Archive for February, 2009

If you could somehow chart the nutritional years of your life, what would it look like? Would there be a continual line for meat consumption? Or would it peak here and there? What about fruits and vegetables? Would there only be small spurts or big bars? Milk and milk products? Grains? Beans? And how specific would this get? Should there be a line for cookies in general or cookies, Oreos; cookies, holiday, sugar? Where would chocolate be? Pralines vs. banal KitKat bars? And sodas, juice, wine, shots of Baileys with ice? It could get complicated.

My life would – I would like to think, anyway – have lots of good statistics. Years of absolutely rock-solid vegetarianism, even dabbling as far as veganism. (My kielbasa-infested childhood years had to be offset somehow!) Yet there are plenty of loopholes and sad dips into not-so-great eating behavior. The hardest thing to achieve in my life has been any sort of regularity. 

I’m onto this today – albeit indirectly - because of Obama’s inspiring speech the other day. His bold steps and plans to go where the nation (world?) patently needs to go sent shivers up and down my spine. One of the major obstacles to the success of his plans is health care. Something that concerns, needless to say, every human being, not just Americans. The issue is, however, as complicated and diverse as the human condition in general. 

If one could take a big step backward, and try to first get a grip on the developments in medicine in our day, we can rightly and proudly say we have come quite far. The thing that begins to murk up the picture has something in common with the trouble in the financial markets: greed. Greed across the board, across all markets and industries. (Just in case this wasn’t clear, this includes insurers, doctors, pharmaceutical companies, etc.) The entire world could have enough fresh water and high-quality, safe food if we had our priorities straight. If individuals and businesses were responsible in the Obama sense of the word. Lake Erie would not have been a chemical dump and biologically dead by the time I was seven years old. Erin Brockovich would never have had reason to work up a sweat at Masry & Vititoe. No one would have to worry about peanut butter. This list goes on and on and on…

Preventative medicine is, in my eyes, primarily: clean water; decent and sanely grown/produced, non-toxic, hormone and antibiotic-free, unprocessed food; clean air; clean spaces to live, work, play and move around in that aren’t toxic; consumer products that are in no way toxic (take synthetic fibers as one significant example), personal transportation that isn’t inundated with toxins (it’s not just the tailpipe that spits out toxins, the dashboard, seats and interior are emitting unseen gases, too) - and so on. The list is too long and I get too sad thinking about my own experience with toxins and poisons.

Getting all bases covered seems almost too much to ask for. Surely one has to find this fact shocking. These are the sorts of things governments must regulate and control because corporations, let alone with their goals and interests, simply have not been responsible (with singular, laudable exceptions) in the past. If that were the case, many things would be different on the planet. They have acted as if they are not human, don’t have children, will never have to worry about cancer. Or dementia, or other debilitating diseases. I have hope that this will change. It may take another hundred years, time for seeds of initiative now being planted to blossom and several leaders more that have the same strong, just, human backbone Obama is so wonderfully exemplifying.

The one choice a person can make, day in, day out, on a personal level – and a powerful statement indeed – is the answer to “What’s for dinner?” Making it more of this is, in my experience, a good start:

 

dinner

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Quick rundown for non-German-speakers: Anke Engelke is sorta like Germany’s Tiny Fey. Top-notch comedian. The summary of this skit is that the girl and guy meet up (you sorta assume they’ve met each other on an Internet dating site) and he starts up the conversation, real cool, having been there, done that, very versed in all matters sexual. She proceeds to pick up his ball (no pun intended) and run with it, citing her version of the Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality from top to bottom and back, not missing a nuance (well, I noticed nothing missing ;-). We see what happens to … er, him …

(Another copyright dilemma. So sorry.)

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All it takes is a strong plow, a motivated driver with a big engine and a bit of time. You can’t move a mountain in a minute.

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I come from a family of sleepers. By that I mean that my first nuclear family (where I was one of the kids) really enjoyed sleeping. Particularly my father. Point in fact, I knew him better asleep than awake. Fast-forward a bit to my second nuclear family (where I am now the mother) and there you will find four first-rate sleepers: my husband, myself, my child, our dog. I think we were happiest when we were all sleeping at the same time, and in one bed. 

Fast-forward just a teeny bit to this morning. Currently, my sleep is interrupted every morning at precisely 5:30 a.m. when half of the bed becomes cold and there is a fair amount of rustling and bumping around going on. Until I hear the front door’s familiar snap-shut sound, what I’m doing in bed isn’t what I would qualify as sleeping. At least not with the history of sleeping I have behind me. On some days – and today happens to be one of those days – I toss and turn and positively cannot find back into the dream I was so vividly living. For some, dreaming may just be a nightly hard-drive surface repair and cleaning. I have a hard time signing on for that, so bizarre and intense are the images I have wandered through my entire life – my character fully intact, active and participating – and many of which I have yet to forget. 

The only really wonderful thing about not being able to get back to sleep is being able to watch the transition from darkness to light that takes place every morning. The transition watched by armies of yogis throughout the centuries, by Lamas and meditators of every color and nationality. A transition that awed us every morning on the rooftop of our sanctuary’s restaurant, overlooking the mountains, on the first and absolutely unforgettable Crete Retreat seminar with my absolutely inimitable yoga teacher. A yoga teacher I miss. And then there is another teacher I miss. And yet another. And a community of friends from these activities that are more absent from my life than not. And this leads to a question I was asked – as a sort of afterthought – by one of these vaporous friends: “What happened to your spirituality?”

That was said as if it were a book I had lent out and never received back. Or a mole on my face I had had removed. This morning, watching the light increase in tiny yet swift increments, I wondered about the answer. Certainly I don’t feel any less connected now, right this very moment, than during the numerous retreats taken, the hours spent in meditation or other forms of practice. But something is definitely different. The gurus are gone. At first, that would seem like reason to mourn old times and flail “oh woe is me” but there wasn’t a second more to be wasted on that thought. By virtue of my writing this, it serves as testament that there has been a transition. A “growing up and out” … of something. Just like the children move out and move along in their lives, so too, the spiritual student. Looking around, I realize it may not be as uncommon as you would think. Elizabeth Gilbert wrote “Eat Pray Love” and if you listen to her book tour commentary, when asked what verb would follow those three, she said “repeat.” The perfect answer. In her story, learning about devotion is one stop on the journey and she then moves on to incorporate pleasure with devotion – in love and by loving. 

I’ve heard this before. It was Ken Wilber’s life story as well, he traversed all sorts of intellectual and physical worlds before he landed right there, flat on his feet, with himself. In the middle of life. With all it’s pains, pleasures, rights, wrongs, idiosyncrasies and paradoxes. The essence of what all the gurus would have us learn appears (to me) to be – just that. Wake up. On your feet. Holding the ecstasy that you contain and always have contained. The ecstasy you grow up thinking only happens for ten seconds every other day. Or week. Or couple of weeks. Or never. And only under special circumstances. With someone special. Not realizing or not yet wanting to realize that you, me, him, all hold that power every second of the day. We hold the power of orgasm as we walk, shake hands, write, phone, spoon, yell and shout at the guy that took the parking spot. That’s all the gurus are saying, really. Perhaps to connect with it from time to time, have a little fun and refine our skills in an ashram or a yoga studio or some other holy place every now and then. But to realize, the skis have always been strapped to our feet and the mountain - the never-ending mountain - is right there under us, for better or worse, for faster or slower.

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This Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and Monday are days of strange merrymaking in many parts of Germany. Wiki defines it quite lamely like this: Carnival is a festive season which occurs immediately before Lent; the main events are usually during January and February. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations.

What is doesn’t tell you (but would if you could read the German Wiki page) is that the reason for these celebrations traditionally was to scare away winter and all the demons that went with it. It would also tell you that, for whatever reason, it apparently didn’t involve Bavaria too much (perhaps they were too busy milking, who knows?). That’s not stopping modern day Munich, however, a city that offers myriads of opportunities to take part in the fun and games. Usually, I wasn’t much in the mood for such stuff, thinking it was a Halloween of sorts for kids (Now that the Celtic celebration has finally established itself on the mainland, German children now have two opportunities to dress up!), but this year - due to scheduling reasons – I ended up at a party where you would look very strange if you showed up in regular evening attire.

I was completely naive about what I was getting into. While preparing ourselves for the evening, we had put only a tiny bit of effort into our costumes: a bit of makeup smeared on our faces, a wig for me and a few old costume pieces. It’s easy to throw a vampire together, and just about anything passes for a witch.

There is no way to properly describe the effort and imagination that scores of people of all ages (the event was sold out, so I’m guessing around 1,400+), all walks of life, all professions and all body types had gone to with their costumes. 

Marge and Homer Simpson. Snow White and a perfect Prince Charming (They weren’t a couple. Snow White was with a very elaborate vampire). Bumblebees and women as Spring, Fall, and Summer. (Winter was probably there, too, but I really need to avoid her – it’s just been sub-zero for too long.) Color-coordinated groups (one totally orange from head-to-toe, one totally blue, one screeching yellow), Countless Neros (or Augustus, or Alexander, or Julius or…) and Cleopatra (she was brilliantly beautiful and even flirted! – with me!), as always Cowboys and Indians, lots of assorted Hippie Folk, large amounts of Pope and Cardinal types who were always hanging out with Witch and Devil types, tons of Rococo wig-and-pomp and numerous men dressed up a women. The opposite sex was very creative with their interpretations: women as cleaning ladies, women as grand dames, women as whores, women as prim and proper Victorians. Literally all of them with anti-gravitational mammarian glands. (Even Michaelangelo never got how breasts are pulled downward and outward due to gravitational forces, why should ordinary folk in the 21st century?) That would describe maybe a tenth of the crowd, if that - so grand and glorious the variety. Anyone could truly become, for a few hours a year, literally anything they had ever dreamed of being. 

Next year, I’m giving my costume more thought. Who would I like to be?

mb_01

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I’m not a buddhist, however I subscribe to this Daily Dharma newsletter that I really like. This was today’s:

Following the Path
The Eightfold Path of Right Views, Right Thoughts, Right Speech, Right Conduct [Action], Right Livelihood, Right Effort or Lifestyle, Right Recollection [Mindfulness], and Right Meditation [Concentration] was preached by the Buddha to his first five disciples of Benares, and it remains for us the basic guide for our lives as Buddhists. It begins with Right Views and ends with Right Meditation, but each element of the path depends on all others, so really there is no first step and no last step. The key word is “right,” from words in Sanskrit and Chinese that mean “upright, straight, right, correct.” Finding what is upright in attitude, thought, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness, and meditation, and then doing it–this is our life work.

- Robert Aitken, Encouraging Words
From Everyday Mind, a Tricycle book edited by Jean Smith

Read this Daily Dharma on tricycle.com

Which brings me to a discussion I had yesterday with a dear friend who I love very much, but who I passionately disagree with from time to time. I wonder about this, but realize that it makes me re-adjust my thoughts and perspectives - testing them by voicing them for whether or not they really ring true for me. One of our most often recurring themes has to do with money. “Money is energy.” As if expressing that thought alone made money as harmless and innocent a phenomenon as cotton balls. Violence is also energy: thunderstorms, tornados and tsunamis are energy. Energy can reek damage and cause pain. The energy of a simple but heartfelt slap is rather awesome in and of itself. So bringing this daily message: “What is upright in attitude, thought, speech…” together with this turbulent discussion (She’s okay with billionaires being billionaires, essentially. I’m not when, for example, they achieve this with Madoff-esque tactics. However I’m okay with it when it’s Spielberg being recompensed for work that has joyed millions - not an easy topic, as you can see…). It is, in fact, thee topic of our times with all these banks being bailed out and companies being saved with masses of “energy” – so much of it that it’s really hard to truly comprehend the sums being done – and we need to understand what it is and where we stand on these issues. What is money to you? Are the systems in place okay in your opinion? Are there ways to improve how we think, feel, talk and handle money? Can we stand up and protest monetary issues as easily we can, to name just one passionate issue, genocide?

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breakfast2

 

This was breakfast. It may seem like an ordinary pastry and coffee, but I assure you, it is not. The coffee is ordinary enough, though the machine at the office that produced it cost about the equivalent of a compact car. The pastry was done by a little shop that makes all of their delicacies by hand, the good old French way. Little tarts and perfect croissants, brioche, and this little spiral beauty with no, not just raisins, but Black Corinth raisins. For the few minutes it takes to devour this, a person is transported to a seventh heaven you would never think possible in an office environment - and with witnesses to boot. It takes a few extra minutes to walk the extra mile to get to the shop (parking isn’t available), but the road to ecstasy often involves detours…

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While we’re on the subject of sex, dongs and the like, and while we’re giving the platform to one of the most lovely, smart, sassy and sexy evolutionary biologists ever to grace the planet (and may I have the luck to have a drink with her some day…), let’s continue to quote her and link to her, shall we?

This is an article entitled “A Commitment Pill?” from The Wild Side blog from the NYT on Sept. 16, 2008. We have to wait until summer or fall for more recent stuff from Olivia because she’s out bonk… er, on sabbatical? Well, gone somewhere, doing something.

And I quote:

A couple of weeks ago, the arginine vasopressin receptor 1a gene sprang into notoriety: in a just-published study of Swedish couples, variation in this gene was found to be associated with difficulties, for men, in maintaining long-term monogamous relationships. Which suggests the following mischievous thought: could such restlessness be cured one day?

More?

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I just love British humor, now here’s how to talk about sex, penises, orgasms and the like, funny, entertaining and light! So common gals and guys, it’s just nature playing games on us all, who cares what x does to y because w loves m, or scientist b discovers a for the sake of c to improve d because f is much more profound than t - it’s all about perpetuating our species, so let’s get at it! ENJOY! .. and don’t leave your dong behind… you may want to recycle it one day…

I cannot express enough my complete exhasperation and sadness at the loss of this video. A brilliant piece of work from a wise, lovely lady. Certainly with her copyrights now duly protected, she is certainly enjoying a spot of luxurious living somewhere in Tahiti – or so we hope – where the grapes of plenty literally fall into her mouth while she is vigorously and orgasmically penetrated from below. Lucky girl! Good for you!!

Note: type Olivia Judson and maybe you’ll get lucky, too!

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Jiddu on sensation

Be patient with him, his every word is golden.

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Sensualability
Imagine
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