Saturday, November 04, 2006

Poem: Becoming


I lost count of days while aspen roots tickled
my brow, earthworms between my toes.

Encased in earth, so little memory to hold me
within the markers of the life I once knew.

What fertile truth unearthed me? What breath
filled my lungs once more and brought me here?

Nearly full moon tonight, November, sitting
on the floor, my skin craving cool moonlight.

How to reconcile loss with all that awaits,
this new body, everything reborn in each instant.

I kneel, and in my mind I count the bones
within this flesh, feel each link, each anchor.

And there are 207, an odd number, branches
upon which hangs this new flesh, unnamed.

Within my ribs an oracle stone,
a reminder of the transition, this change

that leaves me here, lacking context,
an amorphous being fused with becoming.

Human Drama: Look Into a Stranger's Eyes

A favorite song from one of my all-time favorite bands.

Music Video Codes by VideoCure

Hate Groups Near You has posted an online map of hate groups by state. Just click on your state to get the details.

Fortunately, there aren't any official hate groups here in Tucson -- just your garden variety racist, redneck cowboys.

Beneath a map like this one, they tell you which group is which and where they are located. Pretty handy, I think. It always helps to know where the enemy lives.

Borat: Cultural Learnings of American for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan

In These Times did a feature on the new Borat movie, Borat: Cultural Learnings of American for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. This thing has been getting more press than Mel Gibson's drunken tirade, which may or may not be a good thing. Still, reviews look good.

This is from the article:
Borat, a citizen of the Central Asian country of Kazakhstan, works as a foreign correspondent for Kazakh television. Despite his clumsiness and limited understanding of English, the self-proclaimed “sixth best journalist in all Kazakhstan” seeks to grasp American culture through interviews and use that knowledge to improve life in his homeland.

But as Borat tries to make sense of American customs, he unveils some intense prejudices. Borat, who first surfaced on Baron Cohen’s popular television program “Da Ali G Show,” is surprised to learn that American women can vote and claims that it is harder to marry in the United States because “you can’t go to her father’s house and swap her for 15 gallons of insecticide.” He is also virulently racist and often asks if gypsies or “chocolate faces” are granted entrance to selective social functions. Borat is best known, however, for his anti-Semitism, which creeps up in virtually every interview. During a segment at a karate class, Borat forces the instructor to teach him tactics he can employ to ward off the dangerous “Jew Claw.”

Although amusing for his slapstick antics, Baron Cohen’s blundering brainchild has a more profound aim. Borat examines how the anti-Semitism, racism, sexism and homophobia of Westerners are perpetuated, often through conformity rather than hatred. It makes sense Baron Cohen, who was raised by a Jewish mother of Iranian descent and a British father in London, would be sensitive to issues of discrimination. As a youth, Baron Cohen joined Habonim Dror, a socialist, Zionist youth organization whose aim is to “upbuild the State of Israel as a progressive, egalitarian, cooperative society, at peace with its neighbors.” He later attended Cambridge University, where he studied history and focused on Jewish and black relations during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.

Read the rest.

Here is the official trailer:

The Zero Boss saw it last night and gave it a good review. Jay's wife, the astute critic Kim Voyner, also has a piece up about Borat.

A more in-depth review is offered by James Rocchi at Cinematical: Review - Borat.

If you, like me, live in a place where this movie hasn't opened yet, here is a "best of" vid of Borat from (I'm guessing) Da Ali G Show.

Are You a Political Radical?

You Are 52% Politically Radical

You've got some radical viewpoints, but you aren't completely nuts. You're more of a visionary than a radical.

The Cure: One Hundred Years (LIve)

The inner Mud Demon demands another offering. It craves decay and desolation, death and despair. It's the embodiment of thanatos energy in my psyche, the urge for self-destruction that I've known all of my life. Learning to appease it in healthy ways rather than giving in to its demands or burying it in shadow is a move in the right direction.

For Cure fans, Robert Smith is in fine form in this performance.

Here are the lyrics for those who care.
One Hundred Years

it doesn't matter if we all die
ambition in the back of a black car
in a high building there is so much to do
going home time
a story on the radio...

something small falls out of your mouth
and we laugh
a prayer for something better
a prayer
for something better
please love me
meet my mother...
but the fear takes hold
creeping up the stairs in the dark
waiting for the death blow

stroking your hair as the patriots are shot
fighting for freedom on the television
sharing the world with slaughtered pigs
have we got everything?
she struggles to get away...

the pain
and the creeping feeling
a little black haired girl
waiting for saturday
the death of her father pushing her
pushing her white face into the mirror
aching inside me
and turn me around
just like the old days
just like the old days

caressing an old man
and painting a lifeless face
just a piece of new meat in a clean room
the soldiers close in under a yellow moon
all the shadows and deliverance
under a black flag
a hundred years of blood
a ribbon tightens round my throat
i open my mouth
and my head bursts open
a sound like a tiger thrashing in the water
thrashing in the water
over and over
we die one after the other
over and over
we die one after the other
one after the other...

it feels like a hundred years
one hundred years...

Dharma Quote: Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche

From Snow Lion Publications:
Dharma Quote of the Week

...many people, critical of Dzogchen, question why we need to practice at all if, as according to Dzogchen, the primordial state is already the enlightened state. If our true nature is already Buddhahood, what is the need to cultivate enlightenment? We cannot side-step these criticisms since, according to Dzogchen, Buddhahood is indeed our natural state; we do not create it, but simply discover it through our meditation. But if we simply agree with our critics, this would mean there is no need to practice. These are important things to think about. We must answer that although the natural state of the mind is primordially pure, there are two ways of being pure. Defilements, or obscurations, are not in the nature of the mind (sems nyid) but in the moving mind (sems), so they can be purified. It is as in the Tibetan story of the old beggar woman who slept on a pillow of gold every night: she was rich, but since she did not appreciate the value of gold, she thought she was poor. In the same way, the primordial purity of our mind is of no use to us if we are not aware of it and do not integrate it with our moving mind. If we realize our innate purity but only integrate with it from time to time, we are not totally realized. Being in total integration all the time is final realization. But many people prefer thinking and speaking about integration to actualizing it.

~ From Wonders of the Natural Mind: The Essence of Dzogchen in the Native Bon Tradition of Tibet by Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche, Foreword by H.H. the Dalai Lama, edited by Andrew Lukianowicz, published by Snow Lion Publications

Poem: Czeslaw Milosz


Love means to learn to look at yourself
The way one looks at distant things
For you are only one thing among many.
And whoever sees that way heals his heart,
Without knowing it, from various ills—
A bird and a tree say to him: Friend.

Then he wants to use himself and things
So that they stand in the glow of ripeness.
It doesn’t matter whether he knows what he serves:
Who serves best doesn’t always understand.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Catfish Scar: Scarred

Catfish Scar is the new band from Johnette Napolitano of Concrete Blonde fame. She has long been one of the most captivating singers around. I was fortunate to see her short-lived band Pretty & Twisted at Seattle's The Backstage back in the 1990's in a very intimate and intense performance. I fell in love with her that night.

This new song is dark and intense, which works well for her voice. The last several seconds of the video, after the song itself has ended, are very jarring -- fair warning.

In Praise of Saving the Hubble Telescope

Earlier this week it was announced that NASA will repair the Hubble telescope and keep it in service. YAHOO!!

In honor of that wise decision, here are a couple of the 100 best Hubble photos:

I can' t imagine my world without the images that Hubble has brought us over the years. They have changed how I look at the sky when I am outside at night. They have changed how I conceive of our small planet within this vast Kosmos.

Fun Little Hike

Check out these pictures of what may be the world's most dangerous hike. Some trails are better left to mountain goats and birds. Imagine doing this before the technology to add chains and footboards existed.

There are more pictures at the site.

If you'd like to try this adventure, these folks can get you there.

Short Film: Das Rad -- The Wheel

Das Rad - The Wheel is a German animation short about the invention of the wheel, two rock figures, and their perspective of time. It was a 2003 Academy Award nominee for short film.

New Tim Leary Bio Is Less than Stellar

Jesse Walker, managing editor of Reason and author of Rebels on the Air: An Alternative History of Radio in America, reviews The Acid Guru’s Long, Strange Trip: Timothy Leary, A Biography, by Robert Greenfield, (Harcourt). He finds the book lacking any sense of what made Leary a cultural icon. Too bad.

Here is a taste of the review:

Scholars today generally regard the LSD scare of the ‘60s as a classic social panic. “Of all the widely used recreational drugs,” the sociologists Erich Goode and Nachman Ben-Yehuda note in their 1994 book Moral Panics, acid “is the one taken by users most episodically and occasionally, least regularly and chronically.” It certainly poses risks, but the most disturbing rumors about its effects—that it causes chromosome damage, that it prompts teens to blind themselves by staring at the sun—turned out to be false. What’s more, the media scare arrived at a time when LSD use was at a relatively low level; the hysteria actually faded as the drug grew more popular.

What’s fascinating is Leary’s relationship to that panic. Leary has written that his best-known slogan—“tune in, turn on, drop out”—was inspired by a lunch with the media theorist Marshall McLuhan, who told him, “You call yourself a philosopher, a reformer. Fine. But the key to your work is advertising. … You must use the most current tactics for arousing consumer interest.” According to Leary, McLuhan even broke into a jingle: “Lysergic acid hits the spot/Forty billion neurons, that’s a lot.”

Leary was known to take liberties when recounting his personal history, and the McLuhan story sounds a little too perfect to be absolutely true. But the very fact that he tells it shows he was aware of what he was up to, as does his famous claim in Playboy that LSD “is the most powerful aphrodisiac known to man.” In his book The Politics of Ecstasy, Leary commented that if the Playboy interview “had been conducted for Sports Illustrated, the conscientious interviewee would naturally consider the question, How LSD Can Raise Your Batting Average.” Greenfield adds: “In other words, had he been talking to Popular Mechanics, Tim would have claimed that LSD could rev up horsepower and reduce engine knock while doubling miles to the gallon. Clearly, Tim Leary knew exactly what he was doing. In America, nothing sells like sex.”

Satire: America's Cowboys Suffering From Restless Heart Syndrome

From The Onion, so you know it's true:

America's Cowboys Suffering From Restless Heart Syndrome

ATLANTA, GA—Officials from the Centers For Disease Control said Monday that preliminary results from a long-term study showed that the vast majority of America's cowboys suffer from Restless Heart Syndrome, a disorder categorized by deep pangs of yearning, usually following extended, alternating bouts of lethargy and wanderlust.

Enlarge ImageReport Americas R

This old boy headed out for that thar horizon with the clothes he had on his back after the onset of RHS last month.

"It's likely that most victims don't even know they have it," said research coordinator Grant Richardson, who estimates that 90 percent of cowboys are carriers of the malady. "Then one day they're staring into a glass of whiskey while the bartender sweeps the cigarette butts off the floor, and they get to wondering about what there is to find in the next town West of wherever they happen to be. After that, something changes inside them."

Researchers isolated a hormone in nearly all of the 500 cowboys studied that triggers a subconscious longing for the feel of a saddle and the sight of windswept plains as far as a body can see.

"Next thing they know, they're tipping their hat down low, pulling up their boots, and heading off in the direction of them twinklin' stars," Richardson said.

RHS seems to strike most often in younger ranch hands who have been restricted to the same patch of land for six months or more without being able to take long rides in God's country, where the coyotes prowl the sagebrush. Some cowboys also experience severe symptoms after taking just one whiff of old paint.

Nor does the disorder appear to be a new phenomenon. After studying hundreds of tattered letters and mournful ballads, researchers determined that RHS has been afflicting cowboys since the mid-1800s, when the West was still wild and a tumbleweed could still be blown across the plains from St. Louis to Frisco without hittin' a fence.

Report Americas Headshot R

A man can only stand so much before he gets a hankerin' to set off with no one but his thoughts, his horse and 300 head of cattle

A significant number of cases appear to be triggered by an undersupply of love from a good woman. If detected early, however, RHS can be treated.

"If any cowboys find themselves experiencing unfamiliar emotions for which there just ain't no words, or an impulse to gaze up and wonder if she's watching the same sun set over Texas—home to more than 95 percent of cowboys' exes—I would urge them to swallow their pride, and come on in to see doc immediately."

Cowboy Sam Parker said he has been suffering the effects of RHS for "purt' near as long as [he] can recollect."

"Once I've been off the trail for a piece, my heart gets a wanderin' to thoughts of my darlin', sweet Annabelle—who couldn't marry me on account of her pa not approvin'," Parker said, subconsciously clutching his 10-gallon hat. "A man can only stand so much before he gets a hankerin' to set off with no one but his thoughts, his horse and 300 head of cattle. I don't care one bit if it means eatin' bacon and beans every day and every night."

Many pediatricians who believe RHS manifests in early childhood have been counseling mothers to consider whether or not they should allow their babies to grow up to be cowboys, who will never stay home and are always alone, sadly, even with someone they love.

Leading epidemiologists say their goal is to contain the disease, which has no known cure, before it progresses to a more serious form such as Aching Heart Syndrome, Burning Heart Syndrome, or Trail's End Disease.

"The worst part is that many of these taciturn, weather-beaten men don't want to be healed—you can't throw a cowboy's heart in the hoosegow," said cowboy counselor and RHS sufferer Sam Langley. "And the problem is, they ain't wrong. They're just different. And their hearts won't let 'em do things to make you think it's right."

T.S. Eliot: The Hollow Men

The Hollow Men

Mistah Kurtz -- he dead.
A penny for the Old Guy


We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.


Eyes I dare not meet in dreams
In death's dream kingdom
These do not appear:
There, the eyes are
Sunlight on a broken column
There, is a tree swinging
And voices are
In the wind's singing
More distant and more solemn
Than a fading star.

Let me be no nearer
In death's dream kingdom
Let me also wear
Such deliberate disguises
Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves
In a field
Behaving as the wind behaves
No nearer --

Not that final meeting
In the twilight kingdom


This is the dead land
This is cactus land
Here the stone images
Are raised, here they receive
The supplication of a dead man's hand
Under the twinkle of a fading star.
Is it like this
In death's other kingdom
Waking alone
At the hour when we are
Trembling with tenderness
Lips that would kiss
Form prayers to broken stone.


The eyes are not here
There are no eyes here
In this valley of dying stars
In this hollow valley
This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms

In this last of meeting places
We grope together
And avoid speech
Gathered on this beach of the tumid river

Sightless, unless
The eyes reappear
As the perpetual star
Multifoliate rose
Of death's twilight kingdom
The hope only
Of empty men.


Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o'clock in the morning.

Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long

Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom

For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the

This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.

From some insight into this important poem, check out the commentaries posted here.

Speedlinking 11/3/06

Morning image is a sunset, a very colorful sunset from Live Science:

Happy Friday!

~ Authors Of Obesity/Gas Consumption Study To Speak At Pittsburgh Meeting Of Operations Researchers.
~ The Invisible Pedestrian Syndrome. It's getting dark earlier, so let's be safe out there.
~ "Shaping America's Youth" Challenges Americans Working To Reduce Childhood Overweight To Participate In Online Registry.
~ A Paleolithic diet confers higher insulin sensitivity, lower C-reactive protein and lower blood pressure than a cereal-based diet in domestic pigs. This is very close tot he diet I recommend to my clients.

~ Mother/Daughter Body Image Perception Differs. While daughters usually see themselves accurately in terms of weight, their mothers tend to be more likely to visualize them as thinner than they are.
~ Use Of Diet Pills By Teenage Girls Doubles Over Five-year Span, New Study Shows. More importantly: 62.7 percent of teenage females use "unhealthy weight control behaviors" and 21.9 percent of teenage females use "very unhealthy weight control behaviors."
~ Janet Hyde and Marcia Linn on the Psychological Similarity between Men and Women.
Adults Who Go To Bed Lonely Get Stress Hormone Boost Next Morning. Stress hormones makes us fatter, weaker, and less healthy.
~ From Lin Jensen at Tricycle, Ordinary Mind.
~ From Aaron at Anxious Living, How I Progress.
~ Tim Boucher at Pop Occulture Blog posts Metro-Spirituality Magazine Interview in which he answers some questions on the topic of metrospirituality.

~ Nirvana: Live! Tonight! Sold Out!! A treat for all fans, including a goth version of "Teen Spirit."
~ Maureen Dowd offers America's Anchors: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert faked it until they made it.
~ U.S. needs "sexual literacy", ex-surgeon generals say. U.S. efforts to promote abstinence as a cornerstone of sexual education have not lowered levels of sexually transmitted diseases, two former U.S. surgeon generals said on Thursday.
~ Study shows why the young may shun condoms. Social and cultural factors, not just unavailability or ignorance, influence why young people do not use condoms, researchers said on Friday.
~ Fathers Influence Child Language Development More Than Mothers. This study reverses what most would consider common knowledge.
~ From ~C4Chaos, SHOUT OUT: Seed Funding for Social Entrepreneurs. Check it out.

~ Residents Of Mostly Black Neighborhoods More Likely To Consider Themselves In Poor Health, Study Finds.
~ Taxing climate change: A penny a mile?
~ Climate change economics. Sir Nicholas Stern, has presented a detailed cost-benefit analysis of climate change mitigation and adaptation to the government of England.
~ From Mother Jones, The Thirteenth Tipping Point. So what will it take to trigger what we might call the 13th tipping point: the shift in human perception from personal denial to personal responsibility?
~ David Quammen chats about evolution, science, religion, and his new book. I like this guy.
~ Bird flu outruns the vaccines. The H5N1 virus has evolved into a new strain, and this time nearly three times as many birds are infected.

And that's a wrap. There might be an update over the weekend, or I might just choose to be lazy and watch an awful lot of football.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Meditation: Manifesto

I do not want to be that man.

The one who sleepwalks through his life, who is blind to the people around him, who answers the phone expecting bad news.

I do not want to be the Hollow Man, "headpiece filled with straw."[1]

I have walked a thousand steps only to see what is around the next corner, and the next, and a thousand more to see what might be hiding behind that tree, what might lie over the ridge. I have followed deer trails into oblivion simply because some need compelled me to hands and knees through the brush and thickets, over fallen trees and through cold streams.

I crave the colors of autumn, the crisp scent of woodsmoke on a fog-bound rainy morning. I need the hot cup of coffee and the sweater as I sit there in the cold and savor that incredible scent.

I don't want anything less than the quest. The search that consumes and transforms.

I refuse a life of quiet resignation. And I do not desire fame or prestige. I want meaning.

I will not be my father, or his father, or any of the fathers in my family. And I will not become a father. This DNA line dies with me. This family tree will be killed at the root, dug up and burned for warmth on a cold December morning. I will toast marshmallows in the flames and it will be good.

This body is not a temple, or a shrine, or a marker holding space for something unseen and unknown. This body is a tool for this brain, for this heart, for this soul that no one can prove exists but is more real than anything else I have ever known.

I have pushed more weight than my body could hold simply to test my limits, to see if there are limits, and then to break them. I have seen places within the psyche where only very strong chemicals can take a person. I have explored the terrain, have become a raven and flown over oceans. I have wrestled a bear that was really my dead father. And I have returned to tell what I have seen.

I am not that man some have thought me to be. I am much less and sometimes more and seldom of the same name.

There are openings, doorways that lead through a life and into other possibilities. I seek those passages. I seek to be transformed into one of those openings. I seek seeking.

What else is there but the hope for transformation, for transfiguration, for transience?

In the blink of an eye a lifetime comes and goes. Ashes to ashes. We are born for more than making babies and waste. And we lack the capacity to see ourselves truly, to see that we are not at all real, solid, or here. And so we are. Right now. There is no other time.

What do you want to do with your life? Who do you not want to be? What are you doing to make that happen? Anything? Are you there?

[1] From "The Hollow Men," by T.S. Eliot

It's Been a While

It's interesting how current events in our lives can trigger memories of similar events from the past. Lately, I've been thinking about some women I used to know -- one in particular. This old Staind song speaks to the time in my life when I knew her.

Inner Critic "Triggers"

Those of us who work with a tough Inner Critic -- and try to keep it in check -- know that there are an infinite number of "triggers" that can set it off. Hal and Sidra Stone devote most of a chapter in Embracing Your Inner Critic to recognizing and dealing with these triggers.

Here are a few of the triggers they identify:

~ Judgments: Any time someone else judges us or criticizes us, the Inner Critic takes this as an opportunity to agree and then some. Its job is to criticize us before others can -- its way of protecting us -- so to get beat to the punch makes it anxious. It's important to note that these criticisms are not always direct -- they can be from other people, from religion, from cultural expectations, from commercials, and so on.

If we aren't working with our Inner Critic, these attacks are challenging. We not only have the exterior attack to deal with, which is painful enough, but we have the interior attack from an invisible foe. For most, the result is depression, anxiety, feeling upset, lack of energy, and/or just a vague sense of unease.

~ Stress: Any situation that causes stress can activate the Inner Critic. As is always true, the Critic is responding to our vulnerability -- so, as a key, we can think of all events that leave us vulnerable as potential triggers for the Critic. Stress, if we do not have good coping mechanisms, leaves us feeling vulnerable.

~ Disowned Selves: When one of our disowned selves breaks free from its shadow prison, generally in a social situation of some kind, the Critic can get very anxious. It is horrified that we might look foolish or behave shamefully. For those new to subpersonalities, disowned selves are those parts of us that we do not allow to come out because our version of who we are simply won't permit them. The Inner Critic remembers how the emergence of one of these selves in the past left us humiliated or shamed and it will not allow that to happen again. But sometimes it slips, and a disowned self gets to run free for a little while -- as often as not, some form of intoxication is involved (alcohol, drugs, love, sex, and so on).

~ Unfamiliar Situations: Any kind of new situation puts the Critic on high alert. Again, because the situation is new and we are unsure, we are vulnerable. That's all the opening the Critic needs.

~ Being the Center of Attention: If the Critic had its way, we'd be invisible most of the time. So being the center of attention is excruciating for the Critic. When attention is focused on us, we feel the need to perform, or we are being evaluated, or in some other way people have expectations of us. This brings the Critic to the front to make sure we don't make a fool of ourselves. From the inside, it can feel like a kind of paralysis.

~ Adverse Fortune: Any time something goes wrong -- loss of a job, loss of a relationship, failing a class, getting a ticket, whatever -- the Critic senses that we are vulnerable. Its job is to keep us from feeling that way, so it gets anxious and works extra hard to make sure it never has to deal with abandonment or failure ever again. The more threatened by failure or abandonment it feels, the harsher its attacks.

~ Certain People in Our Lives: We all have certain people in our lives who make us feel inferior in some way, either overtly, covertly, or completely unintentionally. An obvious example might be the young business man who always feels inferior to his senior coworker who knows all the best places to entertain clients, wears all the right clothes, and knows all the right things to say. This older more experienced man can trigger the Critic in the younger man simply by being himself. [An aside here: the Critic is very associated with self-esteem issues, which are another form of vulnerability.]

Other people we encounter might need to feel better about themselves by always being critical of others, by pointing out their faults, or simply by talking as though they have everything figured out. The Critic doesn't care if any of it is true, it just sees the possibility of looking "less than" and gets busy to make sure we don't do anything to actualize that chance.

* * *

These are the major triggers they discuss. Certainly there are others, and many of us will have very individual triggers that work only for us. But the key to understanding the Critic is to know that it wants more than anything else to keep us from feeling vulnerable. That's its job, and it will do its job no matter what -- unless we learn how to see it in action and override its voice.

As I learn more about this process of stepping away from the Critic, both from the book and my own work with my Critic, I'll share what I learn.

On Change: Going Through The Opening

This was the Daily Om from a few days ago. It seems appropriate to where I am in my life right now.
Going Through The Opening
Contracting Before Expanding

Sometimes our lives contract before they expand. We may be working hard on ourselves spiritually, doing good in the world, following our dreams, and wondering why we are still facing constrictions of all kinds-financial, emotional, physical. Perhaps we even feel as if we've lost our spirituality and are stuck in a dark room with no windows. We may be confused and discouraged by what appears to be a lack of progress. But sometimes this is the way things work. Like a caterpillar that confines itself to a tiny cocoon before it grows wings and flies, we are experiencing the darkness before the dawn.

When things feel tight, it's easy to panic or want to act in some way to ease the feeling of constriction. We might also spin our wheels mentally, trying to understand why things are the way they are. However, there is nothing we need to do at this time other than to be patient and persevering. We can cling to the awareness that we are processing the shift from one stage to another, and the more we surrender to the experience, the more quickly we will move through the tightness into the opening on the other side. Just like a baby making its way down the birth canal, we may feel squeezed and pushed and very uncomfortable, but if we remember that we are on our way to being born into a new reality, we will find the strength to carry on.

Even as we endure the contractions, we can find peace within ourselves if we remember to trust the universe. We can look to the natural world for inspiration as we see that all beings surrender to the process of being born. In that surrender, and in the center of our own hearts, is a willingness to trust in the unknown as we make our way through the opening.
I had been gripped by transition and change even before my relationship ended, so that just added fuel to the fire. My natural tendency during change is to contract, withdraw, and let the process work itself out. I write more, watch more videos, and read more books.

I think it's important to honor the shifts that occur within us from time to time, and to give them the space they need to work themselves out. If we surrender to the process and give it some attention, it is often a profound time of growing awareness. We can begin to know ourselves more deeply and more fully. We also begin to see how transient any sense of a consistent self really is.

But there is also expansion. As I have withdrawn a bit from some parts of my life, other parts have expanded in amazing ways. I feel that there are more options than I had ever imagined. I am seeing more clearly than ever before that some people in my life are true friends.

We all go through these periods of change and transition. When we feel the need to contract and withdraw, it helps to know that at the same time, new possibilities are opening in new directions.

Speedlinking 11/2/06

We're on the downside of the week.

Here's a happy fall image that I wish I could see here, where the temps are in the mid-80's as we enter the penultimate month of the year. D'oh!

~ Get Rid of Your Halloween Candy, NOW! Just throw it away or give it away. Really.
~ Red Wine May Offset Effects Of High Calorie Diet. But probably not. So just one glass a day and you still need to eat healthy.
~ No Link Between Juice And Children's Weight, Pediatrics Study Shows. Be that as it may, the human body doesn't process fruit sugar very well, so limit juices in particular since they lack the other nutrients and fiber found in whole fruit.
~ Coffee reduces risk of type 2 diabetes. Yet another study that justifies my enormous intake of this liquid manna.
~ Humans left chimps behind in 'evolution's playground'. Key quote: "So even though we share most of our DNA with chimps, small genetic changes that fine-tune its expression might account for the radical differences in our brains."
~ A Prescription That May Extend Life. Low-calorie diets have been shown to extend lifespan, but who wants to starve themselves to live an extra five to ten years? And what about the damage to muscle mass, which supports immune system health?
The quantum world is about to get bigger. The quantum world is about to get bigger thanks to a technique that will allow objects big enough to see with the naked eye to exist in two places at once.

~ From Mindhacks: Psychology of two-in-a-bed, via The New York Times.
~ For depression relief, try variety of medications. Study: Antidepressants help most patients if they sample several kinds
~ Many Adults With Psychiatric Disorders May Also Have Undiagnosed ADHD.
~ From Tricycle blog: On Boredom.
~ Cognitive Decline Is Often Undetected Study Shows.
~ Teens who read poorly have higher suicide risk.

~ Big Tobacco's Anti-Smoking Ads Boost Teen Smoking. Do you think they'd run those ads if they thought they might hurt sales?
~ Father convicted in genital mutilation. An Ethiopian immigrant was convicted Wednesday of the genital mutilation of his 2-year-old daughter and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
~ Noise Pollution Threatens Birds. Seems they can't or won't get busy with all the noise we make.
~ "Complementary" Currency Helps Local Communities. Example: Over the past 10 years, more than 5,300 Chicago school children from impoverished neighborhoods have tutored their peers and earned free computers for their homes.
~ The Vegetarian Movement Grows Among Teens. Peer pressure creates this less than healthy choice.
Anglican Stand on Gays Won't Be Debated. What year is this?
~ Courtney Love turns to Buddhism to overcome addiction. Good luck with that. No, really.

~ Bad news for the poor in affluent areas. Death rates in four Californian cities were highest for poor people living in the richest neighborhoods.
~ The Grave Crisis of Globalization. There are 10 big global risks that face the world: climate chaos, radical poverty, organised crime, extremism, informatics, nanotechnology, robotics, genetics, artificial intelligence and financial systems.
~ In B.C., a landmark rainforest-protection agreement was just the beginning. It took 10 years of work to protect British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest.
~ From Albert Klamt at Zaadz, Integral Leadership Review.

And that's a wrap.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Aftermath, Part Six: Last Thoughts

The remaining details around the ending of my last relationship are now complete. We each will go our separate ways, and I wish her peace and happiness.

Many readers here and at Zaadz have written to me privately to share their thoughts about what I have posted. Everyone has been supportive in ways that make me grateful. Your thoughts have helped me be more clear in many ways.

Much has changed since I first wrote about the breakup. I no longer am willing to accept full responsibility for the way things fell apart. We each contributed our share of "stuff" to the issues that divided us.

It's strange how difficult it can be to see the patterns we participate in while we are in them. But with distance comes clarity. The work I have been doing with my Inner Critic has helped me see more clearly the role it played in the breakup, but also how other factors led me to believe that the issues were all mine, when that wasn't the case.

I was coming unraveled for much of August and September -- (documented here, here, here, here, here, and here) -- the time leading up to her decision to leave. I took that on at the time as though it had nothing to do with my relationship. That wasn't true.

At least part of what was going on then was my psyche trying to create space for me to look at things more clearly. That manifested as me withdrawing in various ways. I wasn't consciously or willfully trying to push her away, but that was what was happening. At first I felt that I had failed in not seeing what was I was doing at the time, but now I accept that my process works how its works. I did the best I could.

In a variety of ways, our relationship had stopped working. Some of that was due to what I was bringing to the table, some of it was due to what she brought to the table. The important part for me -- in working with my Critic -- is that I no longer blame myself for everything that happened. We each could blame the other, but that also would be non-productive.

I will continue to look at and own my stuff that contributed to the breakup in the hope that I will learn what I can from the experience. I'm sure we each will be better people for having navigated this period in our lives.

Poem: Li Bai


Down the blue mountain in the evening,
Moonlight was my homeward escort.
Looking back, I saw my path
Lie in levels of deep shadow....
I was passing the farm-house of a friend,
When his children called from a gate of thorn
And led me twining through jade bamboos
Where green vines caught and held my clothes.
And I was glad of a chance to rest
And glad of a chance to drink with my friend....
We sang to the tune of the wind in the pines;
And we finished our songs as the stars went down,
When, I being drunk and my friend more than happy,
Between us we forgot the world.

Satire: Bush: Thousands Of Registered Democrats Needed For 'Extremely Important' Mission

From The Onion, so you know it's true:
Bush: Thousands Of Registered Democrats Needed For 'Extremely Important' Mission

Dems 'Only Ones' Who Can Make Nov. Operation A Success

November 1, 2006 | Issue 42•44

WASHINGTON, DC—In a televised address to the nation Monday, President Bush announced that the U.S. is in "desperate need of thousands of registered Democrats" to conduct what he called an "extremely important mission" to begin immediately and continue at least until the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Enlarge ImageBush We Need R

Bush lauded the "progressive American heroes" who he says will be vital in carrying out the mission.

"This mission is absolutely vital, for the next week to 10 days will determine the future of our country," said Bush, who would not reveal what the operation entailed, only to say that it was "highly classified."

"We are calling on the most stalwart Democrats in the land," Bush said. "In fact, they are the only ones capable of making it a success."

Although details were limited, an unnamed administration official revealed that, on Wednesday, November 1, registered Democrats will be asked to report to designated government rendezvous points such as post offices and military recruiting centers. Once there, they will be registered, fingerprinted, and issued one-piece jumpsuits, bedding, and canteens of drinking water, then directed to board brown school buses bound for an undisclosed location or locations.

"Certainly it will mean sacrifice, and possibly a prolonged absence from your families," Bush said. "We need at least 40,000 Democrats, but more are always welcome."

"Our very way of life depends on it," he added.

While Bush said any registered Democrat is eligible to participate, those who reside in Arizona's Fifth, Ohio's First, and Pennsylvania's Eighth Congressional Districts are most needed to ensure the mission's success. Democrats from New Jersey, Missouri, Tennessee, and "especially Virginia" were also strongly encouraged to volunteer.

Bush We Need Map R

Bush also called on the 64 percent of citizens upset with the handling of the situation in Iraq, the 80 percent who think Congress is doing a poor job, and the 63 percent who disapprove of his own job performance as "supremely qualified for the special task."

Bush added that the same liberal voters with whom his administration has traditionally been at odds would be "warmly welcomed and fully accommodated." Bush appealed to Democrats' "noble hearts," describing his traditional political foes as "a breed apart—passionate, dedicated Americans who can really make a difference."

"Staunch supporters of abortion rights, reduced dependence on foreign oil, gay marriage, and a national system of health care: We need you now more than ever," Bush said. "Registered Democrats in Michigan and Georgia who believe that the federal minimum wage needs to be increased and that global warming is being inadequately addressed are perfectly suited for such a selfless venture."

Bush's announcement drew an enthusiastic reaction from a Republican Congress dispirited by a series of scandals and criticism over its lackluster legislative performance.

"Despite our differences, I know the Democrats of my home state are the kinds of folks the president is talking about—strong, devoted, caring people who support stem-cell research and stronger gun laws."

Acknowledging the "tough times and hardship" endured by soldiers stationed in Iraq, Bush also announced plans to give the entire military the day off on Nov. 7 so they can take some time to "relax, reflect, and vote."

Crows are the MacGyvers of the Avian World

I'm a huge fan of crows, ravens, and other corvids. These birds, especially ravens, rival most higher primates in intelligence. Of all the birds, only corvids have outgrown their evolutionary niche to the point that they have copious free time to play games. And they invent their own games much the same way that human children do.

Live Science posted a story yesterday about crows and how young crows learn to use tools in part from watching their elders and in part as an innate skill. This is from the article:
Compared to other crows, those from the Pacific island of New Caledonia, located east of Australia, are master tool makers and users, second only to humans and on level with chimps when it comes to finding novel uses for everyday objects. In their natural forest environment, the midnight-black birds fashion twigs [video], leaves and even their own feathers [image] into tools for rooting out insects in dead wood.

The crows craft tools to specific needs [image]. They examine a problem and then pick or design an appropriate tool [video]. For example, faced with a snack lodged in a small tree hole, a crow will prune and adjust a leafy oak branch to just the right width to poke into the hole.

Scientists have found that crows living on different parts of the island display variations in tool shapes, a discovery that suggests young crows learn to fashion tools in a particular way from relatives and other crows living nearby. If so, it would mean the birds possess a culture of tool technology on par with that of humans.

To test this idea, researchers at the University of Oxford in the U.K. hand-raised [image] four Caledonian crows— two received lessons [video] in tool use from human foster parents, while the other two did not. Despite their different upbringings, all four juvenile birds used sticks to retrieve food from crevices, proving that crows have an innate ability for tool use.

However, Uek and Nalik, the two birds schooled in tool-making, carried and inserted twigs into crevices faster and more often than Oiseau and Corbeau, the two naïve crows. Also consistent with the idea that tool use among crows is partly inherited and partly learned, the researchers found that tools made by the four captive crows were crude compared with those made by adult crows living in the wild.

The researchers suggest that insights gained from studying crows could be applied to humans to help reveal how tool use evolved in our own species. Experiments can be performed with crows that are not practical with human children, and birds develop faster than chimps.

The study, conducted by Ben Kenward, Christian Rutz, Alex Weir and Alex Kacelnik, will be detailed in an upcoming issue of the journal Animal Behavior.

Anyone who has spent any time watching crows will know how smart crows really are. They, along with some parrots and higher primates, are unique in their ability to solve problems in their head before attempting to perform the solution.

Crows are also extremely social. In Seattle, which hosts the densest population of crows on the planet, tens of thousands of crows gather at sunset in the trees along Lake Washington to share events of the day -- literally. They will share info on food sources, socialize, and the young adults will pair off to form life-long unions.

Crows are much smarter than most people give them credit for. You can read more on this story at USA Today.

Speedlinking 11/1/06

It's still Halloween night as I begin this post, so here is an image in keeping with the mood of the day:

So, then, happy Tuesday.

~ Regular Exercise Helps Obese Youths Reduce, Reverse Risk For Heart Disease, Study Shows. Whatever happened to kids playing instead of playing video games?
~ Health Tip: Watch Your Child's Sugar Intake. Really?
~ From T-Nation: The Rule of 90%. Working with weights at or above 90% of your 1RM leads to better strength, lean mass, and performance.
~ Also from T-Nation, a Q & A with one of the world's premier strength coaches, Question of Strength.

~ Divorced Women Have More Illness. Study Says Divorced Women Suffer Chronic Stress, More Illness.
~ Breastfeeding Boosts Mental Health. Infants breast fed for more than six months have significantly better mental health in childhood.
~ Music may ease symptoms of schizophrenia.
~ Black suicide attempts worse than thought. New study upends the myth that black suicides are rare because of a mind-set that took hold during slavery.
~ Survivors Of Organized Violence Often Left With Traumatic Memories: Victims Of Torture Found To Have Permanent Mental Trauma.

~ Churches Aim To Help African-Americans Improve Their Diet And Fitness.
~ Losing Virginity at Younger Ages? Not So, Global Sex Survey Finds. Other info from the study: "Monogamy is the dominant sexual pattern globally. Married individuals--which constitute most people studied--have the most sex. Men report having engaged in sex with more partners than women in a given year. Instances of males with multiple partners, however, were more frequent in industrialized nations, Wellings says, than in places such as Africa, where sexual health education is relatively unsophisticated."
~ Real Live Halloween (Satanic!) Monsters Uncovered!
~ Nightmares, Demons And Slaves: Study Explores Painful Metaphors Of Workplace Bullying.
~ Exposure To "Thin-Idea" Media Affecting Women's Standards Of Body Image. Female undergraduates who viewed advertisements displaying ultra-thin women exhibited increases in body dissatisfaction, negative mood, levels of depression and lowered self-esteem.
~ 20 artworks to see before you die -- from the Guardian. Move cursor over image for info. Very cool.
~ New Theory on What Got the Oracle of Delphi High.

~ Is Credit Card Debt Bad For Your Health? The credit card industry is bad news for many Americans.
~ On greenhouse gas intensity. Bush's people try to confuse us into thinking they are working to solve the problem.
~ Stern Review: How Climate Change is Revolutionizing Economics.
~ Sustainable Innovation 06: Resilience.
~ Stefan Merten on Peer Production and the monetary economy.

That's all folks.