Monday, May 31, 2010

A book excerpt...

Okay, I can finally add "published author" to my resume', gravestone, business card, or whatever I am going to do with it. I do indeed need to thank all of you who have followed, read, or encouraged me along the writer's journey. Even though I have not even minutely touched upon the steep incline of the marketing path I now must venture upon if I want this to be more than a coaster on my mother's coffee table, I still feel like I have accomplished something - something that many were happy to tell me either I could not do it, or that it was too hard. Well I did it, so there!

My book is a series of essays in which I became able to be blessed to see the underlying lessons life was trying to show me, that were often shrouded by my ego, diminshed by my lack of "presence", or that I was simply not "awake" enough to see what was being presented.

I find that we do not need to always be in either a place of worship, watching Oprah or Dr. Phil, or being counseled by a guru to get extremely valuable, enduring, and enlightening life lessons. Often they are presented in very subtle, simple, and "normal" ways to where we must turn on our "receptors" to be best able to receive the message.Some messsages are powerful in and of themselves. Some are simply part of a greater curriculum we must completely sit through to better ourselves. Many we find in our daily mundane life situations.

Below is an excerpt from one of my essays from my book "Artisan of the Human Spirit" called "The Fort."

In my book, I open each essay with a comment, present the essay, add a closing comment, then I post a page of reflections in which I hope the reader will take a peek at their own experiences and make the message their own.

The one example I present here is part of "my curriculm." I realized "class" is always in session. My professor is quite good. Care to join me?

The Fort

                             In life, not every classroom has a desk, nor every church a steeple!

                                       _____________Opening thought...______________

I loved this essay as I was capturing a special moment that happened to me. Although I cannot choose a favorite, due to the fact a message‘s impact will be different depending on where a person is at the time of reading, this essay is special due to the simple fact it was my first time putting pen to paper for my own benefit. Not only was I trying to create a vivid written recollection, but I wanted to share the impact it had upon me.

This essay captures, for me, a shift. As I wrote, I realized a shift in perception can create a shift in an experience. I saw where my perception of the situation and my ability to get outside of my own head, if even for a brief while, created a special and significant moment for me. The moments I described, now upon reflection, are much more magical to me. Regretfully, in my older ways of thinking, perhaps something like exploring with my son may have seemed trivial or cumbersome, or perhaps would not have occurred to this degree. However, by surrendering to living in the moment, I was able to have a special experience. A moment that I wish I were able to have had being a son myself, but now was blessed with a second chance.

                          _____________________ The essay________________________

I am blessed with two children. My daughter Alexa is ten years old; my son, Austin, is five. Alexa is athletic and active. She has played soccer for a handful of years and has developed it into a budding passion.
On many evenings and weekends, Austin and I are a captive audience on the sidelines of a soccer game or practice, as my wife often works during my "soccer mom" obligations. I felt badly for my son, realizing he would rather be home playing video games—or pretty much anywhere else as opposed to waiting on Sissy. To no avail, Austin often found his desires trumped, and he accompanied me to frequent games and practices.

Spring season allowed the local parks to be the site of said activities, one in particular, Thompson Park, is the setting for many soccer practices and games in our community. It is a well-manicured, beautiful expanse of fields and play structures, with hills to aid in spectator comfort and tree lines that separated the playfields.

The trees are lush, full, and inviting to adventurous minds. They are the type a kid could easily hide, climb, and escape in, with all the wonder fueling an active imagination. The brush at the bottom of the trees is thick and full and creates a perfect division between the fields. Random manmade openings, and some created by the active imaginations of young explorers, allow foot traffic to pass through. Other trails were created over time by people awkwardly finding their way through the trees and underbrush. In the most yielding of pathways, through a mixture of young and mature trees, you can find bushes, stones, and patches of barren ground. It is littered with nature‘s compost of leaves and twigs and is punctuated by random branches that have fallen.

One warm, sunny evening my daughter was practicing on a field flanked by a tree line that sprawled right to left approximately one hundred yards, and was about as wide as half a football field with a tree height around sixty feet. A sidewalk went through the middle and, on the other side of the sidewalk; nature continued and repeated this majestic divider for another hundred yards.

My son and I were milling about with about an hour to kill, so we went in search of some stimulation. During games we would show our sideline support, at least I would; Austin would play games on my iPhone. We cheered with the other parents if it happened to be a game. During practices, however, we often did our own thing to entertain ourselves, trying to appeal to the quick-to-bore mind of a five-year-old.

As we walked along the aforementioned sidewalk, I noticed to my left an opening in the tree line that was approximately six feet high and three feet wide definitely inviting us to enter. It was apparent others had ventured before, although the opening was not obvious unless you happened to look in that direction. Even though we were not dressed for the woods, both in cargo shorts, no socks, and me in a polo shirt and my son in a T-shirt, nature beckoned and we answered.

The growth was full, lush, and green allowing only sporadic rays of sunlight through. The branches allowed just enough sun to dance about the floor of the wooded area choreographed by the gentle evening wind. Austin quickly found a stick that became his walking companion. It was as crooked as a dog's hind leg, but I thought, "Are there really any written rules to walking sticks?" I noticed I was sinking into a long-lost appreciation for moments of my childhood—the innocence of a "who-cares, let's-explore" attitude. All that mattered was happening then and there. My son was "Lewis" and I was "Clark."

The symphony of birds chirping and the whisper of the wind rustling the leaves dominated our journey‘s soundtrack. Even though we were close to the cheers and guttural yells from the coaches, the acoustics in our new world made all the noises appear miles away. I can hear the crunch of the brush, the snap of small twigs, and the soft carefree humming of my son. How I could hear these soft sounds over the screams of kids yelling and whistles was magical, and yet had a special acoustic sensation I appreciated.

We came to a small clearing about halfway in surrounded by numerous trees with trunks the diameter of a car‘s hubcap. Dense brush and bushes flanked the path and opening. Many branches had fallen, sheared from the tops of the elder trees during recent storms and had created piles that reminded me of toppled bowling pins. My son was milling about picking up stones, branches, and other trinkets that dirtied his inquisitive fingers only to be cleansed with an innocent brush of the hand against his pant leg. He looked up at me with a grin and said, "We‘re buddies, aren't we Dad?" I replied, "You know it, pal!" I knew our simple walk was becoming a bonding experience, one that I do not recall having in my young life with my dad, but something I had always longed for. The meaningless stuff seems to mean the most.

A few sturdy branches, about three to five feet in length, rather straight and the diameter about the size of an orange, were strewn about. I decided to create a teepee. Actually it was three sticks in a pyramid, but to a five-year-old it was a testimony of my years of wisdom and a gift from the gods of architecture, validated with a "Coooooool!" Austin proceeded to adorn the foot of each branch of our pyramid with rocks he carefully selected, placing them with the precision of a young engineer. I continued gathering branches, filling in our creation to give it more substance and strength, more sticks, more stones. I was a kid again, gathering like a pilgrim building his log cabin, or a survivor on a desert island.

I had a strange determination to create something for my son, as if it was in our backyard, as if it was our woods, our creation, and our moment. My energy was abundant, and the job seemed effortless. Austin kept interjecting our task with an occasional, "We are buddies, aren't we Dad? And I replied with my standard response, "You know it, pal!" This was acknowledged with a quiet "hmm" of appreciation, a smile, and then it was back to work. After forty-five minutes or so we had built a lattice of branches, caverns, walls, and teepees that would make a tribal elder proud. We gathered, placed, evaluated, replaced, and built our "Fortress of Solitude" for a private membership of two—the "buddies."

I don't know what it is about young boys, but they retain liquid. My son is king at having to "go" at inopportune times. Nature called, he answered, christening the ground behind the original teepee, which from then on was designated "the bathroom." A few more additions and adjustments brought us to an awareness that Sissy was about done with soccer. Our journey was fading back to a reality I didn't want to enter. I sat for a moment in silent reflection of our adventure and was joined by my son. His arms struggled to reach the height of my shoulder as he exclaimed, "I love you, Dad!" "I love you too, pal," I responded.

The joy was overcome with the melancholy realization that we had to leave our fort behind. This masterpiece, this testimony to a father and son, it was ours yet we had to leave it behind. It was back to the car, back home, to homework, to baths, to our normal routine. The story was over.

I grabbed my phone and took a couple pictures of my son with his arms spread with pride and artistic triumph. We ventured onward to retrieve Sissy, back to the real world, wondering how long our fortress would remain before succumbing to vandals, nature, or both. It was heartbreaking leaving our creation behind as my son wanted to show the world, as did I, our creation. I thought it was the fort that mattered. I was wrong.

A couple days went by and soccer practice once again came into the rotation of our lives‘ schedule. Alexa asked me if I had been back to see our fort. In asking, she had a look, a concerned look, to tell me what I already knew upon her posing that simple question. It had only taken three days for vandals to destroy our fort.

I thought it would bother me, but all along I had a feeling the fort wouldn't last long. I guess the hopeless romantic in me pictured another father and son coming by to only improve upon our design; creating an eventual Robinson Crusoe structure for all to enjoy. I am a realist, a hopeless romantic, and not a pessimist, and although a bit saddened temporarily, I see it as a clean slate calling for another adventure; another reason to return to my childhood once again.

The lesson I learned was interesting: I have no control over what can happen. I need to savor each moment, and drink in as much of the present to leave an indelible stamp on my memory to where nothing has to fade or be lost. The better my presence is now, the better my recall is later. In the past, I tried to hold on to things for their sentimental value, but I realize the values I place upon the objects themselves are insignificant to the value they retain in my memory and the memory of others.

The images from that day are vividly stored in my mind, heart, and spirit. I have them forever, and in sacred condition, untouchable for eternity. In that memory, it is not the fort I cherish; it is the precious time I shared with my son. In that memory, Austin will always be five years old, I will be the brave explorer; we will be buddies, and the fort: enduring.

We are destined to have things come and go in our lives, and we often place too much identification of who we are in those things, and we sometimes feel if we lose those things, we lose the memories attached to them as well. Things are fleeting and their value diminishes, but the human experiences and our ability to remain vividly connected to those experiences through our memories does not have to leave us.

True, it is difficult to lose items in times of disaster, theft, or loss, but we do not have to lose the value of the experience they represent. Mementos and objects connect to the ego and not to the spiritual blessing that placed them in our lives in the first place. I have had and lost many things, money, and titles. To some that fort may have been a simple pile of dead or dying organic material, scattered, without value, and forgotten—but to two ―little boys‖ lost in a moment, it was priceless, even if only for short time. I realize there is no greater thing I acquired that day, or any day since, than the title of "buddy."

               _______________________Closing Thoughts______________________

A few months after writing this, I revisited it for the first time. I was able to go back to that moment. It was emotional for me, as I experienced a state of gratitude for the ability not only to have had the experience and to be able to share it with my son, but also for the ability to feel and see the blessings therein. This experience showed me the importance of being present and to realize what is of true value in this world. When the simplest of moments are shared, they can become genuinely special.

I implore you to "be where you are when you are there," and to also realize that what may be tedious or boring to one, can be monumentally significant to another. Some things may seem unimportant now, but once put into spatial perspective with the passing of time, these experiences can become treasures.

(Note - *Pictures of the fort and other photos related to the subject matter can be found in the photo gallery on my website - (as well as ordering info! - That is not a hint...okay, yes it is!)

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Love Is Elusive

What does it mean " To be loved " or " To love "

After all there are many different types of love, " Loving the taste of you all time favorite food ","The love that a mother has for her new born child "," The love of the trill "," That first true love ", " The love of a couple that have been married for 50 years through the good times and the bad times "," The love of the smell of the fresh rain on a summer day ", or " The love of hearing the songs of the birds overhead as the sun rises ", just to name a few.

Is love a feeling ? an emotion ? or is love a thought that we convince ourselves to believe in ?

Can you learn to love something or is true love a gift from above that you have no control over, after all they say that " Love is blind " & Love can be found at first sight.

Can love fade over time ? Or is it more the case that it was never true love that you had and only true love endures.

Can a person truely die from a broken heart ?

And can two people in love combine the essence of who they are to be greater than the some of each individually ?

No matter what love is to the individual, one thing is sure, love would appear to be elusive to the vast majority of the human race or at least the understanding and acceptance of true love would appear to be elusive.

Love Is Elusive

Love is elusive
Love is a dream
Love is always there but rarely seen
Our eyes are closed to the simplest of things
Of what love is and what it means.
Love is seeing the sun set red
The morning songs of the birds overhead
A gentle cool breeze on a hot humid day
Of watching the waves roll in all day.
Love is touching your new born child
With tears of pride and joy in your eyes.
Love is teaching them to grow strong and free,
And having the courage to teach them to dream.
Love is having you lay next to me,
The smell of your hair the touch of your skin.
The sparkle in your eyes so deep,
And holding you tightly as we sleep.
When I look deep into your eyes,
It's then that I realise much to my suprise.
That love to me can never be complete,
Without you in my life.
Love is elusive,
Love is a dream.
Love is always there but rarely seen.
Our eyes are closed to the simplest of things,
Of what love is and what it means.
Andrew Swansson
Copyright 2007

The above Blog is also on " The Soap Box Truth " by Andrew Swansson

Friday, May 28, 2010

I want to be a kid again

There is no greater example of presence than in a young child. I walk my kids to school; fair weather of course. If not it is the SUV, and the trip much more abbreviated, and a lot less beneficial.

I find that many of the things I find myself coaching my kids to abstain from, are simply the examples of youth, innocence, exploration, and harmless expressions of being present in the moment. They often mention to me, “Daddy, I want to grow up right now!” I recoil in horror as many of us wish we could turn back the clocks. I say this not in the dream of having the svelte and slender frame I had as a youth, as somewhere my six-pack turned into a keg; but that the circumstances of our life were so different. It was all about the context.

We had fears, we had obstacles, we had dreams, and we had relationships as we do now, but man oh man, were the contexts much different.

I want to go back. I want to go back to appreciate when my “deformity” was that I was too short to reach the Choc-Ola at the bottom of the soda cooler. I remember my life’s goal was to be able to enter Bud’s Carry Out on Elm Street, through the flimsy screen door, across the creaking wood flooring, to proudly bend over the cooler, and reach a Choc-Ola drink without my mid section being the fulcrum between my dangling toes, and me taking a nose dive into the beverages. Those were goals–achievable and certain goals!

The only ladder we had to climb was to get the Frisbee off the roof.

I want my Sunday school God back. When I was young, we would hear a lesson of love and of compassion, we would make a cross out of Popsicle sticks, and life was recharged. All I knew was God was great, He was everywhere, He loved me, He loved you, and He was in control and everything would eventually be okay. I lament that the innocence of the Divine concept has been changed. Too much of “my” God will kill those who follow “your” God is in the world. Too much of “how” I am supposed to praise, and in what way has taken away the ability to just connect and enjoy. It is like someone telling me how to hold my daughter’s hand.

War. War was a game we played with cards. We would get through the deck and yell, “Two out of three, okay?” The only blood we would experience would be from a skinned knee while climbing a tree. Miracle cures were mother’s kisses. Rebuilding devastated civilizations were what ants did if we stomped on the little mounds of dirt we found punctuating our play areas.

Fear? In short, the boogie man. Okay maybe strange noises coming from outside your window or in the ink of the night. Fear could be erased with a crack in your bedroom door and a hall light and not a monthly prescription.

You fell from social graces not by racial slurs but by yelling “poopie-butt” at your friend because it was the absolute worst thing you could ever dream up. “Wardrobe malfunctions” were mismatched socks and uncombed hair. The “style trends” were when your friends all planned to wear swimsuits under your clothes so after school you saved time getting to the pool party. Garanimals. “Nuff said.”

Snap back to reality...

I guess I find that it is spending time with my kids and their friends that allow me this stroll down memory lane. It happened to me yesterday as I encountered a stranger on the street outside my business. Casual pleasantries about the weather detoured into a string of minutes discussing moments from my small town that would make Norman Rockwell proud. I found he was a widower, a handful of years my senior, and after our brief chat, strolled onward with a smile he did not arrive with. Like my kids share their presence with me, I shared with him. That’s how it works.

I like being where I am I guess. I can now reach the cookies unassisted; once being another life goal. I can go as far as my car can take me as opposed to how far I can peddle. Maybe a little more freedom, but the interpretation of that statement leaves itself for another discussion.

Nothing is stopping me from stomping in puddles, running wildly, humming at the table, or making weird noises while I eat. I guess I could if I wanted to. Some days I still may not comb my hair. I am thankful to still be able to recall the joy of those moments. I hope those are the memories that are the last to fade.

As the presence and living in the moment is precious to a child, it is the ability to be present myself that allows me to recognize these things happening in my kids and around me. If I am in-tune, I can tune-in to what my kids are experiencing more so. Although presence of mind is a true gift, I find it is still healthy to occasionally take a little vacation.

Repost from Artisan of the Human Spirit

Special Relationships!

Special relationships, what are they? We are talking about intimate, 'love' relationships, borne out of 'love'.

Maybe we should begin with the question of what is love?

'Love is patient,
Love is kind.
It does not envy,
It does not boast,
It is not proud.
It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
But rejoices in the truth.
It always protects,
Always trusts,
Always hopes,
Always perseveres.'

1 Corinthians 13: 4-7

Therefore whatever is not the above, means it is not love???

So for example, taking one of the lines above, love- 'it is not easily angered.'
Does this mean when we are angry with our intimate partner, do we not love them any more?

It seems so!

But let's not use only the Bible's word for it.

Eckhart Tolle, an author and spiritual teacher, says that,

'If in your relationships you experience both 'love' and the opposite of love - attack, emotional violence and so on - then it is likely that you are confusing ego attachment and addictive clinging with love.......true love has no opposite.'

He continues,

'Love is a state of Being. Your love is not outside; it is deep within you. You can never lose it, and it cannot leave you. It is not dependent on some other body...'

So what are special relationships? Or to put it another way, What is the purpose of a special relationship??

If they invariably create so much emotion, both positive and negative, where the negative is not love, and by the looks of it neither is the positive since it is the opposite of negative, and as said above, 'true love has no opposite'.

Is there a purpose, other than procreation?? Is there something more spiritual or is this it? - You fall in love, have a few good times, have a lot of bad times, have kids, make up, get on, fight again, stay together, or not, fall in love with someone else and start the whole process again, with a few variations.

Tolle believes that humans have increasingly become identified with their mind and therefore most relationships are not rooted in the present. This is why it turns into pain and conflict.

Avoidance of relationships does not dissolve this pain, since the problem is that the identification is with the mind and not the present moment - living in the past or future.

Relationships work on our need to become whole. To make a whole you need both masculine and feminine. That is the pull, the attraction, the search for wholeness, on a physical level, since at the core, we are whole.

So, other than the need for wholeness, what is the purpose of a relationship?

Tolle believes a relationship's purpose is not to make you happy or fulfilled. If you continue to look for happiness through a relationship you will be disillusioned over and over again.

Tolle says that a relationship's purpose is to make you conscious. Which in turn will bring you happiness, for being conscious is your natural state of being, just as love is your natural state of being. Accepting this will help you align with a higher consciousness.

How do you stay conscious? What is conscious?

Staying present, Being, not going to the past which is riddled with guilt, bitterness and hate, or darting to the future which is infested with worry, fear and anxiety.

Staying present makes you an observer. Being an observer, you are alert. Being alert keeps you present, dissolving any pain real or perceived freeing you to accept the NOW!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Life Petals

Not long ago I was reading one of the installments of a blog of a dear friend of mine. Her name is Lisa Brandel and her blog is titled The Widow Lady, in which she chronicles the story of a loved one battling and ultimately dying of a grim disease. Although sad, her story is also gripping, realistic, honest, at times funny, bittersweet and always profound.

Lisa's blog has often prompted memories of my own of family members who have fought long, debilitating illnesses with dignity and inner strength. I was writing a comment on one of her posts and said something along the lines of,

"This has always made me think of watching petals slowly falling from a flower."
That phrase stuck in my mind and kept surfacing in different ways, to the point that I knew eventually I would write more fully about this concept.

Those of us who are romantic, or have children, are familiar with the story of "Beauty and the Beast". Depending on which version of the story you have read or viewed in movie format, the Soul of the Beast is represented by a flower, or a blooming bush, or blooming tree. As Beauty fails to see past the outer visage of the Beast, with each disappointment sustained, another petal from the flower falls.

The more I turned these seemingly unrelated points over and over in my mind, the more interconnecting points began to fall into place. Who among us, in the first flush of love, or secure in a lasting relationship hasn't felt replenished, our spirits renewed and uplifted by the attention of that other person? I have always held a mental image that relationships are exactly like that Magical Flower, but my image is one of the flower constantly being renewed. Certainly, disappointments, illnesses, arguments and other difficult experiences strip the petals away or crush the delicate surfaces, leaving unsightly bruising. Yet, with time, patience, understanding and love, the fallen petals are replaced, the bruised petals are healed and the flower stands proudly, lush and vital.

Could it be that we each have different flowers for each relationship, different flowers for various levels of physical health? One specific type of flower for friendships, another for family, yet another for work relationships, still more flowers that reflect our state of bodily health, and finally, that one special flower for the most deeply personal connection with that loved one. There is certainly a Language of Flowers that has existed for almost 200 years, giving each flower a specific message, sometimes going to exquisitely minute detail with one flower having different meaning read by the color of the petals.  An example would be a yellow rose meaning friendship, while we all recognize the red rose denotes love.

In my mind's eye, all of the flowers in our personal garden form a central path. This central path leads to a unique flower that is unlike any other in existence, and would never be found here on Earth. This flower would represent us. No one else, just us. All the other flowers in our personal garden channel energy into our personal Life Flower, keeping it healthy.

With age, it is inevitable that people come and go. Some leave this earthly plane early, at least to our human minds. Our personal gardens are as those in nature - in a constant state of flux, with changes and shifts, birth, growth and death occurring. The march of time causes our personal Life Flower to slowly...oh, so slowly, shed petals. Sometimes those petals renew, and the Life Flower continues to flourish.

In the instances of terminal illness, I imagine that individual's personal garden experiences quite dramatic change. I also can vividly picture their personal Life Flower becoming an equally profound depiction of their battle against that illness. I would think the Life Flower would reflect all the physical struggles, all the emotions and fears that go unspoken. Rather than this Life Flower becoming marked, or bruised or scarred, I can only visualize that it becomes more brilliantly beautiful, shining with an otherwordly purity, carrying a similar mien to that of a soldier in the midst of grim battle.

Eventually, an end must come for all of us. Our personal Life Flower will shed petals over time, slowly for some of us, abruptly and brutally for others. In my own personal analogy, I believe that those fallen petals do not perish into proverbial dust. I envision them drifting on that cosmic wind, guided by Love, to find their way to the Life Flowers of their loved ones. Isn't that a wonderful thing to imagine? That, just possibly, those fallen petals seek us out, those of us left to carry on and find a way to go forward alone, they drift until they find us, and they attach to our personal garden.

This, many might say, is a fairytale of epic proportions. I have no foundation for this concept other than my own, admittedly, fertile imagination. The image of that single flower suspended in space, slowly releasing, one by one....Life Petals, is one that has popped into my mind's eye each time I have dealt with lingering, terminal illness. Whether it makes sense to anyone else matters not to me; what does matter to me is that the thought brings me comfort. Imagining that some small fragment of the true essence of someone I have loved never really leaves me makes me smile, and gives me a solid sense of inner peace.

Perhaps one day I shall sit down and write out this different sort of fairytale, for I am curious to learn more of it. This is one of those facets of being a writer that I cherish, because I am equally curious to learn the end of the story as my readers may be. Questions certainly remain - where do all the petals shed over a lifetime go? Do they swirl away on the wind, except for those precious few that seek out those that are left to continue living? Do they form a carpeted path for us when our time comes, leading us in the right direction to reunite with those who have gone before us? The story is unfinished at this time.

I am left with how to close this blog. It was prompted, in part, by the blog of a dear friend, bringing to the forefront of my mind an image and concept that has been softly chiming in the background, patiently waiting to be given voice. How will this post be received? I honestly have no idea, but again, I will choose to be brave, publish it and wait to see what responses come. In the meantime, I will visit my own personal garden and gaze about me at the blessings, strewn in riotous color, then I shall gaze towards the center of my garden and recognize that my own Life Flower casts a bright glow. For now, this is a fitting close.

If you enjoyed this post and would like to read more, you can find me at Healing Morning blog.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


“Don’t say that you love me…”

Sang legendary 70’s nut cases Fleetwood Mac.

“Just tell me that you want me.”

I haven’t done any way near enough drugs to be able to dissect the rest of that song for you as paracetamol is simply not strong enough to work out why they suddenly shout TUSK or why some marching band turns up.

But I do understand those two lines.

I’m not really experienced enough yet to be able to conclusively say what makes a marriage successful. I’ve only done a shade under 12 years, which theoretically isn’t even half way towards being able to claim any expertise. My parents and Jo’s parents are certainly in a position to give advice, each pairing lasting for more than 40 years. So I am not about to even try and dish out marital guidance, however I will tell you what I think and hope will work for me.

Share a sense of humour – This is vital and probably the most important of all aspects of a relationship to get right. Make sure you are with someone you can laugh with. We face many challenges over the years, many hardships, whether or not you have kids (sometimes especially if you don’t). When the chips are down and you are at your lowest ebbs, you need someone there who can make you smile again. Help you to see the path ahead is not so dark.

Feeling wanted – As the Mac said “wanting” your partner is somewhat important. I think it gets a little missed as folk think that as long as they say “I love you” every day then everything is fine. However all of us need to feel wanted now and again, to have someone need you is not the same. You can need someone to clean the house or cook your tea or mend the fence and cut the grass. We need to do the grocery shopping every week, but who gets excited about that? However going out shopping for something you want is whole different ball game. It doesn’t just have to be about sex, though that is probably the easiest way of showing it, sometimes you can be wanted simply for company – not just watching TV together but having a game of scrabble. I’m talking about you personally being wanted for a chat, for comfort and support, for someone to cry on, for someone to laugh with. Knowing that it is you that is wanted for something, rather than just ‘a person’ needed to help with the house or to babysit, makes you feel special. I think it is easy to forget this, to think that needing someone to do things and telling them ‘thanks’ and ‘I love you’ is the same, it isn’t. Let them know that you want them – not just somebody, but that one specific person.

Doing the things that are needed – Bearing in mind what I have just said, the fact is that we do have to do things that are needed too. Spot the things your partner needs, the every day dross of life that they are dealing with. It might not have to be you that will help with these problems, but if not who will? No one is perfect at this, no one can be, I for one am pretty terrible at it, but I try. Don’t sit back and wait for your partner to find someone else to help relieve the monotony of life.

Love – So with all that I’ve said, where does love fit in? In itself I don’t believe that it does, I see no important value in a long term relationship in simply saying “I love you” now and again (however, my wife does so you’d better believe I do it!), words can be said easily enough, meaning them is the key. What I do believe though, is that the love is found in the three points I’ve already covered. When you truly love someone, you want them, you need them and er you make them laugh. Ok not quite that last one, but loving someone so much that they still make you laugh after X years is kind of part of it. The respect that you show somebody when you are there for them, in any, and every way that you can manage, not because you need to, not because you ought to, but because you truly want to – is love.

So that’s my current theory, this theory will probably be different to my wife’s. This time next year I could be divorced and putting a link back to this post as a reference to all the things you should never do. For sure I’m talking about how I would like to behave; I’m not saying I’m great at it.

Hopefully, one day I’ll have been married long enough to call myself a success, but right now all I can say is that I’m happy and working at helping Jo be happy too. I only have another 32 years until I catch my parents up – crikey that is a long time, we are going to need a bigger TV.

Also on

Milestones: Three years in the pink city

Not all of Jaipur looks like this...

Recently, I keep starting out my posts with numbers. Perhaps it helps me to establish the landmarks, to measure my success on this uncharted path. For me, these three years are the longest ever time that I've been settled in one place since I graduated from high school in 1999. I'm discounting the four years of college because I moved a lot from year to year.

True, I haven't been in Jaipur for three years straight, either. I have left for at least 2 months every year to visit family, and last year I was hardly home since I spent almost half the time at the ashram or travelling. It's probably the only way I could've survived.

Nonetheless, three years with my stuff in the same apartment, with or without me. Three years of having Jaipur as home base, ready for me when I return. Three years of pigeons as my closest neighbors.

It was in April 2007 that we came here. I want to be able to say something very insightful about my experience here, a neatly packaged byte of wisdom. But in my stupor of disbelief that I've made it here this long, I'm struggling to make much out of it.

Actually, perhaps the real motivating force behind writing this post, behind even the realization itself that I have been here for that long, is that we are most probably leaving Jaipur. I hesitate to give more details because that deserves its own post. But the impending departure certainly has made me recognize how settled I've become here, and dare I say it? Attached.

To be honest, I can't think of things off the top of my head that I particularly like about this place, but to do Jaipur some justice, I will put some effort in and make a list:

  1. Central Park
  2. seeing Nahargarh Fort from my window

Ok, the list idea is pointless. It's sounding horribly negative, which has nothing to do with Jaipur in itself--it's more to do with my own perspective and judgements.

While now I can say that I'm in a positive frame of mind, much of my time here has not been spent in that way. Furthermore, I can say that I've come to terms with my previous negativity, and have reached more of a state of acceptance of life, of being here, all the pros and cons included. It's been a sacrifice, but has held certain advantages. They've pretty much cancelled each other out.

Pros include low cost of living, nice apartment, being close to in-laws, being close to Delhi. Cons: difficulty in going out (weather & logistics combined), weather, lack of social circle, weather, being close to in-laws, weather...

Dear Jaipur, you're too hot and I can't think properly. You've made life difficult for me, but I forgive you.

Nahargarh Fort, which I can see from my window

(also posted on my blog, BeckyBlab)

A Journey

Thank you is finished. To my mother, where ever you are, I kept my promise, the story is told in a way that I could tell you wished.

All I can say at this it is a miracle. I just wanted to share the miracle with you from Chicago, Il to Daegu, South Korea to Paris to Nanjing China...and all I can say to all of you...follow your heart. There is a reason to go against the flow...and why we have the lessons along the way. For often we judge on the outward appearance...not realizing and not knowing who is really around us.

Great love to you all.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Morning After

Ah the pain associated with some of the greatest nights Ive ever had. If Im incredibly unlucky, it feels a bit like this.......


The first thing I hear is nothing. There’s light in the room and the day is completely still. A ringing begins to echo through my ear drums with soft reverberation and I have vague recollections of standing directly next to a speaker, shouting over the bass. Before I have time to move a limb, and immediately after the awareness that I am actually still alive, railway nails are driven into the tender part of my skull, right between the eyes. The banging builds as theyre drive further into my brain and I press the heels of my palms into my eye sockets to dull the sting. I always convince myself that if I just hadn’t opened my eyes, and let the sun touch my pupils, it would never hurt as much - I need to start wearing eye patches to bed! Groaning, I roll over and reach blindly for the bottle of water on my bedside table, its unfortunately still full and now warm. Clearly I did not drink any before I slept.

The water sloshes violently down my throat in my desperate bid to lift the drought, and its not just my sore throat crying out for it, but I can feel every emaciated cell reaching to the skies. And through the thudding I become aware of the shape beside me, sprawling, and snoring, with limbs hanging from the edge of the bed. The whole room smells like stale beer, and it seems like I passed out on my left shoulder again, as its contorted and bent beneath me and does not have the strength to move. I twist beneath the covers to alleviate the intense heat of a body in overdrive, realising that I’m still wearing last nights clothes. Who's bloody idea was this anyway.

I rise on one elbow and look at my boyfriend, there’s drool on his pillow. I look at my own, and mascara and red lipstick dance together in patterns across the slip. I don’t even want to think about my face, which feels thick with grime. I need to pee. Standing from the bed, the arch of my foot lands on the heel of the stilettos I left on the floor and I curse in pain, knowing full well thats where I always leave my heels. Stumbling forward completely disorientated, I clutch the door frame and slide my body along the hallway. My eyes refuse to focus.

After I wee, I stand feverishly over the toaster, begging for the dry toast to pop so that I can chew on my painkillers and swallow my vitamin B without throwing up. I glance out the window and a woman walks briskly past with her excited dog. I grit my teeth and send all her my negative energy, but the ache doesn’t go away. I think a poltergeist has ransacked my kicthen, the cupboard doors are swung open and partially eaten food is strewn across the table. I spy a kebab wrapper in the bin... Im going to feel that later.

Stumbling back down the hall, I wonder what caused the purple bruising on my shins, and where the hell my purse is. I open the front door to bring in some air and discover my keys still in the lock. Yeah, really clever.

My gut is churning and my stomach feels tight and bloated, Im not sure if I need to wee again, or throw up. I pull out my earrings and all the pins from my hair and slip out of my clothes. I climb back into the hot bed, gulp some more water, and promise I will never ever drink again. I fall back asleep, praying for relief. Its only midday, after all.

Saturday, May 22, 2010


I have been thinking about healing this past week, and how some people heal and others don't.

I haven't had a cold for some time, and for a while have been passing headaches, aches and pains and stuffiness as symptoms of energetic shifts. I am sensible though and use my instincts to assess if it needs the doctor's input.

I came down with a really bad sore throat over the weekend. I 'knew' why! Despite the fact that my son has had a cold all week, I understood, energetically, my body had created this illness for a reason.

Symbolically the throat is the seat of the will. I have been battling with, 'God your will not mine' for some time now and not really feeling it. I am so headstrong that my stubbornness seems to take over.

To top that I then feel angry that I am not GETTING IT!

I do what most people do- beat myself up- for not being this, not doing that, not achieving this, not understanding that.

The more I internalized my anger, my throat let me know what a sore point this was for me, by manifesting into a sore, painful throat.

So why is my son ill? And later on that day, why was my daughter complaining of a sore throat? ANGER!!!!

Is this their anger, my anger, anger in general?? A bit of everything, they are teens and that is enough on its own, but I believe as everything is energy, what is the strongest feeling, is what is felt the most.

Now guilt was setting in so I decided to call upon the angels help!

I used some angel visualization to heal my throat. I asked Archangel Michael to cut away any negativity within and without me, and for my children.

I then asked Archangel Raphael to put his emerald-green healing light over our throats.

I then let go (or tried to) waiting for the instantaneous healing I have read happens to some people.


I tried again, but then remembered that it is not the amount of times you do it, it is the trust that healing is already given.

So I started affirming, 'I am healed!'

I had a fitful night, where I can't say I felt the angelic miracle of healing, but awoke then next day with no sore throat, but a very runny nose. So It did work!!!!

I am still ill, but I feel that this is a deep release, and sometimes we have to go through it to become healed. Also, I have spent some low down time, where I have had a chance to re-charge and re-assess my life.

I have spent some lovely moments in nature as well, planting my vegetables on my allotment, where I feel that miracles have been happening all around, helping me heal.

So, why do some people heal and some don't??

I believe, that there are blocks to healing. Our beliefs can be blocks, the belief that 'it takes time' to heal is very ingrained. Or a fear to heal. Some people feel a form of addiction to not been well, they can use it sub-consciously as a reason to procrastinate. Also it is leverage; pain, illness or trauma, is a manipulation tool.

There is also the belief that 'I don't deserve' to be healed, happy, whole. Or the collective belief, especially with flu and viruses, that,'I am bound to get this since this is what the news, the doctors, the parents at school... are saying'

And then there is the need to go through the pain sometimes, to become aware of what is really happening. Sometimes, we need an illness as a way to make us STOP!!!!!

Post from my blog

Friday, May 21, 2010

News that Inspires

Of late, I've stopped reading newspapers as voraciously as I used to. I've also drastically reduced the time I spend watching the news on TV. Until a couple of months ago, 9 pm was usually the time I tuned in to an hour-long program on one of India's leading news channels. The debates were interesting, no doubt, especially when they were to do with issues that I was passionate about. However, the mindless arguing and oft-repeated cliches that the speakers would throw at each other, especially if the debate was political, made me feel like walking up to them and slapping them out of their "zombiness." 

More often that not, the news episodes would leave me either with a feeling of a lot of anger at someone or something, or a feeling of complete and utter hopelessness about the state of affairs in this country and the world at large.

Needless to say, I feel better ever since I turned off the news. Perhaps a little less "informed," but the happier for it.

On the one hand, I can see that we are living in times where there is a lot of "bad news" to report. Or are we? Haven't there always been murders and wars? Haven't there always been storms and floods? Haven't there always been mindless rulers who have unleashed mayhem on a particular region of the world for personal ambition? Any top story today has its share of historical counterparts, in some form or another. The "baser" level of human consciousness continues to express itself in this world as it has since the ages, only in different circumstances and over different things.

So it's not like this is the first time in history that all of this stuff is happening. It seems to me, therefore, that for the media to portray an event as though it heralds the end of all things sane is misleading, to say the least. It's the "feeling" with which the reporting leaves me that I'm talking about. If a billion people walk away from their televisions at night feeling fearful, hopeless, and let down, imagine the effect of these emotions on the world's consciousness. Quite obviously, these emotions will feed the growing fear that already clogs world consciousness.

Wherever there are floods and cyclones, there's bound to be destruction. However, alongside the gloom, there will always be plenty of stories of hope to be told as well. I have seen these stories first hand and even been a part of some of them. I have seen that the power of love is far greater then the power of fear. To see people rebuild their lives after earthquakes, to watch others risk their own lives to save complete strangers, to witness simple acts of kindness to birds and animals... these are stories that I'd rather put my attention on each day.

What you put your attention on grows. A lot of spiritual paths tell us this. The more fear I feel now, the more I'm setting myself up to feel fearful in the future. The more hope I feel in this moment, the more I'm setting myself up to feel hopeful in the future too.

Imagine starting your day with a reminder that the world is, actually, a beautiful place where good things can happen anywhere and anytime. That a miracle is just round the corner. That each human being has the power to do so much good. Imagine teaching our children that no matter who you are, or which country you come from, you are a powerful person with the ability to make a positive difference to this world.

It's not hard to find inspiration, if only we're willing to free ourselves of prejudice and make space to be inspired! As I was writing this piece, I looked down at the floor for a second and saw a little ant clumsily walking beside my chair. It nearly looked drunk, barely able to walk straight. When I looked closer, I saw that it was carrying its fallen comrade to safety. The clumsiness of its gait suddenly seemed so purposeful.

Little tales of heroism are playing out all around us. As a matter of fact, ever since I put the paper away, I can see so many.

(Also posted on my blog.)

365 Lessons-Lesson 141: Love All Beings (Especially Cats)

This cat actually crawled up on my neck and was purring as if it had a little motor inside. The last time we walked along the Burke Gilman trail in Seattle, we ran into this lion-like animal. He (she?) crawled up on my husband's neck and just stayed there for what seemed like forever. I thought we'd have to walk back to the car with my husband wearing this furry creature as a scarf.

How could you not stop and pet this cat. We saw bicyclists speeding along at 20 miles an hour jump off their bikes to pet this kitty who seemed to have an infinite supply of love. It just goes to show that what goes around comes around. The cat gives love and so many want to give it back. There's no way I could pass by this big, furry thing without giving it a little love.

We knew the cat was near by because a bicyclist decked out in biking gear...helmet, shades, padded bike shorts, the works...had abandoned her quest to conquer the Burke Gilman trail at rapid speed all for a cat. We could hear her down on her knees near the bushes saying, "Oh, kitty, you're so handsome." My husband and I stopped, we couldn't help it. The woman exclaimed, "This cat is so friendly, how can you not stop."

This regal looking creature abandoned the bicyclist in the bushes, eager to welcome it's new guests. First, the cat came trotting over to me, tail perfectly straight, and gave me a warm, fuzzy welcome.

Then the cat pranced it's way over to my husband and they exchanged a little moment with each other.

Finally, the cat turned in my direction again. Eager to soak up as much love as it could get, the cat climbed up on my shoulder and just lay there completely content.

This little, momentary exchange with an animal who seemed so eager to spend loving time with us really made my day. It made me realize how important our actions are and what an impact they can have on others. This cat was not afraid to be loving and in turn made me feel that way too. It was a beautiful and made me feel really happy the rest of the day. Here's a little video of that experience. May you be happy and peaceful. May you be loving to yourself and all creatures big and small.

Also on my blog Lessons from the Monk I Married

"What's Wrong With The World....and Does It Matter?"

You might have noticed that I've been away from the page for a few weeks...sorry!

Call it Writer's Block if you want, but I really did need some time “away.” Honestly, I've been too engrossed in my own problems, worries and issues to even think about writing something upbeat and positive.

So what brought me back to the page on this particular day? Actually, I've been mulling over the decision to get back into a “semi-healthy” writing habit all week.... it was today's morning news I caught while getting ready to head out that fed my desire to pull out my laptop again. Blasting out at me from the television were the latest efforts to clean up the oil spill in the gulf, mounting financial concerns in Europe (and throughout the entire world), stocks plunging in America, the U.S. unemployment rate back up again, gas prices soaring, and new concerns with the volcano in Iceland. I wondered out loud ...“what is going on?”

Listening to all this, my emotions were assaulted by an over-whelming realization – it's clear that many, many people are NOT happy. Not happy with our leadership, health care, our financial situation(s), environmental issues, communities, the list is huge. And it's not just outside our own back door – our entire global community is suffering. It seems like everyone I know is complaining or hurting in some way. Well, maybe our media makes it seem much worse – it always appears as if there is nothing good to report or talk about in the media these days.

Our parents used to have a saying: “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket.” I used to laugh at this little snippet of pessimism, but I've found myself actually thinking this same sentiment a couple times over the course of the last few months. Now, I certainly don't intend to sugar-coat current events and the impact such things have on us. However, I do know that dwelling within them is not healthy. If we're not willing to look beyond the dark and dismal pictures placed in front of us every day, our communities, our nation, our world will not heal – ever.

My youngest boy who is 17, actually brought up these same feelings and emotions this morning as we drove to school. Talking about the latest impact to the environment in the gulf he said... "man - what's going on, mom? It's like everything is falling apart!" Wow. We forget our kids are noticing this – all of it. We may think these teens are too caught up in their friends, dating, and just having fun, but in reality – they are watching. I agreed with my son – I told him that I, too, had been thinking lately that “the world was going to hell in a hand-basket.” But then I tried to share something with him that would hopefully remind him that there still remains a great deal of good - and good people - in this world, and that bad times won't last forever.

I reminded him that I personally don't believe God “causes” bad things to happen to us and the world, but we are given opportunities to rise above these periods of hardship and pain. What we do, and the decisions we make during those moments of extreme challenge, upheaval, and even unimaginable pain is what ultimately matters. This happens to us as human beings on personal levels, as well as within our local and expanded communities.

Like many other periods in history, we continue to move through the valleys and peaks of light and darkness. For any period of happiness and content we might experience, there is also a time of sadness and pain. It may sound trite, but without enduring upheaval and strife, none of the people who inhabit this earth could possibly understand what peace or contentment mean. Doesn't matter whether you're rich or poor....on a fundamental level, we all know and feel the difference between peace and pain. Though many of us may not have actually experienced these notable periods, the people of earth have survived and overcome terrible odds. The “Great Depression” of the 1930's brought our country to it's knees, while the global economy also suffered immense loss and progress was crippled. World War II had a negative impact on each community, every country of the world in some way – and we were forced to become more aware of our global connection to each other. During each crises, I can only imagine the fear and loss of hope that those who actually lived it might have felt. But people pulled together, learned to rely on one another - sometimes on a global level- and continued to believe and search for the good in the world.

My point is this – we've been there before. And each time our country or world has endured extreme adversity, hatred and even death, we've survived and come back stronger. As individuals, we experience these lowest moments deep within our souls. A former spiritual advisor of mine once referred to our lowest periods of faith as our “desert moments.” Again, it never matters whether you are Protestant, Hindu, Catholic, Jewish, Muslim, or any of the numerous faith traditions of the world - we all have experienced and will experience moments where we think our faith has left us, or is tested. But when we rise – and we will – that renewal of strength and faith is stronger than what we might previously have believed.

Pretty big “pill” to swallow, isn't it? That we have to endure these tough times? Having the bad news thrown in your face on a daily basis doesn't help, I know. Whether it's the front page of the local newspaper, the news source on your I-phone, or the 6 o'clock news on television, we just can't escape it. And to top it all off, we're each dealing with our own personal demons, issues and situations.

A key word for today: Believe.

Believe that there are still good people around you, in your hometown, in your state, your country, around the globe. If you have a day where you feel you just haven't witnessed or felt any glimmer of hope or goodness from those you've come in contact with, strengthen your belief by choosing to search out stories of people reaching out beyond themselves, performing random acts of kindness, or love unconditionally.

Believe that the best is yet to come. “That which does not kill me makes me stronger.” Current events are exactly what they are – current events. This too shall pass, and another day will dawn.

Believe that you can be anything you want to be. Each of us, by doing one small thing each day CAN make a difference, make a change, have an impact. If everybody thought that it “wasn't worth it” to write a letter to their congressman, or “it doesn't matter” if I donate $1.00 to this charity, or “my presence at this meeting” doesn't matter – we all know that nothing would ever change. Change is a collective effort – the act of complaining about someone else's actions or lack there-of never produces results.

Believe that Angels are among us...and YOU just might be one of them. Take time to notice those around you who have made an impact in your life, and recognize their presence. Remain open to the possibility that even your smile or “hello” could lift the heart of another.

I don't know about you, but I feel better now...

We may not have seen our darkest days on this planet, but I'm confident in the innate goodness of humanity and our common goal to love and be loved. Really, what else matters?

As citizens of such a large planet, we are spread thousands of miles apart with cultures and customs so incredibly different from each other. Yet we are still very much the same - we all feel pain, but we all have a tremendous capacity to love.

Yep, the “world may be going to hell in a hand-basket,” but I am now reminded that my personal worries are just a minute speck of dust in the millions of emotions floating around this world.

A better day IS coming, for all of us –

I Believe

Words and music by Erwin Drake, Irvin Graham, Jimmy Shirl, Al Stillman

I believe, for every drop of rain that falls,
a flower grows.

I believe that somewhere in the darkest night,
a candle glows.

I believe for everyone who goes astray,
someone will come, to show the way.
I believe, I believe.

I believe above the storm the smallest prayer
will still be heard.

I believe that someone in the great somewhere
hears every word.

Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
then I know why I believe!

I believe above the storm the smallest prayer,
will still be heard.

I believe that someone in the great somewhere,
hears every word.

Every time I hear a newborn baby cry,
or touch a leaf, or see the sky,
then I know why, I believe!

 Pay it forward - spread a smile!

Photos courtesy of Google images.
Also on my post at:

The seven ages

These days I am reminded a lot of Shakespeare's "The Seven Ages of Man" from the play "As You Like It."

I had it memorized for elocution contests in school and remember being lauded for my oratory. One teacher had commented that the passion I bring to the poem tells her I "get it."

I'm not sure I did as much then as I do now.

I have passed through three stages, with the first one being more or less a blur. I don't remember "mewling and puking in the nurse's arms" but I do recall being a sick child.

Frailty was my trademark back then.
The Seven Ages of Man

How distinct that memory of "the whining schoolboy schoolgirl with his her satchel and shining morning face, creeping like snail unwillingly to school." I hated getting up at 6 a.m. Eyes half-closed I would go through the morning routine, skipping showering some days so I wouldn't miss my morning ride.

Sometimes I deliberately went through the motions slowly -- the rickshaw-wallah would ring the doorbell at 6:55 a.m. and if I were still putting on my socks mom couldn't pester me to drink milk!

"And then the lover" -- those days of long-distance romance; the e-cards; the letters. The pining; the waiting; the attempts to miss flights back to Iowa City. Passed all too quickly.

"Then a soldier" -- this, my current age. But unlike the soldier "Jealous in honour, sudden, and quick in quarrel, seeking the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth," I find myself contemplating, discovering, questioning the value of a bubble reputation.

I'm more grounded, less excitable. More ponderous.

I want to know the meaning of life. The reason why we do what we do.

I seek truth -- if there is something like it.

And worth.

Perhaps, somewhere in that quest, discover myself.

I look around me and I see friends consumed by their children's lives -- reliving the first stage, preparing for the second, fearing the third, but in the process losing themselves ... their lives but a reflection of their offsprings'.

Given my contemplations, perhaps, I'll fast-forward to the fifth stage "full of wise saws, and modern instances" really rapidly.

Then slowly inch my way to the sixth and seventh and into oblivion: sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

Here's the entire poem for you to ponder over:

All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
Mewling and puking in the nurse's arms;
And then the whining school-boy, with his satchel
And shining morning face, creeping like snail
Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,
Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
Made to his mistress' eyebrow. Then a soldier,
Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
Jealous in honour, sudden and quick in quarrel,
Seeking the bubble reputation
Even in the cannon's mouth. And then the justice,
In fair round belly with good capon lin'd,
With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
Full of wise saws and modern instances;
And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
Into the lean and slipper'd pantaloon,
With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
His youthful hose, well sav'd, a world too wide
For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion;
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

— Jaques (Act II, Scene VII, lines 139-166)

Also on my blog.

Copyright protected by Digiprove © 2010 Mansi Bhatia

Presence and Contemplation

Place your attention here and now with me in this moment. Begin to focus your attention first on your breathing and slow your breathing down. You may want to take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and then begin to slow your breathing down. As you focus on your breathing and on slowing it down, feel your entire body relax.

Feel the facial muscles relax, unfurrow your brow, relax your mouth and jaw, relax your neck. Allow the feeling of relaxation flow through your entire body as you continue to focus on slowing down your breathing. Allow any tension in the body to simply melt away, feel the tension melt away as you slow down your breathing.

Focus on slowing down your thoughts as you continue to feel yourself relax, allow your thoughts to become gentle thoughts. Allow tenderness and gentleness to enter as you allow any harsh and stressful thoughts to simply pass by. Allow the stream of activity in your brain, the chatter to slow down, to pass away, as you feel a gentle tenderness fill you.

Allow all thoughts to pass away, even hurtful thoughts or thoughts of anger, just allow them to pass by and dissolve away. You can allow all thoughts, even if they are stressful or disturbing to simply pass by as mental activity, nothing important to hold onto, it is just the brain performing a function, just as the heart performs the function of pumping blood through your body.

Allow the peace and calm that fills you as you continue to relax and allow random thoughts to simply pass away encourage forgiveness. Allow any and all thoughts that can be replaced with forgiveness to pass away and allow forgiveness to fill that space.

A quote from Lord Edwary Hyde Clarendon for you to contemplate:

Anger is the most impotent of passions. It affects nothing it touches and hurts the one who is possessed by it more than the one against whom it is directed. 
I run a regular series every Friday offering presence and contemplation at my blog The Evolving Spirit

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Satin Mules

The story is strangely familiar but not often told: a woman falls in love with a shoe. Not a practical shoe of sturdy brown leather, a loafer or a hiking boot, but a beautiful shoe, its heels rising to an uncomfortable height, its fabric delicate and easily soiled, its color evoking feeling--the red flame of a flamenco dance, the pink of dreamy girls dancing the ballet, the sour yellow of hard candies savored in youth.

My friend, Meg, described by her partner as a "feminist fashion plate," has a passion for beautiful shoes. She plays accordion in a punk polka band, writes original music scores, and has her own theater company. Meg's closet is filled with a fantastic collection of shoes, many of them stiletto heeled in Mexican turquoise, Chinese red, silver sequins, kelly green patent leather, leopard spotted fake fur, to name a few. She has strappy sandals, iridescent tennis shoes, and boots that rise up the length of her thighs. Meg has even written a musical with a tap dance number in which the dancers perform in front of flashing projections of shoes singing "shoe box, shoe box" instead of "shoo bop, shoo bop."

For a long time I didn't understand Meg's shoe fetish. I'd heard of women going crazy for shoes a la Imelda Marcos but I had never, until recently, felt my own passion surge for a shoe. I have always chosen my shoes thoughtfully, buying well-made brands to support my back. In matters of style I've paid attention to current shapes and textures--pointed or square toes, shiny or matte--acquiring perhaps one or two pairs a year to update my wardrobe but keeping my purchases on the sensible, versatile side. My shoes are inevitably black or brown, low-heeled, tailored.

But last week I spotted a pair of red mules--backless high heeled slippers made of richly embroidered satin. Perhaps it was the generous cut of the fabric over the top of the foot or the slight point of the toe, but as I slipped the mules onto my feet, my mind filled with images of exotic, sensuous worlds. I saw rooms with Moorish archways and Persian rugs, their air perfumed by hookahs sending up sweet, delicate puffs of smoke. I saw lush-bellied women in silken harem pants, eyes rimmed with kohl, bodies swathed with scarves, gold bangles jingling softly upon their wrists. My imagination traveled to a glittering affair in a Venetian villa off the Grand Canal, masked partygoers laughing gaily as ladies’ frilly dresses swept across marble floors.

I must have stood long in those shoes, lost in my reverie. It was abruptly shattered by the inquiry of a sales clerk.

"Do you need some help?"

A moment of reflection on the dull status of my social life told me that I'd probably never have occasion to wear the mules, and the practical side of me, which tends to be quite bossy, said a firm "no" to both clerk and shoes.

But later that evening the satin mules crept into my thoughts. They had touched that part of my brain and heart where memories of exquisite and impractical objects I have loved are stored. In that gallery of memories gleams the brushed gold Italian heart that my mother hung on a thin chain around my eight year old neck, making me feel like a princess. Also there reside the many dolls that my father collected for me in his travels around the world, a virtual U.N. that somehow disappeared with my childhood. And there rests the memory of my mother in a sexy, red Chi Pao or traditional Chinese style dress, her slim waist cinched tiny, her lipstick and hair dark and glossy under the lights.

The next day I returned to the store and, without hesitation, purchased the shoes. The satin mules fed my eyes and my imagination. They provided an unmitigated pleasure in a complicated life. And that is how I managed to fall in love with a shoe.