that private audiences are rare. To her surprise, he granted her a one hour interview. Her long-winded rush of emotional verbiage taxed my patience but finally, finally, she got to a point that fascinated and enlightened me.

Said teacher told her, "Your husband is a memory and he was even a memory when he was alive and with you."

In the sense that every perception of another is filtered through our own story of who we are and who we think they are, the whole relationship is a fictional play of ideas with a sprinkling of physical evidence.

In contemplating the deep meaning behind the guru's words, some bit of comfort siphoned off in my direction. It makes my own husband seem less ab…

The Past Portal Pothole

The Past Portal Pothole is a spot in the time-space continuum where one can step into a corroded mental image and plunge into feelings of ruination. Hurled into this black hole, gravity grows heavier and heavier until one implodes into self-referenced despair and feelings of annhilitation.

This mistep into the portal of past time could be avoided with mindful awareness. But as with a riptide in the ocean after a hurricane, struggling against it courts diaster. In order to survive a descent into the dark portal of despair, relaxation holds the key to survival. Allowing oneself to flow with the momentum, its energy will abate and suddenly the outer reaches of the pothole come into view and one is flung into the open air of sunlight.

Watch the movie called "My Life" and know that for every Past Portal Pothole, there is a beginning, an end, and a new beginning.



Dick Cheney, War Criminal

With the public revelation of systematic torture by the C.I.A., a policy engineered by the Bush administration, something we already knew appeared in black and white (as in printed documents). Although George Junior has remained characteristically nonverbal, Dick, on the otherhand, has publically expressed no regrets.

This outright confession warms my heart. Theoretically, it means that he can be prosecuted for wanton violation of the The Universal Declaration of Human Rights - among other international laws pertaining to the humane treatment of prisoners.

Dick, in all senses of the word, had waxed rhapsodic about the new ticker that renewed his lease on life. No longer would he gasp his way through the woods toting his shotgun to take down a deer or duck or a friend. Oh joy!

It remains a total mystery that a man who can appreciate the heartache of sickness and the joy of good health and freedom NOT understand that others might want that too. Even more puzzling is that interrogators have…

Old Haunts

The Los Angeles suburb in which I rest my bones was envisaged in the early 1980's by developers of wealth and endless access to mega-bank loans. Spacious homes on square patches of lawn sprang up, and the American dream appeared almost overnight: a squeaky clean neighborhood with towheaded kids, SUV's, and pets galore; a vision realized by the lucky few of mostly caucasion persuasion.

The fickle hand of fate swept my favorite cousin into a nest right in the town where I grew up - a New York City suburb. Contrary to my west coast environs, almost nothing has changed in Mamaroneck, named for Chief Mamaroneck shortly after the white settlers obliterated him and his kind to live by this sheltered harbor of the Atlantic.

The same Miller's Toy Store, the same Strauch jewelry store, the same Mercurio's Italian deli to name but a few. These hangers on were landmarks of my childhood, fascinating the five year old who turned into the ten year old who turned into a 17 year old who…

Who Is Looking Through Your Eyes?

When one has no destination, everywhere and anywhere is cool. Although this might seem like the plight of a homeless person or a lost soul, it can also be the mindset of complete and utter freedom.

"No destination" does not mean that a directional position cannot exist. You can take a plane from Los Angeles to Kathmandu, or New York to Cairo, and drop into an entirely different universe with a distinct mission to accomplish. But, in the words of St. Francis, "What you are looking for is looking out of your eyes."

The constancy of conscious awareness knows no place or time. The normal disruptions of the ego mind simply become moving dreams with ever-varying plots that have the same underlying theme - life itself.

Patience, equanimity, appreciation, mindfulness and acceptance are some of the rewards for simply being aware of awareness itself. In that mode, there is nowhere to go and nothing to do, yet it is the opposite of boredom. In this dance through life, every mome…

The Suitcase

Over the course of several decades, my placid husband routinely morphed into a growling bear when he had to lift my suitcase into or out from a car, train, bus, or baggage carousel. He simply didn't understand the concept that a woman might want to have a choice of outfits in a foreign location, since he felt perfectly fine throwing a few shirts and pairs of pants into his smaller and lighter bag. Accepting most of my behaviors with grace, he had the one flaw of refusing to embrace my penchant for overpacking.

I, on the other hand, would grow petulant that he continued to make a sour face year after year as he heaved said luggage about, occasionally with distinct distain.

Fast forward to my favorite topic, the news. If anyone has seen footage of millions of refugees streaming over desert landscapes, mountain passes, or winding their way through jungles - at best with a suitcase in hand but more often with the clothes on their back - one comes to appreciate the insanity of overabunda…

The All-Powerful

Various regions of the USA have distinctly different cultures, reflected in their architecture, regional accents, food, religions, and political views. (There is a reason why the map of the United States, now mostly all red, has been renamed "Dumbfuckistan" with all its tribal factions.)

When planning a trip to the Boston area to visit family, it never dawned on me that I was venturing into an entirely different milieu than Southern California until the ride from the airport to a lovely New England town.

Hundred-plus year old colonial houses lined the quaint suburb, and in a pre-Revolutionary War tradition, a single light in every window. In the olden days, these must have been candles in every window, perhaps to scare off the devil or provide a welcoming light to wayfarers. In 2014, they are little electric lights (hopefully LED) that have more than likely lost their original meaning but provide a stunningly peaceful ambiance.

A nippy walk through the winding roads of a seasid…

The End of the Line

My husband departed from the physical mid-2014. Five months later it dawned on me that preparing tax information for our stellar accountant would fall to me and me alone. Although bill paying and life-maintenance tasks were shared in our household, Michael was the Commander-in-Chief when it came to organizing our finances for the IRS to peruse.

Mundane tasks have been difficult to complete since his passing (and before that too), so I decided to start in early lest the multifaceted details of our life fall into oblivion if things were rushed at the end time - April 15, 2015. My first resolve was to begin a new habit of recording written checks in the checkbook, as he did so meticulously. I always relied on mental calculations and online banking to guess our bank balance but now his motto - always to have a paper copy - haunted me. The need for tangible evidence in the face of death's intangibility?

By sheer happenstance I came upon his most recent checkbook today, which had been mix…

A Truism Is a Truism

When it comes to the Holy Scriptures of any religion, the veracity of the Word as an utterance from God, Allah, Jesus, Moses, Buddha, Joseph Smith or Ron Hubbard ad nauseum are highly suspect in my book.

If eye witnesses are notoriously unreliable in reporting what they perceive has transpired, under oath in a court of law, then apply the same logic to scriptures written by disciples tens or hundreds of years later. Exponentially more subjective, in no way can they be the infallible exclamations of God or a prophet.

Let's just say that if one finds wisdom in a religious text, take the money and run. In other words, if those admonishments make sense and bring a little sanity to your life, why not believe? The stronger the belief, the greater the impact on behavior (as long as vive la différence prevails).

With this long-winded introduction, the aphorisms that have guided my mindset for decades come from two sources: the Bible and Sufi wisdom:

"Be ye wise as a serpent and as gentle…

Love Over Ego

Last night, after most of the Thanksgiving guests had departed, a few of the remaining folks had to deal with a First World Problem - severe stomache distension due not to malnutrition but gluttony. The best solution was to take to the living room couches and lie down so that the pressure on the over-stuffed abdomen would abate.

Since it took about three hours for the innards to slowly deflate, a wonderful conversation ensued as the only thing left intact were the vocal chords. As an old married-in-spirit woman with three grown children, I had in fact seen the ups and downs, the joys and sorrows, the love and resentment, that comes with that social unit called "family."

My friends were just embarking on their adult life as partners and parents, although with more wisdom than many at their stage of life. As we reflected on the ways in which couples engage, a thought occurred to me: the only reason that my husband and I had had a great marriage for thirty years was that in the e…

Calm Abiding

"Calm-abiding" is a phrase that Buddhist writers and scholars have employed over the ages to denote a state of mind that the words self-describe.
Today, depite an iffy oven whose real, accurate temperature is unknown to me - thus making the roasting of a 16 pound turkey a possible fiasco - calm-abiding permeats the air on my terrace of balmy Southern California weather.
The pressure is off. No longer striving to prove my housewifely or best-hostess-ever status, the dinner fixings have been happily pawned off to family and friends who are quite willing to contribute (and are state-of-the-art cooks). Thus, when I find myself in the kitchen making extra little doodad veggie treats, it is relaxing because my attachment to "enough," "more," and "overwhelm" has dissipated with age and neurosis fatigue.
Sure, the thought of an OLED 55 inch LG television that looks perfect from every angle does cause one eyebrow to lift slightly. A pause, a skip of a heart…

The Ubiquitous Back-seat Driver

If you are married or partnered in one form or another, a certain type of argument arises among couples of all nations and nationalities - if they regularly drive together in car.

Known as the "back-seat driver," the person sitting in the front passenger seat (an oxymoron unto itself) has as good a view of the highways and byways as the driver. And therein lies the problem.

The pair of eyes not in control of the steering wheel, brakes and accelerator feels disempowered, relegated to watching for potential mishaps with no ability to control them with the car's mechanisms. Thus, the only form of control left to the passenger is the vocal chords.

And this is where a couples' bliss ends. The sudden gasps, screams, or admonishments of the passive one have an unnerving effect on the driver. Depending on the temperment of said person, the response is either a calm, "I saw that, no worries darling," (not likely), "I know what I'm doing," (said with decid…

The Paradox of Tribalism

The industrialized First World has been seeping into the belly of the Third World, fragmenting tribal identities along the way. Factories, city tenements and smart phones homogenize ancestral ties; steel, cement, and electronic chips sever bonds birthed from Mother Earth.

For many ethnic groups, modernization brings a terrible loss. The African phrase, popularized by none other than Hilary Clinton, says it all: "It takes a village to raise a child." Sprawling city landscapes of highrise/lowrise apartments isolate people from one another as walls replace open doors.

At this juncture, our "global village" more resembles a jigsaw puzzle in disarray than a small planet with a few billion humans with more in common than not.

But herein lies the paradox. It is none other than the culprit of tribalism that causes wars large and small. This cultural amalgamation often breeds a mindset that "the other" or "the outsider" is different, and thus not as human a…

With the Wave of a Hand

The beauty of existence may shout out with pride: a glorious riot-red sunset, a sleek dolphin airing out over the ocean blue, an Amazion jungle-wonder of plants and birds. The list goes on and on, even now with the world war on Mother Nature.

Yet another wondrous display exists on an invisible level, or at least unknown to many a naked eye. The power of prayer, compassionate intention, the diligent work of hidden yogis and masters who work incessantly for the peace and prosperity of sentient beings.

Last night, I sat in the presence of one of those treasures of humanity; a Tibetan master of ancient age who has had the benefit of 80 plus years of intensive meditative training. Supposed to be absorbed in meditation, I sat with my eyes fixed at a space in front of me, knowing that to stare at the master was not the object of me own exercise.

At a certain moment, his hands started moving ever so gently, subtly, in mudric gestures. Catching this with my peripheral vision, I broke rank with my…

The Human Condition

A phrase oft used to describe a human plight, "She had to rely on the kindness of strangers" implies that the person had no family or friends who cared about her welfare - and luckily, had the good fortune of meeting compassionate others.

A twist of the phrase also evokes pathos: "She had to rely on the kindness of friends and/or family."

It could be argued that the most solid source of refuge is one's inner strength and connection to the source of life and Light. Yet, we are interdependent creatures, dependent on one another and Mother Nature for sustenance both physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. 

John Donne's great poem says it like it is, without shying away from a reality that is at once beautiful and wrenching:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own w…

Can You Really Tame a Tiger?

No. You can never really tame a tiger, because it is not in its nature to be domesticated. Even those lovely big cats, groomed from babyhood to perform for Las Vegas crowds, have drawn blood from their masters. Evidently, the king of the jungle does not take kindly to the role of indentured servant.

Same for our egos i.e. the jumble of thoughts that swirl through our heads incessantly and create a story of who we are and who you are. These beastly or saintly thoughts may seem to behave according to patterns, i.e. a negative thoughts will produce a negative result and positive thoughts will produce a positive result. And in our dream-like reality, a notion of control causes us think we are acting and behaving as if our thoughts are always real, right and true.

But like the beast of the jungle, our ego mind is inherently unreliable, a castle built on shifting sands. If we rely on this method of navigating the world, sooner or later life will maul us at the most unexpected moments.

A sense …

Golden Angel Wings

Close your eyes and image a rain shower, made not of water but of golden light droplets. As they descend around the physical, these glittering gold lights form into a pair of large diaphanous wings that attach to you from the center of the spine.

As if you were a giant angel, these golden light wings form a cacoon of protection permeating every nerve and cell in your body. As the wings float in the breeze, they also emanate beautiful energy into the very molecules of space around you, eventually making their way around the world and into infinite space.

Have a blessed day and vote for the candidates who care most about the welfare of sentient beings lest your golden wings vanish into thin air.

The I Ching Speaks

64: Nearing Completion November 3rd, 2014
The situation is incomplete, but the chaos of the past is slowly giving way to order, and the goal is in sight. Nevertheless, you are still treading on thin ice — the way ahead is unobstructed, the goal is clear, but a cautious and careful attitude is essential, lest you slip and fall.

Nearing Completion is the last hexagram of the I Ching. It suggests that the ever-spinning wheel of life never reaches an absolute conclusion. Just as a hidden sadness resides in the heart of true euphoria, just as the seeds of great achievement often sprout first in a cauldron of adversity, so too no end is ever really complete without a new beginning stirring inside it. Though we divide life into categories in order to understand and master it, experience itself is seamless. With this reading, the 64-spoked, timeless wheel of change is ready to spin onward, ever evolving, ever staying the same.

A situation that is represented by this reading …

I Got the Memo

Wandering through an upscale mall after dropping my wayward Mac at the Apple store for rehabilitation, I was seduced by a bright orange tee shirt hanging on a sales rack; its vivid hues beckoned me into its place of hanging. In a moment of frivolity, the shirt was purchased and then summarily hung in my closet of no return. It was rather nice in comparison to those Old Navy tee shirts, my faithful companions over the past ten years. 

Fast forward two days later. I venture into a grand Century Cityhigh rise for a business appointment, wearing the spanking new garb of choice - maybe a tad bright for the sober business world, but for an artist, a forgivable wardrobe choice.

As the uber-tight security person checked me in and ushered me a pass to the 48th floor, another woman ventured up to the desk; lo and behold, she too was wearing a bright orange tee shirt of bold design.

Surprised to see such display of color in this steel and marble environment, I remarked, "Hey, orange is the new…

Halloween Chic

I have never had much imagination in designing a Halloween costume, as being someone other than myself is not appealing. (How utterly devoid of playfulness can one be?)

That being said, the human mind is capable of amazing combinations and permutations of inventiveness when invited to do so. But this year, let's forget about witches, ghosts and goblins. That's so fifties.

The best costume of this new era, spotted at a Halloween fete recently, was a man dressed as a Netflix envelop and his mate, a box of popcorn. Now that's hip.

Nonetheless, the propensity for people to shock, horrify, or otherwise disgust their fellow partygoers still remains a big draw. Thus, the best costume to hit the market for 2014: 

"The Sexy Containment Ebola Suit" (CNN, Ashely Banfield)

While healthcare workers might disapprove of this mockery  of a seriously serious issue, why not? People decorate their front yards with tombstones, skeletons, hands coming out of the ground clutching helplessl…

Forgiveness and the Brazil Butt Lift

OK. The usual morning ritual of the past ten or so years - turning on CNN with the morning coffee - had been abandoned lately. Tales of ISIS, Ebola, murderers and politicians had become just to, shall we say, too much.

Yet with a deafening inner silence that could not be blotted out with Yanni on Pandora, desperation drove me to the TV remote. And what a blessing appeared on the screen. A middle-aged, plump Vietnamese woman stood at a podium and she was talking about forgiveness. This obviously well-groomed, well-fed woman had been the iconic image of a napalmed human being during the Vietnam War. The picture seen round the world, captured by a journalist, shows her pre-pubescent naked body running toward the camera, her clothes burned off her body, with an expression and body language evoking hell on earth.

Today, she was honoring the Vietnamese photographer who shot the photo, and who had also taken her to a nearby hospital where her life was saved after his journalistic coup de gr…

I Have Nothing to Say

The Power of Art

If you are sad, do not, and I emphasize, do not listen to sad songs. Those little melodies and words will creep into your heart and wring it out like an old dishrag; tears dripping down your cheeks like rain on a dusty window pane.

Similarly, if you are sad, listen to some elevating music, pick up the Good Book (and it ain't necessarily the Bible but any Scripture from the soul of humanity) and voila! The soft heart will begin to glow with a faint light and the air invigorates the lungs with new oxygen.

Sometimes it might seem frivolous to build museums, concert halls, install art in subways, statues in city plazas, build state of the art sound studios, buy the  tiny sound systems with huge volume, or any of the other gizmos that bring art, music and literature into our lives. (And let's not forget the wonderful graifitti artists of the world.) After all, aren't at least a billion people, if not 2 billion or more, in dire need of food, water, and medical attention?

And yet, a…

As If Your Hair Were On Fire

One of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that the consciousness separates from the physical body at death, shedding it like a suit of worn clothes. Continuing on with its journey, the experience of mind/awareness minus familiar trappings such as the former body, its given name, place(s) of residence, family or lack thereof - all those anchors with which we used to identify ourselves are now gone. Gone, human being, gone.
That, according to the Tibetan Book of the Dead, is where the rubber meets the road. Stripped of all external props and illusions, what will a being do, feel, react to? Did that charitable guy who gave to his church every Sunday do it out of pure compassion or to look good - and even perhaps assuage his guilt for some trespass? Did the walking wounded of damaged egos, assaulted dignity, blinding ignorance see the Light? Did they become liberated from all wrong-doing, or is that consciousness still traveling with a nightmare of karmic baggage (minus the illusory body whic…