Your Weekly Diversion, Year 2, Week 1

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Starting the second year of this blog, I’m thinking about where we stand. What does that mean? Where I stand is where I am in this moment, sitting in the living room looking out on the small lake to our west, while my husband watches football. Where do we stand as a country? Boy, I wish I really knew. Yesterday people in Hawaii were scared out of their wits when an imminent ballistic missile attack alert came over cellphones, TV broadcasts and from outdoor speakers. It took a full 38 minutes for the official push announcement to come through on cellphones that it was a false alarm. 38 minutes! People were running around like crazy, some even lowering their kids down the manholes of storm drains.

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Photo from Pinterest

Most of us baby boomers can recall the Cold War air raid drills in the 1950s and early 1960s where we had to crouch under our desks with our hands over our heads, preparing for the possibility of nuclear attack. Many still harbor vestiges of those early fears of being attacked by a missile with a nuclear warhead. We learned as we got older that hiding under a desk would have done nothing to prevent our extreme injury or annihilation, as the entire industrialized world knew after Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Some of us wondered when the bomb was going to get us, and how old we would be when it did. Some families actually built bomb shelters in their back yards. It was a thing. I knew a kid whose family had one. Did you?

Most parents and working adults today have no such memories and only know the recent feud the so-called leader of the free world has been fomenting with North Korea as a potentially imminent threat. No “duck and cover” drills for them. Yet out of fear and chaos yesterday, little kids were dropped by their parents into storm drains! Given that Hawaii is closer to North Korea than the US mainland, within reach of their missiles, and that Pearl Harbor was the site of a deadly attack on Hawaii, this preventable false alarm seems especially cruel.

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Drawing from moziru.com

Now that I’ve scared you, tweaking that old nuclear specter from your unconscious yet again, let’s get diverted! This may seem counterintuitive, but to be relieved of  the torment of this fear, you are going to have to look at it. As a psychologist, I know this from professional as well as personal experience, and although it’s not necessarily easy, doing it really helps. Experiencing fear is a form of suffering. Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh has said that rather than running from our suffering, we can hold it as we would a crying child and we will suffer less. You can read more about this in his book No Mud, No Lotus. Here is an excerpt from Goodreads:

The function of mindfulness is, first, to recognize the suffering and then to take care of the suffering. The work of mindfulness is first to recognize the suffering and second to embrace it. A mother taking care of a crying baby naturally will take the child into her arms without suppressing, judging it, or ignoring the crying. Mindfulness is like that mother, recognizing and embracing suffering without judgement.

So the practice is not to fight or suppress the feeling, but rather to cradle it with a lot of tenderness. When a mother embraces her child, that energy of tenderness begins to penetrate into the body of the child. Even if the mother doesn’t understand at first why the child is suffering and she needs some time to find out what the difficulty is, just her act of taking the child into her arms with tenderness can already bring relief. If we can recognize and cradle the suffering while we breathe mindfully, there is relief already.

― Thich Nhat Hanh, No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering

So let’s imagine for a moment the fear evoked by that scary reaper, or descending nuclear annihilation or fire of death or whatever you will.  As you allow yourself to think of this fear, see if you can pinpoint what are you actually afraid of.  Is it pain? Death? Nonexistence? Separation from loved ones? Seeing loved ones hurt or dead? Losing your possessions? Living under tyranny or despotism? Okay, if you know what fear thoughts of a nuclear attack evokes, imagine you can hold it in your arms. Give your fear loving, caring attention. Don’t try to silence it with a mood-changing substance or activity. Just sit with it, if even for only a minute. Breathe deeply as you hold your fear. Breathe in with awareness, and breathe out with gratitude. You might do it for a few minutes longer, but only if you want to and feel you can. Now take a couple of deep, cleansing breaths and go do something else. Good for you!

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Photo from quartz.com

Another diversion for you, more interesting than that first one, I suspect. Former Army soldier Chelsea Manning has decided to run for the US Senate in the state of Maryland as a Democrat. This will pit her against veteran Democrat Senator Ben Cardin, a tough slog due to his strong role fighting for progressive issues and taking on Russian interference in the recent presidential election. Chelsea may not win, but she’s definitely showing her mettle. This Guardian story elaborates and includes her YouTube video.

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Something more fun, you ask? Okay, there’s a new bar in Brooklyn called “Kick Axe” where drinkers can throw axes at a target! Wheee! Can’t wait! Um…

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Photo from #catpusic on Pinterest

More? Love inspiring kitty stories? Me too! Meet a cute black and white cat named Pusic.

Since the prospect of nuclear war arguably spawned some of the best the folk music of the 1960’s, let’s not forget that “The Times They are A’Changin” then and now. And since we heard this anthem from composer Bob Dylan earlier, now we can enjoy Simon and Garfunkel covering it.

 

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 38

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Photo courtesy of Theen Moy

Okay, it’s week 38, and more violence and incomprehensible suffering. Maybe life in this world has always been filled with violence and incomprehensible suffering, but we are certainly more aware of it now with our global media sources, from social to formal. So whether it’s our own personal suffering, or that of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and Las Vegas, the anxieties of DACA youth, sick people in fear of losing their coverage, and floods, famine, unrest and wars across the globe, the magnitude of current suffering really can’t be ignored. It sometimes feels our hearts cannot withstand it all. And yet most of us can and do. One foot in front of the other, doing the next right thing.

Each of us has our heartaches. No human being, and probably no being of any ilk, can escape suffering, what Buddhists call dukkha. We must muddle through the miseries that will surely find us as best we can, be they personal, collective or catastrophically global. Just as a tennis player facing the ball machine, we must prepare, get into position and believe we have the ability to cope with what comes speeding at us. Yes, we will fail to see some challenges coming our way, but being accepting of the realities of this life will better help us deal with them.

That said, sometimes heartache brings us to our knees, and we may end up in the fetal position, barely breathing, and perhaps even unsure we wish to get to our feet again. It feels as if it is all just too much. But as Annie sings, the sun comes out the next morning, whether or not we are standing at the window to see it. So we might as well pull ourselves up and try to get back into position to meet the day. And if we can’t, let us believe there are good people everywhere who step in to try to help.

Here are this week’s diversions, and you’ve been very patient to read thus far to get to them!

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How about a unicorn horn for a kiddo getting ready for Halloween? Or for your own costume party! This one is available here but the site isn’t taking orders right now, so here’s a link to DIY unicorn horns . Trick or treat, yeah!

Need some upbeat inspiration? Don’t we all! These wonderful women tell it to us like it is. You go, girls!

And if you’d like to help the devastated island of Puerto Rico and her good people who are staggering from the blows Hurricane Maria threw at them, here are Lin-Manuel Miranda and the amazing musicians who joined with him in creating this beautiful song, “Almost Like Praying.” At the end of the video, there’s a link to make a donation. And you can buy the song on iTunes, too.

Namasté

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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 36

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Week 36. Too much suffering going on right now, and fear, and the great unknown. I’m not even talking politics. That’s another painful topic, with healthcare uncertainty for many and the real possibility of nuclear war for us all.  Hopefully cooler heads and compassion will prevail.

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How about some diversions? Let’s make a fairy lantern! This looks like such fun, and if there’s a child in your life, it’ll be fun for both of you!

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Photo from Color Made Happy

How about painting some rocks? Go look for some nice smooth rocks, and check out these instructions. I’m  checking out good rocks now with the intention of using some pretty nail colors I’m replacing with Zoya polish which is cleaner and greener, than You-know-who’s in the ubiquitous square bottles.

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Zoya is free of the Big 10: formaldehyde, formaldehyde resin, dibutyl phthalate, toluene, camphor, TPHP, parabens, xylene, ethyl tosylamide, and lead. Lots of pretty colors, too!

As I write this post, I’ve been listening to the Global Citizen Festival, so who better than to close with than Stevie! 

 

 

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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