Driveway Reflections

•February 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

Who does the laundry in your house? And is it the same person who takes out the garbage? Just curious.

Two people live in my house and the chores are, by and large, assigned according to whoever has more time to do them. Tonight I chose the chore of taking out the garbage and dragging the bins out to the curb.

As a practicing Buddhist, you would think mindfulness would be almost second nature to everything I spend my time on. Let’s just say I’m a work in progress. But tonight I had a different experience performing a chore I’ve done thoughtlessly 100x before. What changed? I paid attention. For some reason, I gave importance to details that had been, in the past, meaningless.

After five days of blissful rain, I drew in the pungent scent of damp earth. Pulling my hands off the garbage cans, I closed my eyes and sucked it deep into my lungs. And I stayed there, in this odd spot on the edge of my backyard, sniffing the air. Minty wet eucalyptus leaves, wood burning from a neighbor’s fireplace, pine needles, grass. I must have looked like a displaced mental patient.

As I began to wrestle the heavy plastic bins across the driveway, I noticed the deep cracks and crevices in the concrete. Not from looking at them, or even from walking over them, but from the sound the rubber wheels made as they lumbered over the clunky surface. The thick webbing of clouds was beginning to disperse and I could see a thin stripe of night sky dotted with stars. But the sky’s a no-brainer. Who wouldn’t want to pay attention to that? The real training in mindfulness, I surmised, was in my driveway.

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I live in a house built in 1933. It survived Loma Prieta and probably hundreds, if not thousands, of lesser quakes since then. We’ve patched cracks in the walls, ceilings, last summer we painted the exterior, replaced the forty year old windows. It looks solid and cared for, considering its age. But the raw truth of what this house has seen in 81 years is visible in the patchy swag of broken concrete we drive over twice a day. What else has that driveway seen? What human dramas have passed across its surface, what emotion has seeped into its skin? “I see you,” I said to my driveway tonight. “And I notice your scars.” This gives me hope, makes me wonder what I’ll notice tomorrow…

Some driveway-themed songs for further contemplation:

Italian Food What’s That

•November 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

The time has come to dispel a few common myths.

Admittedly, the meal I was forced to endure last Friday was the proverbial straw, and from one of the most highly rated dining eateries in one of the country’s most foodie cities. Go figure.

San Francisco

How could this be, I wondered, that a San Francisco venue labeled “Italian” has but one pasta dish on the menu, a lone salad, and pizzas with toppings chosen with the sophistication of a four year old.

Let’s start with the basics: tomatoes. They’re predominantly red, technically fruit, should NEVER be refrigerated, and are the starting point for most Italian dishes. In other words, if you’ve got nothing on your menu that contains some kind of marinara sauce, you’re not an Italian restaurant.

Bread. I shouldn’t need to specifically ask for it. It’s an absolute staple of Italian cuisine and should magically appear on the table in crusty form with top notch EVOO.

Pasta. You must have more than just one such dish on your menu, preferably made with different species of pasta, some vegetarian, some meat/fish, and at least some of them with red sauce. Please review the definition of al dente first.

And finally, if it’s topped with things like walnuts and lemons, IT’S NOT A PIZZA!! Throw some red (or white) sauce on it, a little garlic, some kind of cheese, and then feel free to experiment to your heart’s content.

Of all the Italian food I’ve searched out lately, very few actually make the cut. Not because of food quality or ill preparation either, but because of slightly-too-innovative pairings, odd food choices, and the menu at large. I admit, I’m a bit provincial and am no Anthony Bourdain. On a rough day, what really puts my world back together is a plain old bowl of spaghetti with marinara. Not deep fried olives.

My #1 San Francisco Italian choice, not surprisingly, is in North Beach: Caffe Macaroni on Columbus. Excellent bread, insane garlic dipping sauce, 5 or 6 salads, and the best pasta dish San Francisco has to offer: spaghetti alla pizzaiola. It’s a bowl of al dente spaghetti tossed in olive oil, garlic, basil, and diced tomatoes. Simple. Savory. Perfect.

spaghetti

Thanks for listening. Buon Appetito!

 

 

 

 

 

What time of year is it again?

•May 14, 2013 • 2 Comments

For those of us in Northern California, March through May is called “Summer” and it will last till roughly the end of this month. Next – June Gloom, often referred to as Fall in other parts of the country. Winter in the Bay Area is typically 50 – 60 F. degrees and rainy. This year, it was more like 65 – 75 and dry. Crops, wildlife, and wine growers will no doubt be paying for that freakish spell for the next twelve months.

Volcanoes mysteriously awakening across the globe. Giant ice boulders plotting a Michigan invasion, not to be confused with the ice tsunamis attacking Michigan and Canada. (Ice tsunamis??)

A google search on weird weather evokes everything from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to UFO Digest. So I’m left thinking, well, I don’t know what to think.

weird weather, scary clouds

weird weather, scary clouds

I keep returning to the Japan tsunami/earthquake/nuclear meltdown of January 2012. It seems more than just possible that the ripple effect of three weather-related ecological catastrophes could, essentially, break weather in the rest of the world. I know Mother Nature prides herself on capriciousness, and weather is full of cycles. But this is different.  Look at Greenland. Not even 5 months after Japan, 40% of Greenland’s polar ice sheet spontaneously melts in a matter of days.

The butterfly effect, a component of chaos theory, suggests that one single action or movement can affect something much larger many miles away. Like a hurricane’s formation depending on the flap of a butterfly’s wings… weeks before, and from a thousand miles away.

I’m not necessarily saying that Japan’s earthquake is the cause of every freak storm around the globe – just that all these events are connected, and we are undeniably connected to them. It reminds me to use care in what I say and do, and how I treat people. Regardless of how random or trivial a word, text, tweet, or reaction might seem, you never know when you might unwittingly cause a hurricane.

man yellinng

Thanks for listening – your comments are always welcome!

Relativity Girl  : )

Continuity

•December 30, 2012 • Leave a Comment

It’s December 30th 2012 and I find myself reflecting on the past year – what I did, what I learned, how I failed, and what I achieved. Did I take any notable risks? Did I grow, did I suffer? How did I do in the crucial area of giving and accepting LOVE?

More than anything, I find my thoughts focused on the concept of flow. I ask you – what does this word mean to you? Do you have it, do you want it, do you need it? How does it manifest in your life, or how do you recognize its absence?

I feel a sense of flow when there’s regularity to my yoga and meditation practices. And the flow I feel from applying that discipline bleeds through to other parts of my life – my work life, my fiction writing, everything. But mostly I’m getting better at recognizing a lack of flow in my life and thoughts. More times than not, it’s because I’m clinging to an expectation of something, or someone. I have not yet answered the question of how to reach and aspire without clinging to an expectation. What, really, is the difference between expectation and intent? Clearly, one brings suffering, and the other brings awareness. And the difference might be very small or slight, maybe just a matter of blinking the eyes, or taking a breath and holding it for a few seconds longer, sitting in meditation for an extra five minutes, holding Warrior pose for three extra breaths.

Does this mean that pushing yourself and extending the boundaries of habitual habits and behaviors necessarily increases flow in your life? For me, yes. In my endless search for personal improvement and evolution, I will continue to give energy to flow-inducing things like yoga and meditation and keep a lookout for other signs of movement in the ever thawing of our collective human consciousness.

spring-flows

Examining Space

•June 25, 2012 • 1 Comment

Do you feel like you’ve got week and weekend versions of your self? Different sides to your personality almost, even different personalities altogether? Is your weekend self a weakened version of you, or an empowered one?

Where is the power, the space, the light in your Monday through Friday? Does power come on Monday mornings after your second cappuccino, or only on a Saturday after nine blissful hours of sleep? Everyone has unique motivators, so there’s no judgment here. I explore the patterns in the universe, and in this case, lately I’m exploring a pattern I’ve seen in my own.

To explain the distinction, I think of the polarity between compression and space. My weekends are typically roomy, rarely with any kind of schedule and I can fill the space of a day with as much or as little as I want. And during the week, it seems to require days of coordination just to find time to fill up my gas tank one day on my way home. So adding one more thing to “the list”, like shopping for a birthday gift, at times feels unthinkable. I’m not a guru, or a yogi, or a Zen master. But I don’t think it’s supposed to be like this.

The idea, I think, is to have some mental and physical exertion, reflection, and rest… every day. So to counteract the polarity of my compression : space model, could I embark on my favorite hiking trail near Chabot Space Center at 7am on  a random Tuesday? And spend from 4-6 pm on a Sunday working? Not tackling my same daily projects, but more like reflecting on how I can work smarter, how I can bring more energy, compassion and vitality to my work and the people around me?

What’s your schedule like, and how does it differ from week to weekend? Has the polarity model become normal for Americans? For everyone? And is it normal for you? Share your thoughts…

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Scared of the dark? Don’t be a WIMP!

•September 14, 2011 • Leave a Comment

Would you be afraid to chase a cosmic ghost? The ghost in question is the ever-mysterious presence of dark matter, which is said to encompass 80% of the mass of our universe and has eluded astronomers since the 1930’s. But it is only within the past twenty years that scientists have begun to actually discover measurable evidence of what has presented itself as un-space. You can’t see it, but it’s there – surrounding everything in an amorphous cloak which, by default, gives shape and form to adjacent celestial bodies through the inexorable force of its own gravity.

Evidence of dark matter is, to say the least, tricky. We’ve invented sensors that detect “events” that lead to a hypothesis of its potential presence quantified by WIMPs – weakly interacting massive particles leftover from the Big Bang. Weakly-interacting because they’re invisible (or at least undetectable) and massive because of their immense gravity.

The ongoing question is whether our existing sensors are in fact detecting WIMPs or merely ordinary subatomic particles. In one experiment, detectors made from germanium and silicon crystals were able to map a WIMP interaction, whereby the particle bounced off of an atom, which left a barely detectable residual heat signature. But it is not yet clear whether these signatures represent background noise. 

The related theory of Supersymmetry could elucidate many ongoing questions about dark matter and their invisible, formless particles. This theory postulates that for every boson, there exists a corresponding fermion with the same mass. And though this theory has not been proved, it is said to be a modern explanation of dark matter.

For further reading on this, Adam Mann’s article Cosmology: The hunting of the dark  published in Nature News is an excellent study these topics.

Urges and Desires

•September 11, 2011 • 2 Comments

It has been said that the most primal desire of the heart is to be understood, and the most fundamental desire of the human body is oxygen.

Roughly 75% of women on the planet suffer from uterine fibroids. What’s interesting is the number of women within that percentage that have never given birth. Passionate debate surrounds the medical question of
whether fibroids cause infertility or if never giving birth is a contributing cause of fibroids.

Think about it. Looking back at the evolutionary history of the female gender, the most primal job of the female uterus is to do what? Grow something, presumably, a fetus. What urge, then, could be more fundamental to the human body than even respiration?

The urge… to grow.

Hormones secreted by the body’s endocrine system regulate many types of growth. And genetics is a dominant factor in determining how much and how fast we develop. Many physiological growth processes slow or stop during late adolescence to early twenties. Teeth, bones, organs. American psychologist, Abraham Maslow, most known for his Hierarchy of Human Needs model, theorized about the human or existential urge to grow. From a humanistic psychology perspective, this growth surpasses just biological and also encompasses psychological and spiritual growth as we develop toward our potential.

The Dalai Lama teaches that meditation practice is the very heart of spiritual evolution and growth. That to deepen a connection with our inner selves grows and evolves our connection to our own innate Divine wisdom.

So let’s presume, for a moment, that the primary and most fundamental urge of the human body, mind and spirit is to grow. My theory, then, is that abnormal growths, like benign uterine fibroids or more perilous malignant tumors are caused when we stop growing in some other way. Even if parts of the physical body reach maturity in early twenties, the idea is that we continue to grow and evolve our minds and spirits to develop our personalities, learn to manage our emotions, and deepen our connection to our selves and the external world.  And when those processes stop or even slow, the body’s natural drive to grow kicks in and forces growth to happen another way – abnormally, in the form of imbalance, illness and disease.

Now, I’m by no means suggesting that human beings consciously cause their own cancer or fibroids. There are multitudes of studies on the biological causes of cancer and other pathology. In 2008, Harald zur Hausen received a Nobel Prize in Medicine for his discovery that the human papilloma virus was a cause of cervical cancer. The bacterium, Helicobacter Pylori (H. pylori), has been discovered to cause stomach cancer. Alcohol and
liver cancer. Tobacco and lung cancer. My contention, rather, is based on a more global and cosmic examination of what happens to the human body and why.

This is the first in what will be an ongoing examination in several parts. Please subscribe to this blog to be notified of the next installment, and I welcome your comments.

Thank you for visiting!

Every man has in himself a continent of undiscovered character. Happy is he who acts the Columbus to his
own soul. – Sir J. Stephen

 
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