Monthly Archives: May 2008

up the down staircase

garden staircase castlethis is a guest post by my blogging and twitter friend alexander zoltai. it’s the story of how, down and out with alcohol and homelessness, he almost … well, read for yourself:

at first, i was trying to push ahead when i really needed healing time.

went from a homeless situation in ohio to florida for my daughter’s wedding. (dear audra! i wasn’t able to help raise her but she loves me anyway.)

was walking, literally, 100 blocks a day to get to my job and back to the salvation army shelter. had miraculously been included in her wedding party but i was not the dude who gave her away.

one month after the wedding, i was homeless again, and deeply depressed.

must have been some turning point in my history of striking out with vigor only to be beaten down, then striking out again. this time, the fire of renewal was gone.

beat down enough to walk the streets of sarasota, florida begging god to kill me.

one of the members of my faith attempted an intervention–not for my psyche but to loan me $3,000 to move into my own trailer.

there was a delay in approval for the place and i slid further down the slope of life.

went to the bank one day and cashed the check, took the $3,000 and went into an alcoholic tailspin. rented a motel room and drank about a case of guinness a day; also smoked pot…

finally had the suicide idea hatch–hell, i’d been sittin’ on the egg a long time!

bought pills that i could overdose on, and proceeded to watch them for a whole day–i had no motivation left at all–even to kill myself.

so, on to sandusky, ohio, my hometown and continued drinking.

my sister had hacked my email account and determined i was alive. oh! i’d written a good-bye e-mail and shipped it out to all my friends.

while in my hometown, i bought two knives and tried slicing my wrist–again, no motivation at all–even to kill myself.

my sister did intervene with love. i went back to florida and stayed with her, went to the VA hospital for psychological examination, got stuck with a chronic depression label, and found out i had hepatitis c!

this is when i was certain something “spiritual” was going on: god, the humorist, was letting me know who was in charge. he “said”: “so you thought you could end your life and i stopped you; but, just to give you a chance to truly repent, here’s a deadly disease.” i told family and friends but they couldn’t understand my delight.

next, six months on antidepressants, quitting smoking, and spiritual recharging–creating a 300-page compilation from a 500-page compilation of powerful spiritual writings.

the day for starting treatment for the hep C arrived and i skidded into eleven months of debilitation, crappy feelings, hair-loss, muscle-mass-loss, flu symptoms, bone aches, anemia–all “normal” for the treatment.

i’ve said before, the poet in me taking center stage, that truly spiritual events have an inherent contradiction embedded in them. for those eleven months, i experienced the contradictory pulls of massive physical degeneration and ecstatic spiritual upliftment–feeling my existence as worth more than i’d ever imagined, as long as i profoundly submitted to god.

here i am 17 days past the end of treatment and resigned to the further tasks of being proactive about depression mitigation and establishing myself in a home-based business.

like i told my VA psychiatrist last week: “before, i’d rise from a fall with conviction of conquering; now, i don’t know what will happen…

just moving ahead with resignation: “in the sense is of making an entry (signum) ‘opposite’ — on the credit side — balancing the former mark and thus cancelling the claim it represents. sense of ‘to give (oneself) up to some emotion or situation'”– we so often consider being resigned to a situation a depressing alternative. however, if the resignation is to cling to the way the universe actually works, it can be a calming and steadying position.

no idea, or could even pretend to guess, what my future holds. but, the captain of my soul shouts, “steady as she goes!”

alexander m zoltai is a writer with roaring flames in his heart, a blogger with a global agenda, and a nutrition entrepreneur.  alexander has also written a beautiful poem that goes with this post.

quickie: what’s a friend?

just a few quick thoughts here, inspired by my twitter friend todd. in his tweetings today and his most recent blog post, he talks about a social media tool called friendfeed.

“friend” is a word that’s used a lot in social media. often it’s just the name that you give a contact on whatever social media watercooler(s) you use. some people have 5,000+ friends, like geek guru robert scoble (and yes, i’m one of his twitter, um, friends.)

so we’re redefining the word friend. seriously. at least in the social media sphere and its circle of influence, which is pretty much everyone in north america, and a large portion of the population in other english-speaking countries, as well as western europe.

so what’s a friend? who’s a friend?

i count among my best and closest friends a woman about 2,000 kilometres from here whom i have never met in person.

a friend of mine calls someone a close friend who she grew up with and lived with for a while but now they both don’t take the time to contact each other at all; once every three years or so they run into each other and talk as if nothing had happened.

through blogging, i have made friends with people who otherwise i would have never met, even though they’re in vancouver. my life is richer for having met them.

someone else i know spends lots of time on internet forums; it’s 80% of her social life.

i have a friend who i’ve known and been close to since grade 1. the fact that most of our lives we’ve lived in different countries is unfortunate but doesn’t diminish our friendship.

on twitter, i follow about 300 people. are they all my friends? well, yes, in a way. but there are some whose tweets i follow more avidly than others. it’s hard to follow what 300 people do, and sometimes i wish there was some tier system. tier 1 could be, “a day without hearing from them is a bad day” and tier 10 “sure, i don’t mind hearing about you once in a while.” urgh, that sounds heavy.

but in a way we’re doing that for our non-online friends already anyway, right?

what do you think?

(this post was included in a LinkedIn carnival

frozen pea friday: cancer and art for healing

wearable art to help with cancer treatmentfor this week’s frozen pea friday post – a post for and about cancer survivors, following the frozen pea friday movement – i’d like to point you to an interesting project by ms. frozen pea friday herself, susan reynolds.

susan is an artist, a mother, grandmother, prominent second life citizen, social media maven. and she has cancer.

my husband’s insurance covers cancer treatment – to a point.

while millions of americans are uninsured i’m lucky not to be among them. but copays and deductibles, transportation and complementary care not covered by insurance add up fast.

since my mixed media pieces have been published in national magazines and i’ve taught painting and helped artists use new media to show their stuff, now is the time for the art to help me.

these mixed media pieces are, in fact, “wearable art”. while you can, of course, mount them or otherwise display them at home, they’re also lovely pieces of jewellery – broches and pendants.

she calls the part of her blog that showcases this work “magpie“:

oooh shiny! handmade, handpainted papers, fibers, metallics, glass, beads and iridescence

in a twitter conversation, susan pointed out that she feels lucky that she can do something that’s not too strenuous and make some money at it – others may not be able to do this.

i have some personal investment in this – from experience i know how alternative healing can be very beneficial. i have derived great benefit from reiki, healing touch and TRAGER®. for example, when i had my gallbladder taken out and, in my crazy sensitivity to anything psychoactive, i was going bonkers with the after-effects of general anaesthesia, healing touch was one of the great boons in those days. and i’m using reiki right now to deal with this nasty cold that wants to take over my life. so i evangelized susan a bit. it looks like acupuncture is one of the things that helps susan.

and that’s what she needs money for – because those stupid insurance companies are totally happy to dish out tens of thousands for hyper-priced pharmaceuticals and sneer at giving a few bucks for well-documented complementary care unfortunately, the good insurance companies don’t have enough money to pay for it, either.

(this post was included in the may 24 carnival of healing)

a buddhist carnival – 7th edition, part 1

buddhist artwelcome to the may 2008 edition of a buddhist carnival.

this time around, we got another really good selection of articles. i don’t want to throw too much information at you – that wouldn’t be very buddhist, would it? – so i’ll present the carnival in two parts again. part 2 will arrive some time before may 22.

just like last month, let’s start with a poem – actually, an excerpt of a poem – about … lunch with the dalai lama.

he reaches inside his robe and brings out
an old radio which he places on the table
as if it were the cafeteria’s main selection of the day.
as he shows me how to work the dials,
i feel like a child just beginning to walk
or a bird about to sing its first song.
as he works the dials, he looks toward me
to be sure i’m paying attention.

and more on art and buddhism. in an interview at fuzz, eden maxwell talks about the similarity between zen and art.

in zen, there are no lessons, tests, or lengthy discourses; the source of truth is grasped through intuition. art is the same. the source of all great art is intuition. you experience this when you suddenly, without planning, hear a magic lyric or melody inside your head.

on his own blog, eden reminds us of the difference between reality and talking about it.

as the japanese zen priest, shunryu suzuki-roshi, said: “when i raise the hand thus, there is zen. but when i assert that i have raised the hand, zen is no more there.”

this difference is an important concept in buddhism. another such concept is buddha-mind living in everything. nikhil gangoli muses about this here

one of the buddhism beliefs that i have found most useful is this saying attributed to the zen master bodhidharma:

“this very mind the buddha”

if we accept this as true then what are the implications of these buddhism beliefs to the way we live our lives?
simply this: be as polite respectful and reverent to the antics of the mind – the jumble of thoughts, emotions, feelings and complexes – as you would to the buddha himself.

this is something i often think about. it’s easy to look at a child playing and to say, “oh, look, buddha nature!” but what about more difficult people? what about george bush’s buddha nature?

moving on … yet more important buddhist concepts are compassion and equality (in fact, buddha-nature and equality are closely related)

focus on our equality. this is a practice i learned from the dalai lama. judgement and hatred stem primarily from “othering” individuals. we see them as so different from ourselves, so unequal, and so removed from us that it’s easy to not love them. instead, we can focus on our similarities. then we can grow in our kindness. we are all human beings. we all suffer. we all want the best for ourselves and our families. we all hurt. we all cry. we all laugh and smile. we all yearn for comfort and freedom. just because someone is different in some way, does not devalue their needs, innate beauty, and their inherent right to happiness.

so much for part 1. stay tuned for part 2! in the meantime, do you have an article you think we should see? go here to submit it.

(image by circusvoltaire)

be playful? here are 7 ideas

recently, i discovered a new blog, and i immediately – what’s the word? – glommed on to it., tha pathway through the forest in japanat’s the name, and it says it all. i was able to persuade david to write a post for change therapy. here it is:

i love being playful. being playful helps me to relax, to laugh with life, and to come up with new ideas. playfulness is at the heart of my creativity.

creativity and playfulness go hand in hand: when you are being truly creative, you are being playful; when you are being playful, your creativity and imagination can’t help but show themselves.

because of this link, i’ve found that being playful helps me discover my inner creativity.

here are some of the playful things that i like to do to bring out the creative me:

as a child i used to love drawing cartoons and treasure maps and random doodles. i’ve recently rediscovered this love of drawing, and i’ve found that doodling is a great way to bring out creative ideas or to let out any stress that is blocking my creativity.

mind maps
if you’re a visual thinker but doodling seems too abstract, you’re likely to find mind-mapping a great creativity-boosting tool. mind maps are brilliant for helping you to notice connections between ideas.

similar to mind maps, but more spontaneous, are rico clusters.

talking to myself
when i’m thinking out new ideas, i often find it helpful to verbalise them, giving them a physical presence.

conversation as an art form
if you’re not entirely comfortable with the idea of talking to yourself (i know i wasn’t until i realised just how much i do it anyway!), it can be equally helpful to share your ideas with others.

once you’ve found someone that you’re comfortable sharing ideas with, begin to see your conversation with them as a art form in itself. talking with others can be a playground of the imagination.

this is my favourite way of being playful, and the one that i find most difficult to do. living in a non-stop, 24/7 city it’s easy to feel guilty or bored when sitting down to do nothing. yet when i take the time to daydream is when my creative ideas flow best.

there’s something magical about writing down your thoughts, ideas, and parts of your life journey. equally special are the feelings and sounds as the ink of your pen glides, scratches and dries in your beautiful journal. isabella has written quite a few posts on this topic, for example a fun and crazy writing experiment.

go for a walk
or dance in the rain. or go peoplewatching, sitting with your coffee in a corner cafe.

breathing in the fresh air pumps oxygen to your brain, giving your thoughts an energy boost. breathing in the beauty of the world and of nature brings out the beauty of your inner world.

your thoughts
do playfulness and creativity really go together? what playful techniques do you use to boost your creativity?

did you enjoy this post? want to have more playfulness in your life? then visit or sign up for the beplayful RSS feed.

(i’d also like to thank astrid for featuring this post in the june 7 carnival of healing)

(image by kalleboo)

mother’s day poems

for this mothers day, some poems i’ve written over the years:

ma durga, mother, warrior, goddess

mother of the centre

mother of the centre,
black madonna,
spirals around herself –
invisible and solid
iridescent and opaque
invincible and weak
irresistible and stark
irreverent and pious –
and dances: she is a dervish queen!
the dust that swirls around her feet
adores her.


mother haiku

waking up again
she cries; it’s a cold, cold night.
her mother holds her.


moon mama

. moon mama
……… in the sea
show her teeth
………….. wide grin
stars mirrored in those
……………….. wide ivory mama tusks

.. and when she burps
the fish laugh

(image by parag sankhe)