Friday, October 28, 2011

Thoughts on a foggy morning

When I was young, I liked to say, "I was born old, and I just keep getting younger." As I have gotten older, that has changed to "Getting older beats the alternative." Cliche, yes, but cliches are cliches for a reason: because they are true. Right?
Anyway: getting older. One thing is for sure: I have always, always thought of myself as a late bloomer. In that sense, I have yet to come into my own. It may not look like it, but to me it seems like I just stumble blindly through life. Maybe a lot of people feel that way. What does it feel like to have a strong sense of purpose? Am I meant to have one, or is this life more about something else entirely? Is a life without a strong, defined purpose just a wasted life? Have I wasted a lot of my life in selfish pursuits, or worse, lethargy and procrastination? What's the sense in getting older  if you don't also get wiser?
When I was young, I was told that I was wise beyond my years. I guess I can't really claim that one anymore! Yet, as time passes, I see more and more how little I do know. Or maybe I just accept that there is a lot that I will never know. The vast majority of that is not stuff I feel a burning desire to know. I guess what I desire to know most of all is a sense of accomplishment. I judge myself most cruelly over this one. When I look at my life, my accomplishments are....nebulous. Is practicing virtue really an accomplishment? Whom does it help? Is helping only a few people really enough? If no one knows about it, is it still good?  Here is another of my favorite sayings: "Goodness is its own reward." Yeah, my kids just love that one. I say it because I truly mean it. But going deeper, is the reward what any of us is really always after? I suppose so, if you believe the pleasure principle. So you don't have to look it up, the pleasure principle is the psychoanalytical concept that people seek pleasure and avoid pain, in seeking to satisfy their biological and psychological needs. The mark of maturity is the ability to delay gratification. If that is true, then I am sooooooo mature! :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Healing Thoughts

What inspires me to write can sometimes be something I have read, or sometimes it comes from what I am going through in my life. At times, the topic and, in fact, nearly everything I have to say about it, comes tumbling out effortlessly, and the post is finished before I know it. More often, the ideas roil around in my mind for days, even weeks, before they spring forth into written words.
I am not really sure if one way is better than the other. I do know that when I sit and the words flow easily, it doesn't feel like an effort at all. Rather, it feels like a relief to get the thoughts out! Honestly, I think the best posts are like that. I don't really overthink, I just write whatever comes to mind. Even though the thoughts may have been forming for a while, they appear to me to be spontaneous, not planned.
Bearing that in mind, this morning I read: It is the way of the miracle worker to always see all human behavior as one of two things: love, or a call for love.
Now, I have heard this before. It is actually a guiding principle of my life.  (On a side note, I find it curious that I place so much importance on aspiring to live up to my ideals. Funny that I have somehow made it my life's purpose. More to think on that idea. ) So: anything that comes up is either love, or a call for love. How many see the latter more than the former, raise your hands? This is only an indication of how much healing is needed in the world. For those who live to heal, this is not necessarily an issue. The fact of the need for healing is a given. Where healers must be vigilant is in identifying too closely with the call for love. What that means to me is: don't get sucked up into the drama. The price we pay for this is a sense of standing apart, or of being alone. This, when occurring often and to great measure, can drain one's energy. It's important to refuel, of course. But it is also good to be assured that this is all part of the healing process. Healers are also purifiers of energy. It's not meant to be a martyrdom thing. It's simply part of the healing process. It's almost like the old saying: it's a dirty job, but someone's got to do it.
When the whole world is healed, then healers will sit back and say: see? It wasn't so hard. Yes, we have a long row to hoe until then. It's important to stand up now and then, stretch and turn towards the sun. It's good to dance a while, under the serious moonlight. It's nice to run away every so often, preferably somewhere that Nature is free and wild. All of these actions restore the soul to its equilibrium. Balance brings clarity. Clarity brings serenity. Serenity brings acceptance. Acceptance brings healing. Healing allows love to answer the call for love.
P.S. We are all healers (or can be).

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Road Not Taken

When I go within to restore my self to sanity and peace, I have to be careful not to take the wrong turn, else I could end up in the seemingly bottomless pit of despair and dread. Fortunately, the path before me is lit. Now I only have to pay attention, and mind the gap!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Reed Flute's Song

The Reed Flute's Song
by Jalalu'ddin Rumi, excerpted from Coleman Barks' translation in The Essential Rumi

Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,

a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden

within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,

spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us

to see the soul. The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty."

Hear the love fire tangled
in the reed notes, as bewilderment

melts into wine. The reed is a friend
to all who want the fabric torn

and drawn away. The reed is hurt
and salve combining. Intimacy

and longing for intimacy, one
song. A disastrous surrender

and a fine love, together. The one
who secretly hears this is senseless.

A tongue has one customer, the ear.
A sugarcane flute has such effect

because it was able to make sugar
in the reedbed. The sound it makes

is for everyone. Days full of wanting,
let them go by without worrying

that they do. Stay where you are
inside such a pure, hollow note.

Every thirst gets satisfied except
that of these fish, the mystics,

who swim a vast ocean of grace
still somehow longing for it!

No one lives in that without
being nourished every day.

But if someone doesn't want to hear
the song of the reed flute,

it's best to cut conversation
short, say good-bye, and leave.


Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Snap. Change. Enjoy.

Sometimes Life hands you little curveballs (sometimes Life hands you BIG curve balls, but that is a different story. I think.) Perhaps it's, say, an important person in your life, who is going through a difficult time. Perhaps, say, that person takes out their frustrations on you, or doesn't let you in to share or help with the situation. Perhaps, say, it happens over and over again, and you start feeling the weight of this, and start wondering why you are in this particular set of circumstances.
Don't wonder why. Always move forward from the point  at which you stand. Asking why constitutes resistance to the experience of your emotions in that situation. What you resist, continues to persist. If, for example, you are feeling anger or anxiety over your current circumstances, asking "why?" (or Heaven forbid, "why me?") only serves to dwell on the negative aspect. I recently read about the concept of "paddling upstream" (resisting the situation and its emotions) and "turning downstream" (accepting the situation as it is, allowing the emotions, and letting go of outcomes). Turning downstream, and, indeed, letting go of the oars, allows you to find the current, to rest in the ease of knowing you are in the hands of the Creator in any situation. This does certainly not mean giving over control of your life to another person, or to the circumstance. It does certainly mean accepting your part in it, if any. It does certainly  mean accepting the validity of what you are feeling. It does certainly mean trusting that the (eventual) outcome is in some way contingent on your acceptance. To clarify: your attitude matters. Turning downstream does not absolve you of responsibility. Turning downstream does not mean you don't care about others. Turning downstream means you care most about learning from Life. Turning downstream means you are loving yourself, and being kind to yourself. What you resist will persist.
The curious result of this acceptance is instantaneous relief. When you realize it is okay to feel what you are feeling, you immediately feel some measure of relief! I continue to be amazed by this.
Yesterday morning, I was walking to my yoga class. It is about a half an hour walk, so there is plenty of time for ruminating. I was thinking about the above, as it's been rolling about in my mind for several days. I looked down, and saw a slip of paper on the ground. The words that jumped out at me were: SNAP. CHANGE. ENJOY. I loved it! It was like a little mantra that fit right in with the above ideas! All I need do is...SNAP: turn around, accept my circumstance, go with the flow (in 70's-speak). Then...CHANGE: my attitude changes as I see that what I am feeling is allowable, to myself most of all. My outlook changes as I stop resisting. I feel relief. Finally...ENJOY: actually see what I can learn from this, look forward to Life's mysteries unfolding, and know that no matter what I am safe in the Creator's hands.
(P.S. Later on, walking home from yoga class, I saw another, identical slip of paper on the ground.  I could not help picking it up, especially since it was the second time seeing the same thing! I felt like it had to be some sort of sign! Turned out it was a promo for a new cigarette! Hahahaha! We take our messages wherever we may find them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Milano Part II

Having landed in my hotel near the Piazza Lima a wee bit later than expected, I decided to catch a rest instead of wandering around. The hotel room was tiny, but perfect for one. And it was quiet, too, because it overlooked a small courtyard.
Refreshed, I headed out to meet B for dinner. She came to my hotel, as the Metro station was just outside my door! B had the idea to go to the Brera district, a neighborhood of art galleries and design stores, with narrow, winding cobblestone streets and loads of restaurants. The Metro is very easy to navigate, and we were in the Brera before we knew it. I was so happy because it was as if she'd read my mind about where I'd want to go! We wandered up this street and down that one, people watching, window shopping, and perusing a few menus as we went. About every twenty or so feet, there was a card table set up, with a fortune teller or a tarot card reader sitting there. Most simply let us pass by, but one or two tried to entice us. "Lucky, lucky!" We managed to resist....Many of the restaurants looked good, so finally we just chose one at random, sat down at an outdoor table, and enjoyed a lovely meal. In honor of my mother's birthday, I had Osso Bucco, and it was molto, molto bene.

The next morning after breakfast, B and I met up again. We decided to head straight to Castello Sforzesco, which is a castle that used to be the seat and residence of the Duchy of Milan, and one of the biggest citadels in Europe, and now houses several of the city's museums and art collections.

Since we arrived so early, we had the place almost all to ourselves. What a surprise and delight to find room after room of paintings, sculptures and artefacts! One of their prize possessions is Michelangelo's Rondanini Pieta, which he was working on when he died in 1564.
 Next we headed to the Duomo, a Gothic Cathedral that is the heart and soul of Milan. Begun in 1564, it took nearly 600 years to complete! It was wonderful to be able to climb up to the roof (okay, with the aid of a lift, at least part of the way) and see the spectacular spires and eerie gargoyles up close.
So much seen, and it wasn't even lunchtime yet! We stopped in at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, which is a shopping area under two glass-vaulted arcades near the Piazza del Duomo. It is a popular meeting place. There you can find anything from Prada to McDonald's.

B had read of a good bakery nearby, where we found a long queue in testimony to its popularity! But the service was fast, so we soon found ourselves wandering the streets while snacking on panzerotti (fried dough filled with tomato and mozzarella cheese, and in my case spinach, too).
Suitably nourished, we spent the rest of the! We were in Milan, after all. I decided I needed a new handbag, but could not bring myself to spend mucho euro on a designer bag. Even though the prices were dirt cheap compared to Switzerland! I ended up buying a bag at Banana Republic! I also stopped in for a few items at Gap. After that, I laughed at myself for coming to Milan only to shop at American stores! Luckily for the credit card balance, I did not spend all that much money, really only buying a few things that were needed (like socks for Julia, a tee shirt for Daniel, etc.). It felt like a good healthy mix of indulgent and practical, the way a successful shopping trip should feel, in my opinion!
Our feet were exhausted and we were both starting to wilt, so we went for a breather at our hotels. But not for long! We still had a bit more of Corso Buenos Aires to explore! We went as far as Sephora, where I bought a much needed new hairbrush, which I love. On the way back, we came upon an area of street vendors. I spied a vendor with food from Sicily. I dared to hope for, and then I saw tucked in the corner: the holy grail of pasta....malloreddus! This is a particular Sicilian pasta that is part of DH's favorite dish at his favorite restaurant in Connecticut...I always look for it, and was successful only two other times in memory! I was thrilled, and bought 2 bags of it. I would have bought more, but I knew I had no more room in my luggage - I had traveled light to prevent myself from buying too much.

After one more rest, we went to dinner. My hotel's concierge recommended a restaurant a nice stroll away, called Noblesse Oblige. It turned out to be quite pleasant, as the chef came out and helped us choose our meals. We felt welcome there, although our waiter was a bit, shall we say, elusive. At one point, he was away so long, he returned to apologize and admitted he had forgotten about us! At least he was honest. I had a delicious piece of swordfish, which was a real treat. We even splurged on dessert, panna cotta, a sweet ending to a lovely day.

Needless to say, the return train trip home the next day was not nearly so eventful (B and I traveled together this time). Although they did kick a bunch of us off the train in Rotkreuz, Switzerland, as they were running late, so they were not stopping in Zug (sound familiar?? I am on to these people now!!). It all had a happy ending, because the train we caught went to my town, too, so I didn't have to change again in Zug!
A few short hours later, everyone was safely back home: