What’s gnu? And how I am learning to write in 200 words or less.

A gnu is a wildebeest or Connochaetes and they are ungulates of the African continent. I saw a wild one once, in Kenya, an experience I will never forget and long to repeat. Not actually repeat or recreate, I am not the same person I was then,nor is Kenya. I am not pining for the past, nor am I lost dreaming of a future where I am able to adventure in exotic locales while making a positive difference in other people’s lives.  But I do want to again be chased by Zebra’s and see what’s gnu. I am a modern woman, I want “new.”

Wanting something, in this case to see Africa again, and also to see Australia, New Zealand, India, and Antartica for the first time, to accumulate experience, is a form of craving therefore could be the cause of suffering according to the teachings of Buddha.(Christianity has a commandment about coveting what is not one’s own as do most other dharmas and dogmas, I’m just currently enthralled by Buddhism) Also according to Buddha, pain and suffering are an integral part of being alive. I get that, wanting what I do not have can be the source of discomfort. Discomfort is, well, uncomfortable.

Discomfort causes movement. Today in my morning meditation, that movement came at about 7 minutes. I  took a bit of meditation practice detour and can really tell, in October I could make it to 20 minutes before succumbing to repositioning, some who have trained can make the unimaginable hour(s) of stillness.

Movement of itself is not a bad thing, it just isn’t meditation. In fact moving is a wonderful thing. When I spend a designated portion of my day moving my legs to run or bike or swim my mood improves, I have less general pain, sleep better, concentrate better and generally like life more.  Mental movement is necessary for learning, eye movement for reading and my fingers are moving right now to write this blog.  Movement to avoid pain is a life saving reflex. Movement is the language of the body, and like words is glorious expression. ” But it comes to a little more, there where it is we do not need the movement, or the words,” to paraphrase Frost.

The New Year is the mischief in me and my challenge to myself and to anyone else listening to find there where it is we need the stillness and the silence.  Our culture is enamored with sound and movement and new and more are the drugs we use to avoid the emptiness of our inner worlds. But I can tell you, having been there myself, that the quiet empty of the inner landscape is just as vast and inspiring as the veldt and the gnu. Stillness is the necessary antithesis to movement, and silence can say volumes.

The universe has recently added a unique professional lesson in the value of brevity.  Today I had to write and article about an upcoming show at The Phoenix Art Museum about one of the most amazing Green artists currently blending eco dialogue with museum quality exhibitions, one Matthew Moore (www.urbanplough.com), in 200 words or less. This 200 words or less requirement is the same for any non-local art event regardless of its worth and I have been hard pressed to accommodate the minimalist word count, but I just did it, and well I believe. Which doesn’t actually mean it will get printed or published, because newspaper space, like human life, is limited.

And like a human life, the words written in a newspaper only make sense because of the spaces between the marks we know as letters and words.

So today I will move and speak and write, but I will also leave space and silence.

And that is what is gnu with me today.

 

 

Practice, practice, practice

      Just finished my favorite home made treat, a fresh dry foam cappa-latte. As anyone who has accompanied me to a coffee establishment once we are real friends knows, I have a certain and non-traditional way of taking my espresso draught. First, the shots must be drawn from freshly ground organic, free trade, unburnt dark roast beans and produce a respectable crema, then I like my foam dry and abundant with just the slightest lightening of the delicious black sea beneath it. Hard to get todays barristas, conditioned as they are to the Starbucks style coffee creations, to execute my requests. Especially when you add to that, my desire for Organic soymilk as the foaming medium. At home I am able to pull it off almost effortlessly. 

     Why? Because I have lots of practice. The barristas do well at what they know. I don’t want a fast food coffee, or its equivalent life. The universe is offering this wisdom. "Enough practice makes anything do-able, and nothing is what we expect, so expect nothing."

     That is my object koan this morning, as I stretch my sore hands by rolling my oranges for juice and stand on toes while stamping my grounds to brew the perfect cuppa. It is unexpected that the sorest parts of my body today are my hands and feet and calves. Last night when I was trying, barely successfully, to pull myself into my DIL’s lifted jeep and laughing to keep from bursting into frustrated tears at my ineptness, I was sure it would be my quad’s that would give me trouble. Last night they were fatigue trembly. Today, nary an ache, okay maybe just a little tenderness near the knee.

 
      I walked 5K and swam four laps(200 yds) with my splashboard, did 10 pushoffs and backstroked back from each pushoff (about 10 yds each). And this was after my third shift. I went to bed about 2230 and I was up this morning, needless to say, much past the morning cool, so no dog walk till tonight. Plan to go back and swim again tomorrow morning. Tonight at sundown, my canines and I will have a nice stroll, maybe break into a trot if Dr. Vogel gives the go ahead.
 
     Back to the lesson, the koan of practice versus immediate achievement and its sister nonattachment to expectation. 
 
      The need for practice without expectation was what I most noticed about last night. My son, even with only one good leg, made the lengths of the pool look so easy as his arms sliced throught the water, and my DIL is more an otter than she gives herself credit. My first instinct was to compare and compete, not to listen and admire, as they both offered much needed and good advice on how to improve my performance. I actively chose to listen, although even with this came frustration as the muscles and body refused to carry out the brains planned commands.
               "Compared to them," the Ego whispered in my head, "I am old, fat and weak. This is stupid and impossible, and what’s with your children telling YOU how to do something, I’m the Mom, and it’s not like they listen to me anyway!"
              "First, this is your idea, they are joining you in something important to you, you asked them to support you, " my Authentic Self replied, "and they are better at this than you.  However, this activity is about progress and fun, not competition, and when comparing myself to myself, I see improvement in less than a week, So instead of feeling inadequate, ego, or resentful I am just grateful for the inspiring company and I am going to continue to listen, and continue to practice and focus on a great way this is to spend time with people I love."  My Authentic self is long winded.

Then the ego and The Authentic Self both had to shut up because all energy was focused on completing the last lap. In that way, swimming is like meditation for me. The conversation in my head has to shut up!
             

FYI. The two day break in blogging will be my weekly norm, as long as I am on this work schedule. I love my job and the family that I work for, and they get first dibs on my weekend energies. I will be back later to finish the log, as I am just beginning my day.
 
Borin’ Log Part for Monday
 
0830 Wake Up and let dogs out. Meditation on Gratitude from Meditation Oasis
0900 Computer and Coffee (double shot espresso, 1 cup Organic Soymilk, 1 T local honey)
0930 8 ozs fresh squeezed OJ, multivitamin, 81 mg aspirin
1000 phonecalls, dustmopping floor (movement, not exercise, LOL), random picking up and put in a load of laundry
1200 Lunch of Progresso Vegetable Soup and a toasted cheese sandwich, Off to pick up meds, also Dr. apt.
1500 Best part of today – my apt at Back-Fit so I can become better adjusted…(massage and chiro)
1700 Visit Sara, receive way awesomest B-day present EVER! (Very early but I wouldn’t have been able to wait either!)
            Ate one apple
1900 Walked dog. Only 0.5 miles tonight. Really feeling drained of energy and achy tonite. Made plate of organic black beans, guacamole, cheese, and organic corn and flax chips with organic salsa. Drank water
2000 Watched 2 episodes of 60’s comedy (they last 26-28 minutes compared to a modern 20-22 minute episode)
2100 Cleaned house haphazardly. Stretches and then to bed!
 
Over all a kinda non-training day again except for the little things like parking on the far end of the lot at all my appointments and not succumbing to junk food or snack attacks. I really want a pedometer to be able to measure my walking, etc. I have to work my training into my life so keeping track of steps taken would be something
2200 Sleep.  
 
 
 

Daptones, Hannah Arendt and learning to read in different languages

Much has transpired and nothing since I last blogged. The earth is still turning, moon cycles wax and wan, people are being born and people are dying. Birds have been falling out of the sky, and bushes burning and as they have since Moses and before, they are being explained away as natural phenomena by some and interpreted as God by others. I have not gained or lost anything appreciably significant; still work as a nurse, still a Mom to men, still have friends, and still have those who find the discussion of all that is wrong with me incredibly entertaining. I still owe more than I make and yet have so much material abundance it would boggle me if I had been told even 25 years ago I would have this much in my lifetime. So nothing has changed, and everything. I feel like the little baby "thing" I dreamed of last night that I almost killed before deciding it was a recently hatched turtle and setting into water where it began to recover and swim. I dreamed the birth of the turtle who held the world on his back.

So while nothing and everything has been changing around and inside me, I have not blogged. I have been journaling in the interim, on paper, in private because counter to current cultural trends I believe somethings are better dealt with privately. Although Ego and its no-holds-barred, Look-at-me, look-at-me Western Cultural worship and re-inforcement would have me believe that privacy and silence are counterproductive to growth and happiness, I find the opposite to be true. Some realities are best dealt with silently and in private.  Nurturing what good would grow within us, the seeds of true greatness in their tiny shoot infancy, require shelter and softly spoken words and limited traffic. Also, there are parts of every life that are just better dealt with unannounced,  sequestered. As a nurse and as a human I know the power of isolation. Secrets have there place in daily life.

I close the door to my bathroom when it is in use, use deodorant and launder stains out of clothing, and keep displays of affection between myself and my lovers between them and I. I privatize large portions of who I am, not because I believe any facet of me is inherently shameful. All facts of existence are equally necessary for balance. A cloistered life is as much about keeping things in as it is about keeping things out of the walled and secret places. My invisibility and silence is a greenhouse for my soul.

Today, however is a Daptone day, an out loud flowering, getting my Soul on, hanging with people and singing what I gotta say at the top of my lungs day. I am currently blogging to "Daptone Gold" (from Hoodlum’s, of course). Daptone Records, a post-modern Brooklyn haven of horn blowing toe-tapping and riffing, or more specifically the music they produce is the reason I need (not just want) a great stereo system with a turntable. I am listening to a CD of music that is meant to be heard as an LP or a 45. I need a record player for the same reason I once needed to learn french for Hugo.

My  postmodern period started in fourth grade when I read translations of Les Miserable and the Hunchback of Notre Dame.  Hugo’s wretched ones redeemed me, hitting me upside my self-absorbed child’s head with philosophical sticks of grace and justice and while I preferred the Hugo opera’s happy ending (later used by Disney for their movie version) I knew love to be more like the betrayal and dust of the book’s Quasimodo. I could not get enough of Victor Hugo and his work. I read and reread them, excavating between the lines, believing somehow the works I was enthralled with were meant to be more than I found in the translations.  Perhaps it was the words themselves, so I vowed to read the words as Victor wrote them.

So five years later when I finally read them in their French original, my obsessive pursuit of their flavor was satisfied by an experience that was as transformative as I had expected, but not for the reasons I expected. I thought I would learn more of Hugo’s seminal meaning by learning his language, instead I experienced in much fewer syllables what Jacque Derrida was simultaneously verbosely describing in the academic world as "seeing through the metaphysics of presence".  I read what Hugo said, as he first said it and knew the words had beauty and worth and also knew for certain I could never really grasp what Hugo meant because I was not Hugo, that meaning and shared experience is more than words.

And with that insight I left my childhood and my brief brush with postmodernism behind before I had even heard of Hannah Arendt or Foucalt, let alone read them. 

There are a few words and a few lessons I regret in my life. I have never regretted learning French, nor have I ever regretted keeping silent.

 But today is an out loud day. Today is a Daptone soul singing day and I now want a record player for the same reason I once was driven to learn French. I want a record player because Victor Hugo transformed me not just by his words but because my desire to read his own words as he spoke them taught me that All things, all things, have their own language.

Hugo spoke French. The Daptones speak turntable. Enlightenment usually speaks with silence.

Parables, and koans, and yes, sometimes blogs are just attempts to translate a  transformational experience into everyday language. I am not at all who I was yesterday, and a stranger to myself a month ago and I cannot, cannot tell you how that is as I stumble over this new language.

I am not a virtual-life loving post modernist even now in my silver digital age but still (as in my minimalist and radical adolescence) a devotee of Hannah Arendt and so will dance a bit today and play and perhaps blog,

Then return again tonite behind my cloister walls to grow a bit I hope and to listen and delight in the quiet.

" Dedicate yourself to the good you deserve and desire for yourself. Give yourself peace of mind. You deserve to be happy. You deserve delight. " Hannah Arendt