musical milliner

August 27, 2013

The Grace of Suffering

images

In high school, I discovered hatha yoga, which led me to the writings, and eventually the lectures of Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert). I consider him my first spiritual teacher. He popularized the phrase “Be here now,” which later became the title of a fascinating book. Some recent drama has called me back to these teachings.

This excerpt is from a 1988 interview in The Vegetarian Travel Guide.

 

 

Ram Dass: “…that’s (suffering) the one that is hard for this society to recognize. That is one of the highest mystical teachings, that suffering is great. But who wants that? To hell with that…later, baby.

VTG: When one is suffering, it’s very easy for the heart to close down. In my own life when I’m hurt or feeling angry, it’s often an automatic response. What do you tell your own heart when you feel it closing down, when the stimulus is just too strong and you’re ready to run for the hills?

Ram Dass: When my heart starts to close down, first of all it’s incredibly painful because you get addicted to having your heart open and staying in that kind of liquid space of just being in love with the universe, like the divine beloved is just everywhere. When it closes down it hurts. What I do is I sit with it the way it is. I don’t try to push away my closed heart, that just closes it further. I just say, ah ha, my heart is closed, and I realize that what is closed will open and what is open will close so that I start to have a little patience about it. And then instead of trying to open my heart by thinking loving thoughts, usually what I do is go back into my breath because the thing that closed my heart was a thought that I had. It was nothing out there.

Nobody did anything. They just do what they do. It was my interpreting what they did that closed my heart. And so I can see that what I’ve done is get stuck in a thought form. And what I can do now is go directly into my mind and go back into the rising and falling of my breath until I get to the point where the thought dislodges and I’m just with the thought of the rising and falling, and then at that moment that whole constellation of thought that closed my heart isn’t around anymore.

EJR: Do you actually identify what the thought was?

Ram Dass: I used to do that. I’m an old psychotherapist so I would say, “why are you unhappy?” or “why is your heart closed and what caused it?” Now I’m not so interested. When you go into the causes then you move into the psychological reality. You’re treating it as real. That’s one strategy, but it’s only one strategy. Sometimes treating the psychological as thought and going back behind it is a much more efficacious manner to get on with it. It is a bottomless well of trying to figure out why it is you’re angry, why it is your heart closes. It just never ends.

January 1, 2012

Ricordare

Two years ago today we lost our good friend. None of us saw it coming. I have a story to share, and a list of Mark’s wisdoms.
Soon after his mother died, I received a large package in the mail. It was the corduroy patchwork quilt she had made some thirty years before as a going away gift for Mark as he went off to college.Over the years, Marilyn had collected scraps of the fabric from her son’s trousers and shirts, and created this beautiful thing. When I followed Mark up to Northern California, it became my quilt, too.
For Mark to pass this on to me, a quilt over which his mother had lovingly labored, which had been so skillfully sewn as to have no tears or snags after so many years of use was a great comfort to me. Mark’s mother had for some years mothered me as well, and I miss her, too.

In my home, the quilt holds an honored place. We call it “The Mothers Quilt.” Any time someone is ill, or needs some warmth and comfort, out comes the quilt, and a cup of tea. The person is wrapped like a big corduroy burrito, and being a quilt of near magical powers and full of mother love, never fails to raise the spirits of whomever is wrapped within it.

For me, the quilt remains one of the strongest reminders of Mark’s legacy.

Here is a list of words I recall Mark saying, or sentiments I can attribute to him.
1. Always be kind.
2. Consider that the other guy may have had a worse day than you.
3. Wave pedestrians and other cars through a four-way stop.
4. Hug your mother while you still can.
5. Learn three corny jokes. Use them to disarm people and demonstrate that you are not their better.
6. If a friend needs some money, know it was hard for them to ask and give them small chores in exchange so they save face.
7. Remember that most folks really want to do their best.
8. Forgive and forget as often as possible.
9. It’s okay to keep your opinions to yourself.
10.When all is said and done, true love remains forever.

(c) GoshGusPublishing(ascap)2012

January 23, 2011

Incrociando a Sicurezza

It was one of those late Summer days that make you forget that the season is about to turn. We happily anticipate Winter’s run up to Spring, and even more so the advent of Summer and it’s promise of long restful days. This is especially true when you are the mother of not quite grown children. Their brains rest while their bodies grow.

The end of Summer is to be ignored. We live as if there is no tomorrow, but really, all we are doing is pretending. But so what? It’s Summer!

On this particular day, this glorious temperate day, I received a phone call that it was time. I had confided my fears to my friend about walking over the Golden Gate Bridge, something locals and tourist do en masse every day. I had tried many times to walk this bridge, only to stop in abject, paralyzing fear. Irrational but tangible feelings of panic overtook me. What if someone pushed me over the rail? What if the Hand of God or some thing plucked me from the walkway and tossed me into the bay?  I couldn’t do it. My kids thought nothing of riding their bikes over the bridge. I hid my shame and made excuses.

My friend saw this obstacle as a metaphor for my collective fears. He convinced me that here lay a strong symbolic force for stepping into my new life.

I couldn’t argue his point. In fact, I decided to embrace the challenge. Not that it was easy. You see, I was not only afraid, I was stuck within all those metaphors.

Could I trust him to hold on to me? Yes. Could I trust that he would not let me come to harm? Absolutely.

So I took control by surrendering control, and put myself, literally, into the arms of the one I love.

I stalled a few yards into the journey. He whispered to me, “The trolls are not there.”  We moved forward together, and after awhile I felt  my spirit lift. I felt okay. I was more than okay. I felt free!

In freedom was pleasure. The ordinary pleasure of taking a stroll over one of the world’s most iconic bridges,  framing a view of  this gorgeous place in which we live.

I conquered this phobic fear and moved my life forward, all at once, knowing that no matter the outcome of the hardship I was facing, I would be strong enough to take all that lay ahead. I reclaimed some misplaced self-esteem, and discovered through an abiding friendship that I could love again and be loved.

I had crossed to safety.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap) 2011

October 31, 2010

Pace e Tranquillità

My Homeland
~~~The Lake of Beauty~~~
Let your mind be quiet, realising the beauty of the world,
and the immense, the boundless treasures that it holds in store.
All that you have within you, all that your heart desires,
all that your Nature so specially fits you for – that or the
counterpart of it waits embedded in the great Whole, for you.
It will surely come to you.

Yet equally surely not one moment before its appointed time
will it come. All your crying and fever and reaching out of hands will make no difference.
Therefore do not begin that game at all.
Do not recklessly spill the waters of your mind
in this direction and in that,
lest you become like a spring lost and
dissipated in the desert.

But draw them together into a little compass, and hold them still, so still;
And let them become clear, so clear – so limpid, so mirror-like;
at last the mountains and the sky shall glass themselves in
peaceful beauty,
and the antelope shall descend to drink and to gaze at her reflected image, and the lion to quench his thirst,
and Love himself shall come and bend over and catch his own likeness in you.

From the liturgy for midday Prayer, New Zealand Prayer Book

July 27, 2010

Luce del giorno: Cinquain VI and VII

(c)cjarc
Cinquain VI

First light
Eyelids clenched tight
“You are not here if I don’t look”
Child says.

Defy
The itch to peek
Beyond paralysis
To ascertain if there is need
Knocking

Embrace
Hope monsters flee
Replaced by gentle sun
Blessed by all warm love around me
Goodness.

Cinquain VII

Compline
Comes round. Think hard.
Take measure of my life
What has been done or left undone?
We’re asked.

Useful
Perhaps useless
Charity matters most
Above all choices one can choose
To love.

Loving
When most challenged
Scrubs away at the dross
Which entombs the beauty within
Brightly.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010/photo (c)cjarc/Grace Cathedral

June 20, 2010

Reflective Haiku I

Two old lady friends-
A neurotic depressive
And a bipolar Buddhist.

Both afraid of death.
Both worn down by the journey
Of fighting demons.

Breathing in and out,
Each reminding her sister
They have each other.

Each floats her own way
And fights against the darkness
By treading water.

Each knows she is loved
But often forgets this fact.
Hold on, wait it out.

The badness will pass
It’s just a matter of time
Keep faith in God’s love.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010/(c) photo cjarc/Grace Cathedral

June 8, 2010

Perche: It’s Been A Long Time

After forty years of wedlock, the Gores are calling it.  The news was everywhere this week.  Another crap thing to awaken me. Not that there is a lack of hard news more deserving of consideration. I made the mistake of reading below the fold on a couple of online news sources. Big mistake letting my eyes wander down to “comments” sections, where evidence of the demise of civilization lives.

Bilious remarks. So distressing to read what people will write because they can.  Even if somewhere in their witlessness they possess a  modicum of decency and common sense,  this medium allows the freedom of abandoning social civility filters. That’s the thing about the internet-observing the dichotomous nature of human behavior. Why is it that there is so little grey area, no via media?

Trending on Twitter, Gore pick-up lines. I just cannot find the humor in this, likely due to my sensitivities around these issues. Too close to home and all.

For me, the topic at hand is discomforting. Why would anybody have a run of forty years and then take a walk? Closer to home, why would anyone have a go for a quarter century and then say “Basta?”

Coming  to such radical action after so many years is never made casually.  At least I can’t imagine such a decision lacking gravitas and discernment. It takes thoughtful examination.  I found some statistics which correlate length of marriage to divorce rates.

“Marriages are most susceptible to divorce in the early years of marriage. After 5 years, approximately 10 % of marriages are expected to end in divorce – another 10 % (or 20 % cumulatively) are divorced by about the tenth year after marriage. However, the 30% level is not reached until about the 18th year after marriage while the 40% level is only approached by the 50th year after marriage.”

Rose M. Kreider and Jason M. Fields, “Number, Timing, and Duration of Marriages and Divorces: 1996”, U.S. Census Bureau Current Population Reports, February 2002, p. 18. http://tinyurl.com/2eukywl

Am I reading this correctly?  The longer the marriage, the higher the divorce rate?  Do these facts not belie our assumptions that marriages which  fail do so early on?  Those first years require much adjustment,  faith in the relationship, and commitment to the institution to keep a couple focused. Sometimes it’s a matter of absolute, unmitigated will.

(Achtung!  I did not interpret these statistics correctly. Please refer to the comment posted by our resident astrophysicist, Claude Plymate, who will explain things clearly. Thank you, Claude.)

By fifty years of marriage, forty percent of all couples have split? It’s both shocking and telling.

Why do people make the choice, especially women, who are almost certainly entering a  social market for a new partner in which they can’t compete with women twenty years younger?  Old problem.  Middle aged men, especially Alpha males, can collect and trade on experience and  financial stability, qualities young women find attractive.  Middle aged women find they lack a corresponding allure, and the pond is full of men their age and older who are not Alphas.

It’s a cultural disease.

What about these women who find their decades long marriage over?  Take the circumstance of  twenty years as a stay-at-home mother and wife. A woman has managed a household so her partner is able to pursue and excel at his chosen career.  She has used her time to nurture children, volunteer in schools and community, perhaps created a little home-based business to supplement the family income for those “extras.”

Why on earth would a woman with the first three levels of Maslow’s pyramid even consider stepping out alone when the odds are stacked against her?

Since I invoked Maslow, let’s take a quick review of his hierarchy of human needs as the foundation of self actualization and authenticity, and see if we can connect the dots a bit.  As I took a minor degree in Humanistic Psychology, Maslow  was and remains one of my primary influences. To some readers, this might be dismissed as fuzzy, touchy-feely nonsense. Maybe. If your paradigm is structured around Empiricism, the Humanists can drive you bonkers. Human behavior belongs to Rationalism. One hopes.

So, back to our married woman who has stepped into the elevator shaft. In her experience, she has clearly achieved the first level of the pyramid by having her basic physiological needs met. A roof over her head, a way to feed her family- basic stuff which human beings have sought since we decided caves made good houses.

On the second level, Maslow  discusses the human desire for a related physiological need- security. Put  a door on the cave so the bears don’t break in and munch on your kids like so many tater tots.

On level three, having made the cave homey and secure, we have the ability to seek and sustain relationships which create community. Maslow explains this as love and belonging. We are predisposed to love those with whom we share the cave and create friendships with the inhabitants of neighboring caves.

It is on the next level that things become complicated. We begin playing in the higher mind zone. Our esteem needs have to do with how we feel about ourselves both as individuals and in relation to others. If we do not feel valued, if we lack self-respect and/or do not feel it from our relationships, our spirit begins eroding.  We get stuck on this level. We forget about the cave and the door and the full larder, and we can no longer fully experience love and belonging. A hitch now negates the first three levels.

From this level, we look up and see that we ought to be moving through a place wherein we begin realising our inner potentials. We seek meaning and purpose in order to experience self-actualisation. If we have been busy with the business of meeting more basic needs, that distraction at some point ceases to serve us, and we become distressed over a conclusion that we have not been living authentically.

A kind of madness takes root. The desire for truth in us is so strong that vanity is overrun. It is here where the messiness catches up. We can’t fix ourselves, we can’t fix the relationship. There is an experience of harm over-balancing good.

And so we make the agonizing decision to walk away.

Why would one choose to leave knowing the odds are that the balance of one’s life will be spent alone? Hows does a woman find a humble job, let alone a viable career in a hideous recession?

Aye, but you brought it on yourself now, didn’t you?  What an idiot. Right?

For the sixty percent who make the long haul, surely many of those marriages came to similar crossroads and for whatever reason decided to carry on, conscious of and accepting of compromises. I suspect more than a few stay put out of fear over losing the lower half of the pyramid. They bear their esteem and self-potential needs silently. Or not.

I have to believe that there is a good portion in this demographic who have had the right mix of personalities, maturity, purpose and maybe some alchemical influence to live contentedly.

Somewhere the Gores got stuck, like so many of us. Unlike so many of us, Tipper is not going to be out trolling for a minimum wage job.

I wish them well.

(c)GoshGusMusic (ascap) 2010

May 21, 2010

Tesori? Laundry Lost and Found

Filed under: Faith,Kids and Family,motherhood — by SAMM @ 1:01 pm
Tags: ,

Having fallen far behind in laundry chores, I made a deal with myself that if I focused on the task and made significant progress, I would indulge in one evening of not worrying. About anything.

Those of you closest to me understand my attachment to worrying, often about things over which I have little or no control. The worry is how I work at the problem, searching for some logical or rational solution, or even a smidge of greater understanding. It’s not a good habit and is often counter-productive.

Now I feel guilty for worrying. Oh, for Pete’s sake!

Because I am trying to get through the job, I hurried the first load, neglecting to check pockets before the wash cycle (yet another sin). As I pulled the stuff to go into the dryer, I found the following:
* pocket comb
* leather pouch imprinted with “Flagyl I.V., in which lives
a masculine manicure set- go figure
* Sephora lip gloss in Precious Pink
* Hohner “C” harmonica

And I made $20.00, freshly laundered.

P.S. Second load presented a hoodie with a disposable ice pack in the pocket. No complaints from the troops of any injury.

(c)GoshGusMusic(ascap)2010

May 10, 2010

Strani eventi: Physics of Precognition or Just Fuzzy Logic?

(At left, the Carina Nebula. Photo courtesy of NOAO.edu)

A few days ago, I had a metaphysical discussion with an old friend, Claude Plymate. Claude is an astronomer. A real astronomer who has spent his life massaging a very special observatory, the McMath-Pierce Solar Telescope atop Kitt Peak outside of Tucson. Claude has cred. His wife, Teresa Bippert is also an amazing astrophysicist who does crazy things with optics at the University of Arizona- things I can’t begin to understand. Both attended undergraduate school with me. Just so you know:

“The McMath-Pierce solar telescope is the world’s largest solar telescope, and the world’s largest unobstructed-aperture optical telescope with a diameter of 1.6 meters. Permanent instruments include a dual grating spectrograph capable of extended wavelength coverage (0.3-12 microns), a 1-meter Fourier Transform Spectrometer for both solar and laboratory analysis, and a high-dispersion stellar spectrometer.

Important discoveries include: detection of water and isotopic helium on the Sun; solar emission lines at 12 microns; first measurement of Kilogauss magnetic fields outside sunspots and the very weak intra-network fields; first high resolution images at 1.6 and 10 microns; detection of a natural maser in the Martian atmosphere.” (http://tinyurl.com/26vu3sc)  Smart folks, these friends of mine.

For me, our chat was a flashback to the days when a group of about eight to twelve of us undergrads sat around a large round table, drinking coffee and arguing and speculating over the Big Questions late into the night. We studied different disciplines, but among the many other things we had in common was one biggie: we were night owls. Students of astronomy & related sciences, writers and musicians. And there was the campus radio station in which we criss-crossed at various times.  People who were up awaiting  a celestial event, or the quiet in which to think, or the need to burn off energy from a rehearsal or performance. These were the people I loved most, and after all these years, know that I still do.

I got into the subject of precognition with Claude. Just like the old days. I told a story of an experience I had some years ago. I was on our sailboat, pre-kid era. We had dropped anchor and slept in Clipper Cove between Treasure Island and Yerba Buena Island, near where we berthed. In the early morning, I looked up at the Bay Bridge nearby, and pondered aloud to my spouse, “Do you see the ramp on the lower deck (eastbound) of the bridge by the bottom of the cantilever? It looks like one of those ramps kids use to launch their skateboards. Wouldn’t it be weird if a car drove up it and flipped into the Bay?”  The guy looked at me cock-eyed. He had learned by then that sometimes I say weird things that come true.

We had a lovely sail, tied up the boat and headed to the clubhouse to use the facilities. Walking up the dock, we heard sirens. Lots of sirens, and a Coast Guard helicopter zoomed over us to the south side of the bridge. We noticed traffic stopped on the lower deck.  We thought, “Oh shit. Bridge accident. Might as well go fix a drink and hang out until the thing is cleared.”  True, we were going back home into the City on the upper, western deck, but a serious accident will occasionally slow the whole structure.

In the clubhouse, actually “shack” was a more fitting description of the Treasure Island Yacht Club back then,  nobody was around. We turned on the television to see if there was information available.

Yes, there was.  A car had driven off  the little ramp, gone over the side of the bridge and into the Bay. There were fatalities. Spouse performed a double cock-eye at me. Meanwhile, I was trying to wrap my head around the big picture. Someone later asked me if I felt responsible. That never entered my mind.  Just absurd. I may practice certain spiritual rituals,  but overall I embrace empiricism. I have no explanation for this experience, or any of  the others. No way to prove or disprove. So I just let it be.

But Claude, being grounded in empiricism and the scientific method wrestles with these questions every day. Claude and I talked about my story and a few related matters, and this is what he wrote. It is used by Claude’s permission.


“I’d like to apologize from the start for the new-agey, pseudoscientific tone of this. Recently, I’ve been hearing about some experiments that appear to show test subjects responding stimuli a fraction of a second BEFORE receiving the stimulus! It is easy to ignore or discard such anomalous results as bad experimental technique or analysis. But what if the results are revealing a real effect? What if there is reproducible laboratory results showing people have some precognitive abilities? Is there any way we might concoct a reasonably conceivable physical explanation for such phenomena? Perhaps what some refer to as the “quantum foam” might provide some insight.

On the smallest scales, the so-called Planck length of around 10^-36 m (trust me, that’s REALLY small), space is expected to deviate from the smooth continuum we’re used to. The contour of space becomes rough or bumpy, changing randomly at each instant. This is where it gets its name quantum foam. In other words, our concept of position becomes fuzzy and even completely breaks down at the very smallest spatial scales. Presumably, time is equally distorted and fuzzy near its smallest divisions. The sizes of these deviations are randomly distributed but heavily weighted toward the smallest scale distortions. However, larger distortions in space/time must also occasionally occur. In this way, it is just conceivable that every once in a while some bit of information will pass from a moment in the future, into the present or even into the past! (Likewise, information from the past could find itself thrust into the future. This, however, would be of less interest and indistinguishable from the normal flow of time and causality.)

Such time/space distortions are happening continuously at every point in the Universe. Larger, even discernibly large, variations in time and/or space are statistically extraordinarily improbable but must occasionally happen. Now consider the brain – it’s made of a whole lot of neurons that are made of lots and lots of quanta. Every once in a while, some of these improbably events must happen in our brains. Could a brain neuron occasionally be triggered by an event that has yet to occur? If so, it would be expected that such occurrences would happen much more frequently for events from the very near future (small fractions of seconds) as apposed to from farther into the future. The ability to reacting to future events would clearly represent a strong survival advantage and would be very strongly selected for. Even if developing precognitive abilities were biologically expensive and/or quite difficult but just possible, evolution would demand that we developed the capability! Might it even be that evolution could have fine-tuned emotions to play the role of filtering out random noise while amplifying important signals? Perhaps this is why precognition tends to be associated with emotionally charged events”

(c) GoshGusMusic (ascap) 2010

For a better, very cool view of the Carina Nebula, check this link from Kitt Peak ‘s website:

http://nssphoenix.wordpress.com/2010/04/23/star-formation-in-the-carina-nebula/


May 2, 2010

Fermata: Sonnets and Apathy

Nobody understands apathy better than a fourteen year old eighth grade boy, especially such a boy who is an inmate in a boys school in the shadow of one of the most beautiful Anglican cathedrals in America.  Ironic apathy. With some instruction from pages 291-292 of Stephen Fry’s The Ode Less Travelled on the very topic of preparing a Shakespearean sonnet, and some assist from the Oxford Rhyming Dictionary, our gentleman scholar rocked the flighty picky English teacher. Said teacher of the low-cut tops and too short skirts whose charges spend more time in desk chairs tucked under their tables than they would in one of the Master’s classrooms.

My Sonnet

Sometimes, here at school, I feel apathy.
It is a feeling I try to disregard.
But teachers, they want a polymathy.
Sometimes, it feels as bleak as a graveyard.
To be all-knowing would be a blessing.
For a long time I have felt distress.
T’would be nice to see my problems passing.
Or have a life of fear much less.
For others who have a life uncommon,
and find themselves in disrepair,
To them I say, “Go see a Shaman”
If you find your life unfair.
Ya know, I really wish I had a getaway.
Oh, what the hell. Does it matter anyway?

(c) GoshGusMusic(ascap) 2010

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.