Monthly Archives: November 2009

waving. life.

just wanted to send all you guys a quick wave – NaNoWriMo, the national novel writing month in which i am writing 50,000 words towards a novel, is almost over, and i hope to be able to pay more attention here again come next week.

what an experience this is!  it is, among other things, an exercise in quantity not quality, and that brings some interesting learning.  as i shared on twitter the other night: ” ‘everything is practice’ – tonight, it’ll be living with the irritation i feel at the mountains of cliches in my NaNoWriMo script.”  focus on output, never mind the rest.  focus.  focus.

and as usual in novel writing, there are plot and character surprises galore.  why did one of the (lesser) characters find herself at a willy pickton party all of a sudden?  how come so many animals populate the pages?  what’s up with my main character, waley, who dedicates most of her life to compassionate action but is also a drug dealer and pathological liar?

it was also fascinating to see how the writing interacts with the rest of my life.  this was probably one of the most emotional months of my life.  one day i spent half of the day crying; it did absolute wonders for my writing!  another night i was in the middle of describing in some detail the death of one of my characters, only to be interrupted by yet another drama.  that felt – weird.
all of this is what’s called life.  so that’s a good thing.

be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

the other day i received the book be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world from the great people at FSB associates, who occasionally send me books to review. usually i spend quite a bit of time reading the book and writing a review but since i’m busy with NaNoWriMo this month, i’ll take them up on their generous offer and post an article written by the authors of the book. many thanks, and – enjoy! if you like the book, please consider buying it for yourself or for someone for christmas.

3 mini meditations to help you through your day (or night)
by ed and deb shapiro,
authors of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

what stops you from sleeping through the night? is it when things are not going your way or they look topsy-turvy and you just want to scream; when your life appears chaotic and you are not sure if you are coming or going; or when it feels like everything is piled on your shoulders?

life should be an exciting and outrageous adventure. isn’t it a wonder how a spider weaves a web or a bee makes a hive? did you ever notice the small, everyday miracles, like the fact that you can breathe in and out? but how many of us get to experience this miracle? sometimes life just feels too awful. we want to feel good, we want to be happy, in fact happiness is our birthright. but so often there are just too many difficulties to deal with. and although we may know that meditation chills us out, if we are feeling stressed or irritable then it just doesn’t seem so appealing.

so here are three mini-meditations, moments to just stop and breathe and remember why you are here. a moment to check yourself out, to look within, and to find what is really meaningful to you. you can get it together even when you think it is all falling apart.

mini-meditations can be done on a train, walking down the street, at an airport, standing at a bus stop, in an elevator, while sitting in the bathroom (often the only place you can be alone!). silently count your out-breath up to ten times, or walk with awareness of each step for up to ten steps. or relax each part of your body, then silently repeat “soft belly” for five breaths.

if you are at work, then use your lunch hour to find a quiet spot, perhaps in a park, or even in the office if everyone else has gone out. if you are traveling then use that time to consciously breathe, letting your awareness follow your breath from your nose tip to your belly and back out again. if you are driving or operating machinery and feel you are getting tense, then stop for a moment, breathe into your belly and silently repeat “soft belly, soft belly.” focus on any part of the body that is feeling tight and breathe into it, until you relax and let go. silently repeat “soft shoulders” or “soft neck” and so on.

as you walk down the street or ride in an elevator, practice a mini-loving kindness by silently wishing everyone be well, wishing that everyone be happy. in the office you can spend a few moments repeating the names of everyone you work with and wishing them happiness. on your way home from work reflect on your day and generate loving thoughts to all those you met. when you send out relaxing and loving thoughts it relaxes the space around you and often any chaotic or disturbing energies will dissipate. what you put out comes back to you ten fold

1. mini breath meditation

sit comfortably with your back straight. take a deep breath and let it go. begin to silently count at the end of each out breath: inhale . . . exhale . . . count one, inhale . . . exhale . . . two, inhale . . . exhale . . . three. then start at one again. just three breaths and back to one. simply following each breath in and silently counting. so simple. do this as many times as you want, eyes open or closed, breathing normally.

2. mini walking meditation

you can do this walking along a country lane, a city street, in the office or the garden. you can walk slowly, normal or fast, whatever feels right. as you walk become aware of your walking, of the movement of your body and the rise and fall of your feet. become aware of your breath and see if you can bring both your breathing and your walking together. just walk and breathe with awareness for a few minutes.

3. instant letting go

find a quiet place to sit, have a straight back, and take a deep breath and let it go. then quietly repeat to yourself: “my body is at ease and relaxed . . . my heartbeat is normal . . . my mind is calm and peaceful . . . my heart is open and loving.” keep repeating this until you have let go of the tension and are at peace. then take a deep breath and have a smile on your face!

©2009 ed and deb shapiro, author of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world

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author bio

ed and deb shapiro, authors of be the change: how meditation can transform you and the world, are the award-winning authors of fifteen books on meditation, personal development, and social action. they are featured bloggers for the huffingtonpost.com and for care2.com, teach meditation workshops worldwide, work as corporate coaches and consultants, and are the creators and writers of the daily chill our inspirational text messages on sprint cell phones. the shapiros’ books include your body speaks your mind, winner of the 2007 visionary book award; voices from the heart with contributors such as president gorbachev, his holiness the dalai lama, and bishop tutu; and meditation: the four-step course to calmness and clarity. ed, from new york, trained in india with paramahamsa satyananda, with sri swami satchidananda, and with chögyam trungpa rinpoche. deb, from london, trained with tai situ rinpoche. the shapiros have taught meditation and personal development for more than twenty-five years. they currently reside in boulder, colorado.

torture in afghanistan: who are our enemies?

my vancouver blogger friend jonathan narvey has a discussion about the current allegations that the canadian military looked the other way when people they had detained in afghanistan were transferred to afghani prisons where the canadian military knew, or should have known, that the detainees would be tortured. please see jonathan’s article and various comments, including two from myself, here.

among others, jonathan referred to the taliban as “our enemies.” to that i said:

they are not OUR enemies. they are the enemies of a country in dire need of peace and democracy. our enemies, as the enemies of the world all over, are despotism, poverty, fanaticism, lack of education, misogyny and war.

jonathan replied that

our enemies are more than conceptual

i’d like to use this space to think about this a bit.

“the problem is the problem. people are not the problem” is one tenet frequently cited in psychology, in various forms (e.g. “i like you but not your behaviour XYZ.”)

so i see three things right now:

1. if we want to move away from the conceptual then we have to admit that “enemies” refers to people. who are these people? THE taliban? (or in the past, THE russians, THE germans, etc.) “the” taliban is a movement – a vague word if there ever was one – comprised of people from afghanistan and pakistan as well as uzbekistan, chechnya, etc. what we know about movements, especially authoritarian ones, is that the vast majority of people involved in them became members not because of sober decisionmaking but because of necessity, sentimentality (e.g. misunderstood religiosity/fanaticism), coercion or other unsavoury reasons. is the 13-year-old hero-worshipping boy our enemy? the father of 9 children who doesn’t know how to feed them? the grandfather who was told in no uncertain ways that he needs to join or else?

no, “the” taliban are not my enemies.

2. in fact, the word “enemy” does not work for me. as soon as i have an enemy, i give myself permission to treat her or him as unworthy of living. “the enemy” is not my problem.

3. but i agree that abstract concepts are not useful either.

so why don’t we say it like that:

people who rape, maltreat, murder, beat, torture, subjugate and commit other crimes need to be stopped and measures need to be put in place to prevent them from committing more crimes – through rehabilitation, incarceration or a combination of them.  (not through torture)

some of these people are in afghanistan. not all of them.  some of them are taliban. not all of them.

i am grateful that our military is trying to deal with the people who literally commit crimes against humanity.  it’s a very difficult job.  in all difficult jobs, mistakes are made.  i think it’s possible that one of the mistakes was to hand over detainees to prisons where torture was commonplace.  we need to look at that because if we don’t we, too, commit an act of criminal negligence.

november 2009 buddhist carnival

middle of the month: it’s buddhist carnival time! being all busy with NaNoWriMo, this is a quickie version – a little taste from the blogosphere, a buddhist smorgasbrod:

a zen tale from secret forest

the disciple threw stones in the water all day long. the next day, the master told him:
“do throw a stone in the water.
“why, that’s absurd! i won’t do that.
the air stood still like the surface of the lake.
“what have you learned today? ” asked the master.
“that i don’t have to do everything you tell me to do.
the neutral light unveiled a matte reflection of the leafs of the medlar tree.
“it’s a lot more than you learned yesterday.

***

we all tried so hard. and it didn’t seem we wound up any more loving or enlightened, just uptight. i remember how we disapproved of those who’d given up their vows, stopped being monks. “he disrobed!” people would say in a voice hushed and aghast, as if the guy had been waggling his private parts in a schoolyard.

that’s part of a very interesting entry by guttersnipe das about wrestling with spirituality.

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dharmafied offers a video of the compassion mudra.

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learning from a cat: from on the training floor

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idra’s net = internet? need i say more?

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zen and the art of playing pool from my twitter friend, barking unicorn

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what happens when you get impacted by no impact man:

do you know this expression, “i’m teaching my grandmother to suck eggs?” it’s a british expression. you know like when you don’t have any teeth and you’re like that (mimics gumming food) it’s like sucking eggs. so if you teach your grandmother to suck eggs, you’re teaching your grandmother to do something she already knows how to do? so when i say this to you, you already know this…

there’s no antagonism between living happily and living environmentally.

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and finally, a bit of blasphemy from mind on fire.

image by heiwa

scribbling like mad: an excerpt from my nanowrimo novel

here’s an excerpt from the novel i’m writing for national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo).  it’s raw and unedited, just the way i wrote it.  19,391 words and counting …

“next thing i can recall is a bed, the softest, most comfortable bed i’ve ever slept in. there were blankets all over, so soft and so colourful, there must have been at least 6. all very light and clean-smelling. and the pillows! big and poofy, a whole bunch, and the bed was big but not too big, and there were stuffies all over, my favourite ones, too! all cats and birds. that’s kinda strange, don’t you think, strange and amazing and i loved it. and the room, it was so cute! windows all over and the sun shining in and it was warm and so, so cozy. the person who had picked me up, he came in once in a while, and everytime he did, or she, really, i could never figure it out, this cat came in, too, big and gray and fluffy. always smelling of patchouli. the person, i mean.

there was – love. yes, it’s true, there was love. somewhere. in the house. in the food. i felt it. and the cat, she had love, too. then there was a big bird somewhere, a raven maybe? and a turtle. and love. i’ve often wondered since then, what kind of love was that? i mean, there was no sex. i couldn’t even figure out, ever, whether that person was a guy or a woman. but she kept bringing me food and put stuff on my leg and on my back, and it just didn’t hurt anymore, i have no idea how she did that. pills, too, some pretty potent sleeping pills but not the kind that makes you feel awful when you wake up the next day.

what kind of love was that? it felt big and real, like bread maybe.”

“love like bread?,” asked lu, incredulously. “what happened to the mansion?”

“what mansion?”

“weren’t you in a mansion?”

“when?”

“well, when you got picked up, weren’t you in a mansion?”

“who said that?”

“robin, i think.”

“robin? what does he know about this?”

“he said burke had told him.”

“burke? that’s not what i told him. he’s full of it. there was no mansion. just this nice person and the rook and the bed and the cat and stuff.”

“and love like bread,” snorted lu.

“you leave her alone!” all of a sudden mohan’s index finger was in lu’s face. “it was love, and it was like bread.”

“yeah, like bread. now that i think of it, that’s what jesus talks about, isn’t it? in the bible? the bread is his body, and that means he loves people. maybe it was like that. i’m not sure what that means. i have to think about it. hey, tomas!”

she waved at a thin, tall man standing at the entrance to the room. “tomas, come over here!”

the man detached himself from the dirty wall – everything was dirty, or at least dirty looking because it was so old and used, the walls, the furniture, the door, the floor, the dishes, and often enough the people – and ambled over to the three of them, gangly, black-clad arms dangling, black hair falling into his hawk-nosed face. big brown eyes. big mouth, big teeth.

“what’s up, ella? hey lu, hey mohan.”

the two others nodded.

“tell me, when jesus broke bread, was that his body, and was that love?”

“absolutely! everything that jesus did was love.”

ella looked at lu with a look that was both confused and triumphant.

“jesus is the embodiment of love. therefore everything he does is love. jesus was born to embody love. love needed to be seen and felt, and jesus came to this earth. that’s why his parents sent him.”

“his parents?” now ella really was confused.

“see, when they say it was his father that sent him, that was because they did not want to tell the truth. but think about it – how can he have a father and not a mother? they made love, like, they MADE it, the way guy over there makes coffee and they gave it to people but often they didn’t understand it, so that’s why they sent jesus. he told me so.”

“right. right.” ella slurped some coffee and said nothing for a while. then, “well, thanks, tomas. you cleared that up for me.”

the four of them were quiet for a while. lu looked around a little lost, wondering what was going to happen next.

“love is patient, love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. it does not insist on its own way, it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing but rejoices in the truth. it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. love never ends.”

more coffee slurping.

“st. paul, first corinthians”, added tomas with a helpful smile.

“in that way, love is like the bread that jesus keeps breaking with us. it never ends. you don’t see bread being boastful or resentful.”

having given this proof, tomas smiled even more broadly.

mohan didn’t say much but he wasn’t stupid. he liked tomas, everyone did, but – “bread believes all things?” how was tomas going to explain that one?

“well, bread is a metaphor for love. of course, as a metaphor, it can’t cover everything. metaphors are good for illustrating concepts but a metaphor is not the same thing as the thing it illustrates. it is similar to a simile – i know, that sounds a little confusing – in that a simile performs mestoctomal economics that prefer silvicultural anomies. marx said that – ”

that’s where the three saw themselves forced to stop listening. tomas was a wonderful guy, friendly, helpful, well educated, extremely intelligent. the illness had struck him as he was starting his PhD in theology at the tender age of 22. he went in and out of it, from moment to moment, he’d have a clear head for months on end and then one day it would strike him, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, then he might go back and forth a few times within an hour. it was completely unpredictable.

a minute or two into his incomprehensible monologue, tomas stopped talking. he just sat there, looking off into space, his mind occupied by the complicated tangles of his inner world.

“you know, in a way, tomas is right. what he said about love is perfect and kind and refreshing – ”

“not resentful,” that was mohan, back to muttering but still paying attention.

“well, yeah, whatever, not resentful but refreshing, too. what happened there in that room, it refreshed me, that’s for sure. i can’t believe in god the way tomas did and i can’t believe that that guy or woman or whatever he or she was spent a lot of time in church – actually, i was always wondering whether she was some sort of good witch – but what happened there, that was love.

we didn’t talk much, we didn’t talk much at all. i didn’t feel like it at first and by the time i would have liked to we already had some sort of rhythm, the little guy coming in, dressing my back, checking my ankle, bringing me food and something to drink, the cat jumping on my bed, all that, and all we’d say would be how are you, how did you sleep, here, you have to finish this, it’ll help you get better, that’s it. for some reason i never asked for her name. she also put a CD player in my room that played all the music i liked, i don’t know how she, or he, figured that one out. maybe i said something about it at the beginning.”

“so what happened in the end? are you still in touch with, uh, whoever it was?”

“oh no. i have no idea where they live. i don’t think it’s here. for some reason i think it was out on the sunshine coast.”

“sunshine coast? so, how did you get back down here? did you take the ferry?”

“it gets a little fuzzy, i don’t know. remember i was still stoned most of the time back then, really until i met mohan, you know. no it’s just the occasional beer and joint but back then -”

“what? she’d give you stuff? crack?”

“no, no, but still, it’s all a bit fuzzy. really, i think it was on the sunshine coast because it all reminds me of that trip my aunt took me on when i was 9. that was the best trip i ever had, the best summer i ever had, and the place was like that.”