Tuesday, April 25, 2017

REVIEWING VACATION INTENTIONS

Well, the annual Kaua'i vacation for 2017 is winding down.  One of my intentions was to find sun and warmth.  I did.  And grateful every single day for it.  I read yesterday that the Puget Sound area set a new record for rain over the past 6 months,  just over 44 inches, which is more than our average annually.  So, it's not all been in my head; we've had a lot of rain at home.  During our stay here a few days were overcast; one cool and rainy all day.  It's not called the "Garden Isle" for nothing.  Sometimes it rains...and gives us the lush green garden of floral delights because of it.

Another intention was to find balance and peace about the political situation.  I made progress.  I am feeling more able to take action and then let myself rest.  I am still appalled; still angry; still sad.  But reality is reality.

I'm following Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin on Facebook.  She does an almost daily FB Live video, deconstructing the news of the day; explaining behind-the-scenes machinations; keeping her followers focused and motivated.  Yesterday she talked about "kicking the shit out of Option B", based on a quote from Sheryl Sandberg's book, "Option B --  Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, Finding Joy", written after her husband died.   Option A (Hillary being president) is not available to us, so we need to kick the shit out of Option B -- resist this Administration's policies that are destructive and hold them accountable, and vision what we want for the future.

I'm also finding great solace in watching Rachel Maddow every night, because she's brilliant and fair and funny.  But I find it's too much to watch all the talking heads and read every news/opinion piece and watch every satire comedy show...saturation point far exceeded.  Balance and discernment.  Just say no.

I've stepped up my meditation practice too, since this trip coincided with another of the Oprah/Deepak 21 Day Meditation series.  This one is on "hope" and I have to believe this was very intentional.  They talk about finding hope in challenging times.  I guess that could be any time for any number of people, but it's definitely now for many of us too.

I wanted to feel healthy and strong and I've had mixed results there.  I've eaten healthy thanks to Hub, who has cheerfully grilled fresh fish and veggies for us every night. Hawaii's bounty of papaya, mango, and apple bananas with yogurt has nourished us each morning and complementary coffee and tea all day has kept us hydrated.  We did do a slight ice cream binge.  My vices are so few these days, I've decided I don't need to scold myself for that.

I have slacked off on my yoga practice, but we have done qigong together (wrote about that on my yoga blog, if you want to check it out:   http://circlingthemat.blogspot.com/2017/04/pushing-back-waves.html  Hub has gone for a 3.5 mile walk every morning.  I went once.  I still totally suck at discipling myself to do aerobic exercise, except in my Friday Fitness class, which is really fun.  So back to that next week!

I wanted to write and yes, the muse has been with me.  It is such a luxury to set aside all the to-do lists, commitments, appointments, schedules and just move through the day at a lazy pace, with nothing to do and nowhere to go.  When I've felt moved to write, I did.  When I wanted to sit quietly, I did.  When I wanted to read, I did.  All of this feeds my Writing Genie and she's been with me, prompting and smiling.

So, homeward bound we are and I'm ready to be in my familiar places, seeing my friends, hugging my family, planting my garden.  Hanging on to the peace and tranquility of vacation time is always the challenge.  But I have to believe a time out of the routine works some magic even when we find ourselves caught up again in the abundance of "real life".

At least, that's the view from here...©

Sunday, April 16, 2017

TAKE ME TO CHURCH

Thinking about Jesus today.  I heard this song yesterday on the radio (Take Me to Church) and I love it so much.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYSVMgRr6pw

Then, early this morning I was surprised by....church!

Hub and I woke up to a rainy Easter morning today on Kauai.  I threw on a sundress and headed to the Terrace downstairs where breakfast is served to grab our mugs of free Kauai Coffee and pick up the newspaper  -- my morning routine.   But when I stepped off the elevator I was struck by a loud "rock" band playing something Jesus-y in the Courtyard.

I peeked 'round the corner to see nearly 200 people packed onto folding chairs at an Easter Sunrise Service.  I was greeted with a huge smile and an invitation to take a seat.  I demurred, but stood in the back, rapt with attention to this spectacle.  I watched as more and more people joined, as greeters hugged and shook hands, as the childrens' choir (preschool to teenagers) sang like angels.  The guest preacher, from Seattle!, gave a pretty standard Easter message befitting the Evangelical bent of this brand of Christianity, including the altar call to those ready to surrender their lives to Jesus.  (No takers on this Easter morning, but many likely had already done that judging by hands raised in the air during song and prayer.)  The pastor hammered home the God is Great message and assured everyone that no matter the harshness of life on earth, "the last will be first in Heaven" and "Jesus is with you!  God is waiting for you!"  This elicited some Amens and raised arms in praise of the Lord.  Everyone was smiling!  Some were crying.  The music swelled.  A local pastor stepped up to invite everyone who "wants more Jesus today!" to come to a 10:00 a.m. service at a local church with lunch served afterward -- featuring his own mother's Home Cooking!

I tell ya, I get it.  The showmanship and message of love and relief from suffering is an affecting one. I thought back to my Christian upbringing at first in the friendly Methodist church of my childhood, then the more austere brand of Protestantism of my Lutheran years after marrying into a conservative Lutheran family and being expected to become one of them.  Then we swerved left and attended a Congregationalist church for awhile, before finding Unitarian Universalism.  Easter Sunday was a favorite worship experience in all of those earlier Christian denominations.  What's not to like about petticoats, patent leather shoes, and Hallelujahs?

But "Take Me to Church" (partly about the Church's punishment of homosexuality) also reminds me of the hypocrisy, the judgements, the literal (and sort of made up) interpretations of the Bible and Jesus' teachings that turned me away from the Christian church.  When a certain brand of Christianity became intertwined with political conservatism I became judge-y too.  How could two diametrically opposed worldviews exist in one entity?  Feed the poor = cut food assistance.  Welcome the stranger = close our borders.   Care for the sick and vulnerable = gut healthcare.  Serve the poor = subsidize billion dollar corporations.

But this is Easter.  It is a time to reflect on a New Beginning.  Jesus was a new beginning in his time and I take his example as the meaning of this day.  Appropriated from the Pagan rituals of renewal and regrowth, fertility and abundance, Jesus is said to have risen from the dead.  (Maybe.  Jon Snow did it...Game of Thrones reference for the uninitiated; also a handsome guy, as all movie Jesus' are as well.)  If he did it then, I truly wish he'd come on back again now and take a look at what is being said and done in his name.  (I'd like his return to NOT be accompanied by that whole Rapture thing...messy.)  Maybe we'd find out this is exactly what he intended.  Or maybe he'd lead the Resistance, as he did in his day.

After Christian Church I joined Hub in practicing Qigong on the beach (Ancient Chinese ); I did today's Oprah/Deepak recorded meditation on Hope (Vedic tradition); I chanted along with my favorite Kirtan artists: Krishna Das, Jai Uttal, Gina Sala (Tantric, Vedic, Hindu); I watched Valerie Kaur on YouTube (Sihk).

And  I will hold the lessons of the Fierce and Gentle Jesus I believe he was, and try to be more like that.  My "religion" is eclectic and curious, finding the common Capital "L" Love (thanks for that, Gina) in each practice.  With this Love as guide,  I renew my urge to find the courage to resist wrongs,  to find gratitude in every day, to see the Divine in all, and to sing Hallelujah! for this gift of life.  May we all RISE UP in Love in service to the greater good.  Amen.

At least, that's the view from here.... ©

Photo Credit: A painting by R. (Richard) Hook





Friday, April 14, 2017

EMBRACE COURAGE

Kauai feels like a long way from Washington DC, not just in miles but in psychic energy.  I read through my news sites and FB feed, I tune into Rachel and the guys on MSNBC and it all feels so distant, less immediate.  The sun shines here, the ocean waves crash, the pool beckons; most people are happy and enjoying their vacations.  Which is real?

Part of this trip for me is to find balance and focus for my life right now.  November 8th was a jolting and overwhelming emotionally devastating experience and nothing that's happened since has helped to assuage that shock and hurt.

I find myself, and others of similarly gentle and sensitive natures, dramatically impacted every single day and infused with a sense of ... dare I say it?... hatred for this president I call 45* (45th Pres.*elected with a minority of the popular vote.)  I simply don't usually hate people; I always try to be empathetic, even if I put some in the "not my type/disagree/don't like" column.  But this guy?  He makes my gut ache, my heart race, my fists clench.  Fight or flight?  FIGHT!  He represents and acts out every single horrible impulse of men who I had hoped had been neutralized by any progress we may have made in the past few decades.  It's as if the monster of misogyny, self-aggrandizement, selfishness, ignorance, and entitlement has arisen and taken over the world.  And he did it with the help of fellow Americans, many of them women, some of whom I love.  The dismay (far too soft a word) I feel is indescribable.

My Mindfulness practices are being put to the test and found wanting.  I'm having trouble meditating and staying in the moment; having trouble being with "what is" and letting go of outcomes; having trouble seeing this world as an Ego-dream and finding the inner transcendent Spirit that is "me/us".

I know people who are able to compartmentalize all of this; to set the state of the nation aside and just  go on with their lives as if nothing has changed, or at least find some psychological respite from it.  I don't seem to be able to do that.

Others live with belief that we make our own reality by what we put out to the Universe.  I get that. My reality right now is that I often feel anger and fear.  I don't want that so I have to find a way to flip those emotions into something their opposite.  Being one who also struggles with depression and anxiety anyway I have a lot of default programming to overcome.  It feels like asking me to magically turn my short, round 66 year old self into a tall, svelte 23 year old supermodel.  (I'll keep you posted on that!)

So, a couple of things hold promise for me.

Hub shared with me a short article about reconsidering Mindfulness, not as an acceptance of all that "is", but as a way of radical discernment.  The author, a practicing Buddhist teacher, opined that the Buddha would be appalled by those who used Mindfulness practices to escape or ignore the calling to make right what is wrong in the world.   Mindfulness, instead, calls us to use our powers of discernment to the greatest good -- to address the inequities that keep some people down and elevate others.  We are called to act for those who cannot; to always find the strength to rise up for the greatest good.  The Buddha, like Jesus, was an outspoken critic of the rich, the status quo.  This really resonated with me.  I have always had a problem with some spirit-seekers who seem to divorce themselves from this world into the blissed out state of self-focus.  Ego-dream or not, I believe our spirits are here for a reason/a lesson; our karma is to figure that out and act upon it to grow spiritually into greater Consciousness.

Then there's Valerie Kaur, Sihk teacher and amazing speaker, whose call to "Seva", or service, is at the very heart of the Sihk religion and of her teachings.  She moves me to tears with her gentle and powerful calls to action.  She says Seva takes courage -- and that "courage" is fear that has said its prayers.  Isn't that beautiful?  It means we don't have to be brave warriors, strong, trained, ready to do battle with the world's wrongs.  We just have to be willing; to say, "please, help me", and then do it.  Do whatever action you are called to do to be of service.  Step into life, with all our of imperfections and qualms.

And keep on, with the discernment anger sharpens and a courage born of fear, we find our voice, our feet, our hearts, over and over again.   Do not look away, hide in denial or disinterest.  We are here.  This is now.  Embrace.

At least, that's the view from here....©

One of my favorite Valerie Kaur talks:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCenwgheIBs

Thursday, April 13, 2017

KAUAI PEOPLE-WATCHING, GRATITUDE, RE-SET

We're baaaack.  Our annual Kauai vacation.  Home sweet, warm, sunny, beautiful home.  I haven't looked back at old posts, but I'm sure I've posted a photo like this before.  I never get over how beautiful it is.

I'm sitting on Aupaka Terrace, where coffee and "grab and go" (ridiculously overpriced) breakfast is served, overlooking the pool and beach.  Families on spring break pass by loaded down with pool toys, snorkel gear, backpacks, and towels.  Retired folk amble along often gathering in groups at large tables sharing coffee and conversation, no particular place they need or want to be but right here.  Company employees (this week a group from Google!), dressed in Aloha shirts and sundresses, smile and chat with cell phones in their hands and notebooks tucked under their arms.  Every single head swivels towards this view.  How can we not look and feel so incredibly grateful for our good fortune?

OOOPPPPS!  Not everyone is feeling grateful.  There is a family of four (husband, wife, two middle school-ish aged kiddos) sitting near me and the wife is having an absolute hissy fit!  Teeth clenched, arms waving, voice raised (but I can't make out the words) aiming wrath at her husband who sits slumped, taking it in silence, even when she moves in about 6 inches from his face with a final diatribe.  The daughter sits still as stone, staring outward, the son hunches over a crossword puzzle, not looking up. They've obviously seen this all before.  Such scenes of family strife always make me sad.  My empath goes into hyper-mode and I want to walk over there and save everyone.  But I sit here typing away, trying to tamp down my God Complex.  I can't save them.  Mom and daughter have walked away.  Dad and son sit silently, reading and writing, not talking, not looking up.  And it's only 9:30 a.m.  Long day ahead, methinks.

Hub is out for his morning walk.  I always have good intentions of joining him, but this terrace calls me.  I love the people watching (even if sometimes I have to witness what I just did) and I love the pool view and I love the proximity to the coffee bar and I love that WiFi that allows me to open my computer and scroll through my emails, my FB newsfeed, and my blog.  When he returns we'll head back up to our condo unit for breakfast, then to our chairs near the beach where we'll read, do the NYT crossword, wander to the pool to cool off or hop in the surf (more Hub's thing than mine if there are some good boogie boarding waves).  We may go up again later for lunch, then back down for more of the same until about 5:00 when we pack it in for the day; time to shower, prepare our fish for grilling, eat dinner and switch on the TV or open another book until we get sleepy.  It's a rough life.

Sometimes, even though I love it here, I am ambivalent about coming.  I have to endure flying for one thing, which I've well-documented previously how much I hate.  This time we fought, according to the flight crew, the strongest headwinds they'd ever experienced causing our flight to take nearly 7 hours from Seattle, some of it in "choppy" skies.  I tried not to think about that deep blue enormous Pacific Ocean below us.  I took extra Dramamine, so I was in a drug-induced state of "calm" mostly but still had to meditate and breathe my way out of panic a couple of times.  Also a young couple with a 20 month old son were my seat mates.  In fact the whole plane seemed to be full of toddlers.  Always such happy fliers, they. HaHa

But this time I wasn't ambivalent; I was eager to be here.  Our NW winter/spring has been an interminable marathon of gray skies and rain.  I was starting to wonder if the sun still shone.  (It does!)  Plus, the political landscape since November has kept me under a dark emotional cloud too.  I felt I needed this respite as a reset.  My intention is to find my center again; to get focused, balanced, and reinvigorated about life.  I'll keep you posted.

OMG.  Dad and son just got up from their chairs, exchanged a few words, and Dad reached over and pulled his son (a gangly 14 y/o, I'd say) toward him and gave him a kiss on the side of his head, which I thought was a particularly sweet gesture, given and received between males in public.   The boy smiled and they walked away together.  Saving each other, without me.

At least, that's the view from here....©