Your Weekly Diversion, Week 23

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Graphic from Race Fashion

Week 23 is upon us and there is much to cause concern. There’s a major fight afoot in Washington to greatly reduce Medicaid coverage throughout the nation. Maybe you don’t have a need for it now, but it behooves us all to be aware that if you or a loved one is elderly on a low fixed income, a child or adult in dire financial straits, disabled, living in a nursing facility or group home, or in any other way dependent on Medicaid health coverage, including utilizing the help of home health aides, that coverage could evaporate or greatly shrink in the not so distant future. There are demonstrations across the country to show support for a compassionate health legislation. If you’d like to learn ways to help make a difference, Indivisible offers plenty of useful information. Tempted though I am to detail the reasons for this, my Diversions blog is not a political blog. I trust you to Google this to learn more in the unlikely event that you are as yet unaware of this.

I’ve curated a few disparate items to distract you from the many varied challenges you face day to day. 

Are you a woman who’s never sure how a new lipstick will look on you when you buy it? Then you should be interested in this new app that lets you try on shades of various major brands, and then order the ones you like. It’s big in Asia.

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Millions suffer from chronic inflammation. It plays a role in many chronic conditions, from asthma, arthritis, and some migraines, to fibromyalgia, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Check out this piece on beverages that may help.

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Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast. This quote by Willam Congreve from his 1697 play, “The Mourning Bride,” is frequently misquoted as “Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast. In 1697 “music” was actually spelled “musick”. Why tell you all this? Because I have more than one musical treat for you today. And most of us have savage moments daily, often when we speak with our spouses or children, since we get under one another’s skin because we know one another so well. So we all deserve more soothing.

First, here is an interview with Bèla Fleck on playing JS Bach on the banjo, followed by a video of him performing. I heard him on NPR and found his playing magical.

Last I’ll end today’s diversions with “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” long considered the Black national anthem. This month featured Juneteenth, and I didn’t want the month to end without sharing this. If you aren’t aware of some of this important American history, do check the links.

 

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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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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Tears and Till Kingdom Come

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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.

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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.

 

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Neither Staying nor Leaving

These beautiful images offer us the opportunity to realize we “inter-are.” We share the cycle of life with all living things, plants, animals and people. I hope you’ll enjoy the exquisite poem the author shares here reminding us we are all leaves of the same tree.

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appearing separate appearing to be separate

Joyfully walking the ‘hood
bright eyes engaging
any people
or nature
that would.

Keeping heads up
leaves smiled back.
But many people would not,
Perhaps in a complex
they are caught.

As meditators capable of seeing deeply
into the nature of things,
we recognize that all is
manifest from star-dust and energy.
If asked,
even leaves reveal this.
Yet glimpsing of today’s news
reveals endless messages
of separateness.

We’ve experienced
how feeling inferior,
superior or the same
often causes pain
in ourselves and others.
That these complexes
create cunning barriers,
to brotherhood, sisterhood
& our true nature
of interbeing
with all
on this beautiful
spinning, spaceball.

How peaceful
and harmoniously
leaves flutter, then lie together.
Wonderful and beautiful teachers.

difference & sameness difference & sameness

We are all
the leaves of one tree.
The time has come
for all
to live as one.
We are all the leaves of one tree. ~Plum…

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

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Thanksgiving is one of those conduits through this life I’ve been living since 1951. No, I don’t remember each and every one of them, but I do remember many. Here are some of those:

  • The turkey dinners ordered from Zucky’s kosher deli with all the trimmings
  • Mom learning from Gracie how to stuff and truss a turkey, with needle and button thread
  • The lentil loaf we had one year instead of turkey when Mom was a vegetarian
  • Thanksgiving dinner with Granny at the Santa Ynez Inn
  • The year when Lucille put her turkey on the counter and our cat and hers dragged it onto the floor and gnawed on it
  • Making my first pumpkin pie in high school from canned pie filling and a store-bought crust
  • Learning to make pumpkin pie from canned pumpkin and scratch crust
  • Jumping up on down on a scratch crust that refused to turn out, and starting all over again
  • Finally making pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin and a frozen crust
  • Getting the Betty Crocker Cookbook and making the turkey and everything for the family
  • Discovering the ubiquitous green bean casserole with French fried onions on top
  • Spending Thanksgivings during boarding school with my aunt and uncle in New Jersey
  • Discovering the ease of the disposable foil roasting pan, learning to put a cookie sheet under it
  • Adding a roasting bag and making the whole thing so much easier
  • Wanting to go to Dysart’s (inspired by Tim Sample) but new friends insisted we join them
  • Spending more than one Thanksgiving serving turkey at a church covered dish supper
  • Realizing there are many different Jell-o salads and Ambrosias, all with lots of whipped topping
  • Becoming a vegetarian briefly and actually making a lentil loaf for our Thanksgiving one year
  • Going on Atkins and eating way more turkey than anyone else at the table, and not much else
  • Watching a Mercy for Animals video on factory farm cruelty to turkeys, cows and other beings
  • Becoming a vegetarian again and eventually going vegan and remaining so
  • Making my first vegan Tofurky Feast, lots of work but good, especially the stuffing and gravy
  • Enjoying the Gardein Holiday Roast, a tasty turkey substitute

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And that brings me to this Thanksgiving. It was supposed to snow all over the northeast but in New York it only rained yesterday, and Wednesday is a very bad day to try to drive from New York to Pennsylvania, a Gridlock Alert Day, because everyone wants to get out of town at once. So this morning we drove to PA and once we hit New Jersey it snowed the rest of the way. There was about a foot of snow on the back deck, and although our driveway had been plowed this morning, there was another inch or two of fresh snow on our walk and driveway. The house warmed up fast with the fireplace and heat pump working beautifully. I put on my apron and started cooking. I roasted a turkey leg for my husband according to a recipe with rave reviews (it was disappointing), and I made stuffing in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans, and a wonderful Field Roast Celebration Roast as my vegan main dish. We had a lovely loaf of cranberry bread, cranberry sauce and olives. I turned to Mary McDougall and the Happy Herbivore for my recipes. Last week I had made butternut squash soup in advance for today. Dessert was a three-berry crumb pie from Fairway, with decaf. Delish!

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The food was fine, but I am so thankful for my family, our health, my recovery from back pain, our cat, our friends, my Buddhist practice, our material blessings, my work, and so very much more. And this year, as my teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh lies in a hospital in France recovering from a severe brain hemorrhage, I am so thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons for my life from him. I hope and pray for his full recovery. I also understand that at 88 he may transition from this life before long.

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Namaste

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