Your Weekly Diversion, Week 24

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It’s week 24 and I’m in Tennessee watching my cousins and friends play gin rummy at my aunt’s 92nd birthday party. I bask in the warmth of family love. It helps to offset the insulting rhetoric that one who probably knows better is slinging toward folk who don’t deserve it. No people deserve to be insulted in schoolyard fashion, especially by the purported leader of their nation. Then someone shoots several of his former medical colleagues and kills one, and then kills himself, in a hospital where people are try to get well and live. Yikes!

Diversions on the way….

 

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Photo from pixabay.com

Are you interested in learning about Zen meditation? Norman Fisher explains it well in Lion’s Roar.

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Photo from Smitten Kitchen

This is the season for gardening and for grilling, and when you can combine a margherita pizza grilled outside with a salad of tomatoes and greens from your own garden, why wouldn’t you? We had a great Tennessee BBQ with my cousin’s husband serving as grillmaster, presiding over grilling hamburgers, artisan chicken sausages, and for the vegetarians, Fieldburgers, chipotle marinated tofu steaks and veggie skewers wth homegrown veggies. We didn’t grill any pizza, but the idea is really intriguing, so here’s how.

 

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A week or so ago, I covered the Danish concept of hygge,  what I interpret to include a rather enchanting sense of comfort, simplicity, beauty and cozy utility. There are many interpretations of hygge (pronounced “hoo-gah). While in an independent Tennessee bookstore filled with special finds, I found Meik Wiking’s book, pictured above.

And for some music to bring some hygge into your world, you might find this Hawaiian song by Kason Gomes helpful.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 22

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Graphic courtesy of Awaken Mindset

It’s been about 22 weeks since US Inauguration Day 2016, the life event that has propelled me into a weekly blog. This week has brought terrible heartache from the London fire, the hateful shooting of a Congressman and others ironically bringing both US political parties together as nothing has in a quite a while, more hostile deaths of US servicepersons in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and most recently the deadly collision of a US destroyer class ship with a huge Philippine cargo ship 56 miles off the coast of Japan, with the fate of 7 sailors currently unknown. Add to these tragedies the serious American legal issues mounting up daily and the subsequent angry tweets and contortions of logic and truth.

I’ve curated some really good diversions for you this week, and I hope you’ll find something you can use here! There is such beauty, peace and positive energy all around us despite the negativity and fear being sown far and wide as distraction and worse. Don’t let the dark distract you from the light which is always there.

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Hyyge House founder Alex Beauchamp has elevated eclectic, homey and welcoming style to a major thing, and her blog is filled with wonderful photos showing her exquisite, artistically appointed cottage in Topanga Canyon, near Malibu in Southern California. Every item in her home, indoors and out is well chosen and sweetly positive. I would happily live in any of the cottages and bungalows she has furnished in the hygge style. Her blog and Instagram could uplift your regular web itinerary.

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When you think of water balloon fights, perhaps you recall your mom or other scolding authority figure telling you not to do that, you could put an eye out. Or maybe you remember happily vicious wars, a flurry of waterlogged missiles pounding your opponents as you tried to dodge theirs and failed, both ending up soaked and exhausted when the last balloon was launched and wetly spent. Yes, water balloons can be very dangerous and probably should only be used with goggles, and all the rubber remains ought to be be gathered up so they don’t end up in the gullet of a bird or other creature. That said, here is a video of the craziest water balloon caper ever. Needless to say, don’t try this yourself. It could have ended very badly!

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Photo courtesy of Lion’s Roar magazine

What with all the daunting problems our planet faces right now and in the future of our kids and grandkids, our personal challenges and stresses, and the political climate in the US, UK and elsewhere that begets anger, fear and cynicism, a vulnerable person could burn out. If you’re a helping professional, one who bears witness to the trauma and suffering of others, and you don’t exercise adequate self care, your risk of burnout is great. Fortunately, burnout is preventable. Lions Roar magazine addresses this important issue here.

And here is your musical medicine for today, a powerful spiritual anthem for my time, and maybe for yours. My friend Ann Koplow recently ended her blog with a wonderful video. I listened in rapt delight. Then, as often happens when I visit YouTube I listened to another, and loved this one. You may need to watch it more than once to identify all the players. Hint: Clapton was clean shaven, or a least I think that was he! Listening on your Bluetooth speaker is highly recommended.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 18

 

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Week 18, and each day this week seems to have brought one Breaking News story after another. What do we do with the parry and thrust, the he said-he said, the weird, the loony, the scary and the unbelievable?  To paraphrase Bette Davis in “All About Eve”: Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy fight.

So of course we need our diversions. Here goes. Mother Jones magazine says that we are turning to comfort foods to salve our fears and quell our anxieties.

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Some turn to Pinterest to ogle food porn, those succulent photos of cheesy macaroni casseroles, pans of iced cinnamon rolls, plates of pretty cookies, pots of spicy chili, and recipes for every imaginable ethnic cuisine or dietary plan, and every way to cheat you could possibly want. If you want to enjoy a meal and not go crazy off the dietary deep end, it helps to search “healthy smoothies” or “salads” or your desired way of eating, be it vegan, paleo, low-carb, plant-based, high-protein or what have you. Then the food porn is at least in your wheelhouse. Hmm, sorry for the mixed metaphor 🤔.

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It is during times like these when mind-fulness, focus on the experience of the here and now, is crucial. The projection into the future doom and gloom, the downfall of our democratic civilization, the climate meltdown of our planet home, a nuclear holocaust, and all the other scary prospects that the future might hold if this or that happens, is a kind of mental exercise that only brings suffering. We have enough suffering, or dukkha, in our lives as it is. The Buddha said that dukkha–suffering, is the First Noble Truth. So to learn to stay focused, meditation is a great help.

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Helping others can help lift us from a potential pit of despair. Suffering may be unavoidable, but it brings good karma to help alleviate it whenever we can. A dear friend of mine and his wife are helping to bring water to an arid part of Africa, a location where women and children have to carry heavy containers of water on their heads up hills just to cook and wash. If you would like to help the Abonse Pipeborne Water Project, they have a GoFundMe campaign on right now.

This week’s musical diversion comes to us from 1962 when cellist Yo Yo Ma performed for President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy and President Eisenhower after having been discovered by famed cellist Pablo Casals. His older sister played the piano to accompany this precocious 7-year-old boy’s amazing performance.

Namasté

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A to Z Challenge: B is for Bluets

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

B is for bluets. These bluets are tiny, pale, four-lobed flowers that come up in the spring. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at the University of Texas at Austin tells us that these flowers grow in part shade in small patches, as these are. They are perennials, of the madder family, Rubiaceae. The Latin name is Houstonia caerulea, and they are also known as azure bluets and as Quaker ladies (it is thought because of their pale, purplish blue, reminiscent of the color of the hats Quaker ladies were often seen to wear).

Bluets bloom in spring and early summer in the US from Georgia to Maine and in eastern Canada. They can be sown by seed and cultivated, and are often featured in rock gardens. I found these tiny bluets in the grassy verge by the road to our lake in a patch of dappled sun. Their fragile beauty is a reminder of the nature of impermanence to which we are all subject. Savoring moments of joy in our day helps us stay in the now and have gratitude for the life force within us.

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I decided to take the A to Z Photo Challenge around my little town of Pocono Pines, Pennsylvania. We’ve had a home here for over 10 years, and taking this challenge is offering me the opportunity to get to know it even better than I have. I hope you will enjoy this photo journey as much as I do!

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 16

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The Sixteens above commemorate The Pixel Project’s “16 For 16” Campaign: “A campaign in honour of 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence while raising funds for the cause to end Violence Against Women.” Definitely worth it.

Ready for some diversion? Here’s what I’ve got for you this week. You’re worth it!

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Putting ourselves first is often wisest, especially when wishing to help others.  As we hear from a flight attendant on every airline flight, we must put the oxygen mask over our own nose and mouth before assisting our children or others around us. So when we neglect our own needs in the service of others, we will not be able to do it for long. We must refill our own cup if we wish to share generously with others. Here’s a good piece by Marc and Angel: An Open Letter to Those who Always Put Themselves Last. You’re worth it!

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Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Shimane prefecture, Japan
日本語: 足立美術館。所在地は島根県安来市

One thing we must do for ourselves is cope as well as we can with stress. Avoiding stress is impossible, but drowning in it is usually avoidable. What can we do to minimize stress so it is less toxic and destructive to our lives and those who care about us and those who may need our help? We’re all worth it.

  • Breathe deeply and mindfully to reduce anxiety; it works!
  • Eat nutritiously and regularly; starvation is no virtue.
  • Sleep at least 6 hours every night, but no more than 8 is best.
  • Exercise at least 3 days a week and walk on the other days.
  • Practice your spiritual or religious beliefs sincerely and often.
  • Meditate, do yoga, pray or seek peace and beauty, as in the zen garden above.
  • Live your values, which means understanding what they are.
  • Give and receive love, affection and kindness freely.
  • Seek help for your own problems: therapy, medical treatment or expert advice.
  • Consider adopting a pet if your circumstances permit; they enrich our lives.
  • Don’t sweat the small stuff (most is), pick your battles and put down the bat.

Moses Sumney is a recent musical discovery of mine, thanks to a video in a GQ article about Brad Pitt. The article is good, and Moses Sumney is definely “Worth It.”

Namasté

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Practice of Metta and the English Problem, by John Aske

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Photo from Buddhism Now post of 5/3/17

I just read this interesting article from Buddhism Now. It seems that resistance to experiencing or acknowledging having truly loving feelings toward the self might also be an American problem, or perhaps simply a Western problem. But I suspect that cultivating Metta, or loving kindness, toward the self is quite difficult for many of us living human beings. What is especially wonderful about John Aske’s very British difficulty with Metta, is how he used his successful conduit into Metta to address and eliminate his depression!

Read on to enjoy this most Buddhist perspective on a most ubiquitous Western malady, by clicking on the link below.

Source: Practice of metta and the English Problem, by John Aske

Namasté 

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Community & Friendship’s Delight

Are you a member of a community? We belong to several and are very grateful for them. Quincy Square, Pinecrest, Friends of Bill W, and more. Here is a glimpse into a wonderful, warm, community I would love to join, if I were close by. But then, perhaps I already am….

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delighted sitting Buddhas ~d nelson

Dear WordPress Community, and Friends on the path,

So easily mind goes here, then goes there.
The mind can go in a thousand directions
including thinking that it’s alone.
But, with mindfulness, concentration & insight
we can remember the path upon which we’re stepping.
On this path are also countless beings supporting us,
at this moment, some of them are of the human-type.

delightfully recycling, together in Deer Park

I’m reminded of so many elders and others
who are isolated and feeling lonely right now.
They wish so much to be with other human beings.
I’ve had these feelings arise, myself
and I’m only almost an elder.
Perhaps you’ve longed for human companionship, also.

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I’m offering a bow of gratitude for all the friends who came
joyfully together on retreat with me recently.
It felt very comforting, connected and safe to be vulnerable…

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 12

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Graphic courtesy of Men’s Health magazine 

It’s week 12 of this weekly post, roughly corresponding with the recent change in leadership in the US. You won’t read specifics from me here by design, but the news is filled with the details. All I can say is, please choose your information sources wisely. There are extreme sites out there that conflate and contort reality to suit their base. Enough said.

Here’s your first diversion: I love those colorful veggie numbers above, and when I found the source, Men’s Health magazine, I read the piece. The idea is to have a 12-hour break between the last bite of one day and the first bite of the next. So if you had a dish of ice cream at 9pm, you would wait until 9am to have the next day’s breakfast. They cite research and recommend limiting eating to an 8-hour window.

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Buddha’s Diet, from Running Press

Buddha’s Diet by Tara Cottrell and Dan Zigmond recommends much the same eating window. While Buddhist monastics typically limit eating between dawn and noon, this book advises to limit eating to nine hours, and to do so mindfully and healthfully, but there are no lists of must-eats and must-nots. I have been following its guidelines now for several weeks and find it easy to do and beneficial in a number of ways. The morning does feel like a fast. Before that first meal, I drink decaf black coffee, decaf tea, seltzer and plain water, as much as I can, to stay hydrated. I do have caffeinated coffee if I really need it, but most of experts I’ve read say we’re better off without it. Plus, it dehydrates.

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Photo courtesy of National Geographic 

Is laughter really the best medicine as the Reader’s Digest always said? Could be. Author and former Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins reportedly cured himself of a serious illness by deliberate laughter, having Marx Brothers movies brought into his hospital room and giving in to deep belly laughs. There’s a lot out there on the subject, so Google it yourself. Now, enjoy reading about the mischievous Kea parrots of New Zealand who love to laugh. The second video on the page shows their playful resourcefulness. Good for a chuckle, too.

And for your listening pleasure, here is Angel Olsen with “Never Be Mine.”

 

Namasté 

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Why do you want this holy water? By Ajahn Chah

Practicing the dhamma (dharma) without expectation is the way of the Buddha. Doing something for its own sake as opposed to hoping for a reward is a transcendent experience. This post by Ajahn Chah explains it so well.

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Bridge over a Pond of Water Lilies, Claude Monet (French, Paris 1840–1926 Giverny) © The Metropolitan Museum of Art In the beginning we practise with a desire of some kind in mind; we practise on and on, but we don’t attain our desire. But if we continue to practise anyway, we reach a point where we’re practising without ideas of some kind of return; we just practise in order to let go. This is something we must see for ourselves; it’s very deep. Maybe we practise because we want to go to nibbana, but you won’t get to nibbana! It’s natural to want peace, but it’s not really correct. We must practise without wanting anything at all. If we don’t want anything at all, what will we get? We don’t get anything! The point is, whatever you get is a cause for suffering, so we practise ‘not getting anything’.

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Treatise on the Wisdom of Living in the Now

 

I read this recently and found it a wonderful treatise on mindfulness, present-centeredness, and living more in the now. Although this too is a WordPress post, and I have reblogged Buddhism Now posts in the past, I wasn’t able to do it the usual way this time. So please keep in mind as you read my post that these are the words of Buddhist scholar Sir John Aske

Regular Everything
by John Aske

Posted on 24 February 2017 by Buddhism Now

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Stupa (chorten), 17th-18th century Tibet. Metropolitan Museum of Art

We all like things to be regular, and what’s wrong with that, you might reasonably ask? We all want stable conditions as well. We don’t want anything to change, either — we want it to stay the same — or more or less, always.

Having a regular job, regular meals and somewhere regular to sleep at night can only be good, better than sleeping in a ditch and being hungry all the time. The gravedigger at Drewsteignton preferred to sleep under a hedge, he told me, because a roof ‘made the place stuffy,’ but he was an unusual man.

But these are all physical conditions, and though they can strongly affect the way we behave and think (our views and opinions), we must be careful that they do not blind us to what is really happening. It is not so much what we have, but what we depend upon having, now and in the future, that gives us problems.

How often, acting upon our need for comfort and security, do we sacrifice our freedom and happiness? An old friend used rather ruthlessly to extract from people what they really wanted; it was often living in the South Seas in those days, though that sounds rather old hat now, with modern air travel. He then explained to them how easily they could fulfil their dreams. In virtually every case, he told me, they invented a thousand feeble excuses why they couldn’t. With the exception of Scott of the Antarctic and William Thesiger, we are nearly all terribly attracted to a conventional lifestyle.

That is one reason why the Buddhist sangha of monks and nuns is so vital. It consists of people (often quite successful people) who have gone into homelessness and given everything up to ‘follow their dream,’ as Joseph Campbell calls it. But even more than that, they know from what the Buddha taught that their dream is not a fantasy, but a greater reality. We cannot truly live in the moment — and that means truly live — if our minds live somewhere else: next month, next year, or often, sadly, last year.

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Ascetic Master, probably a Mahasiddha, Tibet, 17th century. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Fearing death, disease and taxes, we build a whole raft of tomorrows and sail off on it into the future. But it is not the future, it is a dream world that surely prevents us living our real lives and moments fully. We are so preoccupied with our self-created world, that we fail to see and attend to this one — the one in which we really live and of which we are a real part. When the fiction collapses in the face of change and disaster — as it periodically must — we are lost, for the world in which we find ourselves is one that seems to have been thrust upon us, and not of our choosing. Reality is certainly not of our choosing, but it is what it is and what we are, and until we recognise this, we will keep blundering around in the dark and banging into things we didn’t know were there. It’s like going to the lavatory during the night, half asleep. A natural need overtakes us and we know we have to go from point A to point B somewhere, but it is as if we have forgotten or never noticed the way before, and we collide with all sorts of obstacles that wouldn’t bother us in the light of day and in full consciousness. And it is just this full consciousness or rather awareness that is lacking in our daily lives. This unawareness is so comfortable and convenient to us in our daily lives, that we create obstacles where there would otherwise be none. Sometimes these obstacles are called ‘karma’.

Our obsession with things and targets prevents us seeing the ground beneath our feet and if we do look at it, it may be with dismay, for it is not quite as we want it to be or as we expect it to look, like coming back to an untidy room after a holiday.

Our minds are themselves like untidy rooms full of yesterdays and tomorrows, always chasing after this and that, seldom contented with what we have and where we are.

But the more we remain aware in these moments, the more remarkable they become, and the more we belong in them. The more we live truly in these moments, the more they lose their separateness, and the more we take — and are — everything as it comes.

(First published in the August 2006 Buddhism Now.)

Namasté

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