Friday, February 26, 2010

Between the Two, My Life Flows

Wisdom Tells me I am nothing;
love tells me I am everything.
Between the two, my life flows.

Indian proverb

In a certain sense Zen is to feel Life,
Instead of feeling something about life.

Alan Watts

Never forget to breath. Throughout the day, I discover that I have been holding my breath; surviving on the minimum amount of oxygen. I have yawning episodes, I feel sleepy, exhausted, bored. My brain, my muscles, my organs are slowly dying from lack of oxygen. There is an abundance of it around me, and yet I am not making use of it. Several times a day, in all kinds of weather I walk my dog. It is during these times I become conscious of my body position, abdomen, and lungs. I hold my upper body erect, draw air in deeply through my nose. I become aware of the smell of the earth, trees, lake, rain, decomposing leaves. I become aware. I pull my shoulders back and breath in again and again as we walk and wonder where my senses have been all day. They have been shut off, turned down, tuned into a computer; all eyes and frontal lobe. Family members wander in to speak to me but I smile and give them no real attention. I cannot stop what I am doing or the thought will be lost. Where am I living? Between wisdom and love, between feeling something about life and feeling LIFE...smelling life...hearing life...knowing life...

This is not our practice life...This is our real life.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Meditate on This

Meditation Quotes

My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble minds. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God. - Albert Einstein (1875-1955)

When religion grows in age, faith turns into dogma, and experience is replaced by book-knowledge, virtue by adherence to rules, devotion by ritual, meditation by metaphysical speculation. The time is then ripe for a rediscovery of truth and a fresh attempt to give it expression in life.


The aim of living is life itself. -Goethe

Chao-chou asked: “What is the Tao?”
Nan-chuan, his master, said: “Your ordinary mind is the Tao.”
“But how can one return to harmony with it?” Chao-chou asked.
“Simply by intending to, you deviate.”
“But if one doesn’t intend, how can one know it?”
“The Tao,” said the master, “belongs neither to knowing nor to not knowing. Knowing is false understanding. Not knowing is blind ignorance. When you really understand the Tao, it is like the empty sky. Why drag in right and wrong?” -ZEN MONDO

The birds have vanished into the sky,

And now the last cloud drains away.

We sit together, the mountain and me,

Until only the mountain remains, -Li Po

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Living With Pain


Pain …so much pain

No level!!

Puking Pain-

Spinning pain-

in my muscles-cells

Bones, joints, skin.

Every movement breath touch-filled with pain.

Even the silence and stillness throbbing with pain;

Confusing pain, hopeless pain, lonely pain,

unending pain, confounding pain,

cold, stabbing, burning, searing,

ripping, tearing, crushing,

brittle, frightening,



Fiend, that has been chasing me these long years;

robbing me, cheating me, tricking me,

humbling me, torturing me,

teaching me, strengthening me.

Pain, patiently moving through each element of my body,

crumpling me like tossed and useless aluminum foil,

and molding me into a swan.

You shall not have me.

by gcmoss 10/18/09

Throughout history, humans have always had to fight for their little patch of blue sky. Their patch of land, their woman, their man, their cave, their life. True the enemies of the past had fangs and then spears and then hatchets. Now we have the dangers of stress, drugs, guns, cars and even ink and red tape.

For some of us our own bodies are the enemy. We are torn in a struggle with no place to focus our anger and frustration.

What do we do when our own bodies betray us? The mind and the body cannot be at war; hurling insults and rude comments. Nor is it helpful to give up completely. It is not like humans to relinquish control so easily. But in reconciliation, mind and body can be at peace; facing the onslaught as a united front. How this peace is achieved, is different for each person. I recommend meditation, support of a wise medical doctor and work with a counselor specifically trained to assist those in pain. Even with all those supporting, it may not be enough.

I haven't always appreciated the 12 step slogan, " One day at a time." When I first heard it, I thought it was trite and meaningless. But I have come to a understand the wisdom. This day has enough trouble, or pain in it. I will just determine to make it through this day. Tomorrow is another day. I will face that day when it comes. Worrying about it now, is pointless.

My pain is caused by severe fibromyalgia and arthritis (plus a few other not so fun things thrown in for good measure). It has been part of my life for 30 years, maybe more. I can't think of a time when I did not have trouble keeping up physically with other people my age. Everything seemed like a struggle. I used to love to hike and go on adventures through the woods, two things I can no longer do. I have an electric wheelchair now, so I can go on long nature "walks" with my dog. As long as the path is paved, I am fine. It really is a treat to have that mobility back again. I can use the chair for museums or concerts and feel safe and not be in pain. It allows me to be completely independent in the house and surrounding area. I can do the laundry, dishes, straighten up, walk the dog, visit friend in the neighborhood, shop locally etc.

If anyone wants to ask me questions about it, feel free. I will be honest about the pros and cons.

I have a busy few days coming up, so I may not post. But I will check in. Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Meet Jan Rose Kasmir

Several years ago, I had the honor of meeting Jan Rose Kasmir face to face. She is a soft spoken, yet powerful woman. Born during a time of political unrest in America, she bounced from one foster home to another. She was only 17 in 1967, when a city transit bus took her to the Nation's capital to join in a protest against America's involvement in Vietnam. Military troupes in full battle uniforms, with rifles raised, surrounded the Pentagon. It began as a peaceful protest but unfortunately ended in violence. Some of those at the rally wished only to speak to the soldiers, and convince them to throw down their guns. Eventually Jan found herself face to face with a line of guns and bayonets. She was holding only a large flower close to her face.

What made this event famous was that it was captured on film by a famous French photographer Marc Riboud. The image became a memorable symbol of non-violent resistance. Marc Riboud did not identify this young woman, and he would not be able to name her until 30 years later!

Here is a further article about it from the Smithsonian Magazine.

Below is a link to the actual picture on the web-site of the Human Flower Project. The look on Jan's face is so shy and perhaps a little terrified (and yet peaceful). This picture is proof that a picture NOT ONLY speaks a thousand words, but sometimes it changes peoples hearts and minds. For those of us who grew up in the 60's and 70's, this picture is part of the general landscape. I know it effected my thinking about the nature of the world. I imagine it touched many more people.

I remember thinking about the saying, "The pen is mightier than the sword." I was wondering if perhaps during the 60's it might be more appropriately altered to, "The flower is mightier than the gun." There is so much more to be said about this time in our history, and about Jan Rose Kasmir. But I hope this brief introduction gets you started.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Great Backyard Bird Count is Coming!!

Every spring, Cornell University Lab of Ornithology sponsors something called the Great Backyard Bird Count. It is very easy to participate and loads of fun. I have been a bird watcher since I could see out of my eyes. >=< When I was a wee bairn, our family was traveling down a country road. I pointed up at a big bird circling above a field and shouted, "Look, a CORK, A CORK!" Someone corrected me, and said it was a Hawk, not a cork. Then I remember feeling very silly, but also a little mad that noone had corrected me sooner. Maybe folks around me had not been using proper diction or not listen to me...Harumph!!! I was then determined to get to know the proper names of birds and I have been paying close attention ever since.

But back to the Bird Count. Here is the link to the site that will give you all the information.

When you go there, you can register and type in your zip-code. It will print out a list of the birds you will most likely see in your area. For most unfamiliar birds, you will find that the names are highlighted. This indicates that they are links to detailed information about the bird, its song, nesting and mating habits, food preferences, etc.

The count only requires that twice during the day you take 15 minutes and count birds in a particular location. Count all the birds of each variety (careful not to count the same bird twice). I found that doing my bird counts while walking my dog, a perfect solution. I know where all the birds hang out on my regular dog walking loop. Last year the "GBBC" happened to fall on the weekend when the Robins returned to North Carolina. I have never seen so many Robins. First I saw a small group hunting for worms, and so started counting. I just kept counting and counting as I went, peeking behind me to be sure they had not jumped ahead. Indeed, they had not. I think on my15 minute walk I spotted over 55 Robins, plus several varieties of Woodpeckers, Mockingbirds, Chickadees, Tufted Titmice, Brown-capped Nut-hatches, Black-capped Nut-hatches, several Eastern Bluebirds and a flock of American Goldfinches (still greenish-brown from winter's chill). On my second walk of the day I saw a Carolina Wren, Song Sparrows, Cardinals, House Finches, Canadian Geese and many more.

Over the course of the year I have spotted some new birds and also others just traveling through on migration; an Egret, a small Kingfisher, a Cormorant, Swans and a Pelican. Which reminds me of one of my favorite poems by Edward Lear. "A curious bird is a Pelican. His beak can hold more than his Belly can."

As regular friends we have a family of glorious Red-tailed Hawks that nest and hunt in the area, as well as several families of Killdeer. When I first met the Killdeer I felt like I was in an episode of National Geographic. If they are nesting, one parent will stay with the eggs while the other parent will fly in front of the intruder pretending to be injured. The bird will flop on the ground and look as if it's wing is broken, struggling to escape. Thus the enemy (me) is lured farther and farther away from the nest. When the bird feels you are sufficiently lost and distracted, suddenly they will recover and fly away. It is brilliant. Not an acting lesson in their lives, and yet they know how to put on a marvelous show.

I keep a list of bird sightings in the front cover of my bird identification book. If it is a particularly unusual bird I list specific times, places and dates and often the sex of the bird in question. As a habit I do not used binoculars to do my bird watching, just my wonderful eyes. But I will admit that the few times I have taken a pair of binoculars with me I have gotten some spectacular views. It is totally a personal thing. They really come in handy when I hear a call or song and cannot identify the bird (and for the life of me, I cannot see where it is coming from). This has driven me mad with curiosity and I'm sure several passers-by also wonder what the heck has me staring intently into the woods. By this method, I discovered the Flicker, a large and striking Woodpecker

and the teeny. illusive Yellow-rumped Warbler (I know, a very silly name).

I keep a simple feeding station in my back yard to attract as big a variety of birds as possible. I have one feeder with just a mix of cheap birdseed (which is mostly millet), with a scoop of "Not so cheap" birdseed, plus a scoop of plain black sunflower seed. This feeder is hooked onto a great product called a "Twirl a Squirrel". When big birds try to hog the feeder, or squirrels hang off of it, it begins to spin. Then it spins faster and faster. It is quite hilarious. Mostly the squirrels leave me alone now. If they start coming back, I know it's time to change the batteries.

Besides this feeder, I keep a special feeder just for finches and other very small birds, filled with black thistle seed (or niger seed).

I also have one suet feeder. Here is the trick to using a suet feeder. NEVER hang it on the flimsy little chain they sell it with. The squirrels will have it down in an hour and carry it off into the woods (as I have discovered!). Get a heavy gauge wire, or even better a metal hanger from an old bird feeder. I also do NOT use suet. It is way too expensive. I get cheap bread (or use old bread from around my house). Get a big jar of generic crunchy peanut butter and spread it on both pieces. Now make a birdseed sandwich. Yum Yum. I also spread peanut butter on the outside and lay it on a paper plate of seed and press it down. So now it is totally covered inside and out with peanut butter and seeds. The woodpeckers of all varieties love this concoction. So do all the birds. Plus it is super cheap, costing mere cents rather that dollars for each suet cake. And don't forget you can also stick other things in the suet feeder. If we have left over apples and oranges that will go uneaten, I cut them in half and put them in the suet feeder. Many birds are especially attracted to fruit.

So please join me for the Great Backyard Bird Count. Hope to see you out in your backyard (or backwoods) this weekend counting birds and generally enjoying yourself. (those of you who can get out your back doors, that is- I do realize that a good deal of the US has been snowed in!)