Monthly Archives: January 2009

a writing retreat

i’m terribly, terribly behind in expressing my gratitude to some of the wonderful acknowledgments i have received in the last year. let me start making a little dent by telling you about joanna young’s ideal writing weekend competition. the guidelines were

tell us about the ingredients of your ideal writing weekend. that might be a weekend you’ve already enjoyed, one that you’ve got planned, or one that you’re hoping to take part in, some day.

you might talk about how this relates to the writing process: getting past writer’s block, finding the right words, tapping into your muse.

joanna honoured me greatly by awarding the first prize to my four part entry (1, 2, 3, 4).

if someone asked me what my favourite post from last year was, it would be that series. it was so inspiring! i’d love to make a workshop like that happen one of these days. thank you so much for this project, laura!

here are the books i bought with the gift certificate:

  • master chan sheng yen “footprints in the snow: the autobiography of a chinese buddhist monk”
  • lucien stryk, takashi ikemoto “zen poems of china and japan: the crane’s bill”
  • sandra jackson-opoku “the river where blood is born”
  • nell irvin painter “creating black americans: african-american history and its meanings, 1619 to the present”
  • francis levy “erotomania: a romance”

footprints in the snow i immediately snatched up, and enjoyed very much. the african-american history textbook is my current “leaf around in it when you have a few minutes” book, and i’m thinking of taking the zen poems with me to hawaii when we fly there on friday.

by the way, the history book shows how fast things move. although it was published in 2007, it only had one tiny little mention of barack obama – he’s nothing but one among the short list of african-american governors. amazing, huh?

all five books were recommended by fellow bloggers: breeni books, buddhist torrents, daily buddhism, and gwyneth bolton.

the second place winner was shari smothers with this piece on my ideal writing weekend. the judge liked the structured and practical nature of this post

in the third place was jasmin tragas with a futuristic piece: 48 hours, 5000 words and 12 cubes of ice. “a fun, slightly wacky entry”

more entries:

  1. dawn goldberg at write well me who dreams about being “wrapped in the mountains’ arms as i write.”
  2. brad shorr at word sell: what’s your ideal writing weekend?. “it starts with stimulating conversation. i’m not much good at drawing inspiration from nature.” (interesting how different we all are, isn’t it?)
  3. lillie amann at a writer’s words, an editor’s eye whose entry involves going to a casino
  4. jasmin tragas from wonderwebby: 48 hours, 5000 words and 12 cubes of ice, who is using a combination of voice recognition, typing and a slightly manic hand waving gesture with her lifewriter.
  5. alina popescu from words of a broken mirror.  she talks about a time in march when it was still snowing in the mountains. “we were staying at this cozy little hotel and being alone in my room felt amazing”
  6. finally, there was keith andrews at comic book day with comic book retreat: “comic books are an outlet for me. writing is an outlet for me. what a wonderful respite i will have when i step away from everything, and read and write for just a single weekend.”

twitter peace, shalom, salaam, and the salvation army

at the end of my day, i often ask myself, what was the theme for today? on this day, january 11, it was peace. with all the things that are happening in gaza right now, it was sad. and yet it was good. i am so grateful for all the good friends here on twitter who work and think and feel together for peace.

here are some tweets:

@intrepidteacher after reading your last tweets, can we throw #peace bombs into the middle east? what would they look like? half a minute ago from Power Twitter in reply to intrepidteacher

thich nhat hanh on treating anger with tenderness. useful for gaza? #peace about 8 hours ago from Power Twitter

@CarolSill has some sort of built-in harmony GPS. in a chaotic environment of strife, control and disinterest, she always locates love. about 10 hours ago from Power Twitter in reply to carolsill

just finished a lovely phone conversation with @CarolSill. talk about someone who embodies peace. about 10 hours ago from Power Twitter

more bob marley: “If you get down and quarrel everyday, you’re saying prayers to the devil, I say ” about 11 hours ago from Power Twitter

@intrepidteacher likely we need both, freedom/justice fighters and peace workers. my talents are probably best used for the latter. about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter in reply to intrepidteacher

is there someone to whom you can send good wishes even though they’re not your favourite? a story of hurt you can stop retelling? about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

is there someone in your life right now who you can forgive? meet them a bit more than half-way? forget their transgressions? let go? about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

or never mind “i would”. how can i demonstrate peace right now? how can we here, right now, demonstrate, live, embody the power of peace? about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

if there was a demonstration for peace, an event demonstrating peace, i’d be there. about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

how about translation: “i don’t stand for israel’s side, i don’ t stand for palestine’s side. i stand for the side of peace.” about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

bob marley: “i don’t stand for the black man’s side, i don’ t stand for the white man’s side. i stand for god’s side” about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

yes! rastaman vibration is positive! about 12 hours ago from Power Twitter

all of this reminds me of a post from a little while ago, understanding war, and a comment conversation there with alex, probably THE blogger i associate with peace. we talked about “articles of war” and the salvation army’s articles of war came to my attention. i’ve experimented with translating some of them for secular purposes. do you find them useful?

* be responsive to the goodness calling to us every day, growing in grace through celebrating peace, prayer or reflection, being of service to humanity and constantly learning and understanding better what goodness means
* make the values of goodness the standard for my life
* uphold integrity in every area of my life, always being aware how thought, word or deed influences everything within and around me
* maintain the ideals of goodness and peace in all my relationships with others: my family and neighbours, my colleagues, those to whom and for whom I am responsible, and the wider community
* affirm the sacredness of close bonds, such as family and good friends
* be a faithful steward of my time and gifts, my money and possessions, my body, my mind and my spirit
* be faithful to the positive potential in humanity, sharing the news of goodnes, endeavouring to win others to peace, and in the name of goodness and peace showing compassion and kindness to all created beings
* be actively involved, as i am able, in the life, work, and community of those who are likeminded, giving as large a proportion of my income as possible to support good causes
* show the spirit of goodness and peace whether in times of popularity or persecution

walking through walls: memoir of a psychic

bead curtainsi’ve marked at least 30 pages in walking through walls, the intriguing memoir of lew smith, eccentric husband, exorcist, vegetarian, psychic, healer, lover – and last not least, decorator to the rich and famous, the “king of beads”, the father of the bead curtain.

as well as father of philip smith, loving and perplexed son, and author of this book.

let me randomly pick a few of those pages:

about lew smith’s first encounter with his healing abilities, during a lecture by arthur ford of the spiritual frontiers fellowship:

while ford spoke, my father looked around for an empty seat, a woman sitting off to the side suddenly turned around and motioned my father to come over to her. he thought she was going to point him to a seat, instead she whispered, “i see in your aura that you are a healer. please help me; i can’t stop this terrible cough. place your hands on my shoulders and send me your energy.”

after getting rid of ants by building “a thought-form around the house that was like a natural insecticide”:

there is only one requirement for using any psychic tools or methods. your efforts and intention must be for the highest good. if you use these tools for personal gain, for revenge or for harm, it will come back to you negatively tenfold. you can’t get any with anything in the spirit world. there are no shortcuts, no get-rich-schemes.

about lew smith’s passion for helping:

my father truly wanted to help people and believed that his work could eliminate a lot of physical and mental suffering. everything he did was based on the simple notion that we are all spiritual beings with tremendous powers. until we recognized this, nothing would change – there would continue to be wars, disease, and anger … he dreamed of the day when there would no longer be a need for hospitals, doctors or pharmaceuticals with dangerous side effects.

about creativity and depression:

“isn’t depression good for creating? aren’t artists supposed to be tortured and depressed?” my father laughed. “that is a really stupid idea. i hope you will quickly let go of that thought. art should come from a serene, wise place that is not disturbed by negative ideas.”

philip smith presents all of this without abstract judgment, neither glorifying nor dismissing his father’s unusual goings-about. nor does he normalize or trivialize the spirit guides, far-out yogic practices and stringent eating habits. he tells the tales of his father from the perspective of a loving and baffled son, who is at once intrigued and embarrassed by his dad, who feels both comforted and bothered by the father’s constant psychic intrusions on his life.

like any good biography, this book is also a piece of history. the sleepy old florida of the 50s and 60s, the cocktail party-era of little black dresses and cigarette holders, the awakening of psychedelics and the forerunners of the new age movement – they’re all there.

walking through walls is well written, entertaining and – again, i want to use the word “loving”. there is nothing sentimental about these 329 pages; rather, they seem born from a deeply affectionate (and by no means straightforward) bond between father and son, and from the desire to tell a truth that is curious, important, complex, inexplicable – and just wants to be told.

maybe it’s lew smith speaking from the beyond. who knows. why don’t you check it out for yourself.

philip smith is the former managing editor of GQ and an artist whose works are in the permanent collections of the whitney museum, the dallas museum of art, and the detroit institute of arts, among many others. he lives in miami; one of his virtual homes is at walking through walls – the book. you can find more material about the book here, here and here.

image by jtstrathdee

psychoanalysis, a village priest, blogging, pizza and tuva

a tuva singerapparently this is meme week. i saw this on airdrie’s blog the other day and managed to resist but then i saw it on raul’s blog and, well, i just had to partake. it’s really simple – if you want to be interviewed by someone who’s participating, just let them know, and they’ll send you five questions. that’s what raul did for me. thanks, raul, those were great questions. here are the questions and answers:

1.- why did you get into counselling as a professional field?

i grew up in a house where “psychoanalysis” was as commonplace a word as “hockey” is in most canadian families. i never really liked my father’s psychoanalyst friends too much; to my young mind, they were old stick-in-the-muds totally lost in their heads. they had nothing of the earthiness that i so enjoyed in some of my parents’ other friends. maybe that’s why it never occurred to me to look at that field as a career to dream about. instead i was hoping to study anthropology and comparative religion (which i never did, but that’s a different story). the similarity between those two and psychoanalysis never dawned on me until i was five years into studying psychology. that study started in my thirties, innocently enough. i had just gotten behind me a somewhat dramatic breakup with my second husband and needed something to distract me. a night course in counselling psychology seemed to hit the spot. i never looked back. that was in 1990.

2.- how do you see blogging can help counsellors and/or clients?

there are many ways. for counsellors, it can be a resource. or an outlet. or a way to attract clients. for people who are not counsellors, again, it can be an outlet. blogging is mostly about writing, and writing is often therapeutic. but the thing i am most grateful for on this blog is that i have been able to build a little community for people with anorexia here who help and support each other.

3.- if you lived in a different time (e.g. the renaissance) – what would you be (professionally or personally)?

easy! a village priest (never mind the little details of celibacy and me being a woman). when i was an outreach counsellor in the downtown eastside, that’s how i often felt. do my little bit in soothing the souls while i trudge, eat, laugh and cry with the rest.

4.- what is the food group you dislike the most and why?

alas, there is no such thing. but there are two that i could easily do without. they are – please don’t lynch me – pizza and ice cream. i never have a hankering for them but when they’re around i often eat more than necessary. then i feel yukky and ask myself, “now what the frig did you do THAT for???” i mean, it’s one thing to overdo on something you really like – but something that’s not even on my top 10 list?

5.- if you had a free ticket for two to fly somewhere right now where would it be, who would you take with you and why?

i’d fly to tuva with tova. tuva is a little republic in southern siberia, bordering on mongolia. i had always found mongolia fascinating. always loved empty, hidden-away wide-open spaces, and as a child and teenager i was horse crazy. then when i saw the movie genghis blues i was up in flames. the dream! the music! the wide, wide, wide sky! the beautiful river! perhaps the most memorable movie i’ve seen in the last 10 years. so i’d love to go to tuva with my daughter tova and share this adventure with her.

want to get in on the fun? you can be a part of it by following a few simple steps…

  • leave a comment here on this post and ask me to interview you
  • i’ll respond within 1-5 days with 5 questions directed to you (i promise to try and be unique)
  • answer the questions on your blog and link back to this post
  • invite others to participate by re-posting these steps
  • once you’ve posted your interview, i’ll post a link to it here.


roxie responded in her post my first meme. clinically clueless has posted hers, too: a hymn, fingerpaintaing, blogging and journaling.

the image of the tuvan singer is from marysia


high teafor the last 2 ½ weeks, we’ve had pretty crazy weather here in vancouver. we often have winters when it never snows (imagine! and we’re in canada!) often, we have one quick dump that disappears right away. not this year. if you want to read all about it, visit derek’s blog (great pictures there, too).

of course i chimed in with the snow talk. “have you seen .. ?!”, “can you believe … !?”, “but the city should … !” – note all the exclamation marks.

the snow, you see, is so inconvenient. couldn’t use the car for a while – had to walk or take the bus, not out of environmentally righteous choice but because we had to! imagine that! and all that getting dressed, it takes forever to put on the old boots, etc, etc, etc.


i knew a young man from hongkong once, a lovely person really, but very consumer-oriented. his measuring stick for everything was convenience. he hadn’t learned the most rudimentary cooking techniques because it was inconvenient; shopping anywhere but in a mall was inconvenient; loose change was inconvenient.

the word convenient comes from the latin convenere – literally, coming together. convenient is what comes to me. where i don’t have to do much; it falls in my lap.

convenience and creativity are not good friends. i’ve spent quite a bit of my life having little money; a rather inconvenient state of affairs. but lack of funds makes you very creative, let me tell you. and one of my fondest memories from working in vancouver’s downtown eastside, one of canada’s poorest neighbourhoods, is a poor man’s high tea we cobbled together. the tea cups came from digging around in thrift store and church basements. instead of tablecloths we had shawls and kerchiefs. the affair was held at the empress, a rickety old skid-row hotel – the visitors had to walk past hookers and drug addicts to get to the old mezzanine loft. one of our social work students played the piano, and to this day i dream of the food.

and was it ever inconvenient. we didn’t have enough chairs, so we begged first united church to loan us some. we carried them across two blocks. there was no running water, only in the smoke-filled $1.95-a-beer bar downstairs. there was one washroom for the whole floor, shared with the single-room-occupancy tenants. i was in a fog of burnout during all of the planning and carrying out of this pipe dream.

and it was wonderful. but not convenient.

other things that are not convenient are childbirth, being married for longer than four months, battling cancer, meditating, making mashed potatoes from scratch, keeping promises that make you stay up all night, looking at our dark side, taking the cat to the vet, volunteering in a seniors’ home …

chasing after convenience isn’t going to bring me happiness.

so i should be quiet.  instead of joining the chorus of ranters and ravers, i will smile at the snow and slush. they keep me out of convenience.

image by technochick

carnival of eating disorders #23 – part 2

here’s part 2 of eating disorders carnival #23, a monthly blog carnival about eating disorders, body image and related issues. part 1 is here.

intuitive eating: challenge the food police
through thick’n’thin has a series of posts where the book “intuitive eating” by evelyn tribole and elyse resch is discussed. the book contains ‘the in-body experience’… 7 steps to reclaim the normal eater within’. here is step six – challenge the food police

scream a loud ‘no’ to thoughts in your head that declare you’re ‘good’ for eating under 1,000 calories or ‘bad’ because you ate a piece of chocolate cake. the food police monitor the unreasonable rules that dieting has created. the police station is housed deep in your psyche, and its loudspeaker shouts negative barbs, hopeless phrases, and guilt-provoking indictments. chasing the food police away is a critical step in returning to intuitive eating.

weight loss and online wellness
tami blodgett presents weight loss journey posted at online wellness: a safe haven.

it’s almost january and you’re planning a weight loss journey. a typical january first: here you are, totally hating being overweight. you wake up every morning totally uncomfortable. you dread spending another day carrying around this excess body fat! it’s the time of year to begin again and your thoughts turn to self-improvement. “that’s it!” you say. “i’ve had it!” join online wellness association member, kelly lacost, as she prepares you for your 2009 weight loss journey.

binge eating to become official
if you hate yourself because for years, you’ve done things like get up at 1am and empty a carton of ice-cream, drive from one fast-food place to another so that they won’t notice how many hamburgers you eat in a row, or have a double piece of pie after five helpings of dinner – well, it’s not clear whether you REALLY have problems. at least not according to the holy grail of psychiatrists, the DSM-IV, which includes binge eating disorder as an “eating disorder not otherweise specified”. that’s about to change.

it’s estimated that anorexia affects about one percent of the U.S. population and bulimia 4 percent. binge eating disorder eclipses both, affecting about 10 percent of the population but it has yet to be recognized as a diagnostic eating disorder unto itself. despite the vast range of eating disordered behaviors, there are exactly three disorders one can be classified with: anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and eating disorders not otherwise specified (ED-NOS). binge eating disorder falls into the latter category, a vague catch-all diagnosis for people who don’t fit one or more of the criteria for anorexia and bulimia. those classified with ED-NOS can range from a morbidly obese binge-eater to a 90-pound girl who meets every criteria for anorexia, except she still menstruates.

the rest is here, at the f-word.

seniors and body image
i found this blog the other day and thought i should include it here. this post is 2 ½ years old but still interesting.

last year a 63 year old woman i was working with at the time told me that she hated herself because she is so fat. hated herself! and, she added, that if she ever lost weight she still wouldn’t be able to like herself, because she is old! to me, both fat and old, that was a tragedy. what chance is there that a 63 year old woman is going to finally get either thin or young? which means, for her, what chance is there that she will ever be able to like herself? and, what can she accomplish in the world if all of her energy is expended on hating herself? is she going to fight for fairer wages when she is busy counting calories and calling laugh lines wrinkles?

what, do you suppose, would happen if we took all that attention that we now spend on hating ourselves and avoiding mirrors and wearing vertical stripes and counting calories and reviewing everything we’ve eaten so far this week to see if we can “afford” two cashews and breaking out in rebellion and then hating ourselves for eating all of the cashews — what would happen if we took that pathological self-involved energy and turned it outward? if we stopped weighing ourselves and started weighing the politicians and corporate CEOs and far right demagogues who profit from our unhappiness?

the rest is here. don’t forget to go to the last post on this blog; it’s quite moving.

black and beautiful
black is beautiful – or is it? weight and wrinkles are not the only things people are concerned about when it comes to body image. a girl like me is a short student documentary concerning the issues of identity and standards of beauty.

love your body
i missed love your body day back in october! really hope i’ll be present for it this year. fortunately, anastacia caught it – and wrote a beautiful letter to her body.

in honor of love your body day (which i just found out about this afternoon via jezebel), i have written a letter to my body. i’m posting it here with the hope that, if i falter or forget, i will have the strength from reading this to straighten myself out.

dear body,

i’ve been thinking about you quite a bit lately and shaking my head with wonder that i have treated you so horribly for 31 years. i have taken you for granted, thinking that i can do whatever i want without repercussions. i just assume you will cooperate and adjust and it’s untrue and unfair; it has never worked. you have tried so hard to tell me, to warn me, to force myself to open my eyes to the fact that you’re tired and you will not cooperate if neglected. you’ve bitch slapped me about the drinking, the drugs, late nights, self-starvation and an infinite number of ways i mistreat you, and i never noticed or cared. it has taken a long time, but i am finally starting to listen, to open my eyes, to treat you as an ally, to work with you and not against you. and even though i have done nothing to deserve it, you are cooperating with me. (i would, however, like to file a grievance against my intestines. we shall address this privately.)

eating disorders, a mental health issue
last but not least, laura collins points out that an eating disorder is a mental health issue and asks the provoking question maybe we need to start stigmatizing for not having a mental disorder?. she’s concerned about parents who slink away from discussing their childrens’ mental health issues and wonders what’s really so bad about it when, according to some statistics, 50% of young people are dealing with them. here’s what she says about the brain:

it’s an organ. it interacts, more than any other physical system, with the world. it learns, it changes, it responds to the society and circumstances of its time and place. its vulnerabilities are also its strengths: we humans often respond to the world in miraculous ways. we create art, we shelter babies, we invent unthought-of of things, we stare down dangers – these require a nimble mind. a risk-taking and highly responsive mind also at risk for malfunction, just as complex machinery fails more often than a simpler tool.

a commenter challenges her:

i agree that mental illness is very real but i have a hard time believing that half of young adults suffer from it. i get annoyed when people who don’t have an illness claim to have it. it trivializes those of us who actually do suffer from illnesses.

what do you think? is mental illness easily trivialized? do you see eating disorders as a mental illness?

thanks to all the wonderful, thoughtful contributors. i’m looking forward to the next eating disorders carnival on january 31.   in the meantime, do you have, or do you know, a post that would be a good addition to this carnival? if so, please submit it here or drop me a line.

11 from 2008

eleventhe other day i discovered postrank, (thanks, beth) which ranks your blog’s post according to some algorithm of popularity, interactivity, etc. these 11 are among the highest-ranked entries here for last year. it’s a nice way to look back on 2008, and also to start saying some much-needed thanks. for each post, i’ve included a link to someone who contributed to it.

  1. progressive dinner is served was an interesting project by kilroy. it was a sort of online dinner party. lots of fun!
  2. unexamined belief and spiritual atheism was part of an interesting conversation between my vancouver blogger friend jan and myself.
  3. cognitive therapy – the 10 distortions was a guest article by damien, father, teacher, writer, and one of the most prolific bloggers i know.
  4. two views of depression started like this: “the other day, marc challenged me with this idea: can depression, or any other challenge such as alcoholism or bipolar disorder, be an entity of its own, with its own agenda and will to survive?”
  5. easter: wrestling with the church was an attempt to come to grips with a somewhat unsettling experience of going to a christian church for the first time in a while. evan was one of the people who contributed to the ensuing conversation.
  6. helping a friend with depression was inspired by a post on PsychCentral, predicting that january 21st would be the most depressing day of the year.
  7. the 3rd edition of the buddhist carnival was the most successful buddhist carnival this year. there is an interesting conversation about zen and martial arts in the comment section, with some contributions by chris – something that i’d still like to follow up on.
  8. a solution for “but” is about ego death, solution focused therapy, and the little word “but”. it was greatly helped along by a blog post by my buddhist blogger friend william harryman, ego and the self.
  9. early on a wednesday morning: wordless, with a beautiful image by luke carter, is a nice sample of the wordless wednesday series, which i really enjoy.
  10. bullying stops here was a quick post about the international stand up to bullying day, well illustrated by vancouver blogger jordan behan wearing a pink t-shirt.
  11. and finally, the carnival of eating disorders #13 included a post by angelique about eating disorders before the internet.

image by imago