How Can You Help in this Covid Crisis?

Iconic Brooklyn Bridge
(Pexels Image)

Brooklyn was my home for over 25 years, and how I loved her! Prospect Park, Greenwood Cemetery with its green parrots, BAM, Junior’s with its cheesecake, Peter Luger’s with its amazing steaks and unique waitstaff, the Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Heights Promenade with its gorgeous view of the Manhattan skyline, Grand Army Plaza, her Bridges—Verrazano, Brooklyn, Manhattan and WillieB, the Slope, Windsor Terrace, the Heights, Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Brooklyn College. There’s no place like Brooklyn.

And then there are Brooklyn’s Kingsborough Community College, Red Hook, Carroll Gardens, Columbia Heights, Metrotech, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Crown Heights, East New York, Canarsie, Dumbo, Williamsburg, Greenpoint, Fort Greene, Eastern Parkway, Borough Park, Ocean Parkway, Coney Island, Brighton Beach, Manhattan Beach, Gowanus, Gravesend, Sheepshead Bay, Marine Park, Sunset Park, Brownsville, Bed-Stuy, Midwood, Bushwick, Bensonhurst, Bay Ridge, Dyker Heights, Kensington, Flatbush, Mill Basin, Bergen Beach, and more. Even the F train with its orange seats and crammed rush hour cars, when it emerges above ground to give a great view of Brooklyn’s evolving skyline.

Now I visit Brooklyn by FaceTime and Zoom, attending a brunch in Park Slope, enjoying calls with friends, and sharing at Park Slope’s Our Town with others trudging the road of happy destiny. The crowded hospitals, shuttered businesses and empty streets remind us how life has changed in the time of coronavirus. I have felt so powerless and sad. Then today I learned about actor Jeffrey Wright’s effort to keep restaurants open providing nourishment to Brooklynites risking their lives on the front lines: hospital workers, firefighters and EMTs.

Their GoFundMe page says

“Brooklyn for Life!

Local Eats for Brooklyn’s Frontline Fighters in Brookdale Hospital, Brooklyn Hospital, Cumberland Health Center, Gotham Health Clinic East NY, Interfaith Medical Center, Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, New York-Presbyterian Lower Manhattan Hospital (almost Bk – they snuck in!), Woodhull Medical Center and Brooklyn FDNY EMS Battalions 31, 32, 35, 38, 39, 40, 44, 57, 58 & 59.”

So join me in donating to this great cause aiding the best borough in one of the best cities in the world!

Help your borough and mine! Brooklyn for Life!

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

Namasté

Savoring the Joy as I find It

Sometimes a day is unstructured and we don’t know what to expect. I wondered what to do with myself for four hours today without any responsibilities or expectations. I dropped in on a support group, late, but still. Then I took myself out for lunch alone, a surprisingly authentic pastrami on rye. Next I parked by the beach and took a brief walk on the sand. As local residents, parking is always free for us. Here’s the video I took, which I sent to my granddaughter who just let us know she is engaged to be married. I am thrilled for her! He’s a Marine and she’ll be living closer to us soon. Then I went to my therapy office nearby and did some creative writing. The plot began to fall into place as my fingers flew across the keyboard. A character revealed the why and the how! When all was said and done, I resumed my busy life of caregiving, recharged and grateful.

Enjoy:

The goodness in me bows to the goodness in you, and to that in all living beings.

Your Weekly Diversion, Week 46

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On Week 46 there’s so much going on in the world landscape that we all need plenty of diversions. Let’s see, the winter holidays are nigh upon us, with Hanukkah starting the night of December 12 this year, and Christmas and New Year’s not far behind. Managing the holiday cards, whether by snail mail or email, and shopping for gifts, whether you give them on 8 nights or on only 1 day, there’s a lot to do! And of course, we have the political circus with its many fronts. You just can’t make up some of these news stories! We need our diversions NOW,  right?

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Tony Leonard and the team of coworkers who worked together to make his prosthetics (photo courtesy of CBS News)

First, how about real good, feel good story? Like the sound of that? So do I! Honda workers built a coworker a new limb, and it works!

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Next, it’s been reported in Lancet Psychiatry that researchers have found a treatment that helped schizophrenics suffer significantly fewer auditory hallucinations than those not receiving the experimental treatment, even when both groups continued to receive standard doses of antipsychotic medication. It’s called avatar therapy. As a mental health clinician, I’m interested in learning more!

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Now, check out what happened when a GoPro camera was placed in the path of molten lava. Be sure the watch the whole video.

And to wrap up this week’s diversions, here’s a song in Spanish called “I Lava You” from the film “Lava” because, what else?

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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Father Kindness

This poignant poem and sweet photo posted today by a dear friend really do say it all. Happy day to all who read this, father or not! My dad died 32 years ago. He never reached retirement age and the comforting coverage of Medicare as I have. I know he’d be appalled at obscene attempts to remove healthcare benefits from millions now. How I miss him! Happy Father’s Day, Daddy. 😘

Na'ama Yehuda

fatheringPhoto: C. Moriah-Gibor

Be a father to the vulnerable

Guide the path of those who need

A lift

A helping hand.

Be a father to those seeking

To find shelter

Who need help to

Understand.

Show the way.

Provide

Kind counsel.

If by biology or presence

Be the best

Model

You can.

For it is by kindness

That fathering

Takes hold

And

Grows children

Strong

In body, heart

And mind.

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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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Your Weekly Diversion, Week 5

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Our need for diversion continues, but so does the need for a bit of healthy reality testing. The world is watching a political circus unfolding in many places in the West as anger and prejudice against others less fortunate or just different seem to gain footholds against civility. The indomitable and inspiring Pope Francis speaks out against populism and xenophobia. To me, he embodies the Buddhist ideal of Metta, or loving kindness.

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Image courtesy of Imagen Subliminal

What would it be like to be immersed in translucent color, wandering through a colorful maze of visual intensity? This Chinese exhibit gives visitors that very experience.

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Image courtesy of musictreasures.com

The rest of the diversions I found for you this week were inspired by the Grammy Awards. Sure I found recipes, stories and other interesting things to share, but, music!

Did you see and hear Maren Morris win her Grammy with “My Church,” Best Country Solo Performance this year? I really enjoyed her fresh and courageous style.

Reading a list of awards given out before the broadcast, I saw that one of our national treasures, Willie Nelson, won a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album with “Summertime: Willie Nelson Sings Gershwin.”

Listening to a commercial, I heard this amazing song, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free,” by Nina Simone, and while I do not recall what product was being advertised, the song really moved me. What a woman, what writing, and what a voice!

Namasté

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Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian

As a Buddhist and imperfect vegan who more accurately fits the definition of vegetarian, this post offers much food for thought, if you’ll pardon the unfortunate cliché, and the comments that follow are every bit as thought provoking and helpful in their way as the author’s most excellent writing on the subject. Let us all reason together, explore, discuss, evolve and change for the better. May we try each day to live Metta, or loving kindness, to the very best of our imperfect ability. Namasté, Sonnische/Shielagh

Sujato’s Blog

The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact. The issue of vegetarianism is addressed a few times in the Suttas, notably the Jivaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The Buddha consistently affirmed that monastics were permitted to eat meat, as long as it was not killed intentionally for them. There are numerous passages in the Vinaya that refer to the Buddha or the monastics eating meat, and meat is regularly mentioned as one of the standard foods.

For these reasons, the standard position in Theravada Buddhism is that there is no ethical problem with eating meat. If you want to be vegetarian, that is a purely optional choice. Most Theravadins, whether lay or monastic, eat meat, and claim to be acting within the ethical guidelines of the Buddha’s teachings.

This position sits squarely within a straightforward application of the law of kamma, understood as intention. Eating meat…

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Revisiting Compassionate Listening

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In the two years since I first published a post on compassionate listening, I’ve had many opportunities, both personally and professionally, to experience how very essential to our wellbeing and our relationships compassionate listening truly is.

Whether our listening involves another person face to face, on the phone, or via text or email, or just watching a speaker on TV, we can miss a lot if we aren’t giving what we hear (or consume electronically) our full attention. True wisdom mandates we really attend to the other person openly, empathically and with kindness.

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I have encountered two more potential impediments to compassionate listening and both relate to aging that I experience in my work as a psychologist practicing psychotherapy. Because I’m now a Medicare provider in an area with fewer such providers, my psychotherapy practice embraces more older men and women than ever before. As I and those around me get older I’ve had many personal experiences with these listening impediments as well.

The first impediment is impaired hearing in which the listener mishears or fails to hear all our words and “fills in” what they think we said, sometimes getting it very wrong. Later someone one tells us emphatically that we said thus and so, perhaps something very contrary to our intent or even tragically so, creating a conflict we must now try to resolve, a potential distraction to the potentially sensitive work at hand. It can be extremely frustrating to both speaker and listener for the communication to break down simply because one or both parties can’t hear as well as they think they do. While it can be amusing, as the photo below illustrates, usually communication failure due to hearing problems is far from funny. It’s embarrassing and frustrating and interferes with friendly interactions.

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The second impediment is the increasingly frequent word-finding difficulty most older people experience. We all do this from time to time, and as we get older it happens with greater frequency. Speakers may pause as they search for certain words or familiar phrases, creating gaps in the narrative. A frustrated listener might quickly offer suggestions, and this can be perceived as a failure to respect the speaker’s competency or autonomy.

Another variation on the word-finding phenomenon is the speaker reaching into his or her vast vocabulary database, as it were, and pulling out a similar but incorrect word. image The similarity may be sound (e.g. tractor for factor). It may be the way the word begins or ends (shrimp for sharp), or relate in some other way we cannot fathom as the speaker struggles to get a point across. The listener then wonders what this is supposed to mean and may ask. The annoyed or frustrated response may follow, “You know what I mean!” Perhaps we do, but what if we don’t?

Compassionate listening involves seeing and feeling the struggle that others are experiencing and giving them time and space to find their way. If they grow silent with overwhelm or discouragement, or say, “Forget it!” we might ask, “Want me to try to help you with what you’re trying to say?” If they ask us to suggest a word, we should do so, but with the tentative deference suggesting we leave it to them to confirm or reject our suggestion. I find it helps to offer something like, “I’m having trouble hearing what you’re trying to say. My fault. Would you please try again?”

As we ourselves get older we probably will do the same sometimes. Our compassion for others with these difficulties will help us be compassionate towards ourselves if we fumble to express ourselves so that our listener understands. And if we have developed compassion towards ourselves by practicing Metta, or loving kindness, in our meditation practice as well as our daily interactions, we will naturally feel more compassion as we listen.

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Namasté

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Meditation in the Garden

Moon Bridge by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California

Long ago in my childhood, as I was growing up in Southern California, I was blessed by parents who both savored beauty and creativity. Together we went to museums, gardens, arboretums, botanical gardens, and  historic places including the old Spanish missions erected by the monks who helped settle California, led by Fra Junipero Serra, about whom I learned in elementary school.

Recently in a guided meditation, I was drawn back to the Japanese Teahouse of the Huntington Library in San Marino, near Pasadena. This teahouse fascinated me with its low cushions and tables and delicate rice paper shoji screens. I might have forgotten it except for my son reminding me not long ago of my taking him to the same beautiful place in his childhood, and he remembered Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy.”

Thomas Gainsborough's "Blue Boy" painted in 1770, from the collection of the Huntington Library

Thomas Gainsborough’s “Blue Boy” painted in 1770, from the collection of the Huntington Library

When he mentioned the painting, I recalled my many trips to the Huntington Library as well, and I mentioned the Japanese Teahouse which suddenly came into my mind complete with full-color impressions. He recalled it, too, and we spoke of how lovely it was.

Japanese teahouse interior

Japanese Teahouse Interior

In my meditation some time ago I saw myself in the teahouse on a cushion, the shoji walls moved aside to reveal the beautiful gardens outside. I saw a woven basket filled with gorgeous lotus flowers beside me. First someone who helped raise me came to me and presented me with a lotus blossom, a loving gift teaching self-love and acceptance, for it is sometimes easier to accept the love from another than to give it to ourselves. Then as I sat, one by one my close friends and loved ones approached me and to each I gave a flower. Next came those towards whom I feel neutral feelings, and lastly those with whom I am or have been in painful conflict, and each received a flower.

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The next time I sat in meditation and brought up this scene, I found that I was sitting just outside the teahouse on a rock near a stream, surrounded by manicured lawns and shrubbery, and in my basket were dahlias.

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Each, as before, but in different order came and were given a flower. Some came by for a second flower and this was fine. Water flowed by me, making its sweet fluid music, and early crickets chirped in the reeds. Orange and dappled koi circled lazily in the waters by a stone footbridge linking me to the lawns of the teahouse.

Koi by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library

Koi by the Japanese Teahouse at the Huntington Library

I will share with you now a Metta (loving kindness) meditation I use every day, in one form or another. This one is taken from Making Space: Creating a Home Meditation Practice, by Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. May it serve you as well as it has served me. The sounds behind my voice are those of a stream and crickets, punctuated by a Tibetan singing bowl.

Please enjoy, and share if you feel so inclined.

Click on the link below for a 7.15 minute meditation.

Namaste

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