Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Keeping Hope Alive

I decided to turn off CNN before it aired the police car videocam of an officer shooting bullets execution-style into a prone African American teenager. In a segment before the release of this video, Don Lemon spoke about being based in Chicago for CNN. Surprisingly, he spoke with unbridled passion about his treatment at the hands of the Chicago police who call themselves "...the toughest gang on the block." He also let the TV audience know that incredible brutality is the calling card of that city's force, gone unchecked for decades and with full knowledge of city officials. For him, it was no surprise that this latest travesty of justice had occurred.

Add to this two films I saw in the last few days:

1) The Hunting Ground, a documentary that describes rampant rape and sexual assault on college campuses that are covered up unilaterally by the administrations. The motive - to protect the reputation of the school while the victims are victimized twice; once during the assault and again by the institution.

2) Spotlight, a feature that untangles the machiavellian coverup of pedaphile priests by the Catholic church. Same story as college rapes. No regard for the victims but consummate efforts made to protect the system.

Given the above examples among countless more that could be called to mind, only one thing occurs to me. If we let ourselves feel helpless, hopeless, depressed or explosively angry, the defeat is ours. Given the systemic nature of the problems, keeping hope alive seems like a tall order.

On the other hand, if not for hope and a desire for humane solutions, no freedom fighter or arbiter of justice would ever grace this world. Injustice can only be countermanded by justice and it is people who deliver justice, not God. So it behooves us to think and then act...in whatever way small or large.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Pretty Boys of the Jihad

The rugged, wind-whipped faces of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghani jihadists bespeak of hard lives etched in the rock and sand of inhospitable landscapes. But the pretty, soft facial contours of Western jihadists confound the average onlooker.

These young men could be students at an Ivy League university, albeit with a closer beard shave to match the au courant look of every hip male around. They have not been caught between the fire and the frying pan, suffering Western fire-power and the repression of ruthless dictators. 

Hitler Youth sported the same fresh-faced killers, which leads to the conclusion that mind control trumps personal experience. 

In terms of trumping one thing over another, it appears that Donald Trump is still trumping all the other wackos for the lead in the Republican candidacy. Since he uses the internment of American-Japanese in WWII as a model for how we could handle "the Syrian" problem,  we Americans now have a bigger problem on our hands than ever imagined.

If the jihadists want to throw the world into chaos, they have found the perfect patsy in Trump; he has waltzed into their trap with the ignorance of a card-carrying narcissist.

If Americans want to avoid the chaos and terror of the Middle-East please wake up. It is not Syrian refugees who will threaten our beautiful land. It is the right-wing body politic that could do us in if their toxic brew prevails.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Oh How Things Change

On the local news today, a jubilant family welcomes home its young male adult with hugs that say, "Thank God you are home, safe and back in our arms." An all to common visual gracing the airwaves over the years, these vignettes usually refer to soldiers coming back from Iraq or Afghanistan.

But oh how things change. This manchild was returning from Paris.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Anti-Testosterone Shot.

A salient theme when viewing photos of jihadists is that the vast majority are young men circa 20ish to 30ish. An age range when normal, virile young man hunt for food, procure a wife to bear his children and protect the cave, these fellows have used their testosterone-soaked cells to maim and kill instead.

Perhaps the solution would be to take those young men on the "S" list in France, or the "watch" lists of other countries and give them large doses of estrogen to counterbalance that unholy surge of testosterone. With the slow development of breasts and belly fat, the urge to shoot kalashnikovs and shout "Ali Akbar" while mowing down the innocents might transform. Perhaps these young men would then take to planting community gardens and knitting wool caps for the needy.

Alas, no such injection method would be considered ethical or humane. Black humor aside, a more logical conclusion might be to train the disaffected for real jobs and real life skills that give them a greater investment in the social order. 

While it may be impossible to eradicate all the bad seeds, at least the vast fields of noxious weeds might wither away.

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Flora Technician and the Family Assistant

Language evolves to reflect shifts in culture. The hi-tech age has infused our zeitgeist with euphemistic labels to "spin" occupations. After all, if you are a red-blooded American boy/man, it wouldn’t be cool to reveal at cocktail parties that you babysit for a living wage or take care of houseplants.

Recently, a young man told me that he was “a family assistant” a.k.a. baby sitter with a driver’s license. A day job while he hones his skills as a filmmaker, the title gives him some semblance of dignity. When asked to give the details of “the family assistant,” it turns out to be something us women have done with our eyes half-closed for millennia. Formerly the domain of housewives and spinsters, this fellow of the brave new world must dignify his work with a quasi-technological ringtone.

And then, meet “the flora technician.” Low and behold, this gentleman explains that he tends to potted plants in the corporate environment. Now this is impressive! Keeping great big plants in an oxygen-deprived environment does require a certain je ne sais quoi. After he fumbles around to define his work more accurately, I interject, “I know! You are a plant whisperer.” He nods in agreement, apparently relieved that unmasking his role as “the flora technician” does not diminish him.

In fact, tending to children or plants with consciousness and care is nothing to sniff at. These are noble endeavors indeed. Yet, in this fast-paced modern world, one must find a new language to legitimize existence. How sad. How amusing. How evolutionary.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

I am Jewel-ish

The lingering dreamworld colors first waking moments this morning. Recurrent themes in dreams are yet more remarkable - the mind's Greatest Hits. 

In 3D existence, one of the greatest hits to my inner child is the critical view held by father about my spiritual life. Granted, we were in complete agreement as to the non-existence of God, but apparently it was an incomplete consensus.

At age 19, standing on the steps of the most sacred pyramid in the Mayan empire, a column of light-energy descends from the sky and shoots straight into my crown chakra. It is the first time this physical container experiences "getting high."  (Note: no puff of marijuana or any other mind-altering substance had graced my bloodstream at that age...later.)

Henceforth, my life path veers away from the road most traveled and I leap into the void.

Decades after a declaration of independence from my parents' worldview, old age ripens the fruit of their loins. In last night's dream I cannot remain at a special ceremony with my Buddhist teacher because of a family demand. Frustration, anger, and fear of losing my teacher's blessings jolt me into wakefulness.

I reflect: the dreamworld reveals my anxieties but cannot dictate conscious choices. Relieved that this insight remains firm in my waking mind, I am free to muse about the fun qualities of my father.

He was a jokester and quipped with annoying frequency, "Are you Jewel-ish?" His play on words deflected the anti-semitic notion of the Jew, a label that plagued his earlier years.

Today, I can say with complete certainty, "I am Jewel-ish." Born a Jew, adopting the Jewel in the Lotus as my life path, and bearing French citizenship, "I am Jewel-ish" describes my being perfectly.

At last! I have pinpointed my gestalt in this incarnation.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The Wages of Sin

After publicly admitting to a behavior that would have AA members pricking up their ears (a beer for dinner two nights in a row), a logical consequence has been vested upon me: a protest movement by my stomach leading to a decidedly unpleasant revolt. Au revoir beer. 

Granted, any nutritionist or logical person would have asked me why I drank a mini-bar beer to fill my stomach instead of take-out in "the city that never sleeps." Afterall, it isn't as if I was stranded in the middle of the Gobi Desert.

Contemplating thus in the early morning hours when I'd rather be sleeping, a biblical phrase came to mind: "The wages of sin is death." Sin, in this case, would be laziness and disregard for the welfare of the body temple.

Then a truly logical thought pattern arose. The correct admonition goes like this: "The wages of birth is death!" But nevermind. Life is not logical and certainly human behavior falls into the category of illogical most of the time. In an attempt to make sense out of the zigzags of existence, only one word untangles this mixed up tale: forgiveness.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Beer for Dinner

Just when I thought I knew the ins and outs of my persona, another subpersonality reared its unique head -  that of the boozer. In the vernacular, "a boozer" would be someone who imbibes alcohol in great quantities with great gusto and with great frequency. Being a lightweight drinker for virtually all of my adult life, this new propensity to drink comes as a surprise.

Lest the reader think that alcoholism is in the cards, clarification is in order. For me, heavy drinking is a cocktail per day for a week followed by a severe aversion to anything with more alcohol content than a Kombucha. And yet, while holed up in a hotel room in New York and forgoing dinner after snacking all day on film festival munchies, hunger sets in at about 10:00PM.

Going to a restaurant by myself is unappealing but making a dinner date with a warm body is even more daunting after interacting with humans for 14 plus hours during the day. So what does a gal do at 10:00pm when the stomach starts to feel hollow and the desire to nest overwhelms the hunger?

Yes! She raids the hotel mini-bar that is stocked with M&M's and cans of Heineken. However, rational thinking sets in. Eating the M&Ms has a distinct advantage in that they contain chocolate wrapped in vivid colors, a source of amusement for an artist and a chocolate lover. Nonetheless, this snack contains almost no nutrients and this human does not get sugar highs but definitely gets the sugar lows.

Beer, on the other hand, has vitamin B and fizzy bubbles. It also will make the head dizzy and the body slower - a good thing at 10PM. And that, my friends, is why a mini-bar beer has been my choice for fine dining these past two nights.

Gourmets or health conscious chefs might read this with horror and distain. Rest assured, upon returning to the land of Lotus Eaters, I promise to snack on apples and organic nut butters alone when the evening hunger games commence.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Watching History Roll By

Curiosity is a wonderful attribute. Without it there would be no inventors, explorers, mystics or scientists. The world would still turn on its axis and the stars would still shine in the heavens but the unique ability to reach beyond the personal self would be muted.

We are well versed in the exploits of adventurers and cats but how many of us are truly curious about the people who surround us? 

There is no such thing as a boring person, even if that someone holds the world's record for tedium. Beneath the most expressionless face of a dullard lies a human being that has been interacting with the multi-layered world in a manner entirely unique to that being. If we strove to be truly curious about each other, reaching out with attentive inquisitiveness in lieu of narcissist strutting, perhaps the complex and wonderful nature of the "other" would reveal itself.

Motivation is the key. When the spirit moves a person to see and hear what another is all about, the recipient of attention flowers. Feeling heard, feeling seen - without judgement from the observer to the observee - is a mighty gift.

Friday, September 18, 2015

God and the Devil

If God exists as an all powerful being that is the source of creation, then how could the Devil possibly come into existence? 

Let's be logical, folks. If God didn't create the Devil, then "He" is not all powerful because a force exists outside of "Him" that works against "His" will.

If "He" is indeed the force supreme, then it is downright rude of "Him" to mold a larger-than-life evildoer that will "git us if we don't watch out," to echo a ditty of decades past.

It also seems impossible for any singular being - powerful prophet though he or she might be - to "die for our sins," although one could certainly be crucified by others because their sinful thoughts and deeds. As far as I know, people must pay for their own karma. In this day and age, if someone else is capable of taking on our karma and sinking their existence, that would be called co-dependence.

I will admit that reading the Bible has been a far too arduous experience to endure, even if Donald Trump claims it is akin to watching a great movie over and over again. However, if any Bible  devotees can offer a good answer to my logical questions, the floor is open.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Prodigal Cat

In the genealogy of my household felines, the last in a long and illustrious line was April, a petite short-haired cat of black attire with a white star on her chest. Tracing her history through the matrilineal lineage, she was birthed by Sparkle, who begat three offspring: Lucky, the eldest male, a second Tiger cat who did not survive birth, and the delicate and skitterish April.

Alas, April lost her mother at an early age due to the vicissitudes of life as a cat in the Santa Monica Mountains - an environment seething with natural predators. Henceforth, our little Miss was the Cinderella of the household, "dissed" by her sibling and an uncle named Sugar, a fat cat who rarely vacated the prime spot on the master's bed and guarded it with a vengence.

The lonely and defiant April thus took to the outdoors for a good part of her adult life, showing up on the doorstep only several days out of every month or when a rain storm was imminent. For the next 19 years, her pattern remained consistent, and members of the human household engaged in hot debate as to whether she had another family or was a superb survivor of the wilds.

Although her whereabouts remained the object of speculation, a pet psychic did relay the following message from the wanderlust kitty when she was approximately 8 years old:

"My roaming is nothing personal. It's about me, not you. I appreciate that I'm always welcome at your house. I really enjoy visiting. Maybe someday, when I'm old and need a soft bed and easy food, I'll stay with you. I have lived the best life for me."

April, a few hours before transitioning

Our beautiful kitty passed away in the early morning hours of August 21, 2015, on the prime spot of her mistress's bed, surrounded by soft pillows and Love.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Born to Die

"Born to die" is not only an oxymoron but the most basic fact of living. As a teenager, an idea rolled around in my brain like a tumbleweed in a dust storm: all the effort we put into our physical, mental and emotional life seems to evaporate at the "end," a thought that caused me to lament a la Peggy Lee,"Is that all there is?"

The first inhale enters the body at the moment of birth and the final exhale marks the precise moment of death. This means that we have a precise, finite number of breaths before the Grim Reaper takes us on a joy ride.

What if there is a "breath counter" in the clouds who has a clicker and marks off each inbreath and outbreath until he says, "Time's up." Knowing thus, if we were informed ahead of time as to exact amount of breaths we had in a lifetime, how would we use them? 

When people say, "Don't waste your breath," maybe they are onto something. And when the teacher in your anger management class tells you to slow down your breath and inhale deeply, maybe that person realizes a thing or two about prolonging your preordained, allotted number of ins and outs!

If any of you want to live a little longer, then slow down, take deep, sweet inbreaths, then slowly let the air spill out into the deep blue sky and relax.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Real Political Correctness

After a month of silence, this blogger is galvanized to make an obvious point that Donald Trump seems to miss when he eschews "political correctness."

A phrase that has become the target of sardonic comments, "political correctness" originally meant that spewing vitriol against a rainbow of minority groups was not acceptable. "Politically correct" really means "public respect."

The frustration of certain American citizens has caused them to take on the role of cheerleader to Trump's low-brow mentality. However, his extemporaneous comments serve as a major distraction to the issues at hand. His frequent use of the word "loser" and other adolescence slurs have diverted attention to the very issues he claims to address.

If Trump were truly politically correct, he would focus on important issues instead of acting like a school-yard bully.

Conservatives were duped twice by Bush Jr. aka King George. (Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.) Luckily, Donald Trump has offended the religious right so no worries that they will float him into office. Once Trump went after Fox News, he lost that dame/game.

The news has turned into a Facebook-like nightmare and the American people will be the ultimate victims if Donald Trump's case of turrets remains front and center. Worse yet, the circus that is called pre-election campaigning portends a sad state for the prospect of decent leadership.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Giant Awakened

While ISIS and other Islamic terrorist groups pique fear and loathing in the collective western mindset, in fact they are a diversion from the real threat - China. Just as the world ignored or rationalized Hitler's military buildup pre-WWII, China's massive buildup of all manner of weaponry has gone unreported by the mainstream media.

With China's oceanic brain pool of computer-savvy, government-trained computer hackers, the United States looks more like a sitting duck in the cross hairs of a hunter than a mighty world power.

The denial or inability of the U.S. government to function rationally in assessing its needs will lead us into a dysfunctional society. We don't need more nukes but there is a brain drain at the most basic levels, where education of our young is relegated to third class status in terms of state and government expenditures.

This short-sightedness not only cripples the country in terms of training our young for high-tech jobs and occupations requiring rigorous training; programs promoting the arts, music, and other community building skills have fallen by the wayside, victims of Congressional cuts to the budget in favor of military spending for wars in Middle Eastern deserts.

Rome rose and fell, as have many other mighty empires. If the citizens of our country continue to stock Congress with right-wing demigods, we will look like a Third World country within a few generations...and will have no one to thank but our own short-sightedness.

Denial is dangerous. Clear vision can save the day. Everyone has the responsibility to start where they are and act accordingly to create a smarter, more compassionate society.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Elephant In the Room

Today's blog is borrowed from blogger Zachary Stockill, whose expression says it all. The below text contains excerpts from his newly released e-book entitled "Everyday Joy." 

The Elephant in the Room

Many people choose to either ignore, or vilify death. Our primary cultural signifier of death is that of the shadowy grim reaper, wearing a skeletal face and black robes, anticipating our demise with glee. The topic of death is brought up at a dinner party, and guests shy away and try to change the topic to something more “upbeat,” and less “depressing.”

An elderly family member dies and the funeral home director spends hours applying makeup and pressing an old suit; doing everything in his power to spare us—the living—from witnessing the reality of post-mortem decay.

Most people spend their lives trying to ignore the spectre of death like some beggar in the street, pretending not to notice, pretending not to hear the steady rhythm of death’s footsteps following their own. I have never understood why.

There is no other thought that inspires, excites, and motivates me like the thought of my own death. No other idea that pushes me to achieve, and achieve now. Nothing motivates me to party like the image of death I see in my head, watching my body burn on the funeral pyre; decaying with a peaceful grin on my face, saddened that one party is ending, but at the same time curious about the next.

We all grow up knowing one thing, and one thing only: we are born, and one day we will die. That’s it. That is the only bonafide, 100-proof, absolute certainty about life and living that we have access to. This is the only thing we know for sure. It is ironic, then, that we spend most of our lives trying to forget it.Do You Really Want to Live Forever, Forever… and Ever?

I know some people who express a desire to live forever. But people who think they want to live forever rarely ask themselves an important question: do I even want to? Immortality would be pure hell. Do you want to go around and around and around on the same Ferris wheel for all time? Think about it.

Spinning around on this rock in the same form for all eternity would become painfully dull after a century or two. What makes our time on Earth so exciting is that it is a limited time offer. At a certain point, we all have to step off to make room for whoever is coming up behind us. This is what makes the ride so exciting, and entertaining any thoughts to the contrary spoils it for ourselves, and for all of the other passengers onboard.  

Befriending the Reaper

It’s useful to think long and hard about your death if you want to live, and I don’t mean the funeral arrangements. I mean your actual death, not the after-party.

When the hour of your death draws near, how do you think you’ll feel? How do you want to feel? What thoughts are you going to hold close as you slip away? We all die alone, but do you want a stranger or loved ones to witness your departure? In your final moments will you choose to stay present, or speculate about what will come next?

As I move on from this earthly form I want to die having really lived; to have sucked as much bliss and joy and excitement out of my time on Earth as humanly possible. To die happy is to die knowing that I brought as much light, love and happiness to myself and the people around me as I was capable. To die wearing a wide smile on my face, with multiple wrinkles around my eyes revealing ten thousand afternoons spent laughing with friends, my voice hoarse following ten thousand wild nights and conversations, my limbs tired after a century of dance. I want to die in absolute peace so that my rest is eternal, and those witnesses to my death are inspired to keep living, and living well.

Death is exciting, and not because of some speculative and imaginary afterlife, but because it provides the ultimate excuse to live, and live now. To exercise every passion and exorcise every demon, to pursue each and every curious avenue, and dive into the ocean of joy that stands at your feet in every moment of every day.

We delude ourselves, and cheat ourselves and others out of joy when we live in deliberate ignorance of death. When we ignore death it draws nearer.  

So what is the solution?

Move deeply into death. Try to imagine the sights, sounds, and smells of the room where you will die. Imagine the thoughts you will have as the music fades and the lights grow dim. Picture your diminishing body, slowly voiding itself of life as death moves in. Picture the people around you (if there are any) as they watch. Imagine their faces, and try to listen to their voices, as you imagine your own. Will you speak? Will you smile? How do you want to die?

As you read these words and follow this narrative, you are nearer to death than when you began. What’s more, death may come at any moment. Each and every day many thousands of people around the world die long before they anticipated. Death is so near that you can actually hear it, if it’s quiet enough and your mind is still. In every moment, there is a very real chance that your time on Earth will end; death follows our every movement as human beings.

So make no mistake: your party will end. Your breath is not eternal. Your flesh will one day rot and decay so that your corpse will be unrecognizable to everyone you once cared about, and who once cared for you. If you choose to buried in a hole in the ground, your flesh will eventually return whence it came, the mould and the bugs and the worms and the bacteria consuming the physical evidence of your life so that their lives can go on. If you choose to be cremated, your body will turn to ash, with hot reams of fire igniting your hair and skin and bones so that you eventually fit into a neat metal box to be carried around and eventually disposed of by friends and family. You may end up in the Ganges, or Lake Minnetonka, but the end result is the same.

You will die. And not only will you die, but everyone you love and who loves you will also die. Furthermore, one day, whether it is in one hundred or one hundred thousand years, there will be no memory, trace, or evidence that you once lived. 

So what are you to do about it?  Live.

Live, and live now. Live powerfully, dramatically, absolutely now. Live with as much gusto and passion and strength as you can muster. And don’t stop until you are so absolutely satisfied with living that death seems a curious, even welcome, transition.

Live fully now because you will never get another opportunity.

Excerpted from Everyday Joy

Friday, July 3, 2015

Ever-changing Constancy

One year ago, I was on overdrive planning the memorial that would be held on July 5th for my beautiful husband. A continuation of non-stop focus that had begun with his terminal diagnosis a few months prior, the memorial would be the last event (other than legal paper-pushing and family gatherings) to commemorate his passing.

This year, the months of May and June seemed like a nightmarish replay of last year's hyper-vigilance. However, one year later the house is eerily silent and no actions other than mundane daily life care require attention.

Within this deafening silence, a great irony plays out. Life has continued on without my husband by my side, very much unchanged minus the gaping chasm of his physical presence. Even the ancient black cat who adored Michael is still here, only now clinging to me, the last Mohegan, for solace.

It seems unfair that all he built in his life-time - the knowledge accumulated, the films he did, the books he wrote, the children he sired - are not his to enjoy anymore. If there is such a thing as life after death, his life is nothing now but a memory, never to be recreated as it was.

Musing thus, one's ego takes quite a bruising; in clinging to an identity, to possessions, to people, a grand illusion that it is "ours" plays out. In fact, we take nothing with us but a distilled consciousness and the unrealized hopes and fears of our life in the physical.

This understanding presents a double-edged sword, causing either deep agony or ebullient freedom. Someday I wish to fully incorporate the latter.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Actionless Action

Human beings and indeed animals all seek activity that soothes the body, mind and soul. To some, this pursuit is considered a positive way to manage the vicissitudes of life. To the yogi, a place of solitude with no external distractions represents the highest form of actionless action on the physical plane.

Modern day mystics face a challenge in balancing these equal and opposite forces; the desire for pleasure and the need for deep introspection. 

Motivation is a key in determining whether a whirlwind of stimulation serves as an escape from facing one's own mind or provides a wider bandwidth for experiencing what our social compadres have to serve up.

Eventually, all experiences can be understood as "the magical display of appearances." Until then, examining intention and purpose becomes key to living a balanced and integrated existence. Ever the pingpong ball, eventually the winner will make a grand slam and finish off the opponent, the monkey mind.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

It Ain't Permanent

One of the worst nightmares for a vain or insecure woman is going to a hairdresser for a trim and having 3 inches of hair lopped off. In reality, this is hardly a cause for extreme distress, given the tidal wave of terrible abuses that abound in the world. Nonetheless, it is remarkable how an undesired butcher job on a gal's hairdo can cause such upset.

Likewise, for one who has a lush garden needing a little trim, it is horrifying to come home and see that the "expert" hired to shape a tree or overgrown bushes has cut them almost to the ground. Bare, twisted trunks writhe in pain as the scalped limbs bespeak a debacle vested upon them.

Having experienced both scenarios at least three times, these events no longer cause me to complain in vain. Hair grows back. Plants regenerate. Months or a year later, all is well again. Besides, these are First World problems.

Life is impermanent, nothing is permanent and rebirth always follows loss. My hair and the plants in the garden have taught me such. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

When It's Personal

Around 6PM most nights, I take great pleasure in stretching out on my 25 year old leather couch to stream a documentary on my internet-friendly flatscreen. Sacred places become thus after many moments of grace-filled beingness and my couch is no exception.

Over the years, it has accommodated wonderful guests; a clever dog who slept on it at night when we weren't looking (but left telltale hairs); sleeping children; movie-loving teenagers; and inebriated adults who were smart enough to stay put and leave the highways and byways to other folks.

A place of refuge, old faithful provides a snuggly place to escape the world, while paradoxically learning more about it. Occasionally, comedic fare lights up the screen but more often the documentaries of choice highlight injustices, political chicanery, and straight out horror that humans inflict on one another.

My daughter passed through the living room on the way to the kitchen and glancing at the screen showing an exposé on child sex slaves, she remarked, "Why do you watch that shit?" Other people have phrased it differently: "I can't bear to watch that," or "It makes me too sad," and other comments of that ilk.

After seeing firsthand unimaginable living conditions in Nepal, Bhutan, India, South Africa, and Myanmar (Burma), what I see on the screen looks all too familiar.To witness human suffering is to learn about life. Knowing this, I feel wonderment that my incarnation has found itself in a peaceful environment where food is plentiful and crime is almost non-existent, not to speak of being a Western woman with civil rights.

Usually, these documentaries pique my curiosity and empathy but last night I watched one that made my heart beat faster and a heaviness form in my chest. Told by the CEO of Canter-Fitzgerald, it was his account of the 911 attack that wiped out about 700 of his 900 employees.

Granted, he could return to his estate while most people return to their hovels or have nowhere to sleep anymore. Granted, he had the resources and technology to pull himself and his company out of total ruin, while most people have no such infrastructure.

Yet, human suffering is human suffering no matter what one's economic stature or nationality. What caught me off-guard was my visceral reaction to this documentary as opposed to all the others. And why? Because I could identify with these people. I came from a New York family - my ethnic roots were similar to the CEO - the world of finance and investment has always been in my family background - many of those killed lived in the same county in which I grew up.

What I learned last night: despite my efforts to connect with the One and to realize interdependence, I still carry a tribal identity that evokes cellular, visceral reactions that do not occur when watching the suffering of "others."

It's good to see the "what is" in the mindset and even better to widen one's worldview so that eventually all humanity is "us."


Wednesday, June 3, 2015


A young girl from a poor village in Cambodia rides her bike 17 miles each way, everyday, to a bare-bones school. One of the lucky ones who is able to scrape together the fees for education - and has willing parents - she tells a visiting reporter from The New York Times about her daily journey.

The reporter fears for the 12 year old. The route to the school is thick jungle terrain with many places in which rapists and slave traders can hide. In a country overflowing with such crime (that goes unpunished except for the rape victim who is ostricized or worse), the "outsider's" alarm is justifiable.

She asks the girl what she fears most as she rides alone along the route. The girl replies, "Ghosts."

The reporter is perplexed by this information. After all, wouldn't a rational person fear a real human being with concrete abilities to maim body, mind and soul?

When she asks the girl to elaborate, the young one says, "I mean living ghosts."

Her clarification is poetic and insightful. Only a person who has lost their humanity, who is dead to the life force and sanctity of the human body, can commit the crimes that are a daily occurrence in Cambodia...and for that matter worldwide.

I ponder. What part of myself is dead to the present, filled with ghosts from the past that inhabit my daily thinking? How does this affect my ability to love and serve?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

One Person Many Lives

The choice of documentary film tonight plummeted me into a world of incredible suffering - that of the underage sex slave. Usually from impoverished, uneducated families, these girls are sold into slavery by family members or abducted with false promises of better jobs elsewhere.

Whether it be Cambodia, Thailand, Nepal and more, the theme was the same. The average 12-14 year old prostitute is losing favor over younger girls ranging from 3-8 years old. If a girl objects she is beaten, and in India where the cruelty is greatest, simply killed for non-compliance.

Another theme, but on the side of hope and salvation, were the women who had survived these horrors and escaped. Their life mission evolved into that of savior for those still in shackles.

The film demonstrated a clear message. It is possible for one good person to impact the lives of many. So when we wonder what us little people can do to change a seemingly vast world of problems, the answer is simple. Do what you can.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Silence is Golden

When Jesus Christ walked the earth, he preached a bottom line, here and now philosophy cloaked in the metaphors of his time. He rebelled against the polluted practices of his religion of origin and he certainly did not preach about building a new religion - one that his disciples would accomplish. That edifice called the Church became privy to greater ills than the one he was attempting to purify. If Christ were a modern day prophet, he might have even sued St. Paul & Co. for identity theft and defamation.

Likewise, the historical Buddha took himself off into the wilds, away from his kingdom with its swamis and priests and found a new connection to the All-That-Is that defied all previous rules and regulations of the religions during his era. Since then, so many men (and a few women, generally not allowed to pontificate publically) have embellished the Buddha's words so much that one cannot say for sure what the Buddha really did express beyond a series of simple tracts.

In both cases, Christ and the Buddha, the original message is simple: compassion, love, service, non-violence to name a few. In fact, even an atheist would agree that these are quintessential characteristics of a bona fide human being and most animals.

People who are at each others' throats for religious differences ironically know the least about what their saviors would wish. Everyone knows about ubiquitous religious wars/persecution over the ages. Yet, even subtle duels called "religious debates" are the machinations of ego. 

It seems that the homily "silence is golden" may contain more wisdom than us down-home folks ever imagined.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Awash in Grace

One of the current meanings of the word "grace" connotes a boon from God or a Guru. People attribute all sorts of fortunate circumstances to "grace," large or small. Utterances such as, "It's pure grace that I found a parking spot in mid-town Manhattan," to "Grace saved us from drowning in that flood," signify the surprise expressed when an unexpected or difficult situation turns out for the best.

In fact, "grace" dwells not only in the domain of a God or Guru but free floats through the very air we breathe. As an integral part of an energetic universe, it is possible to absorb through invisible pores an influx of pure joy, to be the recipient of blessed synchronicity, or suddenly wake up to the vibrant Oneness of it all.

On the macro level, our entire planet belongs to a web of perfectly synchronized intergalactic systems; on a nano level, the same applies. (If you are afraid of bugs, do not look at your eyelashes or skin through an electron microscope lest you see what is crawling around there with five eyes, three antennae and 35 legs.)

Perhaps that is why one of the pith instructions of a highly evolved being was, "Relax!" If we "do" less and "be" more, space arises between the thoughts where grace flows mightily.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Thought For Today

Let it not be death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain into song.
Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way.
                       --Rabindranath Tagore

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Not a Lone Planet

Houston, Texas had a sudden and massive rainfall that caused rivers to overflow their banks. The resultant rampage of water, equaling the force of Niagara Falls, tore through homes, uprooted 500 year old trees, swept away men, women and children to a watery death.

Today, a relative of one of lost made a statement on television: "Her body was found but she is not alone. She is with God."

The theme of alone returns again. In the case of a devout Christian, the notion that a being dwells within the Godhead means that she is connected to a benevolence that comforts, brings wholeness.

When my husband lay dying, he left a comment on this blog that I only discovered 49 days after his passing. He wrote, "Hell is being alone in total solitude. That is not the hell I am experiencing. I have my love next to me."

We also feel the balm of Mother Nature in her kinder and gentler form: direct, sensory experience of our interdependence within the biosphere dispells the illusion of separateness.

Whether one believes in God, the milk of human kindness, or the power of Nature, one thing remains clear. Humans need connection, relationship, energy exchange, in order to be to be at peace.

As John Dunne so aptly put it, "No man is an island."

Taking an intergalactic viewpoint, one could say, "No world is a lone planet."

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Anti-Anxiety Ride

A close friend that happened to be a therapist once told me, "There is no such thing as 'free-floating' anxiety. A root cause always exists." My assumptions had been challenged and her statement caused much reflection then and now, 20 years later.

I wake up this morning feeling reasonably sane. My adult children are ensconced in their respective bedrooms because they like to come back to the nest now and then. An editing task with a deadline defines the morning hours (a good thing). Life has a tinge of normalcy.

As soon as the work of the blue light hours is completed -  around noon when the light transitions to orange - free floating anxiety strikes. That awful feeling in the chest signals panic and sets off alarm bells. My body seems poised to run, but my thinking brain reminds me that I am in a house and there are no enemies a foot. Then my therapist-friend's remark comes back to me. "There is no such thing as free-floating anxiety."

So I do what my Buddhist teachers tell me to do. I lay my body down to rest on a comfortable ergonomic chaise in the bright sunlight and practice what is popularly termed "mindfulness." In other words, becoming aware of "the what is" when one's consciousness has become lost in a dreamland of nightmares.

The root cause surfaces to be transformed. The fear of being alone without my mate, the terror of being abandoned on a lonely planet. An irrational thought, but one that has caused a flurry of vivid discomfort just moments before.

The sun scorches my freckled face; wind rustles tree leaves; birds twitter and tweet; heavy machinery groans in the distance. 

Life exists and I am part of it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

I Love Love

My daughter asked me if losing my husband (and her dad) last year was the worst thing that ever happened to me. It was an interesting question and my first response was also surprising to me. It was, "No."

Why? Because having had him for thirty years was the best thing that ever happened to me. Gratitude for the love, care, the learning, our family, all overwhelm the loss. What we shared was rare in this world and I can only thank the All-That-Is for a gift that will last a lifetime.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tie Your Camel First

A Sufi saying, "Trust in God but tie your camel first," offers wonderful advice. To live a less stressful life, one needs to have certainty that we live in a mysterious universe with a logic that is life-affirming, even if it defies human comprehension. Some call it God, some call it the Unified Field Theory, ad infinitum. Although no one has cracked the code, faith, belief or direct experience of a higher power gives a person a notion of safety and comfort.

On the other hand, ignoring the practical cause and effect ways of the world can lead to many a mishap. Common sense, coupled with honed intuition and concrete action, are mighty safety nets in our three dimensional reality.

Most of us don't have camels that need securing, but it is wise to lock your car when parking it in a public area, or put on a jacket when its cold, or not drink and drive. Of course the analogy "tie your camel first" extends to the deepest levels of human endeavors, including insight into one's true Self.

The point being, take responsibility for your actions, thoughts and deeds. Give God a break.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Ancient Remains

ISIS has now conquered Palmyra, a city in present-day Syria that has historical remains dating back to the Neolithic era. Archeologists designate this site as one of the most precious records of humankind; it is even referenced in the Old Testament, amongst other tomes.

Given the penchant of ISIS to destroy everything precious to mankind and the environment (as did the USA in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan), it would not be surprising if the last of the ruins of Palmyra are blasted into oblivion - much like the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia tried to level their country to "year zero" with wide-scale human and cultural genocide of their own people.

The angst of historians around the potential destruction of Palmyra is ironic; Palmyra has been razed to the ground more than once since 2500 B.C. It's location has an unfortunate feng shui and with its current occupiers, the cycle of destruction and reconstruction, destruction and reconstruction, will continue.

Couldn't mankind get a grip from studying history and not behave like teenagers who insist on learning the hard way (and not from their parents' painful lessons)? It seems that almost every civilization re-invents the wheel.

Note the below face of this woman, who lived in ancient times. She looks just like us albeit with a botched nose job; proof that we are at the dawn of civilization, not its peak.

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Value of Teeth

No one can deny the value of those white enamel chisels that masticate the food of virtually every mammal and many reptiles and fish on this planet. Though they may vary is size, shape and usefulness (dogs seem to inhale their daily dinner despite excellent chompers), teeth are an excellent evolutionary advantage.

"Teeth" also have a metaphoric meaning as well, i.e. the local water district has now put "teeth" in their request to conserve water by mandating a specific window within which one can water their landscape. A useless request formerly, a new mandate comes with a $500 fine for second time offenders with an escalated price tag thereafter.

This, my friends, is what I call "putting teeth" in the law. Even a water conservation nut like myself went poste-haste to my water controller and readjusted the watering times to the now required schedule, even though I had already put in drought tolerant plants with drip lines maximized for watering efficiency.

The only good laws are laws that have teeth in them. Otherwise, who cares, except the exceptional individual with global awareness coupled with an unswerving, exacting discipline. Most humans have an uncanny ability to deny or simply ignore that which does not serve them in the immediacy of the now (infantile behavior).

Note the phrase good laws. Having "teeth" in unjust laws equals a draconion society wherein much suffering occurs. But just imagine, as John Lennon would say, a world in which beneficial laws for all would be installed with a massive set of chompers for those who would ignore the common good!

The Snake and the Rope

A man walks into a dark room and thinks he sees a snake coiled in the corner. Frightened, he runs to get a weapon of choice to vanquish the...