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The other day I was at the gym, ready to fire up the podcasts I had lined up for an hour of listening when halfway through the first, I realized I just wasn’t paying attention to a single thing said on the podcast.
Now normally, I would have just pressed the “back 15 seconds” button until I’d found the point I had zoned out, but this time, I made a conscious decision to turn off my phone and run the next five miles in total silence.
Lately, I’ve felt rather crowded in my own head. I don’t necessarily mean my doubts or worries or anxieties (although yes, they’re there too), I mean just…things that are competing for my attention. Audiobooks. Podcasts. Music. It’s gotten to the point where I’ve realized that aside from sleep, there’s hardly a single point in the day when I am NOT engaged with some sort auditory media. I listen to audiobooks and podcasts at my day job, at the gym, during my commute, while I walk the dogs, when I was the dishes, do the laundry, clean the house, etc. The only time I am not listening to something is when I am writing, and even then, I usually have music.
I’d been feeling creatively stoppered and I couldn’t quite figure out why.
Once I’d turned off the podcast at the gym, I understood.
There is value in silence. In boredom. I’d forgotten that. As a child I had spent so much of the dead time between structured things simply imagining. Creating. Daydreaming. Back then, I didn’t have a phone with Twitter, my entire music library, games, etc. Back then, the only thing I had to amuse myself was myself. When I let my phone screen go dark and run in silence, I let my mind go blank. With all the other distractions tuned out, thoughts and ideas about my writing began to bubble up to the surface. I let them bubble and brew, not thinking, not working. When I got home and fired on my computer, I was rejuvenated and for the first time in a long time, the words began to flow.
I’d recently gotten back into my yoga practice, and we traditionally end each class in shavasana, or corpse pose. As my teacher says, it is the easiest pose to do physically, but the hardest pose to do mentally. Often during shavasana, we find ourselves actively thinking, about what errands we need to do next, how many words we’ve achieved, what needs to be done. Letting those active thoughts go, to exist in a state of passive meditation, to focus on the moment, the breath going in, the breath going out, that is much harder.
I find mindfulness on the mat, but had not found mindfulness in other areas of my life. My brain was “on” at all times that it didn’t have room to let my ideas and creativity develop.
The idea hovered and shimmered delicately, like a soap bubble, and [Lyra] dared not even look at it directly in case it burst. But she was familiar with the way of ideas, and she let it shimmer, looking away, thinking about something else.
-Philip Pullman, The Golden Compass
So now I don’t fear the silence. I let my commutes, my runs at the gym, my household chores be quiet. My mind is not so crowded, and my thoughts have room to breathe.
What about you? Have any of you discovered that “shutting off” helps your creativity? Are you afraid of boredom? Let us know in the comments!
I believe this Martin Luther King Jr. quote is as true for the inside of ourselves as it is for the outside to others. We must drive out the darkness within our minds, and love ourselves. Thank you Dr. King for so many inspiring words and faith.
This past weekend was a whirl wind of a time! We did so much, that by Sunday I was tired enough to sleep through Norah waking up from her nap. Who knows how long she was in her crib playing before she finally started to let me know she wasn't happy there. I find these are the times I learn the most about myself, because they are also when I'm my weakest, most vulnerable, and busiest. Do you ever have weekends like that?
It's a new week though, with new thoughts, new perspectives, and new schedules! I have discovered that every week is different with my schedule, time to E • M • B • R • A • C • Eit!
I tried something new this morning, I tried some meditative prayer. Like most women, my mind is always moving. Surprisingly it stayed pretty clear, and I think I caught myself drifting to sleep a couple of times (sitting up in the studio). Since then I've been very calm, and I knew I needed to get it down on paper, so I began this drawing. I look forward to working on her throughout the week during these times of peace every morning.
After that first nap I give Norah all of my attention. We played around and got to ride on the dragon in the studio. It's so special to have her in the studio with me, even if I'm not working. I remember spending many days and nights in my dad's studio, and I wish the same for her.
I struggled with my daily sketches these last few days. To find the joy and the motivation to draw when so drained is like pulling teeth for me. I feel like Tinkerbell, only able to handle one emotion at a time, except it's more than just emotions, but actions too. I did it, and I'm proud of myself for getting them done. It's okay to not be elaborate, or detailed, or whatever else I think I HAVE to be. Sometimes, just a simple sketch is all there needs to be.
Today, 18 January 2015 marks World Religion Day across the globe. The day was created by the Baha’i faith in 1950 to foster dialogue and to and improve understanding of religions worldwide and it is now in its 64th year.
The aim of World Religion Day is to unite everyone, whatever their faith, by showing us all that there are common foundations to all religions and that together we can help humanity and live in harmony. The day often includes activities and events calling the attention of the followers of world faiths. In honour of this special day and to increase awareness of religions from around the world, we asked a few of our authors to dispel some of the popular myths from their chosen religions.
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Myth: Quakers are mostly silent worshippers
“If you are from Britain, or certain parts of the United States, you may think of Quakers as a quiet group that meets in silence on Sunday mornings, with only occasional, brief vocal messages to break the silence. Actually, between eighty and ninety per cent of Quakers are “pastoral” or “programmed” Friends, with the majority of these living in Africa (more in Kenya than any other country) and other parts of the global South. The services are conducted by pastors, and include prayers, sermons, much music, and even occasionally (in Burundi, for instance) dancing! Pastoral Quaker services sometimes include a brief period of “unprogrammed” worship, and sometimes not. Quaker worship can be very lively!”
“Zen is known as the Buddhist school emphasizing intensive practice of meditation, the name’s literal meaning that represents the Japanese pronunciation of an Indian term (dhyana). But hours of daily meditative practice are limited to a small group of monks, who participate in monastic austerities at a handful of training temples. The vast majority of members of Zen only rarely or perhaps never take part in this exercise. Instead, their religious affiliation with temple life primarily involves burials and memorials for deceased ancestors, or devotional rites to Buddhist icons and local spirits. Recent campaigns, however, have initiated weekly one-hour sessions introducing meditation for lay followers.”
“This was a common cry in the nineteenth century – the British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli made it – and it continues in the twenty-first century. Atheists respond in two ways. First, if you need a god for morality, then what is to stop that god from being entirely arbitrary? It could make the highest moral demand to kill everyone not fluent in English – or Hebrew or whatever. But if this god does not do things in an arbitrary fashion, you have the atheist’s second response. There must be an independent set of values to which even the god is subject, and so why should the non-believer not be subject to and obey them, just like everyone else?”
— Michael Ruse is Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Program in the History and Philosophy of Science, at Florida State University and an editor of The Oxford Handbook of Atheism
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Myth: Islam is a coercive communitarian religion
“Claims of an Islamic state to enforce Sharia as the law of the state are alien to historical Islamic traditions and rejected by the actual current political choices of the vast majority of Muslims globally. Belief in Islam must always be a free choice and compliance with Sharia cannot have any religious value unless done voluntarily with the required personal intent of each individual Muslim to comply (nya). Theologically Islam is radically democratic because individual personal responsibility can never be abdicated or delegated to any other human being (see e.g. chapters and verses 6:164; 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 52:21; 74:38 of the Quran).”
“One myth about Hinduism is that it is an ethnic religion. The assumption is that Hinduism is tied to a particular South Asian ethnicity. This is misleading for at least three reasons. First, South Asia is ethnically diverse. Therefore, it is not logical to speak of a single, unified ethnicity. Second, Hinduism has long been established in Southeast Asia, where practitioners consider themselves Hindu but not South Asian. Third, although the appearance of ‘White Hindus’ is a phenomenon rather recent and somewhat controversial, the global outreach of Hindu missionary groups has prompted scores of modern converts to Hinduism throughout Europe and the Americas. In other words, not all Hindus are South Asian.”
First off, let's go over again why meditation has a connection to time management, particularly time management for writers. Managing time requires self-discipline. Meditation helps develop that. From last year's discussion of Kelly McGonigal's The Willpower Instinct:
McGonigal even explains why meditating helps with self-control and attention, something I've been hearing about for years, though no one felt a need to explain why it would work. Meditating, it appears, develops the prefrontal cortex, the portion of the brain that deals with impulse control. Good impulse control helps people stay on task with goals. Find meditation difficult because your mind keeps wandering and you have to keep bringing it back to the breath? That's actually good, according to McGonigal. The effort to do that develops the brain just as physical effort develops muscles.
Okay, that brings us up to this past Saturday, when I attended a five-hour meditation workshop sponsored by Dharma Drum Mountain's Hartford group. During the fifth hour, our monk leader was taking questions about the meditation we'd just done. Someone brought up seeing images of the Buddha while meditating.
The monk's response was that his group's particular meditation method didn't involve imagery because it can be distracting. When you have a meditation method, you need to eliminate anything that distracts from it. If that means eliminating Buddha, you eliminate Buddha. You kill the Buddha to protect your method.
Writers develop a writing process just as meditators develop a meditating method. Writers need to eliminate anything that distracts from their process just as meditators have to eliminate anything that distracts from their method.
And that is why you frequently hear of writers practicing meditation. They're hoping that learning to kill the Buddha and protect their meditation method will give them the ability to protect their writing process as well.
From Asian cultures we learn that the body is essentially an energy field connected directly or indirectly to all other energy fields in the universe. Because all fields are interconnected, they are capable of transferring information and energy. That means we have access to an infinite amount of information. We are all aware of how we receive and send information through the five senses of taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing. But what about the so-called sixth sense?
Receiving and Sending Intuitive Information and Energy
Many of us are not so aware how we can send and receive information and energy through intuition in the form meditation and dreams. The intuitive images, sounds, feelings, and sensations that we pick up spontaneously or receive in dreams and meditation are identifying symbols for unique, relevant information and energy within and without us that can be used to help ourselves and others. Any of the senses can be a vehicle for an intuitive message because our bodies are wonderfully designed to transmit information through the five senses as well as the sixth sense of intuition. Just as we pick up data through touch, sight, hearing, smell and taste coming from outside us, we can register intuitive data coming from within us through those same senses.
Sending intuitive information and loving energy is very much like using our senses to send and receive information about what we see or hear except we do it in an intuitive, altered state of awareness such as meditation, deep prayer or dreams. In these states we intend to receive or to transmit information or energy, and it happens! We can intend to have dreams that will help someone else by giving deeper understanding, clues to resolution or a diagnosis of the issue. While in meditation or prayer, we can send healing energy and even information to someone through the imagination and intention.
When you think of the body as a bundle of energy in addition to it’s amazing physical capabilities, it is truly amazing.
The problem of consciousness is real, deep and confronts us any time we care to look. Ask yourself this question ‘Am I conscious now?’ and you will reply ‘Yes’. Then, I suggest, you are lured into delusion – the delusion that you are conscious all the time, even when you are not asking about it.
Now ask another question, ‘What was I conscious of a moment ago?’ This may seem like a very odd question indeed but lots of my students have grappled with it and I have spent years playing with it, both in daily life and in meditation. My conclusion? Most of the time I do not know what I was conscious of just before I asked.
Try it. Were you aware of that faint humming in the background? Were you conscious of the birdsong? Had you even noticed the loud drill in the distance that something in your brain was trying to block out? And that’s just sounds. What about the feel of your bottom on the chair? My experience is that whenever I look I find lots of what I call parallel backwards threads – sounds, touch, sights, that in some way I seem to have been listening to for some time – yet when I asked the question I had the odd sensation that I’ve only just become conscious of it.
Back in 1890 William James (one of my great heroes of consciousness studies) remarked on the sounds of a chiming clock. You notice the chiming after several strikes. At that moment you can look back and count one, two, three, four and know that now it has reached five. But it was only at four that you suddenly became conscious of the sound.
What’s going on?
This, I suggest, is just one of the many curious features of our minds that lead us astray. Whenever we ask ‘Am I conscious now? we always are, so we leap to the conclusion that there must always be something ‘in my consciousness’, as though consciousness were a container. I reject this idea. Instead, I think that most of the time our brains are getting on with their amazing job of processing countless streams of information in multiple parallel threads, and none of those threads is actually ‘conscious’. Consciousness is an attribution we make after the fact. We look back and say ‘This is what I was conscious of’ and there is nothing more to consciousness than that.
Are we really so deluded? If so there are two important consequences: One spiritual and one scientific.
Many contemplative and mystical traditions claim we are living in illusion; that we need to throw off the dark glasses of the false self who seems to be in control, who seems to have consciousness and free will; that if we train our minds through meditation and mindfulness we can see through the illusion and live in clearly awareness right here and now. I am most familiar with Zen and I love such sayings as, ‘Actions exist and also their consequences but the person that acts does not’. Wow! Letting go of the person who sees, thinks, and decides is not a trivial matter and many people find it outrageous that one would even want to try. Yet it is quite possible to live without assuming that you are consciously making the decisions – that you are a persisting entity that has consciousness and free will.
From the scientific point of view, throwing off these illusions would totally transform the ‘hard problem of consciousness’. This is, as Dave Chalmers, the Australian philosopher, describes it, the question of ‘how physical processes in the brain give rise to subjective experience’. This is a modern version of the mind-body problem. Almost everyone who works on consciousness agrees that dualism does not work. There cannot be a separate spirit or soul or persisting inner self that is something other than ordinary matter. The world cannot be divided, as Descartes famously thought, into mind and matter – subjective and objective, physical material and mental thoughts. Somehow the two must ultimately be one – But how? This ‘nonduality’ is what mystical traditions have long described, but it is also the hope that science is grappling with.
And something strange is happening in the science of consciousness. The last few decades have seen fantastic progress in neuroscience. Yet paradoxically this makes the problem of consciousness worse, not better. We now know that decisions are initiated in part of the frontal lobe, actions are controlled by areas as far apart as the motor cortex, premotor cortex and cerebellum, visual information is processed in multiple parallel pathways at different speeds without ever constructing a picture-like representation that could correspond to ‘the picture I see in front of my eyes’. The brain manages all these amazing tasks in multiple parallel processes. So what need is there for ‘me’? And what need is there for subjective experience? So what is it and why do we have it?
Perhaps inventing an inner conscious self is a convenient way to live; perhaps it simplifies the brain’s complex task of keeping us alive; perhaps it has some evolutionary purpose. Whatever the answer, I am convinced that all our usual ideas about mind and consciousness are false. We can throw them off in the way we live our lives, and we must throw them off if our science of consciousness is ever to make progress.
I need to recognize that with my waking mind alone I do not see, and will never see, the complete picture. There will never be enough facts. Life is entirely too complex to fully understand a person, an issue or an event. That is why the Buddha said we are each like blind men touching one small part of the elephant. What part of the elephant I feel is what gives me the definition of an elephant. Maybe the guy touching the elephant’s side gets an idea of the huge size of the creature, but he has no clue to the column-like legs while the guy holding the tiny tail thinks the elephant is like a tiny snake. I need to ask if I am seeing the bigger picture.
I need to recognize when my waking mind is on overload, hopelessly yet valiantly trying to figure it all out. A good indicator of an overworked mind is the constant replay of scenarios or endless chatter going on in the head which can totally absorb and suck me in. It’s time to bail out, and give the brain a rest!
I need to step back. When I feeling I am getting sucked into this internal whirlpool I need to step back and try something else. Taking a walk, just walking away from the problem or listening to music can really help give the mind a rest. Ironically, effective and problem-solving intuitive insights often just “come” after I let the problem go and take a breather.
I can explore methods that work safely and quickly for me to not only get me beyond the pull of the internal mental whirlpool but also can provide desired insights that address the need of the moment. I can act proactively to get the results I want and not just wait for them to come. Asian religions and the Judeo-Christian mystical traditions have long explored ways to do this. Nowadays, non-sectarian methods have been developed based on the findings of these religious traditions. Basically these methods involve:
Stating or write down the situation or concern needing a resolution.
Invoking higher or inner wisdom to provide an answer to the situation or concern at hand. This can be done either in prayer form to a deity or inner guide, or can be done with intention to learn from higher wisdom.
Stilling the mind by focusing on the breath or a still point. There are many techniques out there to do this. Try several and use the one that works for you. A simple and very effective method was developed by Dr. Henry Reed, Ph.D., Director of the Edgar Cayce Institute of Intuitive Studies. It is called The Inspired Heart Meditation and can be downloaded at: http://edgarcayce-intuitionschool.org/intuitiveheart/world/Inspired Heart Meditation.pdf.
Relaxing the body.
Allowing any sensations such as images, feelings, sounds, impressions, etc. to well up. Look for the particularly subtle impressions.
Observing these sensations. No matter how bizarre or irrelevant they seem, there most likely is a connection to the problem at hand.
Asking what these sensations have to do with the problem posed.
Observing the responses that come to mind.
Reflecting on the associations that come to mind.
Forming a conclusion.
Lastly, but most importantly, acting on the new information received and the conclusion arrived at!
It is important to understand that this exercise is like any other; the more often it is done, the faster you can do it; and the easier and more effective it becomes. Like riding a bike, in the beginning it may feel a bit awkward but eventually the person gets the “hang” of it.
Luke 10 is about preparing and sending the disciples out in the world to heal and to preach. The stories told within Luke 10 illustrate the values based choices necessary for someone called to participate in Jesus’ mission. The Parable of the Good Samaritan defines what it means to love my neighbor and the Story of Martha and Mary shows what it means to sit in the presence of divine wisdom. Both involve choices that come from an open, empathetic and intuitive heart.
Treating the Stranger as Oneself
In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, the Samaritan (who was thought to be inferior in class and moral values to the Jews) is ironically the one who treats a stranger beaten and robbed as he would want to be treated—quite unlike the priest and the Levite. The Samaritan is the one who is operating from a moral perspective which recognizes that this is a human being just like himself. Since he wouldn’t want to be left hurt and penniless by the wayside, he simply makes the choice to help the man. This is empathy in action. It shows a heart open to the needs of others.
To Do or to Be Still and Receptive: The Better Choice
The Story of Martha and Mary clearly describes the state of mind of each one of us at any given moment. One part of us is busy, running about taking care of errands, serving others and the performing the tasks of everyday life. This is the doing part of ourselves that make us feel like we have “to do” something in any situation, and often make us feel good when we have done something. The other part of us—which wants to sit quietly, patiently and attentively to hear what comes from silence— however, is often ignored and disparaged in our action-oriented society as being lazy or useless, “navel gazing” with no productive outcome. Jesus makes clear this latter choice to sit in the presence of divine wisdom is the better choice. It is a reminder to us to put aside the busyness of the day and sit in intuitive reflection, open to what comes in the silence.
In 2009 I undertook a one year course of study with two teachers who created a program called the Voice for Love. This program teaches one how to hear her clear inner voice. The program consisted of meditation, writing, speaking from this voice and learning spiritual counseling. As a psychiatrist I had been interested in the connection between mind and spiritual practices for many years and found this program illuminating.
I didn’t start out to write a book. As a long-time meditator, I prefer to sit in the early morning before the day begins. This practice has always set the course of the day for me and creates the sense of peace and concentrated focus which I bring with me no matter what occurs. Although I did not start out to write a book, I found that during my meditations, when I was quiet and empty of thoughts, words began to come to me with the prompt to write them down. So I started to meditate with my netbook in my lap, sitting on a cushion. Without asking any questions or thinking of any particular subject, messages and contemplative pieces came forth. Through a melding of my mind and my own unique abilities, something greater than myself emerged. The information I wrote down was not channeled, but it was a part of me, a greater and vast part, a larger Self. In this process, during which I am fully conscious and aware, words come forth effortlessly and in a sharper, clearer way than if I were to try to explain them myself.
When my book of 100 short meditative passages was finished, I also edited it from the place of my higher self. Getting myself out of the way, with my ego’s doubts and fears, made the editing and rewriting process much easier. If I am editing from that space of higher knowing, I can think with more clarity about what I am trying to convey and in doing so, create more of what was meant to be.
But isn’t the creative process always so? We write from another place within us which feels compelled to express itself. Artists and writers have often called it inspiration. It is a blossoming of who we truly are. If we gain clarity from a quiet mind, which for me means a regular, daily meditation practice, we can all write with less effort and more ease, knowing that what we mean to say will be distinctly in our voice.
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Irene A. Cohen, MD is a psychiatrist, acupuncturist and interfaith minister who has maintained an integrative practice for almost 30 years. Hay House / Balboa Press just released her first book, Soul Journey to Love: 100 Days to Inner Peace . Visit Dr. Cohen on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, and blog with her at www.drirenecohen.authorsxpress.com.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Would you like to participate in Friday "Speak Out!"? Email your short posts (under 500 words) about women and writing to: marcia[at]wow-womenonwriting[dot]com for consideration. We look forward to hearing from you! ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Enter the psychedelic time tunnel and hang on for an inspirational and amazing story. Zen teacher Don Lubov gives us Story Ten of the One series. It is available now from Trestle Press for ONLY 99 Cents and you can get it here: http://goo.gl/JkFJs
Mark Miller's One
by Don Lubov
100% of the author’s proceeds will be donated to Give Kids the World, a charitable organization where children with life-threatening illnesses and their families are treated to weeklong, cost-free fantasy vacations. www.GKTW.org. The authors, creator and publisher are in no other way affiliated with this organization.
Mark Miller’s One is a spiritual anthology examining True-Life experiences of Authors and their Faith. As the series evolves expect to discover what it means to have faith, no matter what that faith is and no matter where they live. Remember that we are all part of this One World.
In Story Ten, Don Lubov shares a wild and thought-provoking journey. A young man in 1971, the author left home on a cross-country journey that took him to some unexpected places. He did not know what he was looking for, but he found himself. This harrowing tale of self-discovery brought the author near to death and to a rebirth.Add a Comment
After a rough period of recovery and grief from an auto accident, Nawang Khechog made the decision to take his hardships and tragedies into his spiritual path. Using his own pain as the catalyst, he has tried to alleviate the suffering of others through prayer. As a result of his spiritual growth in this area, Tibetan Dream Journey was created.
The gentle flute music is healing and soothing, bringing the listener to a meditative state. In addition to the music, one track shares chanting of the beautiful message “May all be kind to each other.” The Dalai Lama’s inspirational “Chant of Universal Compassion” is included in another track.
Khechog’s peaceful and compassionate nature is revealed to us through this beautiful music that leads us on a journey to our own spiritual center. May all who listen find happiness and harmony in their own lives.
Trouble is an inevitable part of being human. Although it’s tempting to simply bemoan our fate when something bad happens, it’s far more effective to accept these upsetting issues and integrate them into our whole life experience. In A Lamp in the Darkness, Jack Kornfield shares his thoughts on dealing with difficult times, in an effort to help us get through them.
Suffering can be caused by many things, and Kornfield reminds us that we already have an inner light – “The One Who Knows” – who will guide us. We may be in so much pain that we don’t feel we’re capable of compassion, forgiveness, healing, and wisdom, but these are some of the topics discussed, followed by meditations to explore these characteristics more deeply. An accompanying CD provides audio recordings of these meditations.
Difficulty doesn’t need to destroy us. We can rise above what happens, with our sense of self and peace of mind intact. A Lamp in the Darkness shows us how.
Hopefully by now you have had a chance to read the latest story from the One series. For the Love of All is written by a best-selling, award-winning author along with a counselor who happens to be a talented author, as well as an outdoor enthusiast.
I want to thank Melissa and Scott for sharing such a beautiful story and taking the time to do this interview. Let’s jump into the first question:
MM: What inspired you to write this story?
Scott: A chance meeting that turned out not to be chance at all. In the summer of 2011, during a silent mediation, walking, and writing retreat in Taos, New Mexico, I met a traveler who seemed to be on a journey similar to mine. Brought together by forces beyond both of us, we discovered a connection of remarkable depth and intimacy. What followed was an intense recognition of each other that was so stark and clear, even though we had never met before – at least not in this lifetime. Almost immediately, we began to realize a series of synchronicities so profound and frequent that they were undeniable, pointing us toward relationship, collaboration in writing, and united purpose in matters close to our hearts.
0 Comments on Authors of One Interviews: Melissa Studdard and Scott Lutz as of 1/1/1900
It’s a big gray lump in the living room, a has-been that now attracts dust and random clutter—CDs, pens, cinnamon gum, a magnifying lens, a red dragon, notebooks, DVDs, coins, colorful glass figurines, a purse, a salt lamp, a silver bracelet. My very own eyesore. Gone are the days that I worshipped its light into the night. How midnight quickly became three in the morning. How my pulse raced with suspense. How I yelled, outraged. How I got hooked on predictable stories, sappy sentiments, and bimbos. How I attempted to multi-task, working and watching, eventually dropping the “working” part.
How I swore, every time I got the cable bill, This is the last time! No longer will I pay an insane amount of money to submit my subconscious to psychic and mental pollution! How I fantasized giving Charter the finger. How I would chop, chop, cut, cut.
I thought about it seriously for three years, replaying the chop-chop-cut-cut fantasy every month. I thought about all the money I’d save. All the time I’d have to write. All those hikes I was going to do. How I’d make up for all the lost time. How I would sleep a good eight hours each night. How I’d be cooking soups and baking cakes from scratch. How I’d hang out with friends. How I’d go out to poetry readings, live performances, art movies. How I’d read all those novels on my bookshelves. Maybe I’d take up water coloring or spin clay bowls with my hands. Go horseback riding. Who knows. Anything is possible, right?
A writer I know ditched TV. I wrote to her on Facebook and asked her the big question: Is there life after no-TV? Yes! She raved about the 600-page novel she edited and whittled down to 470 pages with no-TV. The article she wrote for publication. The talk she gave at a conference, the workshop she did at a library, on and on. All of this during one month of no-TV.
The TV was her surrogate soul mate. She had several sets on at the same time, so she wouldn’t miss anything as she went from room to room. She sped home to catch her shows. She fell asleep under its glow. And now that she was healed with no-TV, she was rediscovering her soul. Words were pouring out of her. She became attentive to bird song and sunshine. She joined humankind again and became a social butterfly. She even got a little TV in with friends, for special occasions—the Super Bowl, the Oscars, some great flick.
Clearly, her TV grip was even stronger than mine. If she could do it, I could do it. She recommended a 21-day TV fast, to start.
I thought about it for another year. In that time, my no-TV fantasy grew. I would write a novel! Learn how to play the harmonica! I would compost and become an urban farmer! I’d write songs and record a CD! I’d volunteer for hospice care, take in a few foster kids, become a shaman, help save Mother Earth!
Two months ago, I called Charter and did the chop-chop-cut-cut.
Television, my perverse meditation, how I miss you.
Forgive me the cliché, but life hasn’t been the same without you. None of my gr
I was supposed to workout last night - undoubtedly a great way to clear ones head to get ready for some writing time. Yet, alas...instead I went out to partake in some extremely unhealthy eating. And you know how it is when you eat fast food, it's like swallowing a lead weight and makes breathing seem like a chore. So, feeling sleepy and bloated, I decided to try meditation as a means to prepare to write.
Sitting cross-legged, eyes closed, breathing deeply...yes...this is exactly what I needed to relax...except...who knew a stomach could make that much noise! Clearly, I did not consume a burger, but rather a small creature intent on extricating himself from my belly. Ugh!
A handful of Tums and about 20 minutes later, I finally got down to writing. I think I could get use to this again!
Thinking about the kind of books I like to write, I decided that tonight, I would get into the mind of one of my would-be evil characters for the next 12 minutes and I came up with the following:
Rain tap tap tapped like skeletal fingers on the window pane. Embers buried beneath dark soot, gasped for air within the craggy hearth. Darkness consumed everything in the room, even the man that stood in its depths. A heart beat, the tempo slow and even. Fear, harvested with each breath the man takes, fills the air with a putrid stench. Sanity has but a tenuous grip...and it is faltering. Wave after toxic wave of animosity burns from deeply hollow eyes, scalding its way down to that place where a soul should live. He fears no evil. And yet...evil fears him.
I realized after this exercise that there was some real hope of firming up my flabby brain muscles, and all I could think of was...I wanna do it again!
Okie doke -- it's go time! Fourteen minutes of writing.
How would you describe your mental health? As an underworked author and an overworked publisher, I would say my mental health is sketchy at best. LOL I find myself scouring other author's web sites to see what they are doing and what I might mimic to propel myself to the top of ANY best seller list. I scour other publisher's sites to do the same. I am always looking for some germ of a clue to the "big secret." Who am I kidding?
My mother used to tell me that there would come a day when I realized I did NOT know everything. Thanks, Mom. (note the sarcastic tilt of my font) You were so right. Hope your happy. LOL
Well, I may not know everything, but I am sure as shootin' willin' to try. I have taken a new approach to my hours of scouring. I am no longer looking for ways to mimic, I do still sour, but I constantly remind myself that it is all part of my education. What does this have to do with mental stability? Oh, plenty!
I talk to so many authors and the majority of them are seriously seeking the quick fix to fame and fortune with their book(s). Come on people, there are no quick fixes. It's a lot of hard work and grueling hours of research, both for the material you write and for the business you strive to be an active participant in. Nothing is easy. Was it easy when you first learned to walk? Heck no. Like the rest of us, you probably fell down a lot. Riding a bike? Roller skating? Dating? Don't even get me started. We had to go through hours of grueling activities to become even remotely good at these and so many other things.
So why would you torture yourself with the myth that writing is easy and that just because you write a book, and a few people say it's a good read, that you will become an instant success and wildly rich. Let's ask Nora Roberts how long it took her to reach her level of comfort within the industry. Or even the wildly popular Christopher Paolini who fought his way in kicking and selling. No one did it for him, he worked his young little butt off and probably spent more than one night wishing he was old enough to drink. But he had an awesome support system and he had DETERMINATION!
Back to mental health. It is crucial to your success. Don't make the mistake of thinking this is easy and that it will be all fun. The more you want, the harder you must work. The more you succeed, the more people will talk about you, and it won't always be nice. But I can tell you that there is no greater joy than to look within yourself and find satisfaction and to know that you have done your very best.
Do whatever is necessary to keep your mind at peace, your body in good shape, and your entire being in balance. Meditate (it really isn't all that freaky), exercise, and eat healthy. It is the best defense against mental instability. I never thought I would say this, but my most productive days are begun with a 30 minute workout at Curves, a small, but healthy breakfast, and some quiet reflection on what I will accomplish during the rest of the day.
Do you have any special routines or rituals that you do faithfully to ensure you stay happy and healthy? What role does this play in your writing?
I have never meditated for more than five minutes, tops, and then only because I was in a yoga or martial arts class that required that I sit there and not get up and walk away, so I figured I might as well try. Nonetheless, I think meditation is probably a very good thing. It's one of those activities that I plan to get into someday.
For someone like myself, whose meditation skill is on the level of a preschooler's, this seemed a good introduction to why a person might want to meditate and how to begin.
I kept getting distracted, though, because the pigs were naked. Distraction isn't great for meditation. Of course, I didn't beat myself up for it. I just called my mind back to the book.
Though this book was published back in 2004, I found it on the New Book Shelf in the children's area. That was a very encouraging sight for a writer. I often get the impression that my books are toast as soon as the following season's book catalogue comes out. It was good to see a three-year-old book still selling.
In Being Bodies, Lenore Friedman and Susan Moon offer the perspectives of a variety of women with varying Buddhist practices. The result is a contemplative and compelling work dealing with what it means to be female, what it means to fully and consciously inhabit the female body.
The last wave of the Western women’s movement critiqued the idea that a women was her body. In fact, a major focus of that movement was the position that biology was not destiny. This was primarily a response to the social construction of women’s identity, the objectification of a women as nothing more than physical self. However, there was little offered to support women in learning to fully live in that physicality, to know it as both vessel and endpoint. Being Bodies offers a view that a woman’s self-knowledge is rooted in the flesh. Women’s awareness is based in surrendering to the body’s impermanence, its joy, its suffering, and its death.One of the most thought-provoking essays is Linda Chrisman’s "Birth".
In it, she describes the process of labor, and giving birth to her son. What's striking about this experience was how Chrisman was both deeply enmeshed in that process and separate from it. The most telling lesson, for both Chrisman and the reader, occurred at the height of labor. Here she realizes that all her physical conditioning, all her contemplative practice would not save her from pain. This selection beautifully illustrates the message of Being Bodies. There may be another path for women, rooted in surrender to the fullness and limits of the body. Through that choice, a woman may find self-knowledge and ultimately, freedom.While the focus of Being Bodies is the female experience, it is a universal and object lesson about Buddhist ideas of impermanence, and becoming fully present in every moment by letting go.I was moved to tears reading this book. It reminds me that true beauty is the sum of both pleasing things as well the scars.
I feel such a strong, visceral connection to the stories of the women profiled in this anthology. (Interesting that "visceral" is the only word that comes to mind in reviewing a book dealing with the experience of being grounded in the body and the odyssey of transcendence.)This book is a pivotal one as I try to develop a deeper spiritual practice - moving East in order to come West, hoping to re-encounter and reinterpret my own ideas of embodiment, spirituality and existence.
On Tuesday, January 29th at 7pm, we break from our normal schedule to bring you ACENTOSon a FIFTH TUESDAY, in conjunction with the Bay Area's own Craig Perez and Achiote Press.
The featured poets that night will be two amazing young writers:
Marina Garcia-Vasquez, acontributor to the press' ACHIOTE SEEDS, Volume 2, and Javier O. Huerta, author of the acclaimed debut collection, SOME CLARIFICATIONS Y OTROS POEMAS. As always, the Uptown's best open mic will precede the festivities, and your host will be John Rodriguez.
On Thursday, January 31st at 6pm, the Con Tinta collective presents its annual awards dinner and reading.
Lifetime achievement awards are to be presented to Nuyorican writers Sandra Maria Estevesand Tato Laviera. The dinner will take place at Mojitos', located at 227 E. 116th Street, between 2nd and 3rd Avenue. The reading will be held in conjunction with PALABRA, a journal of Chicano and Latino literary arts. Your hosts for the evening will be Urayoan Noeland Rich Villar.
Finally, on Friday, February 1st at 6:30pm, El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueños presents ACENTOS: A Gathering of Latino and Latina Poets. The event is slated to take place at the School of Social Work at Hunter College, 129 E. 79th Street, at the corner of 79th and Lexington. A lineup of more than 20 emerging and nationally recognized Latino and Latina poets are set to take the stage, including Martin Espada, Sandra Maria Esteves, Brenda Cardenas, Aracelis Girmay, Willie Perdomo, and many more.
It's going to be a busy January for your crew at Acentos, and we wouldn't have it any other way. Keep an eye on this list for further updates, news, features and even more poetry events for the '08, as well as information about our fifth anniversary show in March.
Details for all our January events are listed below. See you all there!
Peaces, Rich Villar for the Acentos crew.
Tuesday, January 29th @ 7pm ACENTOS Bronx Poetry Showcase A reading in collaboration with Achiote Press featuring JAVIER O. HUERTA and MARINA GARCIA-VASQUEZ plus the Uptown's Best Open Mic
The Bruckner Bar and Grill One Bruckner Blvd. (corner of Third Ave. and Bruckner Blvd.) 6 Train to 138th Street Station Hosted by John Rodriguez FREE! ($5 suggested donation) Thursday, January 31st @ 6pm Con Tinta's Annual Award Ceremony and Reading Honoring the work of Nuyorican poets SANDRA MARIA ESTEVES and TATO LAVIERAMojitos' Bar 227 E. 116th Street (between 2nd and 3rd Ave.) 6 Train to 116th Street Station Hosted by Urayoan Noel, Rich Villar, and the Con Tinta collective FREE and open to the public.
Friday, February 1st @ 6:30pmACENTOS: A Gathering and Celebration of Latino and Latina Poets Presented by El Centro de Estudios Puertorriqueñ os at Hunter College and Acentos Bronx Poetry Showcase
Featuring over twenty emerging and nationally recognized Latino and Latina poets The School of Social Work @ Hunter College 129 E. 79th Street (corner of 79th and Lexington) 6 Train to 77th Street Station, two blocks north to 79th and Lex. FREE and open to the public.
"Acentos is one of the best audiences, one of the best venues, I've ever seen. The organizers do a great job, not only in terms of spreading the word, but also in terms of creating anticipation. I feel like I'm part of a community, part of a movement. Aquí estamos y no nos vamos." Martín Espada
GREAT TEATRO LUNA NEWS!
After a sold out run at Chicago Dramatists, MACHOS is moving to the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn, IL, conveniently located near the CTA/Blue Line Austin stop.
Tickets are already on sale, and I hope you will help spread the word!
Here's the scoop: MACHOS At 16th Street Theater 4 weeks only!January 25 through February 17, 2008
Fridays at 7:30 PM Saturdays at 5:00 PM Saturdays at 8:00 PM Sundays at 6:00 PM
Ever wondered why some creatures appear to be truly ‘at one’ with themselves and their environment? Yoga has become so popular, it has even extended to the realm of animals. These pics show the practice of yoga to indeed be universal.
Just a little warm up. One leg at a time. Of course, some creatures have more legs to warm up than others. A spot of leaf-top leg-bend yoga has become a popular way for these fellas to kick off their mornings before a busy day doing, er… beetley things.
A candid shot taken at a mid-morning flamingo yoga class. Now, all together, the “tree” pose. Hold… and breathe…. Hey, you at the back. I said “tree” not “teapot”.
Image source This dragonfly is carrying out a lovely elbow balance known in human yoga as the “feathered peacock pose”. A true yogi. Note the focus and stillness required to successfully perform this pose. Years of practice. Only a master could achieve this.
Image source Nice to see a squirrel having a good shot at the “plough” pose Either that or he’s trying to let loose a little trapped wind. …. Or he’s dead.
Image source Yes, it is ultra-sandy. Oh you said “ustra-sana” - my mistake. Yes, that’s yoga-ese for “camel” pose. Although, the camel is refusing to join in - he’s got the hump. (Any other hump jokes - please keep to yourselves)
Image source Some animals have become so proficient at meditation, they have evolved a middle eye. This frog now sees only with his third eye, having lost the use of the first two.
And finally, a beautiful photo captured during this iguana’s early evening ’sun salutation’ sequence. Let the photo speak for itself. Namaste. (That means “I respect the god within you that is also within me” or words to that effect. Yoga people say this a lot)
Lately, I’ve taken to walking before sitting down to work each morning.It’s a slow, meditative walk that lets me immerse myself in my story rather than in the neighborhood (and neighbors) around me.With each step, I try to envision my characters in certain situations so that I can sit down at my desk when I return home with a clear picture in my head of the scenes that may unfold during the hours