Many Changes, Most Good, Some Hard

do it now

We are relocating, sort of. We are transitioning from Brooklyn, New York part time to northeastern Pennsylvania full time. To say this is a challenge, a monumental adjustment, would be an understatement. This moving is a huge challenge, even though the apartment has been sold furnished, as we strain every muscle, mental as well as physical. Living nearly 25 years in one small city apartment, it would seem a cinch for us to pack up our gear and go. Not so. Stuff hides behind every closet and cupboard door, cubbyhole and forgotten cache spot. We probably put this off too long, but ever since we went into contract we’ve boxed, stuffed, toted, schlepped, donated, discarded and given away a ton of stuff. Nearly all of it carried down three flights of stairs ourselves. Maybe our “never” was we thought we’d never move. Or we thought it would never be this hard, or we never considered the result of bringing new stuff home.

It is really freeing to get rid of excess belongings. The issue was having double of almost everything to make shuttling back and forth the 100 miles or so every week less daunting. So we’ve made at least one and often more trips to the Salvation Army with shoes, clothing, dishes and kitchenware, and other assorted stuff we don’t need. Then there is the quandry of whether or not to keep any winter things. We both elected to keep some winter boots and outerwear, just in case we get surprised by an early snowstorm before heading to our winter snowbird nest, or a late one after we return.

925bundlesku

Earlier this year–or was it late last year?–I ordered an assortment of heirloom seeds from the Grommet, produced by the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a small business devoted to preserving and proliferating the wonderful, flavorful heirloom plants as they were before hybridization and genetic modification “improved” them for us. They are awesome seeds, and I can’t wait to see what they yield for me, a gardener who has relied on garden store seedlings for years. I bought seeds for Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato, Swiss Chard, Italian Parsley, Basil and Scallions. I planted them last weekend in my 4′ x 8′ raised bed plot in our community garden. I also planted a couple of big tomato plants from the nursery near us to get a start on this process. There’s nothing tastier than homegrown tomatoes!

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

I am opening a new, spacious psychotherapy office next month in the college town of East Stroudsburg, with Pocono Psychiatric Associates. I plan to offer groups once I get settled. This is awesome and very exciting for me,  especially as one who has paid an arm and a leg and another arm for a very small, high-floor Manhattan office that could barely fit me, a client and one other person. The people there are wonderful and I welcome this new phase of my career. Challenges are terminating with clients I will sorely miss, getting my Medicare provider credentials set up for Pennsylvania, changing my address with a myriad of business and personal correspondence entities, and dealing with people who don’t handle change very well. Even if it is wonderful and exciting.Talking to myself here, too.

unknown-1

 

On a brighter note, our local seasonal local ice cream stand has dairy-free vanilla soft-serve this year! How cool is that? I had my first dipped vanilla cone in over 5 years last weekend. I’ve been vegan at least that long, imperfect but sincere. And they offer some 24 different flavors that can be added to it. I can see have some tasty work ahead of me!

So out goes the old, mingled with the newer, in with the fresh, and learning new things every single day! Today it was figuring out how to send a fax from home, not an intuitive effort when the phone line is part of the cable package. It’s raining like cats and dogs, as per usual at this time of year. For the second year in a row, the opening events of the tennis season here have been postponed, leaving game-hungry tennis bums thoroughly bummed.

So just one more challenging change. Blue highlights!

IMG_0011 (Edited)

 

Namasté

IMG_0154

Words for a Wounded World

Today there is such conflict and strife around the world that when I saw this today on elephant journal, I wanted to share it here.

Welcome words to faster healing in a wounded world today, from elephant journal

Welcome words to foster healing in a wounded world today, from elephant journal.

If you click on the elephant journal link, you find a post on helping a grieving warrior. Might it be you, or someone you care deeply about?

Namasté

IMG_0154

Milkweed in October

All photos mine, taken with iPhone 6.

All photos mine, taken with iPhone 6.

Autumn has descended upon us virtually overnight with her reds and yellows, browns and orange leaves among the green. The garden is on its last legs, the tomatoes picked and sitting on the windowsill to ripen. Only the exuberant parsley and leggy basil remain. I’ve filled jars with both to enjoy their green abundance and aroma, and to make picking a few leaves here and there a breeze.

On my way back from our community garden the other day I came upon a field of milkweed, their snowy fluff catching my eye among the greens and autumn colors.

image

I knew little about milkweed (Asclepius syriaca), mostly that the sap of the immature pod is white and milky in appearance. I just referred to Wikipedia on the subject and read that monarch butterfly larvae feed solely on milkweed and therefore monarch populations in a given area depend upon the abundance of milkweed plants within it. The silky floss is so soft to the touch, even with the flat brown seeds to which it is attached. As I approached the field, I saw bits of fluff in the air.

image

Up here on the Pocono Plateau milkweed is ubiquitous, on the roadsides and in fields. The ones pictured here grow along a leachfield for the community’s water management. And now I know why several varieties of monarchs are so abundant here as well!

How interesting it is to me that humans have found little use for these plants, despite considerable effort to eat the green pod, use the sap or exploit their floss and wood fibers for industry. The Wikipedia article says that Euell Gibbons found a way to eat them and that native Americans have used their fiber for textiles.

The miracle of nature is so present here in this amazing plant. A particular species of insect, the monarch butterfly, relies on this particular plant family for its survival. The flowers are pollinated by a variety of insects, and when the dried pods split open the wind catches and elevates the fluff and makes sure the seeds scatter far and wide.

image

Mindfulness practice trains us to see and explore all that we encounter for its purpose and intent. We do not always understand what we see, but as nature unfolds before us and we are fortunate enough to learn about it, the world makes more sense to us. The milkweed, a plant of no remarkable beauty until fall, with its knobby pods, serves a vital role in the ecology of our planet. Having met and savored its beauty up close this week, I will never take it for granted in same way again.

Namasté

IMG_0154

Nine-eleven Fourteen Years On

Cityscape, by Michael Leu, etching from the collection of the author.

Cityscape, by Michael J. Leu, etching from the collection of the author.

September 12, 2001

Brooklyn, New York

Yesterday our world changed and our lives will never be the same again. Yesterday at 8:46 a.m., while I was driving to my Manhattan office, just yards away from entering the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel, I looked up at the twin towers of the World Trade Center. What I saw will be burned in my memory forever. I saw the North Tower explode into a fireball, with confetti-like showers of shattered glass glinting in the sun across the blue sky around the buildings. Plumes of black smoke began pouring out. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I looked to the people in the cars around me, and no one else seemed aware of it. I had 880-News Radio on, and they were not speaking of it. I tried to call 911 but couldn’t get through. I called (my friend and colleague) and told him what I was seeing. By then I was going into the tunnel, unable to leave the queue in which I found myself. As I proceeded with painstaking slowness, often dead-stopped, I listened to Don Imus on the radio and CBS radio also. About 20 minutes after the first explosion, which I now knew was the impact of an airplane, I learned another plane had crashed into the South Tower of the World Trade Center. Before I emerged from the tunnel into the now-war zone of lower Manhattan, I also heard President Bush speaking of the crisis for the first time.

When I emerged, I saw both towers flaming and spewing clouds of black and gray smoke. All traffic was diverted to downtown, emergency vehicles and MTA heavy equipment blocking all routes north. Unable to get to my office, which I would have done if permitted, I got on the FDR heading toward the Brooklyn Bridge. There were very few vehicles on the FDR, and most were pulled over by the side of the road, their occupants standing together, cameras trained on the WTC towers, which were still burning furiously. I opened my window and shared a sentiment of shock and dismay with a man standing by his car. Car radios were all on 1010-WINS, as was my own at that moment, the doors open and the sound of the news briefs and unfolding events in the air. I got on the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. Traffic was very heavy and slow onto the bridge. I saw masses of people streaming north and east, away from the Financial District. As I listened to unfolding events, I learned that the South Tower had collapsed and wasn’t there anymore. Suddenly people began running onto the roadway where I was, running furiously away from a large, billowing white cloud rolling from Ground Zero towards me. I had to use my wipers to remove the ashes and dust that began to accumulate on my windshield. I put on my fog lights and headlights as my car and those people around me became enveloped in a thick dust cloud. We crept onto the bridge. Pedestrians clogged the center walkway, and I had seen probably thousands walking across the bridge to Brooklyn before my view was really obliterated. As I crept across, pedestrians hurried along the paved roadway, too, and at times they seemed to engage angrily with drivers ahead of me, but I was not aware of why. At one point, a car came at our queue head on, speeding the wrong way towards Manhattan, filled with men who looked like plain-clothed police.

When I got to the Brooklyn side of the East River, I stayed on surface streets and laboriously wended my way home. I parked my ash-covered car in my parking garage, and tried to find out about (my husband). His brother didn’t answer. I knew he was in the field, working the New York City primary election. I didn’t know which borough he had gone to, and I was worried. I called my mother to tell her I was okay. She had been beside herself with worry and had tried to call but all circuits had been busy, she said.

I finally got through to my husband’s boss who said he had heard from him and he was in Brooklyn. As we spoke, he came through the door to our apartment. I have never been so glad to see anyone in my life. We have been together since, attending meetings and calling friends and family. He has been unable to reach anyone in his organization. I can’t get to my office because no one is permitted below 14th Street in Manhattan, and my office is between 12th and 13th Streets. I have called my patients. As far as I know, they are all okay.

Today I made arrangements to stay with my husband wherever I go, and to meet (a close friend) at a meeting. We’ll have lunch together. I also left my name and phone numbers with two local hospitals in the event that my services as a clinical psychologist are requested. I have heard that the volunteer response to this act of war has been incredible. (Our son) and I spoke last night. He has his own challenges now, but he was relieved to know we are safe here.

________________________________

September 11, 2015

Brooklyn, New York

Today I elected to pull a long-ignored journal from its place in my office armoire at home, thinking I would read what I wrote about my experiences on 9/11/2001. It’s interesting to me to read what I believe are discrepancies with what actually happened, but then perhaps those details that feel real and true now are the discrepancies from what actually occurred. For example, my recollection is that I looked up and saw a gaping hole in the North Tower with flames pouring out and sparking shards of glass, which we later learned were mostly papers floating out from the offices that had been blown open and were now on fire. For days afterward we found some of these papers, singed or intact, on our lawn in Brooklyn. My recollection now is of compulsively calling my mother while I was in the tunnel, but unable to get through. I believe I was in there over an hour listening to eyewitness accounts of what was going on above. I carried a cellphone and had for several years, but my husband did not, so I never tried to call him, not knowing where I’d find him that day.

Photo courtesy of Bay Ridge Phantom, 2006

Photo courtesy of Bay Ridge Phantom, 2006

A year or so later I published a professional paper, “Impact of the World Trade Center Disaster on a Manhattan Psychotherapy Practice” and gave my impressions of that day from my experience and from the perspectives of my patients. Reading it later I cringed at how patriotic it seemed, but such were those very overwhelming days. I don’t mean to suggest that loving one’s country is in any way undesirable. But in the months and years after 9/11/2001, love of country seemed often to be co-opted by some for political gain, or fearmongering, or whipping up war fever.

image

We drove across the Brooklyn Bridge today, just blocks north of the memorial events downtown. The traffic was brutal what with closed streets to accommodate the dignitaries and the grieving survivors of that awful day. Our city now is vibrant and still ever on the build. Cranes abound as new skyscrapers arise, and parking spaces are harder and harder to come by in Park Slope.

image

The best thing about the news today that I sampled on my iPhone as we traveled to the country for the weekend was the photo of a group of 14-year-olds on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, all born on September 11, 2001, wearing t-shirts reading Hope, and Unity, and Kindness. Life goes on, and that we must never forget, even though we eventually will die, as will all those we love, but this is as it should be. Impermanence is an oft denied reality of life as we know it. The shock of knowing it so starkly as we did that day knocked us sideways. I conclude this post with a version of the Buddhist Metta Sutta, adapted from that offered by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh in his book, Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice (2011, Parallax Press):

May each of you be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.

May you safe and free from injury.

May you be free from anger, fear, afflictions and anxiety.

May you learn to look at yourselves with the eyes of understanding and love.

May you be able to recognize and touch the seeds of joy and happiness in yourselves.

May you learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in yourselves.

May you know how to nourish the seeds of joy in yourselves every day.

May you be able to live fresh, solid and free.

May you be free from attachment and aversion but not be indifferent.

IMG_0154

What If ?

Mark of Endless Light and Love shares this powerful and compelling sentiment. At a time of great human turmoil in Europe and the heartbreaking image of a drowned Syrian 3-year-old, retreating glaciers, droughts, fires and global financial uncertainty, it’s important to remember all that we do have, and do what we can for others. May all beings be peaceful, happy and light in body and spirit.

Endless Light and Love

11902533_10153326684824425_8299623798800980398_n

I pray for that day, the day that everyone wakes up and has at least 1 full day of just being grateful for everything, I certainly think if we could have a ‘ I’m Grateful for Everything In My Life Day’ then we may just start to open our eyes to what we have in our lives instead of worrying about what we don’t have and what we think we need!

Food for thought my friends, food for thought!

Namaste with Love

Always

Mark

View original post

Tears and Till Kingdom Come

image

Yesterday was a day of pain and tears. Pain from inflammation in two nerves in my lower back. Pain from seeing the sadness and grief of a family all too accustomed to grief and loss burying their son, brother, father, husband, and uncle well before his three score and ten. He was 46. I began to weep seeing his stoic father, Vice-President Joe Biden walking towards the church behind the hearse with arms around his granddaughter.

image Seeing the family in their grief broke my heart. Most of my readers must know the story of young Joe losing his wife and infant daughter and nearly losing his two sons ages two and three in a car accident when he was just 30 years old. To bury the oldest of his sons has to be one of the most painful experiences anyone can undergo. My physical pain paled, and yet I found it hard to bear, unable to find even a halfway comfortable position.

 

Chris Martin of the group Coldplay, having learned that Beau Biden had liked their music, gave an acoustic rendition of “Til Kngdom Come” that reached into our hearts.

image

Here is a video of Coldplay performing “Till Kingdom Come,” with the lyrics, which I found to be stirring, apt and entirely appropriate for this solemn occasion. I heard several reporters say they wept as they listened.

This music is evocative and poignant, the words ambiguous enough to fit any number of painful situations. Another in this genre that is very frank is “O Death” by Ralph Stanley whose haunting a capella performance I featured on this blog in the past.

My back pain is somewhat better today, as I hoped it would be. The Biden family’s pain is in its infancy, to be felt and honored and processed this whole next year, as Father’s Day, birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas come without Beau. Eventually next year at this time the corner will be turned, only a little, but turned, and life will begin to open its doors of beauty and joy to the grieving again. Whatever we may believe about an afterlife, it does get better. And yet, we never forget our ancestors and other loved ones who have gone on before us. How can we?

I will end this post with some words of Metta:

May all beings be free from suffering,

May all beings be at ease,

May all beings be happy,

May all beings have peace.

 

37d9a-endlessknot

 

  IMG_0154

 

Brief Review: The Princeton Dictionary of Buddhism

 

image

 

Captivated by an intriguing Buddhism Now review published last week http://buddhismnow.com/2015/05/21/the-princeton-dictionary-of-buddhism/#more-10775 detailing the new Dictionary of Buddhism, by Robert E. Buswell, Jr., and Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (2014, Princeton University Press, 1304 pages), I ordered the volume. I went to Amazon where I found it for nearly $20 less than the suggested retail price. I decided to order the hardback volume. I found it waiting for me today when I returned to the city after the long Memorial Day weekend.

It is a large, heavy volume and the print is small. Beyond its impressive physical characteristics, the book is an exhaustive, comprehensive reference volume that explains historical, regional, linguistic, and other distinctions among the terminologies of various types of Buddhist practice and their meanings. It includes a timeline, maps and diagrams. There are cross references to words in Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai in the entries themselves, plus a lengthy appendix devoted to each language. Then there are the pages devoted to the enumeration so prominent in Buddhism: e.g., the Four Noble Truths, The Five Mindfulness Trainings, The Eightfold Path, etc., and this “List of Lists” is vast indeed.

The Eightfold Path

The Eightfold Path

As a Buddhist who began by practicing alone and only later joined a sangha, I spent a very pleasurable and educational afternoon going from item to item as more words and phrases arose that I wanted to define or better understand. Thus far I am particularly impressed with the “List of Lists,” and explanations of the subtle differences among Sanskrit, Pali, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Thai terminologies.

Aquamarine 108-bead Mala, from Deviant Art

Aquamarine 108-bead Mala, from Deviant Art

 

Here are a few of the points I’ve taken from it just today:

  • The Mala (string of rosary-like beads, usually 108 beads for reciting the mantra) is held in the right hand. I was holding mine in both. It takes some dexterity to advance from one bead to the next with one hand. Another aid to keeping focused while sitting.
  • The Heart Sutra is one of the most widely recited of all the sutras.
    The mantra of the Heart Sutra, Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha, speaks to transcending both worldly limitations and sensual desires and as well as arriving at the sublime, free from rebirth. Repeating it is thought to enable those who recite it and those who hear it to transcend samsara, the cycle if birth, death and rebirth.
  • Buddhism spread from Himalayan India into all of Asia over a period over just a few centuries.
  • The word Dao was mistranslated as Tao by an English scholar.
  • Self-immolation is an ancient and continuing form of denial of the earthly self as well as a powerful form of protest, perhaps the most famous being that in 1963 of Vietnamese monk Thich Quang Duc. His heart remained after his body was reduced by fire to bone and ash, and the relic has been preserved. If you wish to see it, a video of his immolation can be seen online. A yoga teacher once urged me to view it. I did so and found it powerfully moving, albeit disturbing. David Halberstam’s eyewitness account is riveting: http://www.buddhismtoday.com/english/vietnam/figure/003-htQuangduc.htm.

That is what I am able to retain well enough to share it with you. I have rarely enjoyed a newly acquired book as much.

IMG_0154