When I come downstairs in the morning I open the door for my two critters, who trot happily out the door. They always greet the day with tails held high, so delighted to greet the world. I sip my coffee and come to consciousness more slowly.
In fact I’m cautious how I approach the day. Will I get it right, make progress, be successful? Or will I fail to complete enough tasks to feel at peace? Did I do well enough yesterday? Will I be ready for tomorrow? These processes are running constantly, just below my regular awareness.
Yesterday I was reading a list of affirmations from my therapist. I mentally knock them off: nah, not me, unh-uh, not for me, nope—then I come to one that hits a nerve:
“The present moment is perfect, even if I don’t like what’s happening.”
Somehow this one stops me, For a flash I see it: a perfectly beautiful world, my pets here with me, blue sky, soft green grass, the shimmering water beyond. I hear birds and feel the soft air on my skin, and think “how could I not see this a moment ago?” and with that, a shadow falls over my thinking again, doubt and judgement resume their program.
I felt a cloud of negativity lift, and I saw the world clearly, just for a moment. It was a bit astonishing. I’ve worked hard at keeping destructive thoughts at bay. I’ve learned to rely on my higher power and find peace in uncertainty. But this – this grey film over my reality, I don’t want to see the world through gloom colored glasses!
“Expectation and Disappointment are dance partners. Better that we dwell on Willing, its dual meaning of intention and availability.”
Now that I’ve seen beyond the veil, I can’t lose this: a brighter world is right there, just behind that grey. That if I feel low, hopeless, or worthless it’s only my old distorted view, and I can shift perspective. That I can upgrade my thinking by deciding where to focus.
This is a reblog from the NewYorker.com. Please follow the link to read the complete article. Who knew fig reproduction was so unusual?
Bite a fig in half and you’ll discover a core of tiny blossoms.
All kinds of critters, not only humans, frequent fig trees, but the plants owe their existence to what may be evolution’s most intimate partnership between two species. Because a fig is actually a ball of flowers, it requires pollination, but because the flowers are sealed, not just any bug can crawl inside. That task belongs to a minuscule insect known as the fig wasp, whose life cycle is intertwined with the fig’s. Mother wasps lay their eggs in an unripe fig. After their offspring hatch and mature, the males mate and then chew a tunnel to the surface, dying when their task is complete. The females follow and take flight, riding the winds until they smell another fig tree. (One species of wasp, in Africa, travels ten times farther than any other known pollinator.)
When the insects discover the right specimen, they go inside and deposit the pollen from their birthplace. Then the females lay new eggs, and the cycle begins again. For the wasp mother, however, devotion to the fig plant soon turns tragic. A fig’s entranceway is booby-trapped to destroy her wings, so that she can never visit another plant. When you eat a dried fig, you’re probably chewing fig-wasp mummies, too.
The fig and the fig wasp are a superlative example of what biologists call codependent evolution. The plants and insects have been growing old together for more than sixty million years. Almost every species of fig plant—more than seven hundred and fifty in total—has its own species of wasp. But codependence hasn’t made them weak, like it can with humans. The figs and fig wasps’ pollination system is extremely efficient compared with that of other plants, some of which just trust the wind to blow their pollen where it needs to go. And the figs’ specialized flowers, far from isolating them in an evolutionary niche, have allowed them to …
Chicory blue and creamy Queen Anne’s lace give way to the hot happy yellows: first the Mullein, then state flower Tickseed Sunflower. But it’s the first young tendrils of Goldenrod that cause my heart to pause- September and back-to-school is nigh. It’s bitter-sweet, this moment, every year.
As I enjoy the long, fun weekend that celebrates American independence, I find myself trying to console my inconsolable dog who is terrified of loud sounds like thunder, fireworks and gunshots.
She hasn’t always been like this but a few years ago at a big holiday picnic, someone lit off a few firecrackers right next to us, and it has affected her deeply.
I don’t enjoy fireworks anymore, either. Not since October 7th, 2001 when my country began bombing the largely undeveloped country of Afghanistan with 21st century weaponry.
I hold a soul-deep conviction that this was wrong. That night I was awakened by the sound of a nearby garbage dumpster clanging to the ground. I tried to dive under the bed, believing we were being bombed.
Our national anthem romanticizes the ‘bombs bursting in air’ yet the bombs that rained on Afghanistan burst more than just air- they burned the flesh of people who had no understanding of what was happening to them.
I understand the counter arguments. I realize there were terrorists hiding amid the tribes in the mountains. But we used a cannon to try to destroy a termite, apparently without considering the consequences of the ‘collateral,’ and cultural damage.
I believe in kharma – that our choices yield real consequences and that we will eventually be held accountable them. And as a nation we have a great deal to answer for. And some of those things could have been avoided.
Baldwin describes the act of drawing as a powerful means to know something on an intimate level, whether it be a single flower or an entire landscape.
In an increasingly disconnected and attention-deficient world, sketching the veins on a leaf or the mountains out the living room window can help ground us in place and time, train our gaze towards the ordinary beauty we would otherwise skim over.
While her finished illustrations are stunning, Baldwin stresses the importance of process over product. “Regardless of what the final drawing looks like,” she writes, “I always see more when I draw.”
Do you sketch when you travel? Document flowers and bugs in your garden? Tell us about it, share your work!
How do we learn to live with people who aren’t like us?
Mahzarin Benaji researches unconscious bias at Harvard. She discussed her fascinating and important research this week on the podcast On Being.
Dr. Benaji uses the word “implicit” instead of “unconscious,” because of
“the implication that the unconscious is this incredibly motivated, smart process that is constantly trying to do things that are in my interest and shove away the deep dark secrets of my childhood that I don’t wish to remember. And the science has not produced good evidence for that.”
“‘Are you the good person you yourself want to be?’ And the answer to that is no, you’re not. And that’s just a fact. And we need to deal with that if we want to be on the path of self-improvement.”
Who is ‘Other’?
According to Dr. Benaji’s findings, distrusting the ‘other’ has provided, until recently, an evolutionary advantage: discernment about who to embrace into one’s community was a useful filter in an agrarian culture.
But in today’s global world, this inner program doesn’t serve us when we are, for instance, hiring someone, or choosing the best candidate for a program. Someone who looks and speaks in strange-to-us ways is quite often the best choice. Yet those who haven’t experienced multiple cultures in a community like a university, urban life or the workplace still operate from this ancient, implicit view. This might explain some of the Trump phenomenon.
Apparently without direct experience of ‘others.’ we are not inclined to consider their humanness. In the wake of the horrifying Orlando shooting, teaching tolerance is clearly an urgent need.
Instead of the word tolerance Dr. Benaji prefers the word understanding. Understand comes from Old English and is literally stand, read as viewpoint, and under meaning beneath or unconscious.
You are the Unreliable Narrator!
For an example of how unreliable our automatic perception can be, have a look at the Selective Attention Test video. If you haven’t already, watch the vid and follow the instructions carefully.
Are you willing to challenge your automatic assumptions?
I live on a lovely little bay off the Potomac River, downstream from Washington, DC. It’s alive with turtles and catfish and migrating water birds. Bald eagles nest in the woods nearby, along with osprey, woodpeckers, red-tailed hawks and many other birds.
But my bay, and the larger Chesapeake, is choked with foul rotting algae much of the year, the result of excess ‘nutrients’ from farms, sewage, run-off and lawn fertilizers. The sewage plant has recently had to absorb the waste outflow from a gigantic new development over 12 miles away, with more than 5,000 residents and 13 million visitors annually.
While National Harbor has brought jobs and tourist dollars to Prince Georges County, which has never benefited as much as surrounding counties from DC’s economic growth, this overwhelms the sewage treatment facilities resulting in more filth in my bay.
Few people consider how their toilet flushing, lawn chemicals, street run-off or local farm waste are affecting our natural environment.
And yet our river is quite healthy for an urban river, as the birds and the fish who still live here will testify. In many places the situation is much, much worse.
The voracious habits of the developed world, now exported to China and India’s millions of aspiring workers, are only accelerating the pace. In my lifetime we’ve destroyed most of the ancient forests on the planet, and killed half of the wild creatures that roamed the earth.
It’s for a lot of reasons. Some come from a good place — they think, hey, we want better for you. The life of an artist is hard. Be a bricklayer, a doctor, a ROCKET LAWYER, something, anything. Art is how you lose. Art is how you die. Don’t be an artist, because we don’t want to see you struggle, starve, and go mad.
Some of the reasons come from a deeply cankerous place: jealousy (“why do you get to fritter away your hours MAKING ART and I have to sell toilets?”) or misunderstanding (“art isn’t work, it’s just lazy piffle for lazy losers”) or alien menace (“ART GIVES HUMAN BEINGS HOPE AND IT MAKES THEM MORE RESISTANT TO HOSTILE TAKEOVER FROM EXTRATERRESTRIAL FORCES”).
Some governments don’t want artists because art is truth, even when couched in illusion or deception. Some schools don’t want art because how do you test art, and everything is about the test, goddamnit. Want to get a mortgage? Tell them you’re an artist and ha ha ha oh shit.
Art is a hobby, art is a waste of time, art is a thing you do when you’re in elementary school or in the retirement home. It isn’t a life. It isn’t a career. FUCK YOU, NO ARTING.
Chuck Wendig’s blog goes on to explore where his will to persist arises from. For him, it involves a lot of fierce defiance, a big don’t-tell-me-what-to-do with a lot of cursing. And, I get that, being infuriated by this ignorant culture and the stacked deck that creatives seem to face.
But what if that “F-you” attitude doesn’t really energize you? What if your art needs to be about connecting and caring? What if you really DO care what other people think?
To some extent Chuck is absolutely right, Nobody wants you to be an artist. There’s plenty of discouragement to go around.
But listen inside: YOU DO. YOU want to create, pursue, invent, explore.
Then get to work.
Forget perfection. You can’t control success. You aren’t anybody else. You are you. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes in you. Let their disbelief charge your batteries.
You can believe in you.
Focus on today. Not tomorrow. Not next year. Make something. Create something.
That’s the place I need to dwell. I want to paint. I live for creating. So, back to work! I have buttercups to paint. It’s great work if you give it to yourself.
In honor of Mother’s Day, I want to share the music and work of Jennifer Berezan with you. Berezan is appearing in concert May 27th in Washington DC for the first time, and I am thrilled to get to hear her.
Jennifer is a unique blend of singer/songwriter and activist. She has recorded over ten albums, and in them you can hear the sacred energy arising from her Buddhism and earth-based spirituality. Jennifer lives her commitment to environmental, women’s, and other justice movements.
Singing Praises for the World
Jennifer’s music is woven with the sacred nature of the Divine, and her work calls of a healing of the world. Listen to a few minutes of “Song for All Beings” and you can hear the invocations, the blessing, the love.
Not only a performer, Jennifer Berezan teaches music and healing, as well as leads sacred pilgrimages throughout Europe. I dream of journeying with her on the Women’s Pilgramage to Malta that she co-leads with archeo-mythology scholar Joan Marler. They visit sacred ancient places like the Ġgantija, the megalithic temple to the Goddess, the world’s second-oldest manmade religious monument.