29 June 2008

It's hot and sunny here in southern Liguria. It's been hot and sunny for a little over a week. It's very bright and hot during the day, and then an hour or so before the sun sets behind the western mountains, the moisture collects in the air and changes the colors of the light, and there is a cool breeze blowing this moist air. It's lovely.

I just had company! A friend I met in New Orleans was here for a couple of days on his way back to Paris. Also my nephew was here just heading out on his open-ended solo journey. It was great to see the exchange between these two late 20's guys sharing questions, suggestions, experiences. i dropped my nephew off today. He stuck out his thumb, heading towards Rome.

I noticed, hanging out with those two, that I am not in my late 20's and don't feel up for any really physically challenging adventures. And I feel the loss of being that adaptable. I travelled around North America when I was in my late teens, but then spent the next 25 years mostly in one place. It's been nearly 3 and a half years since I set out on this journey. I love traveling, it's so exciting and fulfilling. I also like being in one place. It's an ongoing inner dialogue.

This vacation relax time here has been and continues to be really great. Life is slow. It gives me time to think.

19 June 2008

A friend recently asked on his blog some questions about kindness. I replied "Practicing kindness, for me, includes choosing to perceive relatedness, the sameness, of “myself” and “others.” When I practice this...on the street, the train platform, in a social setting, in a ritual setting, anywhere. Then I experience loving, which emanates outward from me, through me, and removes my own feelings of alienation. This molds my behavior into kindness, intending the wellbeing of everyone, everything, and behaving accordingly, making the effort not to cause or add to anyone’s suffering."

Some of the most effective teachers in my life have been animals, dogs and cats in my care. As I write this, Chloe the cat is sitting in my lap. She is 15+ years old. Chloe is a Siamese cat. She can be persnickety, has a loud voice when she wants to, and her face has a black mask. Sometimes to me she looks utterly alien. Other times all I see is the sweetness and trust she offers me. She is a dainty little creature, purring right now. She has snuggled with me almost every night of her life. She came to me when she was 9 months old, and except for 6 months in 2007 and occasional times when I was away, she has spent her nights cuddled up next to me. When we’ve been apart, I am told by the people who have cared for her, she is inconsolable. I’ve been good to her for the most part. There have been a few times when she complained loudly and pissed me off, or rather, her Siamese scream set my nerves on and over the edge, when I have been unkind to her. There have also been a few times when she woke me up by getting fur in my face and I reacted strongly, pushing or throwing her away physically. Despite these incidents, of which I am frankly ashamed, she is completely attached to me. When we are together, like now, I kiss and stroke her. I tell her how beautiful and amazing she is. I tell her that it is my job to make sure she has a good happy life. I have no idea what goes on in her brain, what she thinks and feels, how she thinks and feels. Sometimes I think she is just a little furry nervous system that eats and shits and sleeps. Sometimes I think she is an enlightened being. Whatever is true, she is one of my teachers because I respond to her and that provides me with opportunities to look at my responses, to learn about my own nature, to question my reactions, and to make adjustments within myself. Chloe is a creature of instinct. I’m sure she cogitates, but in ways that are inscrutable to me. I think she is neither kind or unkind, she just is. I am a creature of instinct and also of cogitation, and I can be kind, and unkind. I can consider my actions. I can choose.

Chloe is purring on my lap. I am stroking her as I type (no small feat!) and she occasionally gazes up at me with a look that conveys trust and comfort and belonging.

Recently I read a report about the medical effects of torture inflicted by US personnel on detainees at the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp. I also read an interview with a whistleblower about the black market in nuclear weapons technology which the US government is involvement in. This kind of information brings up a lot of sadness in me, and makes me wonder, for the umpteenmillionth time, how can people treat each other so? I have heard arguments about protecting state security and I understand that people can fear for their safety, but this goes beyond that. This goes to questions about those who choose profit over life. This goes to questions about how humans can see other humans as alien, as not deserving respect, as “less” than human.

In a recent blog entry I discussed the phenomenon of belief. Human beings live on and through this mental function we call belief. We form beliefs from our experiences, and then we see subsequent experiences through the lens of those beliefs. Religion, political ideology, relational patterns and social behavior, are all governed by the beliefs we hold onto. The psychologists and doctors who aid the torturers, the religious zealots who decapitate other human beings, the politicians making deals for weapons, the religious zealots who passionately oppose equal rights for sexual “minorities”; these are just a few examples of behaviors dictated by beliefs.

It seems to me that any belief which suggests or directs one to harm another is a belief in need of adjustment. How can it be morally right to cause harm to anyone or anything?

I used to be a vegetarian, even vegan at times. I felt disgust with the consumption of animals for food, the enslaving and slaughtering of other life forms. I still do. When I reached my 40’s and my spinal injuries (which I received in my late teens) began to assert themselves more severely, my wonderful chiropractor in Vermont told me that I had to eat meat or things would just get worse. I resisted, but finally relented because being in constant pain was unbearable. What happened was that the episodes of spinal pain and restricted mobility began to be less, so I have continued to eat the flesh of animals. I still have these episodes, and deep down I still find flesh eating to be basically revolting, but I suppress my revulsion and eat meat because I believe that my presence in the world as a functional person who is not in constant pain, has value. I thank the creatures I eat in my mind before I eat them, and I go out of my way to eat meat that was raised ecologically, where the animal had a life. I can’t always find meat raised thus, and I do eat commercially grown meat when I feel the need for the protein. I still feel that it is essentially unkind to the animals for me to eat meat, and yet it is a kindness to myself to eat things which strengthen my body.

I believe there is value, for each of us, in examining our own attitudes and behaviors relative to kindness.

18 June 2008

Blessings on this solstice full moon!

We are entering the solstice, that time of balance, when day and night are of equal length for a few days. May we each find and feel that balance within ourselves, and manifest it around us.

May our choices be guided by wisdom and clear vision as we face our world with open minds, open hearts, aware of spirit, and with gratitude to all the creatures and life forms, for the pleasures and the pains, the ease and the challenges, the learning which comes easily and that which is more difficult.

May awareness of the awesome beauty of Earth fill us, even if just for a moment, or for a lifetime, or many lifetimes.

May our compassion be stirred and spread like compost, enriching, promoting growth, and remind us of the fecundity of life.

May truth be evident to us, different truths for different people, for truth is found when honesty is present. May we be honest with ourselves and with each other.

May the shadow, that which is hidden like the dark side of the moon, be acknowledged and honored even when it eludes our eyes. May we look upon the shadow even when it is a challenge to do so; let us not be guided into denial by fear of the unknown, but instead be willing to face the unknown even if we fear it.

May our love, which is infinite and irrational, steer us always in the direction of generosity, for we each have much to give, even when we don't know it. Even if sometimes we don't feel confident that we have gifts to give, may we find friends to remind us, family to appreciate us, and may we return that friendship and familial love in kind.

May the world be changed by our willingness to change ourselves, to grow and learn and be always in the process of discovery.

May our actions be motivated by love and ripple out, touching others, who touch others, who touch others...always rippling out and through the circle of existence. May our oneness with the cosmos be felt as real, and manifest in our beings, reminding and allowing us to be our truest selves.

Some years ago in the ruins of a flooded city I received a gift. It is this prayer, this teaching, this reminder:

Listen more than you speak
Hear what is really being said
Transform the behaviors that don't work
Let your feelings flow in balance
Remember where you come from
Remember what you're made of.

Blessed be.

P.S. Addendum posted 19 June - a friend wrote and reminded me that equinox is when the day and night are of equal length...duh...how funny of me. For some reason this solstice, when the day is at it's longest and the night at it's shortest, brought up all this stuff about balance, so I went with it. What does it mean? I'm not sure...that I am forgetful, that inspiration is irrational, that I am working on balance in my own life...all that and more I'm sure.

16 June 2008

I just watched a film called “The Lives of Others” on the recommendation of a friend. Watch it. You’ll be glad you did. It’s not easy, but it’s important, valuable, inspiring.

11 June 2008

The sun is hot, it’s beautiful here. I just saw an amazing insect...a large black bee with irridescent blue wings. I’ve never seen anything like it before. Wow!

I’ve spent the last few days on my back, taking ibuprofin. Coming to terms with the reality, that for the rest of my life this spinal issue will be present, is a challenge for my mind. It’s hard to accept. The periods of respite are so great. It’s easier for me to feel creative and motivated when my body feels good and I am mobile. Accessing that creativity and motivation when I am in pain and can’t move easily is another story.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush yesterday in the US House of Representatives. This is a moment that could become a groundswell if ameicans will build the momentum. If you haven’t yet, please write to your congressional reps and your local newspapers and tv stations, and insist that they get behind Kucinich and cover the story. It is not too late! See more on this at CommonDreams.org

06 June 2008

My radio show "Stories from the Road" has been moved an hour earlier to Sundays 7 PM Eastern time at http://wbkm.org I hope you'll listen in!

05 June 2008

I read this in today’s Guardian:

Polar bear shot dead after 200-mile swim

This is a perfect example of human stupidity. This beautiful creature’s life wasn’t worth the effort of saving. I weep for the polar bear, and I weep for us.