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On the Chakras

More often than not we find scientific ‘proof’ that ancient wisdom passed on through generations that was considered ignorant hokey-pokey non-sense turns out to be true. How did they know?

 

This painting I created is my artistic interpretation of the manifest and un-manifest world. The colors symbolize the manifest world; and the shades of tan, white, black and grey are what is on the other side. The colors also are the Chakras.

 

As humans we know very little that can be scientifically proven regarding the spiritual world or how conscious life pops in and out of existence. The energetic body is something that some types of scientists dabble in, but again there is no ‘proof’.

 

Eastern philosophies and their ancient texts explain that as there is a visible physical body, there is also an accompanying invisible energetic body. It’s just as complicated and intricate. It has systems, nodes, and channels as our physical bodies do. Energy can get blocked just as an artery can. Emotions are energetic. They get stuck and if not released can go deeper and deeper into our being and/or eventually manifest through physical pain.

 

Mental health professional do this type of work and explorations. Yoga is all about the energetic body and helping energy flow more easily through the practice of physical postures (asana). Hence, my interest in the topic. Additionally my interest in art and color peaks my curiosity into how color is combined in various ways.

 

The chakras are something that has always fascinated me, long before I understood, practiced or taught yoga. The first time I heard about them, they just made sense to me. Like my cells deep down inside knew it to be true even though my mind was kind of laughing at the idea.

 

For anyone who doesn’t know about the chakras (I was well into the my 30’s believe it or not before I ever heard of them!), they are 7 of the main energetic centers of our bodies that energy flows through. They start at the base of the spine in the tailbone area and work their way up the body through the crown of the head through the center part of the body.

 

Later while completing a 500 hour yoga teacher certification course I would learn about the rest of the energetic system, but the chakras are the most well known and are depicted through so many texts and pictures throughout history.

 

The chakras have colors. There are 7 and they coincide with the colors of the rainbow. Their flow is vertical (unlike my art piece). Like the koshas (yogic) and other more managerial concepts I’ve learned about in my life through my business education, they remind me very much of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. It also reminds me of evolution in that it starts out very basic and physical, but then moves toward a path of higher consciousness and enlightenment toward self-actualization and understanding why we are here. We can’t get there until the lower needs are met. In the chakra system, if anything is blocked on the lower end; the energy is unable to flow up higher.

 

These two pictures I swiped from Google Images are a visual depiction of what I’m describing. Maslow’s famous triangle in this photo is actually colored similarly to the chakras.

The chakras are energetic. I later came to the realization that when I’m in emotional pain, the actual physical accompanying pain is located at a chakra point. It often points me in the direction of where I’m being blocked.

 

I’ve studied and read a lot of spiritual and religious texts. I don’t have a strong belief in any one thing, but I have an idea of how my own personal belief system/understanding of the physical and non-physical worlds are: the tangible and intangible. The part where we are alive and moving about this planet, and the part of the cycle that is blocked to us. The part where we wonder what happens to our consciousness or spirit when our physical body dies. What is our spirit before we are born? Is the spirit even real?

 

My artistic expression of the spiritual life cycle is depicted here. Like the Yin-Yang, half of the time our spirit is in the manifest world and the other half in the unmanifest world.

 

The colored lines are the manifest world, the world where white light bends and we can see color.

 

The non-rainbow colors represent the un-manifest world. When all colors are combined and mixed together, they create the ‘color’ (if you can call it that) brown. When you add white to brown it becomes tan. Adding black darkens it up. White is all there is, with everything included in it (white light contains all the colors in the spectrum), and black being the absence of it all – together they create gray. At dusk when we are in between day and night, color is shaded over. It doesn’t exist to the eye. Only form.

 

Our physical life is surrounding by this unknown. Before birth and after death there is the unknown. Lack of light (life) is as far away from us as possible. Or is it? Does it bend and show color in the absence of material things? Possibly it contains all the colors blended together (browns), and on the side closer to death and darkness that brown is darker, while on the side closer to birth and brightness it’s a shade of tan.

 

White and black together make a perfect in between shade of gray. Gray even has shades- darker and depending on the mixture of black and white: still a total absence of color. Science already has determined that in the absence of anything material, refraction of white light is also absent.

 

At least to our senses that is. Perhaps if we had another sense we’d see a whole other world on the other side….

 

The chakras here in this painting are the physical living world we experience. They move from a lower vibration to a higher one. Less conscious to more conscious. More connected to the earth and physical things to less. Much like Maslow’s triangle.

 

 

1stCHAKRA

Color: Red

Sanskrit name: Muladhara

Known as: Root chakra

Location: Base of the spine in the tailbone area

Symbolizes: safety, survival, grounding, nourishment from the Earth energy (food, other humans, clothing, etc)

My interpretation: it is our root. It’s located in a place where we sit and literally connect to the earth beneath us. Also in a place where we connect with other humans through copulation.

To me it symbolizes the earlist part of life when we are completely at the mercy of others. We build a foundation from the original safety and survival as babies. Our perception of the world is shaped from there. We come into life here. We could be stuck here our whole lives. If we are, unless it’s purely lack of money for food/shelter/clothing – it’s an energetic or emotional “stuckness”.

 

2ndCHAKRA

Color: Orange

Sanskrit name: Swadhisthana

Known as: Emotional chakra

Location: Lower abdomen, about 2 inches below naval and 2 inches in

Symbolizes: emotions, creativity, sexuality, and is associated with water, flow

My interpretation: it is what is next. We feel and can interpret that after we are fed. Sexuality helps life to stay on the planet. It’s the next closest thing to survival after we are fed, clothed and have the ability to live. It’s also our ‘gut’ feeling and is at the gut level. It symbolizes the childhood part of life where we are learning and growing, coming into our own and understanding how to respond to the world.

 

3rdCHAKRA

Color: Yellow 

Sanskrit name: Manipura

Known as: Solar chakra

Location: Upper abdomen, between the heart and belly button (solar plexus)

Symbolizes: Mental activities, intellect, personal power, will. It’s where self-worth, self-confidence and self-esteem are built and is at the core of our personality and identity.

My interpretation: Once we have that safety and gut feelings, we are able to use our mind and will power to go about in the world. That will power is based on our heat and desire. Heat and power like the sun. It’s the younger adult part of life up until middle age or the part of life where we shift mentally to part II – or something else. Where we are moving & shaking, taking care of the young and old. Working and using our physical identity to move through the world.

 

4thCHAKRA

Color: Green 

Sanskrit name: Anahata 

Known as: Heart chakra

Location: Center of the chest just above the heat  

Symbolizes: The ability to love, relate to others, have compassion and feel our inner selves.

My interpretation: Mentally we can move past all the intellect and listen to our heart. It’s like the highest of the 3 proverbial minds (gut, mind, heart).  It can guide us the right way if the solar plexus chakra is flowing freely and we can distinguish it between the monkey mind and the inner self. It’s the connection of the physical body to the higher body. It’s a place in life that symbolizes a switch to another thought process. If you can get there it’s beautiful. Usually around middle age or when we start to get tired of the grind and ask “What For”?

 

 

5th CHAKRA

Color: Blue  

Sanskrit name: Vishuddha  

Known as: Throat chakra (voice)

Location: Throat  

Symbolizes: Communication, self-expression, speaking our truth, creativity

My interpretation: When the lower chakras are unblocked we find ourselves more closely in the flow of life. We are able to be creative, speak our truth, and communicate in a heart-felt way with the world and people around us. On the proverbial life line, it’s at the later part of life where we understand how we are interpreted, live from a heart level rather than a level of obtaining material wealth, possession or status.

 

6th CHAKRA

Color: Indigo (or Purple in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Ajna  

Known as: Third Eye chakra 

Location: Forehead, between the eye brows   

Symbolizes: Inner wisdom, intuition, imagination. Ability to see the big picture inside and out. 

My interpretation: In other cultures the elderly are praised for the very notion that we get wiser as we grow older. We can be taught certain things, but it’s only through really knowing and figuring out their truth for ourselves that we can become wise enough to understand the wisdom bestowed upon on from sages of the past.

 

7thCHAKRA

Color: Purple (or White in some places)   

Sanskrit name: Sahasrara   

Known as: Crown chakra  

Location: Top of the head    

Symbolizes: Inner and outer beauty, universal connection with spirituality and consciousness. Pure bliss.  

My interpretation: Sounds like heaven on earth! With everything else unblocked and no attachment to any outcome- we can experience total peace, utter bliss. It’s the closest thing in our living world to death and not having an investment so tied and rooted to the material world. It’s the top of Maslow’s pyramid where we self-actualize.

 

The pyramid and the image of a sitting body are both sort of triangular in shape. My interpretation is that the larger base is at the bottom because those descriptions of what these areas symbolize are the most connected to earth. They are more difficult to move through and where the majority of individuals experience life. As we move up toward the more narrow sections, there are less humans around that thrive in those parts regularly, and it gets a bit easier to move because it’s further away from the root or axiomatic apron string. We can move up and down the Chakras at any time. But if the energy system is blocked by emotion it is difficult. Even a person with little to no food if they are emotionally clear can self-actualize.

 

In my artistic expression of this cycle the colors live in the middle of the known and unknown worlds. The small symbols on the painting that go from left to right, bottom to top are my humble explanation of moving upward through the chakras toward the unknown, which ultimately is completely and utterly surrounded by the pure energy of beautiful, boundless, weightless, expansive and all encompassing white light.

If you enjoyed my writing, consider leaving a comment, sharing with others, or following my blog

https://esterinaanderson.com

this and 6 other pieces were inspired by contemporary artist Sean Scully. 2 weeks ago Daren and I went to the Wadsworth in Hartford and it was the last day for his exhibit. He works in stripes mainly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Inevitable Scream

2am this morning.

I’m taking deep breaths and have my hand over my mouth. A long established, cataleptic practice. Additionally my eyes, temples and the space in between my eyes really hurt. I subconsciously begin to rub those areas with the hand that comes off my mouth. In just writing this my forehead, temples and eyes hurt.

 

It hasn’t been that long since these small acts were even noticed and now provide the insight as to what is happening to me. Chakra wise it’s the voice and wisdom body inside that are in pain.

 

I thought back to one evening about a year ago on my therapist’s couch. When I described ‘The Scream’, she (with empathy and almost automatically said) – it’s because you had no voice. Instantly tears sprung to my eyes. With that sudden understanding of what was unknown, obvious and finally understood – my throat hurt. It made sense! It was obvious to her, but new to me. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband. But somehow relaying it not long after over the phone while he was waiting for his son to finish hockey practice late at night while sitting at Starbucks and catching up on work himself, it got lost in translation and I couldn’t quite explain it. It lost it’s potency and I lost the motivation to meditate on it and explore it further.

 

The Scream. It was inevitable.

 

The scream I speak of took place in mid-February 1994 just days before my 18thbirthday outside of the Patchogue courthouse on Long Island. The previous summer on July 9th was the first time the police were involved in the Domestic Violence and child abuse that had been taking place at home since I was born, resulting in the February court date. I wanted justice. I wanted to see something happen, but nothing had. Since I was still a minor for a few more days, the law allowed my parents to move the case to Family court – which was at the time slightly more serious than a bad joke, and my father walked away without even as much as an anger management course or proverbial slap on the wrist.

 

I didn’t know what was going on that day. As I was leaving with my parents in what seemed like minutes after we had gotten there, I asked my mother what was going on. She just ushered me outside. Once out in the bright sun on that brisk February day I asked again. No answer. I stopped and got louder- “What is going on?!”

 

A few passerby’s looked our way. My mother must have felt compelled to answer due to the attention we were drawing. She pulled me aside as my father continued to walk to the car.

 

Mom: Nothing is happening.

Me: What do you mean nothing?

Mom: Nothing.

Me: What does that mean?

Mom: It means we are going home.

Me: What about dad? Classes, probation? What happened in court?

Mom: Nothing. We moved the case to family court and he is able to go home.

Me: I thought that classes and probation were the minimum, what about the restraining order?

Mom: That was if we left it in criminal court. We moved it to family court.

Me: I thought that was my decision.

Mom: It’s not, you are a minor.

 

With that she continued to walk to the car. I reluctantly followed.

 

With each step I grew more and more aware of what just happened. More confused. More enraged.

 

When we got to the car I stood there behind it. I didn’t want to get it. It was bright, sunny and cool out. The car seemed like the box I was proverbially stuck in my whole life – hot, stuffy, enclosed. I was mad at them. I didn’t want to get in. I was confused. I was angry. I wanted justice for what has happened to me.

 

I stood there.

 

My parents got out and asked me what I was doing. I didn’t know.

 

They were urging me to get in.

 

I didn’t want to. I couldn’t even speak.

 

The more they urged me; the more trapped, confused and angry I felt. I felt stuck to the ground beneath my feet. Literally and metaphorically.

 

Esterina – get in the car

 

No.

 

No? What do you mean no?

 

I don’t want to.

 

Get in the car.

 

No.

 

They both started to approach me when I let out a scream. A scream I didn’t know I had in me.

 

They halted their approach and watched me, panicked.

 

“Esterina – get in the car”.

 

I screamed again. And again. I screamed at the top of my lungs, like I never screamed before. A scream that seemed almost inhuman.

 

They stood frozen and watched me like I was a wild animal. That is what I felt like – a crazed wild animal. I continued to scream, and scream, and scream for what seemed like minutes.

 

They watched in awe and horror.

 

When I stopped, I realized I felt better. I had to go home. I had to find a way out of my life and house. It was a few more months until high school graduation. I had no idea what I was going to do; but I had to get in the car, go home and figure it out.

 

It felt so good to scream. So good, I was able to get in the car I didn’t want to be in. I didn’t want to be in their company, but what choice did I have? I got in the car and we went home. My mother spoke of this scream a few times to others, but never me. It was never mentioned again, but I never forgot it.

 

The July 9, 1993 incident happened when I was 17. Until that day, me and my family pretended that our home was like any other and that violence and abuse wasn’t a part of it. Once the cops were called by my youngest brother that day (it was his 13thbirthday) the cat was out of the bag, and it was a little easier to tell my then friends and boyfriend what happened. I showed them the bruises. I didn’t have the voice to talk about the past, but only to say this has happened before. The first time you talk about it is the hardest. That was the last bite the beaver took of the dam before the leak started. It would be years though before the dam actually flooded.

 

That particular day I had an argument with my father. He was annoyed about how long I was dating my boyfriend and didn’t have a ring. I tried to explain that I didn’t want to get married, that I didn’t even finish high school yet. He got angry and couldn’t fathom that I was dating someone I didn’t want to marry. I said I wanted to finish school and have a career first. Then the hitting started. It’s about as far as I care to explain, but it’s the story of how most of these incidences went.

 

The truth was I didn’t want to marry early. I didn’t want to depend on anyone to support me as my mother felt she needed my father’s support. She hadn’t finished high school and was embarrassed by that her whole life. I didn’t something more for myself. I wanted independence and an education. Through words, deeds and actions; my mother has communicated numerous times that she wouldn’t be with my father if it wasn’t for us 3 kids. I grew up feeling like a burden. Very unwanted. Very unloved. There were no kisses, hugs or I love yous in my home. I didn’t even know that was a thing people did. It was for TV if anything.

 

Not long after “The Scream” I decided to join the Coast Guard and set an enlistment date of August 9th. It was the perfect solution for getting out, supporting myself, learning a trade and obtaining money for college. A true ticket out of my house.

 

Against my own intentions, just 3 years later I was already married and pregnant with my first child. At 23 I had my second child. Scared of turning out like my mother, I made it a point to not settle and was determined to obtain a degree to and have the ability to take care of myself. I did finish my required 4 years of active military time. I put in another 4 years of Reserve time. I did go back to school and had a BS in Business by the time I was 24. At 25 my then husband and I bought our first home. At 29 I had an MBA and a very decent full-time job in the government. At 32 we bought the larger home in the nicer suburbs with the good school system. At 34 I was divorcing. There was no violence in my home, but I realized I married a man that had the same maladaptive habits as my father. I was unable to see how badly he treated our children because it was so much better than the way I grew up. In our home there were kisses, hugs and I love yous. I thought it was how it should be. It was later I would realize that it wasn’t so healthy either.

 

From the time I left home until I divorced I felt very healthy mentally. Once the stability of a home and two biological parents were out of the picture, I felt like I started to unravel. The scream was still in me. Unbeknownst to me.

 

The years from 34 on were kind of a rebirth and kind of a mental hell. I love my now husband, but joining two families that came from two different backgrounds with children that still went to two different homes with other parents and family members who could not possibly be any different from one other was a recipe for turbulence. My now husband and I had different ideas on what our newly formed family would look like, how we’d spend our weekends, evenings and summers, how much time we’d spend as a blended family together and apart. What our holidays would look like. All things that were my little to only down-time, and things I had previously very much looked forward to. His ex was far more mean & manipulative than mine, and had a very strong opinion about how we spend time with his kids; which pretty much dictated how we lived, how we spent our money, and everything we did. He didn’t want to fight with her or disappoint anyone and in turn succumbed to the belief that this is what divorced life looks like.

 

I disagreed. I felt like I had little to no voice on how I wanted to spend my time with my own husband, children and blended family. I started to lose the voice I had gained in controlling my own life as an adult. I felt trapped.

 

After a few years “The Scream” came back.  I can’t even remember the first time I screamed again like I had in the parking lot of the Patchogue courthouse. Probably in my car. It was a place I screamed a lot. I would be driving home from work and singing loudly to music thinking I was happy, when I’d get an overwhelming feeling of being trapped. Usually due to traffic, but it rubbed on the nerves of feeling trapped in my life. Feeling voiceless. Feeling that I had no control and had to live as someone else dictated. I’d think about the evening ahead. Evenings busy with making dinners, kid activities in different towns all over the state. Things that I didn’t plan but we had to do. Things I was too tired to do at the end of a long day. Things that took time away from unwinding and spending quality time with anyone in my life – even my own children.

 

Every new thing that popped up on our calendar and every new expense that arrived without my consent or knowledge would feel like a little dagger. It was small at first, hardly noticeable – but over time it would bother me more and more. I’d express my frustration to my husband in the little time we had together and were able to talk without anyone else hearing. Those rare times were in bed, on vacations or on the days our kids were with their other parent and we didn’t have an event of theirs to go to. So it seemed like I was always frustrated. It seemed like all we talked about was how I was frustrated. We couldn’t even get past this to have a conversation about taking control of our lives because the whole conversation would be focused on how I am and shouldn’t always be upset. It went on like this. And the longer it went on, the longer I felt unheard and the more and more the scream inside tried to break free.

 

It would come out often. I’d scream and just lose my mind. In my car, in my house with no one home, at home with people home, late at night while arguing with my husband. For the life of me I couldn’t relate it to anything in my past. Hindsight is so very 20/20. I can’t believe no one else around me was able to help me relate this. We were all in our own worlds trying to get through every single day and all the things that needed to be done, who had time to think about rest, mental health or self-care?

 

Rest. Self-Care. These are things that are SO necessary; but I was taught, and for certain my husband’s ex felt that downtime is for the lazy. We should be busy at every moment doing something productive. Even though our home was full of non-stop activities, if something was unscheduled for one of my step-kids for a New York minute, she’d step in to make sure they had something to do. Something of course that would require my husband’s time, which meant it was my time because he wasn’t around to help me with the house(s), dinner, shopping, pets, other kids, etc.

 

Downtime is necessary. And I didn’t have it. And it sent me into crisis mode.

 

Something about turning 40 initiated a stream of events. It was like the next piece of the dam that I had built as a child to protect myself snapped. Not broken and flooded yet, but enough to cause some damage.

 

It’s no coincidence that this breakdown took place over just a few months. A period where I began physical therapy for my back, started yoga teacher training, and hit my knee under a table at workat work, which required other physical manipulations. Unless you are immersed in the world of mental health and or energy work, it could be hard to understand why I don’t find this to be a coincidence. The trapped emotions were being knocked on and broken up so to speak through these activities.

 

Suddenly, I almost couldn’t bear being in the car and commuting to work. I couldn’t face days of going to work and killing time there when there was so much to do at home. I couldn’t stand another minute of not having time for myself to meditate or go deeper into the practices I was studying. I couldn’t stand having a life with little to no meaningful human connections and being an un-humanized vessel of money and transportation.

 

The scream would come more often. I’d get hot. I’d lose control of my bladder. One day in the summer the following year right before I checked myself into an IOP, I broke into boils on my chest. Every time after a few minutes I’d think about something related to childhood and it was make the screaming and subsequent crying that would inevitably take place for a long time after feel almost like a release. I was embarrassed to tell anyone this. I thought it was rather melodramatic. I had no idea it was all PTSD.

 

Then one evening last summer on July 11th, 25 years and 2 days after that incident when I was 17, I had a really bad evening. It was following a few days of step-children drama, an accusation about something I didn’t do. It followed a few too many drinks at a charity event, and then an argument with my husband about the kids. The scream came out again. It was a hot summer night. Every window was open, and as usual after a few minutes it had nothing to do with the present. I was screaming and crying for the past. I was unbearably hot and had no bladder control so I stripped down, got in the bathtub and screamed. I was screaming HELP. I was screaming about the help I wanted and needed as a child, the help I wanted then mentally. The help I wanted in needing to feel heard and understood and not like a burden of someone who is just not happy with the wonderful life I was being told I have and should be grateful for.

 

I was an adult feeling like a child. I now know and understand that my husband represented my mother. The gatekeeper between me and my father who didn’t want to shake anything up and upset him – so turned a blind eye and pretended that nothing was wrong. The mother who told me that I have a nice life and home and I should be happy. The mother that made me feel like a burden because I was alive and the reason she had to be in this unhappy marriage with this abusive man.

 

My husband was the gatekeeper between our uncontrolled time and his ex and kids. He couldn’t understand that with a nice life why I wasn’t happy. I felt like a burden that I wasn’t happy and tried to use our free to time to discuss things he didn’t want to address – because it would shake things up and upset someone else.

 

It’s now so obvious.

 

A few days after this incident last summer, where again – exactly 25 years and 2 days later cops were called for the first time, I had the epiphany of my current situation and how the characters in my present life represented my past. Once that happened the dam really broke for good. I had a few really long, hard months of understanding this and learning about PTSD and the brain. How my lower brain – the one that takes over in times of crisis (the instinct to run and not contemplate when being chased by a lion) cannot see the actual people, but responds to the emotions it interprets to be dangerous and floods the body with fight or flight hormones. When I couldn’t physically fight I’d scream. And scream. And scream….

 

It’s why I put my hand on my mouth when I’m anxious.

 

That wasn’t my last scream. I was now aware of how dangerous they were. Neighbors don’t understand. They hear help and screaming and call cops. They should! So my screams became muffled. Or I’d get in the car and drive to a remote place. I’d scream until I felt like I was able to ‘get it out of me’. I can’t explain the release I feel afterward. It’s cathartic. Even in the throws of crying and screaming, it’s better than not, and I feel like I’m purging all that is bad inside of me, despite it looking very differently to an outsider.

 

I had a lot more ‘safe’ screaming last summer. Nights I couldn’t sleep I’d get up and write or read about PTSD and allow myself for the first time in my life to think about what happened, and finally begin to process it.

 

I’m not proud of screaming. I’m not proud of how I’ve acted and argued or fought before I actually got to a place of where the scream came. I’m not proud of the self-destructive and relationship-destructive behaviors that took place. My body was in fight-or-flight mode. I actually did feel a shift of losing control at a certain point. I always knew the moment, but I was truly helpless to stop the flood as my lower brain took over. I can relate to the term “faulty alarm system”. It is really what it is. Not a true emergency, but something internally so close; that it sets off the alarm and subsequent actions. The propensity of the reaction to the situation doesn’t match. That is PTSD.

 

 

I haven’t screamed in many many months now. Once I understood what happens to the body, what my triggers were and how to get somewhere safe it was game changer.

 

This is a blog I’m not even sure I will post. It doesn’t wrap up nicely. It doesn’t tie back to some sort of theme. It just is. I woke up, had my hand on my mouth, my temples and third eye hurt… I remembered that it was because it was tied to feeling voiceless. I remembered the scream that first day when I was 18 and felt it was inevitable. That day and always, until I felt I have a voice.

 

The below is from an email I wrote to my family in the middle of the night last summer. Oddly between the evening of Aug 6thand Aug 7th– the anniversary of my mom’s passing. She died around midnight on 8/6/06 but wasn’t pronounced by Hospice until they got there until after midnight, which is what her death certificate says. Strangely it links to someone else who wrote about “The Scream”. Just learning and knowing I’m not alone has helped me to feel human and not alone.

 

Peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope I’m not bugging you all with some of these emails. I just had the strangest, but maybe good night and wanted to share with someone. 

 

I woke up as usual in the middle of the night with a overwhelming sadness. I started to cry about things I was remembering. The more I thought, the more I cried. Gabby wasn’t home (she is a college kid often out in the middle of the night). No one else was up for at least two floors and I really, really cried. 

 

I had a assortment of stronger than usual memories. I remembered different places where I felt the most mix of emotions – like extreme excitement and profound anger at being hit at the same time, such as how happy and angry I was when we went to Disney; or bought a new (used) car. I was seeing details of things like I was still living at home. Dented walls, my mirror in my room with the pictures of my friends tucked around the frame. I even remember the exact pictures of who they were of. I remember my ballet slippers hanging off the brass bed, my curling iron on the dresser… It was like I was there, the level of detail was so great. 

 

It was mostly my room that made me sad. I was thinking about how I would lock the door, but that really didn’t do any good. My father broke the knob and lock many times. I was thinking that if he tried to come in I should have just gone out the window, but at the time that never crossed my mind. I wondered why… Because I wouldn’t know where to go… For years I had no vehicle. The neighbors would have sent me back. I had no money or change to make a phone call at a payphone. Unless I grabbed mommy’s phonebook in the dining room I wouldn’t have even known anyone but my friend’s numbers to call. And what would I have told them? How was I going to get past him to get the phonebook and out the door? I was so brainwashed to believe that I should keep this quiet that it would have been a horror to tell someone far away that I didn’t have their number like grandma or aunt Fran. I felt the repercussions of telling anyone would have been worse than just enduring it. It was to perturbing to even imagine telling any friends. My room that I was remembering was like a jail cell. I felt unbelievably hopeless and trapped.

 

As I cried I had such a mix of emotions. Like why? I must have done something in a previous life and this is karma. That actually made me feel better, as it made sense and I was paying my dues.

 

I also couldn’t help but wonder if I was being dramatic. If it wasn’t as bad as I thought. 

 

Some of these thoughts soothed me as I stopped crying and tried to fall back to sleep.

 

I couldn’t fall back to sleep so I googled “delayed onset PTSD in adults of child abuse”. Many things quickly came up, but my favorite (very long) was the this one – http://www.naasca.org/2011-Articles/081411-PTSDinAdultSurvivors.htm

 

There were two things I like about this article. First it is a complete description of my journey, as it describes completely how I’ve felt from a child up until now, and explains why now; after such a delayed period this would come up. The second thing is the poem at the bottom written by a survivor called “The Scream”. 

 

I’ve screamed “The Scream” the first time days before I was 18 in front of the courthouse with my parents when they dropped the only charges we ever had from that famous 7/9 day without my consent, as I was still a minor for a few more days and the laws were quite different back then. They were scared of my scream. They couldn’t get me in the car. They genuinely looked panicked. They told at least Mario about it. I scared myself. I didn’t know it was in me. It felt freeing to scream. After a few minutes and watching their panic, I fell silent and just got in the stinking car – feeling unbelievably trapped. No one talking about a thing. Like what just happened never happened. I was so numb I was not even thinking about how I was going to get out of this jail I was living in. 

 

Up until a few years ago ‘the scream’ was a distant memory. Now it happens often enough. I get triggered and I cannot stop screaming. I remember telling my therapist about it a few months ago, with slight concern. She just looked sympathetically at me and said you are using your voice to get it out, because you felt voiceless for so long. “The Scream” is what prompted the call to the cops on 7/11. 

 

After I read a few articles I felt more normal again, remembering I am having a human reaction to a human experience. I still couldn’t fall back to sleep, so I tried some yoga nidra which has been helpful as of late. When I got to the part about visioning a safe place, I quickly scanned my memory for one and only could remember theapartment on Coney Island Avenue in Brooklyn. It wasn’t a safe place at all. 

 

Again, I was FLOODED with minute details about the outside & inside. The hallway and two flights up. I was remembering or not remembering that the lock on the front door didn’t work for a while before we moved. I couldn’t remember if that was real or just a dream that I’ve had so many times. If it was a dream, what did it symbolize? Not feeling safe, locks not working? I cried again for a long time. Same mix of emotions like it’s my fault or I’m over exagerating it. But I remembered the article and how the only way to move through it is to experience the thoughts and feelings again. So I let them through to pass. Letting the memories and details just flood me. After reading the article I embraced what was happening, as it’s the only way to let it go. 

 

The article is very long as I said, but here is a clip from the end after explaining how one would have gotten to this point 

 

“Survivors attempt to flee from feelings about having been abused, from normal reactions to an abnormal situation. Because that situation was life-threatening in thepast, some survivors mistakenly believe that to experience those feelings today would also be life-threatening, would bring on an emotional breakdown, a falling apart akin to death. They do not understand that the breakdown has already happened, when their feelings were preempted by shame.

A survivor can afford to look that “death” squarely in the face when he has people who will stand by him, as well as the insight and power he did not have as a child. When it is finally safe enough, the survivor will remember the memories and feel the feelings about the trauma. Such a “thawing out” is a second chance, an emotional reincarnation. Still…the first sensations that have been repressed or avoided all of one’s life can feel like a tidal wave.

When he is ready, the thoughts and feelings return. In response to what has been uncovered, he often feels great anger at the betrayal itself and the injustice and randomness of the violence.

Underneath that anger is a terror and helplessness that is more difficult to experience than the anger. (“Maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember. Maybe I’m just exaggerating.”) This can go on for a long time, but with the help of others, the survivor will eventually accept that the trauma was as bad as he knows it was.

Profound sadness follows. This compassionate acceptance of “poor me” and the mourning of the losses that the trauma created eventually lead to resolution.

When the losses engendered by trauma are fully mourned, the trauma loses its power over the survivor. Instead of the emotional breakdown they feared…survivors experience an emotional breakthrough! Completing the grieving process means divorcing the trauma from one’s sense of identity and self-worth.”

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Voices Carry

Voices Carry

 

Shush, keep it down now, voices carry

 

The song “Voices Carry” by Til’ Tuesday always gave me somewhat of a chill. Not in a bad way, but through some haunting lens I didn’t quite understand but felt a magnetic draw to.

 

2 years ago while preparing some yoga classes April’s Sexual Assault month which has a strong hand-in-hand partnership with October’s Domestic Violence month (a topic that I feel very strongly about as a child abuse survivor) – I set out on a search for songs about these topics.

 

Voices Carry came up under Domestic Violence. Yes, I suppose – ‘shush, keep it down now, voices carry’. It wasn’t all too different from some of the other 80’s tunes like Luka and Behind the Wall. It had that same eerie vibe that drew me in, while not really digesting much what the lyrics were so poignantly about.

 

A few months ago on the way home from work my music was playing on shuffle in the car when “Voices Carry” came on. Likely for the first time I really listened to and digested the lyrics. The Internet search from 2 years ago plagued my mind, but I wasn’t so sure anymore that Domestic Violence was completely behind it. Was it a secret lover perhaps? What did the words mean???

 

Hours later after dinner, walking the dog and the nightly routine – Daren was out at hockey with Devin and I picked up my phone before bed to search the lyrics meaning.

 

No doubt it was about the power dynamic in an Intimate Partner relationship. But what I read over and over and over, is that the song was originally written with “She” instead of “He”. I read a lot about the video and how the man tried to control the woman… (never saw this video) and how it could be about sexual assault; but I couldn’t shake what almost seems now after one too many sources said that it was about a lesbian relationship.

 

Wow. That just shifts everything now doesn’t it?

 

I’ve written about this before- that back in May 2017 I was required to take a 50 hour CT state training on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in order to teach yoga at Domestic Violence shelters. I was ambivalent about the training. It was a requirement. I had to shift my schedule a bit to fit it in. It ended up being a life-changer.

 

The topics were so eye opening. It wasn’t just about the topics. It was about the dynamic of relationships. The dynamic of human unfairness. The dynamic which children grow up and how certain segments of society are treated unfairly. How cycles of violence perpetuate through generations. How we treat and work with perpetrators. How the police are trained and not trained to deal with these issues. How the law works and how the laws have changed over the years. How our culture almost encourages boys toward violence and treating women as objects. How the LGBT movement plays into it all. How race is involved in this. I trained at the umbrella agency in Bridgeport CT. I was finally able to piece together that these topics are all so very related and are ultimately human rights issues. Human Justice Issues. All encompassing and under one umbrella.

 

It was there I very sadly realized that I myself have PTSD from childhood abuse. I was very likely unable to handle the awareness until then.  It was probably the most educational 50 hours I’d ever spent – professionally and personally.

 

Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and a same sex relationship – how can one song be related to all 3? How can these topics even be related?

 

Strange thing is that they are. It’s all stuff that as a society we’ve kept hush about and swept under the rug. Things that folks were ashamed of and had to hide. The unspeakable, but oh so very real truth.

 

I heard the song again last night on the way home after sharing a few drinks with a friend. It haunted me as always. Something I read a few months back when I search it the last time preoccupied my mind enough for me to try to find it again (of course I could not – go figure). A writer explained how she always believed the song was about a heterosexual couple in an affair situation until she read about the “she” word removal as well.  At that point she wrote a bit about how sad it was that the record company wouldn’t record it, as stations and the public were not ready for the topic; but how that changed the words and entire meaning of the song for her.

 

Voices Carry… Voices Carry… Voices Carry.

 

That was the main meaning. If we don’t keep quiet about a topic, the voice of it will carry to others. The message will get across. Yes, ‘shush’ we’ve been told to keep it down, that voices will carry. But on the other hand – Voices Carry! The more we talk and bring awareness, the more our voices will carry. Would it have been so bad to carry the message the writer intended to send?

 

The love of homosexuals. Any human or sexual orientation that is involved in intimate partner violence. Child Abuse. Sexual assault/abuse/rape. The mental illness of perpetrators. & their own sordid pasts… These are human rights issues. Things that have made people feel ashamed and lesser than. Things they’ve felt the need to hide. People who have felt they have no voice.

 

Not treating everyone the same regardless of the shoes they’ve walked in is ABUSE.

No need to listen to the bully who says “Shush & Keep it down now”. Voices do carry. All of them do. Like drops in a bucket. Each little drop will contribute to the eventual overflow that will change things. Every voice counts.

 

https://spinditty.com/playlists/Songs-About-Domestic-Violence-and-Child-Abuse

Unknown

Voices Carry

'Til Tuesday

 

I'm in the dark, I'd like to read his mind
But I'm frightened of the things I might find
Oh, there must be something he's thinking of
to tear him away-a-ay
When I tell him that I'm falling in love
why does he say-a-ay

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry



Uh-ah

I try so hard not to get upset
Because I know all the trouble I'll get
Oh, he tells me tears are something to hide
and something to fear-eh-eh
And I try so hard to keep it inside
so no one can hear

 

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Uh-ah

 

Oh!
He wants me, but only part of the time
He wants me, if he can keep me in line

Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, shut up now, voices carry
Hush hush, keep it down now, voices carry
Hush hush, darling, she might overhear
Hush, hush - voices carry



He said shut up - he said shut up
Oh God can't you keep it down
Voices carry
Hush hush, voices carry

 

Songwriters: MANN AIMEE / HAUSMAN MICHAEL / HOLMES ROBERT / PESCE JOSEPH

Voices Carry lyrics © Til Tunes Assoc., MECHANICAL COPYRIGHT PROTECTION SOCIETY LTD, 'TIL TUNES ASSOCIATES

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images-1.jpeg

The Unassuming Pear

The pear has little to no reputation. It is in a few desserts. It isn’t as popular as the banana. It’s not used in any popular lessons (such as the famous non comparison- apples to oranges). It’s not considered exotic like a papaya or coconut, it’s not a popular “pick your own” fruit, was never “in” like the avocado, or so heavily used in food or drink like the grape that fields and farms are required to keep up with the demand.

It’s just an unassuming pear, which is why I chose to paint it. 

The pear is like almost every other living thing amongst us. And like most things we don’t give it a second thought most of the time. 

The pear, the apple, the banana, the trees that produce these fruits, the flowers, our pets, sea life and of course humanity all live through a cycle. It’s as natural as nature itself. Humans are the only ones who sometimes fear or fight it. The rest of the planet accepts it as the flow we live in.

The flow and these cycles are shown to us by nature and what governs living. Particularly through the seasons. 

The pear painting goes from left to right, top to bottom through it’s very own abridged life cycle.

Winter
Winter is when most consider their surrounding closest to death. Life as we know it rests and hibernates. We hunker down and wait out the storm, most of us complaining along the way and wishing away the time until spring.

However, in the midst of the storm, under ground, and right below the surface, Mother Earth is preparing for the next cycle. The frost and subsequent defrost are laying the ground work for what is coming. Perhaps we may even consider it to be where life truly begins.

Like the architect on an empty lot where a new building will one day stand, the architect is surveying the surroundings and mentally creating what will later manifest as a structure using what is available in that time and place to make it so. 

In that time where there appears to be nothing, there is a vision of the future bubbling right under the surface- waiting to be put into action once the sketch is complete.

Winter is the sketch. It’s the time to not do, but just be and know that the spring will come, and with it there will be work to do. 

Under ground the trees and perennials are preparing the seeds that will come forth in the spring. Compared to sentient creatures such as us humans, it is the time when the mother’s egg prepares to be fertilized. 

It’s actually where all the magic is taking place. All that we cannot see or understand in the material world. It’s that beautiful dark little slip of space and time where the spiritual world intersects with the physical one. It may be the most auspicious time of the year.

Spring 
The thaw. The flow of water and life. The sun is with us longer. Dirt is tilled. Seeds are planted. The egg is fertilized.

Of all the planted seeds (the seed of man and animal as well in the form of sperm), only a small percent actually sprout forth into life. The lucky seeds that mesh perfectly with the womb of mother/Mother Earth, the ones that happen to have the prime conditions that nurture it’s growth, are so very lucky. We take it for granted, but we are fortunate to be alive and to experience life. The spring is the time of rapid growth where what makes it lives through its early days to survive through to maturity.

If we are looking at spring through a seasonal lens, it’s the time we lay the seeds, nurture what is planted and help it along until its strong enough to be on it’s own for whatever reason it is here to be. 

Ayurveda calls this time “Kapha”. It’s cool, wet and dense, just like the earth in the spring. It is strongly rooted to its source; very grounded. It grows quickly, and puts on weight easily.

In the chakra system it’s close to the roots. It’s red in color like the root chakra. All life needs a strong root to connect to the earth and then hold it strongly enough to keep it safe but light enough to allow it to grow.

Through the lens of a human, it’s the time of fertilization and early growth until young adulthood. Baby fat, rapid physical maturation, rosy cheeks, dense, learning-growing, needing a bit more nurture and support from the source as the child matures. For the mother who housed the egg and was in rest during the “winter” of the relationship with her own child, the work arrives in the form of carrying the child and then helping it arrive safely in young adulthood.

The pear… it isn’t quite ripe. If it is off the tree, it will be light in color; tinged by that red root that held it close to the branch. If eaten it’s a bit bitter, not quite ready. It has yet to mature. It’s a child. It’s in the spring or Kapha cycle.

Summer
Sun. Teaming life. Hot. Moving for purpose. Lighter, a bit dryer & quick to inflammation. 

The earth and it’s fruits are mostly in full bloom. Growth slows but it’s at the peak of maturity. The seeds no longer need help- they have the ability to live on their own, fighting off bugs and weeds without much outside help. The result of those spring planted seeds are here doing and being precisely what they are meant to do and be.

In Ayurveda this is “Pita”. Hot, quick to fire. Sustaining of life as we know it. Chakra-wise it’s lighter, and yellow like the sun. It is the chakra of digestion. It gives and supports life by helping everything keep moving as it should. Like digestion it’s lit by “Agni” or that internal moving fire.

Humans are now young adults to middle aged. In their prime. Taking care of both the young and old. They have an inner fire to make things happen, to sustain life, get things done, and keep the world going. They are the largest source of income generation. They have the energy and drive to keep it all going. They are like the full summer blooms, doing what they were meant to do.

At this time the pear is ripe. Mission accomplished. It’s the time to eat it or bake with it. Despite its color, it’s tinged with yellow undertones.

Autumn 
The change. Colors deepen. The temperature starts to cool and the air is lighter and drier. The days begin to darken. It feels like a welcome relief. The trees start to relax and succumb to nature. The leaves allow themselves to deepen, change, and finally let themselves go. Before the leaves do let go, that tree never seemed so beautiful.

Ayurvedically speaking this part of the cycle is “Vata”. Whether you are a half empty or half full glass type of person, it can be seen as the time of death or the agent of change. The necessary change that needs to take place so the next cycle of planning and development can take place. Chakra-wise we move up the body to the color blue or the throat chakra. The throat representing voice. With a mature and wise mind, humans have less energy but are able to speak their truth and guide the next generation.

Humans at this part of life also begin to slow down and let go. They often feel colder and have a more deep and philosophical understanding of this cycle and their own part it in. They are closer to spirit and that magic time of “winter” so to speak.  Generally they have more trouble keeping on weight and become drier. The skin is tinged with blue and darker undertones. They are like the fall.

The pear, if uneaten, becomes darker too. Blue & brown undertones. Overripe. More age spots. Soft to the touch. But the sweetest and juiciest it will ever be if you can handle the mess! Another proverbial day or two in its own cycle and it just becomes a pile of mush. Mush to turn the seeds inside to something new perhaps? The opportunity to begin the cycle again as we head back into winter.

Circle of Life
It’s a beautiful cycle. It is nature. Each part has its very own purpose and feeds right into the next. There is no real beginning and no real end.

We should keep in mind that there is truly nothing to fight. Try… but we will not win. It’s easier to just understand nature and accept and open up to where we are are in it.

Nature is bigger than us. She will carry us through each awesome, perpetual, ongoing, self sustaining cycle so we can play our own special part.

Like the seed that created the unassuming pear, we are each a seed lucky enough to have made it. 

 

I painted two versions of this. One with the raw primary colors and the other with a softer tint of each.

Below I used photography and light alteration to show the same concept.

The original pear this blog was written about is the one to the bottom left of the first photo.

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Christmas Eve Hike

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How Change Works – In Honor of the Solstice

Lessons of nature.

Tonight is the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere (so hopefully you have someone to snuggle up against to share it with!). Today officially starts winter. It sort of feels like we have been experiencing winter already. That means from this day on, the days get longer. One would think warmer times are ahead…right? But no – the coldest days are yet to come.
Similarly around June 21st when the summer begins, it feels like the solstice is nothing more than a formality- the summer has been around for a few weeks. But the truth is that it’s all only a perception. While we had some cold days and even one snow (in Connecticut anyway), the truth of it all is that it’s hasn’t overall been that cold. Today my car showed it was in the 60s just to make this point.
My 19-year old daughter’s birthday is in June. Most years when planning her party, I had this crazy misconception that it would be warm during the planning phase of her parties. While some years it was, much to my dismay most of the time it was rather cold and rainy; and almost always too cold at night to keep any shorts or short sleeves on that one may or may not have donned during the day.
The lesson here is that even though things may look like something is happening (days getting longer from here for example), there is a lag from the change and perception to when things really shake down, begin to happen, and take form.
The winter has only begun but the days are actually getting longer [yay]. The heat from the longer sun will not be apparent until spring- and it won’t be felt at it’s maximum potential until after the summer solstice in SIX months from now when the days will be technically getting shorter. What was a habit for longer will linger.
When we start new habits for a desired change such as losing weight, eating differently or beginning a new routine- the effects will not take place until a long time after.
Does that mean we should quit and give up??? NO, No & no.
Like the sun providing longer days as of today, the toughest part is truly yet to come before reaping the benefits. Nature shows us with this the seasonal changes.
This picture shows it well. The bigger arrow (perhaps depicting will for change) is fighting against all the old that is established. It’s a long hard road to get past that fight. The only way this larger arrow can lose against all those smaller little ones is to give up and join them the direction the will does not want to go.
Expecting to see a difference in the climate tomorrow or even next month is as unrealistic as eating well for a few days and expecting to fit into those old skinny jeans. One way to guarantee that you will never shimmy into those jeans is to defy natural laws- give up, order a pizza and enjoy a six pack just a week after starting. It just doesn’t work that way.
Change takes time. A lot of time. While the earth is tilting back toward the sun tomorrow, it will actually be colder and tougher for a while weather wise before the benefits of that tilt take effect.
So enjoy the process… believe and trust in it. It’s really the ONLY way. Results are never immediate. Don’t give up. Keep your own light shining. And do what you need to do over and over to get the results you want. It’s the only way to reach your goals.
One day I will follow this advice too! Lol 😊
Happy 2018 Winter Solstice!
Namaste

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On the Beauty of Disney’s Artificial Environment – Disney Part I of II

I often wonder why the world can’t look and operate a lot more like Disney.

Daren and I are have been talking a bit this past week about the mixed reactions we get from family, coworkers and friends when they find out we are going to Disney. It shouldn’t be a destination that elicits so many strong feelings, but for some reason it is. There are lovers and there are haters. I’ve yet to encounter many in between. As Daren said- if we said “We are going to Paris”, almost no one would light up like a Christmas Tree and declare their devotion to the place, nor would they proceed to let us know how much they can’t stand the city. It would be something in between without such a strong reaction.

When it comes to Disney, I’m on the lover side. I first went in Jan 1987, almost 32 years ago. Between Disney World and Disneyland I have been there about 20 times and hey- I’m still going!

I kind of get the hater side too. The main reason that folks aren’t Disney fans that I  hear most of all is that it is a lot of money to see and experience things that are not even real. True, I almost can’t argue with that. However there is a truly good business and perhaps even governmental lesson to learn in this argument as well as the ability to experience the world without leaving the country or breaking the bank.

Daren and I balance plenty of travel to other destinations and I feel I can in some way put it in perspective- at least from my vantage point.

The “Fakeness”
Yes it’s absolutely an artificial environment. But many people are frightened to travel too far or cannot afford to have experiences any other way. Perhaps going on a boat scares the living pants off of you. Or you never met anyone from China and had what appears to be an exotic and foreign-looking ritual explained for the first time. Or traveling to Africa on a safari is too expensive. But a boat ride seems ok in a controlled environment in Disney which may lead the frightened individual to love it so much they are inspired to try the real thing. And when having no choice but to follow your friends or family to the Chinese theater dispels your previous notions about something you saw… you are left to realize their culture is not so different than yours and we as humans are more similar than not. And what better way to experience a safari or surfing lesson without the hassle of going to an exotic locale? Perhaps you learn that surfing isn’t your shtick and reconsider the trip to Tahiti or wherever the worlds best waves are supposed to be.

Additionally, why  can’t we create a world  that is similar to Disney? Minus the rides and experiences that would be too difficult to create of course!

It’s fake because Disney takes pride in everything; In Every Last Detail. It’s clean. The administration is constantly looking to make things more efficient and pleasing to their customers- and does!

There is ample public transportation and opportunities to walk to your destination. Every flower bed is pristine. The streets, walkways, railings, parking lots- everything is shiny and kept in good, working and aesthetically pleasing condition. The employees are all nice to the guests- every place you go!

When each area is designed, it is designed with efficiency for staff, guests, people movement, product movement and the environment in mind.

Why can’t our local towns and streets and even homes be like that?

Why can’t we employ more folks in our towns to care for public parks, trails, transport, flowers, trash, fix curbs, keep walkways clear/painted/free from breakage, to direct traffic even simple traffic (not just at major walkways during key school hours) and to greet others AND take pride in this?

Taking it even further- why couldn’t we expect service with a smile, someone attempting to make our experience special, and someone dressed for the part they are being paid for? And for a living wage (not declaring Disney does that… but they are not employing towns either and this is really a whole other topic).

Taking it even further, would it be completely insane to employ or mildly compensate our own local citizens to showcase their unique talents at places where we are stuck on lines, are in traffic or just have high levels of pedestrians meandering by? – be it singing, dancing, playing an instrument, demonstrating a cool hobby, making us laugh, or sharing a part of their culture…

Couldn’t we improve public transportation? Create more places to walk and keep healthy? Re-engineer towns to flow more efficiently for their staff, citizens, traffic and take advantage of the natural environment?

Couldn’t we keep our own lawns and homes clean and well manicured? Many other countries have zoning and aesthetic laws- not so dissimilar to Nantucket. These places look great and feel great because the cities, towns and people in the community do not allow their citizens to let their property go to pot.

Couldn’t we be nice to one another? When we are in contact with anyone other than ourselves attempt to “be on stage” and treat them with love and respect?

It would be hard to do, but not impossible. It’s only impossible if it’s never an expectation or ideal.

It might be “Fake”, but it’s inspirational and an example in a microcosm of a world that is possible.  One of the reasons I love Disney. It inspires me to leave the world a better place than I found it. I’m only one person, but it doesn’t mean I can’t do small things with great love.

Part II: https://esterinaanderson.com/2018/12/17/on-the-wrong-way-to-experience-disney-disney-part-ii/

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Gingerbread Cookie (Yum) Lesson

It’s the time of year for holiday baking! For a few years I skipped it completely. My friends and family moaned a little, but we used whatever money I was going to spend making cookies and sending cards towards charity. This year I decided to make somecookies. Only a batch of each to keep it all super low key. Also, as long as a nice large tray of cookies would be dropped off at the domestic violence shelter where I often make donations– it would still be for charity.

Yesterday while making Gingerbread men I experienced a little of a spiritual quest, where the words of many who’ve walked before me sunk even deeper.

Monday I made the Gingerbread dough and popped it in the fridge until I was ready to roll it out at a later time. Yesterday I worked from home, and following my lunch walk; I decided to pull out the dough so it was be perfectly soft when I logged off for the day. The cold air outside left me craving the warm smell of cookies in my home.

When it was time to roll, the consistency was just perfect (ever wondered where that phrase came from anyway? “Time to roll”). I preheated the oven and set to work making tiny little people with a brand new cookie cutter I purchased from Zabars on Sunday morning (for an unbelievable price by-the way). They were coming out seamlessly!

I knew I was going to freeze most of them so I didn’t want to frost them. Instead I opted to make 3 little indentations with an appetizer fork on their bellies for buttons as well as on their feet to mimic a little cuff. For the eyes I used the back of a lobster pick. I decided against a mouth, nose or cuffs for the arms. It was a bit too much, as this year I’m keeping it simple.

As I decorated the first batch I couldn’t help but notice how different each cookie already looked. I attempted to make them all the same, but the place in the dough where I cut and the ever so slight differences in the eyes, buttons & cuffs made each and every beautiful little Gingerbread person unique in it’s own way.

I popped the first two trays in the oven and set to work on the second two trays. It was immediately apparent that the dough was already slightly warmer and a bit more difficult to cut. However, making the indentations was easier.

The first batch came out and I loaded the second one in. I let the first two trays cool for a minute before beginning to carefully remove them with a spatula for the cooling rack.

These cute little confections puffed up in the oven and began to sink back down as I started to lift them. As with many cookies (especially complicated cut outs) a few broke a little arm or leg in the process, some had less deep button indentations, some just cooked a little more than others depending on their place in the oven and how thick the dough was. Despite my attempt to make them uniform; nature, chemistry, and my own artistic abilities made each ever so slightly dissimilar to one another.

Some had gotten so puffed that they combined with a neighboring cookies. I had to carefully cut them apart so I didn’t break either in the process. For some it was difficult to distinguish which overlap belonged to which cookie.

This is where my mind went the to aforementioned short spiritual quest.

Like people and animals, these little cookies were all distinct. Where does one person really begin and another end? Those cookies that stuck together came from the same batch. Where they overlapped it was hard to tell who was who, as they are made from the same stuff. And does it matter other than to the eye that they are separate? It’s all just cookies that will taste more or less the same.

Then I thought… What if somehow these Gingerbread cookies became conscious? Would they form a society and create a hierarchy of “better” or “worse” cookies based on cut, color, consistency, button deepness, etc? How crazy would that be? Not too long before that they were just ingredients in the store, then my fridge, then in a ball together… Why would they create a structure in which some have dominance or perceived superiority over another?

What if they split off into groups and started hating on one another? Hating on one another so much so that they began destroying one another as they saw fit to their own Gingerbread beliefs. Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of making the cookies in the first place? Why would they fight over differences rather than celebrating how each is unique?

Why do we think we are any different from Gingerbread people?

Carl Sagan’s quote sort of describes how I was feeling at the moment:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

Alan Watts famously said:

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

The Alan Watts quote might be a little more confusing, but I listened to a Podcast one day that expounded upon this quote. Watts said something to the effect of imagine a few million years ago some advanced aliens were roaming around the universe and hap-chanced upon planet earth. They may have took a look at our planet and said ‘eh it’s nothing but a pile of rocks’. A few million years later the same alien race came by the earth again and noticed us humans walking around. This time they said ‘Hey look – this rock peopled.

 

We are all from the same stuff. To some extent as humans, like the Gingerbread men; we are from the same batch of mixed ingredients that were provided by the earth, solar system, Milky Way, and universe. Deep down we are all the same. It’s only nature, some chemistry, and the artistic work of our creator that makes us ever so slightly different in appearance and thought. We were created for the same purpose and should only celebrate what makes us so uniquely beautifully different.

Lessons from the Gingerbread People

 

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One of my cookies-

A PTSD Triggered Morning

Morning of November 27th

Wide awake and pitch black. A quick look at the bedside clock reveals it’s only 4:40am. I still have over another hour to sleep.

My mind races with things I’m excited to do today. I don’t know how I could get them done, but I want to try to fit them in if at all possible. I would love to start the holiday baking. I have a scarf to finish and several more origami boxes for gifts to make. And definitely squeeze in a run. An appointment and work are the anchors of what I need to work around. I mentally strategize about how to make the fun stuff happen. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, looking back this crazy thought process was Clue #1 that I was anxious and trying to vet my energy in a positive way.

Then I remember it’s my husband Daren’s Birthday! Maybe I should get up and make scones to surprise him with? I can do that, then maybe run before logging into work since I’m teleworking today. That would be a fine start to the day.

I forgo the attempt to go back to sleep and decide on birthday scones. Clue #2 that I wasn’t quite right should have been when I went into the bathroom for my Ayurvedic morning routine and I didn’t quite screw a cap back on one of my oils before picking it up again… by the cap. Ugh what a yucky mess. 

I stumble downstairs in the dark all set to make blueberry scones. The three cats are milling for breakfast and are so very underfoot, the sink is sort of full and the dishwasher needs to be emptied, I need to clear these things to bake – all are in my way. 

My heart starts to race. Clue #3. Things not going the way I expect. I take a deep breath and remind myself that nothing I am doing is truly necessary, has a deadline, and are only things I would like to do and are in no way vital.

For a few minutes I feel calm and present as I put everything away, feed the cats and rush over to open the blinds. Why am I rushing??? Clue #4.

I also notice that last night we left a mess of pillows and blankets strewn all about the living room. Pet toys are everywhere. And there is a cat puke to boot! I realize I’m rushing and that opening blinds can take place after I start to bake. Why do I need to keep reminding myself to slow down this morning? Clue #5.

I walk very slowly on purpose back to the kitchen and begin taking out the ingredients and supplies. I preheat the oven. Start the coffee maker (how could I not have done that first thing? Clue #6), and start to assemble what I hope to be scones in a short 20 minutes or so.

Moments later my heart starts to race again. My breath is erratic. Clue #7.

Something is SO wrong. But what? Why last Wednesday evening did my son Tom snap at me when I asked him to keep the dog’s training collar on? I immediately get angry about this even though I didn’t at the time. The look of disgust on his face 10 minutes later when I asked him politely if something was wrong while I was in this same kitchen at this same counter, assembling the makings of a Thanksgiving dish. The look on his face was followed by a loud, angry statement about how he doesn’t appreciate coming home from work and being talked to like that. I quickly looked over to Daren at the time who had his back turned pretending not to hear the conversation.

Like what?” I asked. 

“Forget it ma!, I’m taking the dog for a walk”  as he stormed out the door.

How dare he? At the time I almost laughed it off. Immediately after the door slammed behind Tom, I asked my husband if I said anything wrong. He affirmed I had not in the very least. Hours later while at his girlfriend’s house, Tom texted me to say he was sorry about snapping earlier and that he loves me. The whole episode was just NOT a big deal. So why am I so upset this morning? Clue #8.

I start mixing the wet ingredients into the dry, being careful not to overmix. As I prepare the counter with a light dusting of flour before turning this beautifully slightly moistened dough to the floured surface, I consider how much I cannot stand when someone accuses me of something I didn’t do, then yells or gets mad at me for it! Kind of the way my oldest step-son stormed out of the house and sent a rash of nasty texts after falsely accusing me of throwing away pieces of his mother’s wedding cake one morning a few months back. Immediately following that incident my husband scratched his head along with me and assured me I did nothing wrong, but after a few days if it was ever brought up again he appeared nervous and shifty; looking like he really doesn’t want me to bring it up ever again. Did he talk to his son? What on earth about that changed his mind so drastically about this incident?

Now my heart is REALLY racing. I feel as if my life is at stake and I need to fight for it! Why am I even thinking about this now? Clue #9

I continue to work, but my hands are shaking, I can’t concentrate. Clue #10.

I want to bring these things up with my son and husband. Unearth them and find out what they were thinking long after the fact, as soon as I see them today– Clue #11.

There are two ways this story could go

  1. I could do just that – what I wanted to do. Talk to them about it. And how might that go? I know how this story ends, but it wouldn’t matter because I don’t want to feel the terror, anxiety and anger I feel right now about it. I want these feelings to go away pronto. I’ll sound angry, because I am angry and super crazy anxious. I’ll let them know I can’t sound kind and gentle when I’m anxious like this – but it will not matter to them. All they will see is an angry mom/wife. They will be defensive. I will plead that I’m just trying to understand and want to talk. They won’t understand me or why I’m bringing it up. I don’t know why either. All I know is that I’m infuriated about this. I’m infuriated about being accused of things I didn’t do and then being treated poorly because of these said non-existent things.
  2. I could remember that I have PTSD and I missed a lot of clues that I was so obviously anxious this morning, I woke up anxious and at some point became triggered in the kitchen.

This morning thankfully I went with the latter option. In fact as soon as I came to terms with the very real fact that I have PTSD last summer it was an option at almost all moments when I had this feeling that something was just terribly wrong and at some point it started to feel like my life was at stake. My issue nowadays is that I always feel terrible when I miss the earlier clues. Sometimes I can catch them and breath or take a medication. But today I missed them all before I was fully triggered. 

As I begin kneading the dough I thought more deeply about what I’m really, really feeling. I was likely triggered by Tom’s reaction simply by being in the kitchen in same way with the same light while it was dark outside. That trigger lead to thinking about my step-son months ago, but it really led all the way deep down into the child inside me that became frozen in a certain state 40+ years ago.

Being accused of something that wasn’t my fault, something I didn’t do, or something I couldn’t have possibly known was the norm. It often led to consequences where I was abused, sometimes very badly. My mom was often a bystander, not wanting to be abused herself. She would often look away or side with my father (the perpetrator). Someone standing by while I was unfairly accused hurt even more. Even though he didn’t mean it, Daren keeping his back turned or refusing to talk to me about the supposed wedding cake incident feels like a bystander not helping the child inside me in need.

Since this past summer I learned that long-term childhood abuse is particularly complex if it was at the hands of a caregiver, because as a child your actual survival is at stake. You need your caregivers to live. That terrified part of me has become frozen in time. I often handle situations like this and a handful of others that would have led to abuse in a similar manner. During the initial encounter I’m very strong. I act as if nothing is wrong, as I had to do as a child just to get through the episode. Crying wasn’t allowed, even while getting hit- in fact it made things worse. I learned to deal with an incident by being strong and doing whatever I need to do. The hurt, terror and anger always came later and still does until this day when an old wound is rubbed, some time has passed, and my body feels safe and I’m re-triggered. Which often enough strangely leads me to feel as if I’m in survival mode. My heart, my breath, the crazed thoughts. My lower brain’s alarm signals to me that I need to fight for my rights, get out, get even, I’m being wronged, etc. 

We all have that lower brain (the reptilian one without higher rational thought-like a crocodile). Mine recognizes triggers that were necessary for survival long ago and all our lower brains possess the ability to shut down the executive functioning portion of the brain if survival really is at stake when we need to flight, flight or freeze. It’s how we are built. The problem with PTSD is that sometimes the danger is only perceived and not even real. If the person doesn’t catch it, they have an episode which isn’t pretty. When I’m already anxious before I’m triggered I’m far more likely to not notice. 

While folding blueberries into the scone dough, my higher and lower brain were in conflict. The part that I innately identify as me (more or less the higher, rational thinking part of the brain) was telling myself I was alright, I’m only in my kitchen; totally safe- I am and will be ok.

This part of my physical symptoms of being triggered are where adrenaline has entirely flooded my body. I can feel it’s desperate need to be released. I start to boil with heat. I hyperventilate and often cry uncontrollably. The next few hours are always recovery. Sometimes this happens often – several days in a row. I’m told it’s normal as you are going through PTSD treatment to go through time periods like this. When a childhood trauma victim feel safe as an adult- however many years or decades later, the body begins healing itself through bringing up old cellular memories in order to rid the body of deep-rooted habits/reactions/etc that no longer serve it.

I put the scones in the oven and set the timer. I’m lost. What was I going to do next? Did I make the coffee yet? I’m dazed, I’m confused, I’m sad… I’m just overwhelmingly dysfunctional. Daren comes down. Today I can explain my full thought process. We hug. I cry. I can hardly pick up a cup without almost dropping it. The scones are ready. We enjoy them although I can’t finish even one.

Sounds crazy? Yes, I know. But overall, I’m feeling better day by day. I know I need to go through this to get over/past/through – however it’s best phrased “it”. I continue to be patient and greet whatever arises, being careful to not get suckered into false alarms. That’s the trickiest part. 

But I’m OK. I’m enjoying the healing, one cell at a time.

On childhood trauma

Social Media Disclaimer:

Many people often ask me why I so freely share my troubles. I share because I’ve found shame for so long in not being perfect. I’ve felt for too long like damaged goods I’ve learned none of us could ever be perfect and to even try to entertain such a thing or put on that façade is a set up for failure and takes WAY too much energy. We all suffer and we can only gain strength with connection. So I’m living the change I’d like to see by normalizing what is after all very normal.

 

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How I’m Choosing Who to Vote For

This past weekend Daren & I went to Harvard for Freshman Family weekend and attended the Keynote address: “The Polarization of America: Can We Bridge the Divide?” with IOP Fellow and former Congressman from Nevada, The Hon. Joseph J. Heck.

I didn’t know the name, but found the talk to be something I can really chew on. Before anyone starts to look Heck up, and bash or celebrate any move he ever made; Heck is Republican and obviously putting his neck on the line by speaking in a highly liberal environment – not only for the parents last weekend, but through many lectures for students during the year.

I don’t like to discuss politics and often do not speak freely as to which party I’m more aligned with, but I’m not a Republican. Most of the audience was not either. However, the talk was wonderful and touched on many reasons why the political divide is kind of inevitable but not impossible to overcome.

One part of it really hit home for me and is something I plan to always consider as well as one can. That is the gumption of a candidate. Heck didn’t even use the word gumption, but at times and once during the Q&A he said something to the affect of considering individuals who can stick to their morals well enough to say No to power.

We need to generally hear an individual’s viewpoint on important issues whether it’s equal rights, gun control, the right to choose, immigration, etc. However, even more so it is important to consider whether or not the individual has the ability to work with others (even others on the other side) to come up with solutions that find common ground, andto have the gumption not to flip in order to please power, keep friends, take money, or even just to wrap up a session and go home.

Candidates need to have an answer on hot topics, but it doesn’t mean they are so ridiculous about it that they will no longer adhere to common sense. Party lines and rigid yes/no answers on issues make it nearly impossible to be seen or understood as something in between. Additionally, few topics are so black or white. The topics and national problems that are on the table took years to get to. They just cannot disappear overnight. It’s tricky stuff.

Take gun rights for example. Me personally – I don’t “believe” in guns. When I hear a candidate is a ‘gun person’ I look to their opponent. But in reality a candidate has to answer yes or no if they believe in ‘gun rights’, and that doesn’t answer a whole lot unless you really hear from them or look into their background.

But what does gun rights really mean? A part of me understands the other side. Just because I mightnot have one, I’m not sure I should or even want to have the right to tell someone else what they can or cannot have. If we outlawed them tomorrow what would that solve? People will still have and use them, likely often as much as they do now. We don’t have the money or man power to go into everyone’s homes to remove them. People are not going to turn them in because they are illegal. Drugs, prostitution, child porn and human trafficking are illegal but that doesn’t stop those who want to do these things from doing them. How can anyone tell a 19-year old minority single mother living in a shady neighborhood that she needs to give up her legally owned gun that makes her feel safe so she can shiver and be anxious walking down the block when she had previously felt safe, secure and that she had some power over her life? She wouldn’t be voting on my side even though she has a very rational point.

What I would love for our politicians to do is look for common ground and not give in to nonsense that power & bullying will try to instill. They need gumption to do that.

I have not a single statistic in front of me but would be willing to bet that most people in either party do not want to see one more mass shooting- like EVER. Guns are a part of the issue – of course. But does any majority really, really believe in the right to have a semi-automatic gun or weapons of mass destruction as part of no constitutional restrictions? Are any liberals really trying to take away any and all power to bear arms? Maybe some people fall into these categories, but again – I’d be willing to bet it’s a small percentage. Those persons in that small percent are not the individuals I would like to elect to pass our laws. The individuals I would like to represent my vote would have common sense and not give in to power or bullying of a smaller percent.

How can a healthy minded, willing Democrat work with a healthy minded, willing Republican to come up with potential solutions about how to prevent what we all want to prevent? We have to be willing to compromise, understand one another’s view and create a solution with them that works for all. There are many issues I don’t agree with 100% but understand the other side. It’s not easy and/or black and white.

This is where we the people come in. We do our due diligence and look for the truth in the people we have the power to elect. We understand and look past silly time limits during debates, simple colors to show which party the candidate is aligned with, and the one-liners on all these hundreds (and I mean HUNDREDS) of political signs all over the place.

My first reaction to what I just wrote if I wasn’t writing it would be some defense about “Who has time for this?” But I need to even question my own silly gut reaction. Because if not this, then what actually matters? Isn’t this our right? Our ancestors fought hard for this power and we take it for granted, bemoaning that we don’t have time and just hope, wish and pray that the right people will be elected. Or we just vote down the party line and ignore the alarm signal that someone might not be looking out for the majority or have common sense.

So get involved! Even if it’s too late – at least do a quick google search before voting tomorrow. But do vote. And vote for someone with GUMPTION and common sense. We have the power. Only when you believe you don’t you actually don’t.

 

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On Navigating with Love

There are some experiences in life that seem almost magical or other worldly as they happen. Sometimes it is when you meet someone and you get a sense of ‘deja vu’ or a flash of unexplained feelings. Or when you hear or read something that just seems to strike some sort a cord within you about its unexplainable truth.
One of the dozen or so times this happened to me is when I had first read that the soul is the connection to divine (God, nature or whatever you chose to call all that is). I was so moved by this simple statement. The truth of it was so obvious to me at the moment, that it sparked one of those other worldly flash feelings. The article discussed how the soul doesn’t dish out advice like our loud, animal mind brains do. But if you ignore or quiet the monkey brain and ask your soul for advice, the right answer is always there waiting to be heard. 
Wow. Yes. 
I knew that somewhere but didn’t realize it until then. A few hours later after mulling it over I posted something on Facebook about it- a short quote I made up as my own interpretation of this. It had very few “likes”. Guess my Facebook tribe didn’t get it. 
Not long after I heard a podcast about the moral compass. The speaker explained how we experience negative emotions (depression, hopelessness, anxiety, etc) when we aren’t living according to our moral compass.
Right- that makes sense too! And in my own interpretation I understood that moral compass connection to be through the soul which is connected to all that is. When we can’t hear or follow that sound advice and live against it, we feel unhappy.
Then, not long after I started to better understand the deeper meaning of the yoga I was attracted to. The focused attention of breath and movement quieted the monkey mind. Meditation and quieting the mind is a ticket to really hearing sound moral advice from my soul- that without question always knows the right and loving way to be in this world.
I feel so inspired to write this morning because when I opened my email amongst the midst of things was the start of a sentence that caught my eye strong enough for me to open it. It read “God does what God is: Love. God does not love you if and when you change. God loves you so that you can change!”The email was a few paragraphs long. It is a daily mediation that I signed up for from the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr who wrote a book I recently finished called Falling Upward. 
The email this morning brought the message of the soul and compass home for me. The email referenced one of the famous lines of the Bible where man is created in the likeness and image of God (the divine, nature, whatever you connect to spiritually). That likeness is LOVE.
One paragraph states “Love is who you are. When you don’t live according to love, you are outside of being. You’re basically not real or true to yourself. When you love, you are acting according to your deepest being, your deepest truth. You are operating according to your dignity.
Love… Love it. To me that says it all.
Maybe, just maybe… the allegory of the apple and ensuing suffering was having doubt about pure love. Not living by the advice of the soul. Not having faith in all that is. 
The soul knows. Perhaps we should listen a bit closer. It’s always there- the good angel on our shoulder, NOT jumping up and down loudly like a child with a pitch fork such as the little fiery red guy on the other shoulder. Maybe listening to it really is a key away from fear & suffering.
Hey… it’s worth a try! 

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On the Fluctuating Gunas (The What???)

Today I woke up anxious. Physically I had a slight tightness in my chest. My heart felt like it was a little heavy, but the worst was my breath. I couldn’t help but sigh every few moments. Obviously releasing some kind of tension. I felt slightly lost. Not sure where my life is going. Not but an hour later I was laughing and feeling like wherever my life is going it doesn’t matter and I’ll get there as I need to.

These are the “Gunas”. Fluctuations that are normal in the universe. They are everywhere. In the weather, in our moods. It’s a universal law. What goes up must come down. What swings one way will swing the other.

The Gunas are a term I learned in yoga teacher training and were often discussed. It’s now a part of my regular vocabulary and thought process. We don’t stay in one mood forever. Nothing stays in its state forever. We are supposed to feel good and bad. It should be expected that good things as well as bad things will happen. Fighting it is what leads to suffering. In Buddhism a key tenant is that any attachment causes suffering. Even attachment to feeling one way (like happy), being attached to an outcome you want, or any objects/feelings/desires/etc. The Hindu tradition (yoga’s roots) describes the same concept but in a different way.

From Yogapedia: https://www.yogapedia.com

A guna is an attribute of nature, according to Hindu philosophy. In Hinduism, there are three gunas that have always existed in the world in both all living and non-living things:

• Tamas (darkness, destructive, death)

• Rajas (energy, passion, birth)

• Sattva (goodness, purity, light)

Here in our Western world we are not taught to think in this way. We seem to feel that if something goes wrong or we don’t feel well (mentally, physically or spiritually), that something is wrong with us. Imagine we were taught that both elation and depression are normal and to be expected? Neither will stay. Both are an experience of being alive. The more we attach to any experience (the good or the bad ones), the more we will ‘suffer’. Suffering really meaning anything from disappointment to despair.

I’m signed up for daily emails from Richard Rohr. He is a Franciscan priest that wrote many books on spirituality. I recently finished “Falling Upward” which was amazing! Much of it was about how we need to fall in order to learn and grow. How opposite things are complementary and part of life. I will paste a quote from the Tuesday mediation.

“If we are going to talk about light, then we must also talk about darkness, because they only have meaning in relation to one another. All things on earth are a mixture of darkness and light, and it is not good to pretend that they are totally separate!”

Understanding the Gunas is one of the many ways I am learning to accept life as it is. When I remember them when I’m feeling down I almost embrace it as the full experience of life. Not always, but more & more often.

They have helped me- and if you have read this and are willing to try, perhaps that can help you or a loved one too!

Peace & Namste

 

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The One Reading at the Beach

Tonight I’m in Branford, CT. Alone with my dog. A rare Memorial through Labor Day moment when our second home isn’t rented.

 

I’m noshing on pretzel sticks, olives, edamame, and chocolate from Daren & I’s trip last week to Santa Barbara and to the cutest little chocolate shop I’ve ever seen in the town of Los Olivos, CA… while sipping on an inexpensive (the hubs would cringe at the low cost) glass of Chard.

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Chocolate Shop in Los Olivos

I was outside earlier. The sun came out for a few minutes when I first arrived. It was warm & comfy in the sun. I met the contractors working on our neighbor’s sea wall. They had some (maybe– fingers crossed!) bad news about our own possibly poorly constructed sea wall. Time will tell, right???

 

Now I’m inside reading a book I picked up from the library just this afternoon. I’m just on page 34 and almost done with my snacks (aka ‘dinner’) when I came across this line.

 

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I want to be her. Not her friend. I look just past my own feet at Koji and admire him…. But I am the friend. The narrator of this part and Koji are not me. I envy them because I don’t know how to relax.

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View of the inspired picture of Koji

I’m the chick on the move. I truly can’t stop moving. If I have to I must twitch or shake while not moving. So many things feel wrong with that. But that’s me.

 

Somewhere in my not so much younger life, I received advice I took to heart from well meaning friends and colleagues on keeping weight off (not due to my weight, just a coincidental state of mind I kept running into). Keep moving, eat light, no eating after 5pm or forget it….

 

Forget what I thought only to myself?

Self answers: Obesity, heart disease, triple bi-pass surgery or another one of these cases where 45-year-old otherwise healthy individual kicks the bucket out of no-where. Family and friends are astonished.

 

Other advice – from my father when I was even younger…. Don’t be lazy. People who don’t look around for what there is to do won’t amount to much. Do as much as you cant. Seize the moment.

 

Seize the moment? Not amount to much? Get fat and be in the newspapers because I kicked it at a healthy 45-years-old… That will be the destiny of the chick reading at the beach. Right? Right?? Right (read- sound of crickets)…

 

So… I’ll be the one swimming. Meeting the cute guys in the water. Being thrown back in with some other girls as we play chicken or whatever that water game is called. And I’ll be the one in an hour coaxing my reading friend to get up, showered and dressed with me so we can hang with these cute dudes at the restaurant/karaoke bar right there – look you can see it on the boardwalk; at 7pm sharp. Hurry… hurry… hurry.

 

34 pages into the book. These 2 girls went to grad school together. At this point they just couldn’t be more than 26 years old, though this is my educated wicked cheap chardonnay guess.

 

So fast-forward to me now at 43 with my sleepy only 5-year old dog. Rocking, twitching, whatever you may call it. My ex used to call it an Elvis shake. I can’t stop moving. So even when I’m sitting/’relaxing’I should be burning calories twitching??? Do I have body issues? NO!  but yeah, who doesn’t?

 

I want to be the reading chick. I want to be Koji. I don’t want to have to worry about achieving something every moment of every day. Seizing every moment by running to capture it. These ‘others’such as my beloved dog seem to capture it by staying still. Are one of us right and one of us wrong?

 

My brain tells me yes, but my heart/soul say no.

 

My yoga background says there are two sides to everything. The proverbial ‘They” are Tamasic and I’m Rajistic. The pendulum swings both ways. Somewhere in the middle is Sattva. A place almost none of us achieves because early on in life at some point some how we choose sides. More on this

 

Sides by skin color/fur color, ethnic background/animal species, gender, income level, housing type, you name it! And sides by if one wants to be on the move or still.

 

I chose to be on the move. Later in life I realize stillness is the “key”. Meditation. Quiet. Where the magic & wonder is.

 

But is it? Doesn’t stillness lead to boredom, inertia, obesity & depression. The minute I think of these things I’m on the move again, in case the thought of them may entice me and I’ll turn into what I can’t stand.

 

BUTTTTTTTTTTTT….. what can’t I stand about it? So I’ll move, miss life and be anxious? Better than being bored, lazy, seeing every slow (yawn) moment, and having my heart not pump out of my chest 24/7/365 due to the anxiety I’m creating. Gulp….

 

I envy them. So why do I try to avoid being like them??? Is total stillness, meditation and quieting the mind the key to life? I always thought so and oddly strayed from that path to the MOST opposite end I could conjure up before knocking myself out with exhaustion at the end of every day; times 43 years to date. Straying from what I believed rather than moving toward it.

 

But is it the “KEY”?

 

I did always think so until right now when I opted to pick up the laptop and capture these thoughts. No, it’s not the key. The key is in the middle.

 

Even Buddha says to choose the middle path. Yeah, google it. No one extreme or the other is the answer. In some weird way I feel that applies to everything. Democratic/Republican. Black/White. Hot/Cold. Day/Night. Sun/Moon. Hot/Cold. Yin/Yang.

 

Thousand of years ago the Tao tried to explain this with a simple symbol of the Yin Yang.

IMG_5107
Very last painting I did on 4/22 (though it feels like a life-time ago). My brother Mario bought it from a fundraiser for Mental Health a few weeks ago. I plan to write a blog about it, as it’s meant to represent the yogic koshas.

So WHYYYY. WHY, Why, why….. (this is me metaphorically shouting from the rooftops) Why do we have to take sides?

 

In a completely yet totally unrelated story…. My step-son visited our home just a bit over two weeks ago for just one brief evening and took something without asking from my eastern (albeit sun-rise) facing window sill mock alter I constructed in my son’s (who recently moved outwith a full-time out of town job) old room. It was a statue of Shiva that my husband brought into my life. It had been a fixture in our basement for years until it moved to a new room when my son first moved out into college, then to oldest my step-son’s room when he took it one day from that common room (as he has taken quite a many things that were either ours or his father’s over the years into his room, to his mother’s or in the trash), then to my altar where it stood as my epitome of the Lord of Dance; the Destructor/Creator of Change… and in my mind the one who makes so much change and moves things SOOO fast that they end up culminating into a silent moment. The way the autumn changes, destroys and culminates in winter- which is the only thing that could help spring bloom again. Where the flowers, trees, bushes, fishes, animals – whatever is to come only evolve smarter with age, passing along the wisdom they learned from generation to generation.

 

And back to the present. Shiva is the most Rajistic of the Hindu Gods in terms of the Gunas. The next Hindu God if this were a circle, would be Brahma who is the creator before leading to Vishnu (the sustainer). All three circle round & round in that order. Create, Sustain, Destroy/Change…. So we can start again.

 

The Shiva “taking” mentioned above prompted me to purchase a Saraswati staute. Saraswati is a Goddess I briefly learned about at the end of my 300-hour yoga teacher training (for those who don’t know – it’s level of study past the required yoga teacher requisite). Similar to a masters – yet not quite a Ph.D as to those who lead the Master level students.

 

Saraswati… Just her name kind of touched me the first time I heard the vibration of sound in the air. She’s the Goddess of Wisdom, Knowledge, the Arts. I didn’t remember at the moment I ordered the statue, but she is the “female” Goddess of Brahama, the creator. In my memory she was the consort of Vishnu who sustains what is. Kind of similar to the middle part of life. The summer. The heat. The least of anything I’m attracted to. I’m moved toward super movement, but attracted to rest.

 

Symbolically Saraswati intrigued me, though the male version of Shiva raptured me. Probably because it’s where I am in the scale of life. In that late stage of change, heading toward rest/rebirth/spring.  I don’t know why I was and may possibly continue  to [until the end of my life] hold onto to this habitual thought pattern. As humans, I know we are drawn to habits and repetition, but ultimately we are meant to pass through the cycle and keep moving.

 

If ‘keeping moving’ when you need to move to the next change toward rest is what you are holding onto/fighting against, then you are stuck. When you are stuck you are fighting the laws of nature. Similar to attempting to swim against the tide. You can either go with it or let it overtake you. Nature always wins.

 

That may have been TOO much for some. I perplex myself sometimes and have to stop and think about what I’m thinking or writing about. But yeah yeah yeah… that is just one more sign that I’m at that edge before slowing down, just trying to keep on holding on by moving.

 

It’s funny I felt drawn to Saraswati. The most Yin of the trio of the dual male/female God-beginning of the cycle. Drawn to the Goddess of Wisdom, Knowledge, and Creativity. Aside from the last 3 years of my life being the most anxiety ridden of my life, they’ve also been the most creative.

 

Maybe I’ve been on the cusp in these three years toward change. Maybe I was on it long before then; perhaps I was born that way. Whatever the case, the people and experiences in my life shaped my habitual thought patterns.

 

But that doesn’t mean I need to hold onto it and not accept the transformation so desperately trying to take place within me. It doesn’t mean I should build walls around myself to protect what is old and crumbling.

 

It’s funny the crumbling physical sea wall just a short while ago was brought to my attention here at the very place I write this from. It’s not a coincidence my silly black lab mix was peacefully laying beside me as I read a line from this book that struck a cord.

 

There’s a reason why I want to be the girl who is reading at the beach and not the one swimming. I don’t know why I’m fighting it. To be honest, it’s quite exhausting.

 

Let’s just stop choosing sides and all get along. Perhaps that will quench our inborn desires to swing one way or the other towards the middle where we can all just stop swinging and see the beautiful life we were given without all the surrounding opposite end issues, and enjoy the miracle together. Accepting all that is from every view.

 

Namaste.

 

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Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings always had a feel to me of a new dawning. No matter where I’ve been on a Sunday morning, I have felt a certain vibe in the air that the day is even fresher than the Saturday and weekday mornings before it.

 

In cities coffee shops are just opening, few cars are in movement on the streets, and most stores are closed. There is a certain quiet in the air. Softer movements. A slower vibe.

 

In suburban and rural towns, the atmosphere also has a peaceful quality. The strip mall lots and main streets are mostly empty except perhaps for a convenience store, gas station or breakfast shop.

 

Sunday morning is not quite as exciting to me as Saturday morning. Saturday morning is about chores, shopping, making plans for the evening. Sunday for me is more about taking time to wake up; enjoying my cup of coffee longer, mentally and physically getting ready for the week ahead, and having a whole day ahead of me to do so.

 

This cloudy, albeit beautiful morning is so very typical at this time in my life. I am up before anyone else at the moment. I came downstairs to the main kitchen/living area and it looks like (what we like to say) a bomb. But it is a bomb that I love. This scene is a snapshot in time; my life at almost 43; my family; where I happen to be in the world.

 

On Sunday morning my house often has blankets strewn about the couches, the floor and perhaps even a kitchen chair. Yesterday’s paper is usually lying about in a neat heap still waiting to be read. The cats are milling and meowing like crazy for their morning meal of a little wet food. The counters and coffee table will often have mostly empty popcorn or snack bowls. A cold tea bag sitting in an empty Starbucks mug from one of the cities we have visited. More often than not there is an espresso cup somewhere with a small circle of the dried, dark remnants sitting at the bottom. An open, unfinished bottle of wine sits on the counter with an accompanying wine glass or two in either the sink with an amount too small to finish lying in the lowest nook of the glass, or haphazardly rinsed and left in the dish drain to dry. It’s not difficult to see what we did before bed, be it a puzzle, a card game, or just some movies, since the TV remotes or pieces of whatever we were doing are mostly left where we had them when everyone retired for bed.

 

I will either be up alone or with the hubby. The first order of business is to start the coffee. Then we quiet the little milling lions who get increasingly vocal by the second until they receive their ever-so-desired wet, stinky cat food. Either alone or splitting up the tasks, we will start to load the dishwasher, open the blinds, fold the blankets and put the house back in order.

 

Today I’m alone. I woke up before Daren, excited to begin a new day and continue to work on a painting that I am in the midst of completing. I cleaned up the house and then sat on the living room floor with two pillows beneath me facing the East to do some morning breathing and meditation. It’s a cloudy, dreary and gray morning; but beautiful none-the-less. The sun is still making its way up and about and brightening the day, even though we can’t see it.

 

I couldn’t help but take a picture of the scene I was looking at. Every morning it looks different. Even in its drab form, this morning was picturesque to me. I stepped outside to get a closer shot and the air felt SO fresh and cool, I didn’t want to go back in. But I did – simply to get a chair and two blankets to take my morning practices outside.

It feels like Sunday. Even in February, birds are singing. I can’t see the town or even much of our neighborhood from the back porch, but none-the-less it has the Sunday morning vibe of serenity that I enjoy so much.

 

Nothing exciting, but I am feeling intense gratitude and oneness with the world at the moment. A snapshot in time. It’s just a beautiful and precious Sunday morning.

 

The page has turned. The week, day & month are fresh. We write the story, whether we do so intentionally or not. Be mindful of your thoughts.

 

Namaste.

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A Place with Answers– What a Teacher, Fashion Designer & Astronomer have in Common

What do a teacher, fashion designer & astronomer have in common?

 

Nothing. Everything. Answers to our deepest questions.

 

When we are children we are asked by our elders, our peers and even ourselves what we would like to “Be” when we grew up.

 

Some lucky young children just KNOW from a very early age what they would like to do with the rest of their lives. The majority do not, but provide an answer anyhow. I was in the latter category.

 

When we innocently ask our youngsters this question, I think it’s important to be aware of how our reaction might affect them. And more importantly, how it may affect their life choices.

 

As a child, the messages I received and then, later on as an adult proceeded to provide, seemed quite contrasting:

  • You can be anything you set your mind to be

AND

  • It’s important to choose a job where you can make a lot of money and not have so much competition that it’s difficult break into the field.

 

I cringe to think about the advice I gave my own children.

 

I couldn’t tell you how many times during my elementary and secondary school years I needed to write an essay or composition about what I wanted to be when I grew up.

 

Not knowing – and needing to answer – I always chose to write about being a teacher and helping others learn. But did I really want to be a teacher?

 

Not in the way that I knew what a teacher was. I distinctly remember the first day of school in my senior year. I was sitting in first period math class and thinking about how next year there would be no first day of school for me. It seemed liberating to break out of these walls. Then, in a brief moment of panic I thought  – well, you want to be a teacher, so you will be back. That was the first time I actually thought through what it would be like to really be a teacher… school supplies, the smell of the buildings, bells, kids…. Ummmm I didn’t really want that. At all. Why did I ever write that?

 

Rewind back to second grade. I received my first Cabbage Patch Doll. The name she came with was Marni Elisabeth. She was a preemie, but she had the Xavier Roberts name scribbled across her bottom; so she was the real thing and not the ‘fake’ my parents tried to pass off for Christmas. I was SO excited. I sat in the on the top step of the third floor in the hallway of our Brooklyn apartment on Coney Island Avenue. It was mid-day and the sun was shining through the skylight above.  I went through the contents of Marni’s package, reading what I could and filling out her “adoption” paperwork. Questions were asked of me. My name. Did I want to keep her name? And there was even a question that said,  “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I still have that little piece of paper. For some very strange reason I wrote Fashion Designer.

 

A few years later we had the standard, run of the mill elementary school science fair. I chose to create a physical model of the solar system. We hadn’t yet learned about the solar system in school so I turned to the trusty, dusty, half collection of encyclopedias we had in the closet of our apartment. I learned enough to manifest a creation in my mind of what I wanted to build and how/which planets circled the sun in which order. While building the solar system, something about it just touched my soul for some reason. It resonated with me in the way no other information really had in my learning experience to date. Maybe it was because I chose to learn it on my own, or maybe it meant something more.

 

I recall sitting around the dinner table around that time and making the announcement that I would like to be an astronomer when I grow up. My well-meaning parents scoffed at the idea and said I didn’t and didn’t know what I wanted. There aren’t many astronomers in the world and I would have to be at the super upper end of the best of the best to be able to find a job. They said if I wanted to be happy and make money I should set my sights on becoming a lawyer or a doctor.

 

Common story huh? Just the thought of either job made me not want to be in the workforce. I’ll worry about it when I get older, I thought.

 

Well, I grew up pretty fast. At 18 I still didn’t know what I wanted to do. I went into the Coast Guard and became a cook simply because the start time for cook training coincided with my ex-husbands training as an aviation mechanic. I ended up enjoying cooking far more than I could ever have imagined.

 

After active duty at 22 I still didn’t know what I wanted to do long term. While I loved to cook, I now had a child and didn’t want to work the night/weekend/holiday hours. I bought the suggested “What Color is Your Parachute” book the military’s separation seminar suggested. It was truly no help.

 

At the time I had obtained an Associates Degree in general studies and enrolled for my Bachelors with a concentrationUnknown in accounting since an 8th grade career test said I would make a good accountant. Once I started school I was required to take a variety of basic business majors. I enjoyed the business topics so much and while reading through the course catalog I felt more excited and connected to the general business studies, so I changed my major to business administration. I loved school and learning in a way I had not in high school or would notif I had gone to college at 18.

 

After my daughter was born; I was only 23, mostly a stay at home mom, full-time college student and in the Coast Guard Reserves. I strongly desired to leave the house a bit more so I started a part-time job as a cashier on the front end of the local A&P while my ex-husband was not working his full time job. I enjoyed doing the mindless work of standing at a register and talking with the customers. I wasn’t working there for more than a few months before I was a head cashier and was offered a position to teach new employee orientation as well as train others in customer service. I was the customer service guru of the store. I enjoyed that job too – immensely!

 

Pressing money matters required me to find full-time work when my two children were five and three years old. I began working at the VA Hospital where I still work today. At last I was able to put some of my degree to use and after a few pay raises I decided to go back to school for an MBA in healthcare administration.

 

Again, I loved school and learning! I almost didn’t want it to end. And again I was promoted to another job where I was able to put my degree skills to use. I was mandated to go to a handful of trainings and advanced trainings on “Facilitation” and it was something else that really seemed to touch my soul and resonated with me at a deep level. Again I wasn’t doing it for very long at all before I was in a position where I was teaching it to others at all levels of the organization. Somehow it tied into team work and I would go to different departments to help team build or help them figure out ways to do things better in their own workflow processes.  I was having so much fun!

 

A few years into that job and a full marriage later, I still very much enjoyed what I was doing, but I missed feeling like I was learning and growing. I was becoming a robot in every way. The commute, the standard meetings, the rush at night to get dinner on the table, get kids to where they needed to be, and falling asleep in complete heap of utter exhaustion at the end of the day.

 

I became very adept at what I was doing, but longed for something more. I just wasn’t sure what it was. For some odd reason I started to Google and become interested in what seemed like a variety of topics. It started out with the planets, then energy, then gravity. As I kept exploring, my searches became deeper and somehow more spiritual at the same time. Astrophysics, metaphysics, the universe, universal laws of spirituality… Who are we anyway and why am I here?

 

Looking back I now know I was missing an existence where creativity and self-expression were part of it. I tried to engage the audiences I was teaching with interesting and funny clipart and quotes or puns. In every single spreadsheet or report I created, I tried to match colors in various tables and charts, and make it interesting and easy for the reader to interpret the information. In one famously funny instance, my then-boss asked me for some data and analysis on the diarrhea ICD-9 code. I pulled up the data and analyzed it very quickly. But then to make things interesting I topped the tables and highlighted the key information in muted shades of browns, greens and yellows. I didn’t realize how the need for creativity was just bursting out of me and I was using it in the very few ways I knew how.

 

I didn’t quite understand it at the time, but I was getting bored. With a capital B. I still didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I grew up, but I did know that I didn’t want to commute and sit behind a desk, teach in a classroom and look like the model of a young professional for the rest of my life.

 

A Teacher, Fashion Designer, and Astronomer.

 

Writing this a few years after I literally just could not take one more second of the standard run of the mill modern day job, commute and dress-up; it now makes a lot more sense.

 

I’ve since had a run of mini breakdowns which helped me to slow the heck down, think about myself and think about my work in the world. I currently work part-time at the VA, teach yoga and manage a rental home on the water. For now I’ve never been happier and feel like I’m slowly finding my life’s purpose.

 

When I think about myself and who I am, and what I love, those three careers make sense. I am one of the rare people in the world who loves to clean. For me personally, cleaning ties into making things look nice and welcoming. It ties into being organized, to re-organizing as needed, decorating, and creating a space wherever it may be, at home, in the office, in my car or in other areas people allow to me touch. I enjoy making things feel welcoming, appealing and spacious.

 

I like making things pretty… myself included of course! Fashion Designing has many of those core things – the idea of dressing something up in different ways to create an experience for others to see. It’s probably why I liked playing with colors and patterns on spreadsheets. And why I still until today enjoy cooking and being creative with flavors. Why I enjoy sharing my home on the water with renters and creating a getaway space and experience they can enjoy. Why I love creating a yogic atmosphere for my students. Why I like to paint, whether it’s on a wall or a canvas, update furniture, remodel, etc.

 

A teacher? Yes but not in the way I understood that a teacher existed at the time. The parts of A&P and the VA that I enjoyed so much were teaching others how to do something I myself enjoyed and someone else also deemed that I was good enough at to teach. I like the experience of doing what I’m teaching as I’m doing it and demonstrating it in real time. I fell into teaching while doing customer service, facilitation and yoga. I’m sure there are myriads of other things out there which are similar. But these were in my lap somehow. Coincidence? Maybe. Or did what something in me really wanted manifest itself through what someone else may have seen as me being good at and the opportunity to teach it presented itself.

 

The astronomer is a toughie to explain. But at the height of my life boredom, it still appealed to me. In what may seem like a very strange way to others, it led me to yoga and spirituality. Energy, vibration, the gravitational pull of the planets and then gravity itself led me to explore space-time, quantum mechanics, how thoughts have energetic qualities… and it gets crazier as it goes on. But I feel a total tie-in between science and consciousness, which really is a manifestation of how we are all one. It’s not easy to explain and I could talk for hours about it with anyone who has a similar interest. The point is that something deep inside my soul detected this during my 4th grade astronomy science project. Only in the past few years has it unveiled itself and opened my world to all types of exploration.

 

I like how life turned out. I like being on a journey. I know that everything in the universe unravels as it should. I know that one day I very well may be looking back to now, seeing these days as a stepping stone to where I ended up.

 

However, I can’t help but wonder if my life would have been different if anyone had helped me explore what my early so-called ‘passions’ were.

 

I can’t help but wonder if kids in their more unfiltered and not yet too muddied up version of the world, kind of know deep down what inspires them without even knowing it does. I did.

 

Just because I said I wanted to be a teacher, fashion designer and astronomer; it didn’t necessarily mean I wanted to pursue those careers on a literal level. But it meant something about who I am.

 

When my now almost 22-year old son, who doesn’t have an idea of what he wants to be when he “grows up,” was younger – he wanted to be an artist, a comedian and a cook. I don’t want to “What if?” anything (because gosh it’s unhealthy). But I do wonder what would have happened if earlier he had been able to explore what particularly touches his heart, and if I and his father had not told him those are really difficult fields to break into, or that cooks have horrible hours and don’t get paid well.

 

We can only learn from our past. What I’ve come to conclude today while meditating and then consequently writing, is that the answers really are all within. If we can only quiet the external noise of the physical world around house, our own internal monkey mind, and then ask,  they are there. Like an undiscovered treasure.

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On the Other Side of the Window

This first day of 2019 I sit in my dining room after a long run with a warm cup of tea in the sunshine, not far from our dog who has also found comfort & post holiday solace in a beam of sun.
Across the room are two potted plants I purchased this past spring. They are geraniums mixed with a few other plantings. They very happily lived on the front porch for the spring, summer, and early fall. As they began to die off when the weather cooled, I just happened to be reading a book where a woman in England talked about having her geranium plant for 13 years. She would bring it indoors each fall and back to the outside each spring. Instead of emptying the containers in the woods behind our home as I normally would have done with these plants, I decided to try my hand at keeping these two lovelies alive through the winter.
This morning when I opened the blinds to the new day and new year, I happened to see a little red bud on one of the plants! While I don’t believe the plant should be blooming, I was excited to see that my efforts are taking effect.
However, this afternoon while sitting in the same room I noticed the rose bush just on the other side of the window. It’s dead/hibernating in every way. There is also a little red bud on it that stopped growing mid-bloom during the first frost, and will never open to what would have been its full potential as a rose flower.
The difference is the warmth, care and attention I’m giving the geraniums. They get monthly plant food. They are shielded from the cold, just on the other side of the window. They have a fighting chance at survival. How is this not different from the way we treat others in the world?
Folks on the other side of the tracks. The homeless on the other side of the window from our homes, jobs and businesses we frequent. The children that do not have the same opportunities to thrive to their fullest potential as perhaps many of their other classmates due to their home environment and lack of warmth/nurturing.
Last Thursday I drove down to Branford during rush hour. There was an accident on I-95 North at the ramp, and the signs on the highway suggested finding an alternate route. I followed my GPS and a few turns later I didn’t recognize where I was or fathom how a few turns away things were SO different. Suddenly there were really really busted up houses, apartments and abandoned buildings. Check cashing stores, pawn shops, scary looking package stores, one too many convenience merchants advertising the sins of the world. Folks were walking around hunched over with old clothes and hardly any outerwear. Drunken people around my age just wandering the streets alone or with another drunk counterpart, barely sober or alive enough to pay attention to oncoming traffic.
Just on the other side of town… As the rose bush is just on the other side of the window.
If the rose bush was also potted and brought it, the flowers would continue to thrive as well through the winter as they continue to bloom non-stop in the warmer months.
I am fully aware that I’m not comparing apples to apples. The rose bush outside alone is a perennial and will resume its duties in the spring. The geranium would not be alive next year if it were left out all winter.
But people are not flowers. We are born the same, not with such different gene sets like these two flowering plants I speak of. However our circumstances decide if we thrive or not. It’s the warmth and caring of our environment, town, parents, and community which determine if we bloom to our fullest potential or flounder all of our lives just trying to stay alive.
It’s not fair. Just on the other side of the window the ones with are safe and warm have a duty to do something; simply because they have the power, energy, and stamina to do so. Because they can, I humbly believe that they should.

Peace ☮️

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Gingerbread Cookies Abridged Version

Reprint of older blog post on making ginger bread cookies this year…

I opted to make 3 little indentations with an appetizer fork on their bellies for buttons as well as on their feet to mimic a little cuff. For the eyes I used the back of a lobster pick. I decided against a mouth, nose or cuffs for the arms.

As I decorated the first batch I couldn’t help but notice how different each cookie already looked. I attempted to make them all the same, but the place in the dough where I cut and the ever so slight differences in the eyes, buttons & cuffs made each and every beautiful little Gingerbread person unique in it’s own way.

I popped the first two trays in the oven and set to work on the second two trays. It was immediately apparent that the dough was already slightly warmer and a bit more difficult to cut. However, making the indentations was easier.

The first batch came out and I loaded the second one in. I let the first two trays cool for a minute before beginning to carefully remove them with a spatula for the cooling rack.

These cute little confections puffed up in the oven and began to sink back down as I started to lift them. As with many cookies (especially complicated cut outs) a few broke a little arm or leg in the process, some had less deep button indentations, some just cooked a little more than others depending on their place in the oven and how thick the dough was. Despite my attempt to make them uniform; nature, chemistry, and my own artistic abilities made each ever so slightly dissimilar to one another.

Some had gotten so puffed that they combined with a neighboring cookies. I had to carefully cut them apart so I didn’t break either in the process. For some it was difficult to distinguish which overlap belonged to which cookie.

Like people and animals, these little cookies were all distinct. Where does one person really begin and another end? Those cookies that stuck together came from the same batch. Where they overlapped it was hard to tell who was who, as they are made from the same stuff. And does it matter other than to the eye that they are separate? It’s all just cookies that will taste more or less the same.

Then I thought… What if somehow these Gingerbread cookies became conscious? Would they form a society and create a hierarchy of “better” or “worse” cookies based on cut, color, consistency, button deepness, etc? How crazy would that be? Not too long before that they were just ingredients in the store, then my fridge, then in a ball together… Why would they create a structure in which some have dominance or perceived superiority over another?

What if they split off into groups and started hating on one another? Hating on one another so much so that they began destroying one another as they saw fit to their own Gingerbread beliefs. Wouldn’t that be kind of crazy? Wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of making the cookies in the first place? Why would they fight over differences rather than celebrating how each is unique?

Why do we think we are any different from Gingerbread people?

 

Carl Sagan’s quote sort of describes how I was feeling at the moment:

“The nitrogen in our DNA, the calcium in our teeth, the iron in our blood, the carbon in our apple pies were made in the interiors of collapsing stars. We are made of star stuff”.

 

Alan Watts famously said:

“Look, here is a tree in the garden and every summer is produces apples, and we call it an apple tree because the tree “apples.” That’s what it does. Alright, now here is a solar system inside a galaxy, and one of the peculiarities of this solar system is that at least on the planet earth, the thing peoples! In just the same way that an apple tree apples!”

 

The Alan Watts quote might be a little more confusing, but I listened to a Podcast one day that expounded upon this quote. Watts said something to the effect of imagine a few million years ago some advanced aliens were roaming around the universe and hap-chanced upon planet earth. They may have took a look at our planet and said ‘eh it’s nothing but a pile of rocks’. A few million years later the same alien race came by the earth again and noticed us humans walking around. This time they said ‘Hey look – this rock peopled.

 

We are all from the same stuff. To some extent as humans, like the Gingerbread men; we are from the same batch of mixed ingredients that were provided by the earth, solar system, Milky Way, and universe. Deep down we are all the same. It’s only nature, some chemistry, and the artistic work of our creator that makes us ever so slightly different in appearance and thought. We were created for the same purpose and should only celebrate what makes us so uniquely beautifully different.

Lessons from the Gingerbread People

One of my cookies-

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