Steps in the Garden

I have 2 pictures this week of steps in Peckerwood Garden and decided to pull in some older images of other steps to make a collection. This highlights the point that although this is an amazing garden, well worth visiting and learning about, it is not accessible.

Although they are now beginning to address this issue, it will be an ongoing issue and will not be addressed on a large scale for quite some time. Many of the issues lie in areas that are protected from changes so addressing the issue is not a simple one. But the current plan is to develop alternate paths that address the issues and progress is slow but they are working on it.

A Time of Transition

Changes happen all the time. Sometimes they are small or small in comparison to other things. Other times they seem huge and consuming but may or may not actually be. Right now is one of those times for me. After 5 years here at one of the most amazing gardens I have ever seen I am moving forward and helping them prepare for their next steps forward. This has been a long process as I gave notice in February to allow plenty of time for a transition. We negotiated the original move date to allow them more time to find someone and me more time to transition meaning I am now moving at the end of this month. Several stages of planning, applications, and direction have passed with varying degrees of certainty and levels of adjustment to change they would bring.

Many hours at work have been spent in meetings coordinating work and tasks to prepare them for a new structure and person. Many hours have gone into documenting every task in the job and organizing the office and supplies with the new funding that finally allows a proper set of storage supplies and equipment.

I have been here through a lot of changes at the garden and at home. When I started we were desperately broke, went rapidly down to 2 staff, and I worked closely with the founder most days, the property was private property, and our guest count was around 2000 a year. In these 5 years we have developed a real budget that includes major refurbishment projects, we have tackled the deferred maintenance from a couple decades, we have added a director of horticulture and a nursery manager, we have gone fully public garden, and we had more than 2000 guests in March alone this year. Where this garden can go from here is open to the imagination and it will remain a critical time of history that I was able to be a part of.

Leaving is a professional choice and a personal one that is allowing me to return to Hawaii and pursue a life I choose. But the changes will be massive in many ways. I am leaving my home, my life, my job, most possessions, my online business, my husband, and many friends behind. On the other hand, I will be working every day and returning to a place I previously lived, I will still be me, I will still eat and play and live, I will still love the things I do now, I will still be married, and I will still connect to my friends mostly online. So, maybe it isn’t as much a change as it first seems.

As I talk to each person in my life and communicate these happenings I see many responses and it often amuses me how people react and how the reactions change when they know where I am going. It is interesting those that you seem to feel an emotional disconnect the moment they learn you are leaving the state as opposed to those that immediately want to be sure you know how important you are and have been to them or the company. It is interesting those that wish you well and are sad for the loss until they hear Hawaii and then they are dismissive or jealous as opposed to those that grow more concerned for the distance and costs involved. Friends that step out and support or those that smile and nod are neither one a surprise since I have done this before. But this is the longest time I have had to prepare and communicate and to see the developments as they happen and not from the distance of one that has already done the unexpected.

Returning to life

The desk was cold and hard. the room was noisy, but in a distant way that crashed like waves on the bubble she felt around her. Being here was odd, fascinating, wonderful, scary, and felt like an impossible blend of familiar and strange.
Returning to university had been hard but she was glad she had acted on her decision. sitting here waiting for class to start she watched this room full of kids half her age and smiled. In some things she related all too well and in others it was like dealing with another species that grew up on another world. She has friends in this room and others she barely knows. A few she barely tolerates but that is the nature of a university. This is not her first or even her second. It also won’t be her last but she will graduate here.
Emotional distance has kept her going for some time now. Getting here hadn’t been easy but it was worth it. That morning she had been up early as every other day to get to one of her 5 jobs. Every break in class was an hour or two she could be at work and tuition was high. The sun from the window behind her caught the sparkle on one girl’s toe as she moved then on her finger. Watching the girl she recognized the ring from work that morning. Washing the dishes in the cafeteria was soothing in a way but sometimes the private university students were rude to staff they considered beneath them. This girl she remembered came through not long after the hilariously stoned boy that had been shocked by her hand reaching out the window for his plates.
A voice broke into her watching as someone realized she was there and joined her. The group project was halfway done and the team needed to meet soon. On her other side sat a friend from last night’s gaming session. These kids were bringing her back and although they didn’t know it, healing her.

After the past few years seeing the world with college students in this small, secluded place was exactly the separation from life she needed. Community college had been good. She had finished both programs. But she hadn’t gotten the certificates because she left before the optional test. Community college was still in Houston though and that was the last place she wanted to be. Here she was in the world of this small school and these people that saw the world fresh and light with none of the darkness she had seen in the world.

Darkness was there but here she could remember how to find the balance inside to deal with it. Here she could remember the important things not what business and society said was important but rather those things that make people smile or laugh. Learning with them and teaching in the writing center reminded her that helping and teaching healed both people.

Walking

Looking back on it later she remembered heat, dry grass, walking, and the realization that something had to change.
Walking along the side of the road in the dry grass was mind numbing. Heat pressed down on the leather jacket and pants. Her hair was damp from sweat and the T-shirt clung wetly to her skin. The heat was almost visible and the humidity was so high you could feel the air touching you. She could feel a sunburn even through the jacket.
It felt like she had been at this for quite some time but she wasn’t certain how far she had gone or how long she had walked. Starting in Hempstead she had headed first for Houston then decided to go to Rosenberg from the edge of Houston. That was a drive she had done many times and even in a car it felt long.

A couple of short rides and fending of men that felt a ride meant they deserved sex and she had lunch in Rosenberg. Her ex girlfriend was pleasant and commented how much calmer she was when wired. watching her ex eat as they talked she never even wanted any of the food.

Now, she was walking into Houston. The roads were mostly empty of businesses in this area but more would start showing up soon. Horns honked and hate was hurled from windows at the woman in motorcycle gear walking in the summer heat. Golden grass was so dry it was noisy under her feet and snapped rather than bending. Heat shimmers rippled around her and she was thirsty all the time.
It felt like long stretches of road weren’t there because she didn’t really remember walking them. She just walked in the direction she was going and kept moving. Thoughts rolled continuously but grew increasingly random and sometimes she wondered if she had missed a point of logic somewhere. Sleep was a distant memory she had avoided longer than she could really count. Speed and constant movement kept her going. She remembered weeks of going from place to place, pool hall to pool hall, friends place to stranger’s party, hotel lobbies to university campuses, and always looking for entertainment. When one group stopped being active and got sleepy or boring there was always something else to do.

At some point a clock in front of a bank flashed the current temperature of 115 degrees and her brain suddenly wondered when was the last time she ate and why had she not noticed how hot it was. This couldn’t be healthy. Another mile or two down the road she was sure it had been days, as many as 2 weeks but there had been protein drinks in there and a diet drink here and there. That couldn’t be good. Her body was still wired but coming down. She could remember every time it had tried to come down recently and she had taken more to roll it a bit further. It hurt to come down. When she came down she had to see her life and feel her body, recognize where she was. She couldn’t avoid the depression and voices when she came down. Looking in the mirror she saw a stranger and had no idea what to do about it.
There was a whole foods in the parking lot and as she thought she decided she needed the smoothie shown on the sign. With no other options available she stopped at the payphone and called a friend to get her. She didn’t know if he would but she knew he wouldn’t try to get something from her because she needed help.
Sitting there and slowly drinking the smoothie, she waited. mind numb and crashing she just waited. When they reached his place she went to sleep. Sometime a couple days later she began to realize what happened and what she needed to do. Change came in with the heat of summer and walking that may have been hours and may have been days. Life, she realized had been waiting there all along.

A memory of winter

Campus was quiet. The crackle of ice and drips were the loudest thing she heard where voices and movements of more than fifty thousand students usually filled the space with a constant background hum that had become the baseline for quiet for her. this small section of campus, a square hidden on the back corner was never as busy but even for this week, silence was something she had never felt here. Everything glittered and glowed in the diffuse white light of a winter day like few that came to this region. Every plant was a shining light against the white ground. Trees drooped and arched, reaching down to better show off the icy coats that were so rare here. Chill wind did not usually make her smile but nothing was going to ruin her enjoyment of an empty city, that for once didn’t press on her mind with the constant assault and pressure of thousands of people within every block living and moving around her. Outside campus most of the city was still there but they hunkered down in their homes, pulling their minds and attention inside, away from the dangerous storms and destructive ice that blanketed the city. Roads glittered, empty and quiet. Even the interstates were peaceful in their lazy paths. Occasional sirens broke the silence marking the location of any that ventured out like birds calling warning to the flock and stiring snow flurries in their rise that would blanket the space and cover all traces of their disturbance. Her heavy cloak caught a gust of wind and wrapped tight around her, it’s black a stark shadow in the jewel tinted day. Tendrils of hair peeked out near her hands, having tangled in a gust of wind when she reached out to touch the chill trees beside the campus clinic.

A Question of Support

One thing after another recently raises the question of what do we support and how, along with the question of are we giving tacit consent to things we claim to disagree with. This is part of the can we separate the art from the artist question. The obvious ones are companies acting in ways we disapprove of and illegally, and artists of all types that have done things contrary to a civilized culture. But the question runs into every area of life at this point. I have read numerous articles, discussions, comment threads, and had conversations about the topic and noticed several good points and bad points.

Tacit consent is a touchy subject for many people. Are we consenting when we fail to speak up? What about when we purchase something created by someone that has done the questionable thing? What about when we make excuses? At what point do our words of dissent become lies or manipulation when we refuse to put our money and our actions behind them? At what point are we becoming hypocrites when we chose to prioritize our immediate gratification over our principles? At what point are we proving yourself untrustworthy when we manipulate our religion or political stance to support one thing at the expense of so many others. At what point do we become the monster we can’t see when we refuse to support what is right and what supports a just, equal, peaceful, and healthy society in favor of an ideal or convenience that have overridden our judgment?

Many acts have no place in a civilized society and in a developed nation. these acts have no place in any society, but we have recourse in a society based on laws and culture to stop them when we may not have previously. It is not that the acts have become wrong and were not before, it is that we as a society have grown and learned to have the conversations about consent and equality, about communication and justice. We have opened the discussion to include more peoples and groups and have been forced to face the reality of inappropriate behaviors that we allowed previously. We have expanded the space of equality enough to show the distance we need to go. Science has developed to the point to show the inaccuracy of statements and beliefs previously held as true. Technology has developed to allow greater connectivity and equality. We cannot go backward and close our minds and eyes to what we know.

Future generations will address these and other issues and they will be rooted in the disputes of today. When I learn a better way of thinking and communicating I embrace it and open my mind, I move forward in a new path and let go of the misconceptions that I had. In this same way, when I learn that a person has done things I can not condone then when I move forward I have a choice to either accept those actions as less important that the item the person creates or to forgo that entertainment or need in favor of an alternative that I am willing to support.

Yes, when we put our money toward a name, be it a person or a company, we are supporting their actions and their words. When we buy the ticket to the movies made by a pedophile or known rapist we provide our statement that we are more interested in that 2 hour entertainment than we are in justice and right behavior. When we vote for a political candidate that lies, cheats, and holds other ideals than the laws and constitution of our nation then we are stating that our moral sense is flexible and we will support what is selfish and easy above what is right.

Acceptance of wrong actions such as discrimination, sexual assault, fraud, and violence is counter to living in a society. The questions and answers may not be clear cut and simple but each time we decide we are making a statement of support or dissent. It is up to us which we chose but we must know that others will choose to hold us to that and we must accept the responsibility of our actions.

The population of the world is vast and the popular names of celebrities, artists, and politicians are limited and heavily manipulated by corporations and media so we see these few people as amazing and rare talents, forgetting that millions of others would stand in those shoes if given the chance. Others with talent are not seen or not upheld. We have limited ourselves not been limited by the available sources. Their actions or publicity neither improves nor negates their qualities and skills. However, it does negate their acceptability as a spokesperson and example for future generations.

Should the error of a man that assaults a woman erase his future as a public figure? Let’s rephrase that though. The rape of a person is grounds for baring the rapist from public positions and honor as an example to society. We must be aware that our words can also give tacit consent. When the woman in a coma was raped and gave birth, I saw many people arguing that it was wrong to call it rape because that implies we know what happened. No! If there is no ongoing and clear consent that has not been in any way coerced, then it is rape. Saying otherwise is consenting to allow it to continue.

I buy most of my video games used so the producers rarely see money from me and I rarely have a game anytime near when it is released. However, when I find a game and company I support and want to see supported, I will go out of my way to purchase it new and to support the team I want my money to give consent to. I am not going to discard my old movies and games that have people involved in that have been proven to be rapists unless I find that I can’t watch those movies and enjoy them without thinking about that. However, I will not go to a theater for those people. I will not buy new videos they are in. I will not give my money to their name in future and I will not forget.

Art is part of a person. When I paint, I paint from within me and my life. I paint a person as they are not as the photograph shows them to an extent. I drew someone the other day and they looked very angry. The view was angrier than the picture that was calm. However, the character is an angry and violent character and I subconsciously reflected that. My colors reflect me and what I am seeing in the art I am creating. When I sew a sleep mask it came from a place of need on my part and a desire to share what I saw as a need. The wood burning, I do represents the world around me and how I interact with it. All of art is part of a person. It is an expression of something within and of the artist’s view of what is around them.

Given that, we have yet another reason that our support is consent. If I am an environmentalist but continue to support destructive companies or buy many individually packaged disposable items how can I continue to say I am an environmentalist. Until our money supports the reality that is right there will not be change. Until we insist those around us behave in accordance to equality, justice, peace, environmental support, and social development we are consenting to the opposing actions and beliefs of those around us.

The recent uproar about a Gillette commercial is an excellent example of this part. They simply said to be a better man and stand for what is right, be strong and stand for justice. People that are upset with that have chosen to support a society of discrimination, assault, violence, and bullying because that is, according to their words now what makes a man a man.

The many directors and actors accused of sexual assault, rape, harassment, and manipulation are another example of what we are discussing. When people choose to go to those movies made by these people, they are choosing to put their consent on those people and to say that they do not insist on right behavior only on immediate gratification.

The companies that destroy our waters, violate the laws, abuse their workers, and waste materials are an example of another aspect. When we buy their products we support their choice to destroy the planet, cheat the economy, break the law, exploit the people.

Our money is our first form of consent in most of society today. Our spending habits is where we most directly how what we support and accept. We need to be vocal and active to support the things we believe in but we must also put our actions and money to support the same things.

 

A Walk in the Garden

I had a walk in the garden today and the air was chill, the sun bright, and the bees busy and happy. Having not been out for photography much recently it was really refreshing to walk in the woods.  A morning of spreadsheets left me ready for walking and fresh air, even if cooler than I like. these pictures are from today not from the trip detailed here.

The past couple of weeks have been an interesting mix. A trip to New Braunfels did not go quite as planned. It was relaxing, frustrating, painful, and quiet.

Typically, I go to New Braunfels to go to Schlitterbahn. this time, however I just wanted quiet. I took a friend for 2 quiet nights hiding from New Years which has historically not gone well. Staying at the Howard Johnson was quiet and comfortable. They were well priced, clean, and friendly. I was annoyed to find on the second night that the drain plug cannot be closed for a bath, you can only do a shower, but it wasn’t the end of the world. Staff will tell you if you chat with them that they can be somewhat inconsistent in cleaning and maintenance and I found that was true. The refrigerator was unplugged, but as long as you are nice to them they take care of anything.

My friend had to leave early so I was alone the second afternoon and night which led to the later adventures and doctor’s visit. Having purchased a new sketchbook for the trip I spent lunch sketching in Alpine Haus restaurant enjoying a quiet German lunch. It made a nice followup to the Huisache restaurant from the night before which serves American food that is well done and pretty. Although my friend was unhappy to learn quail is served mostly whole. The appetizer plate was fun. The only issue arose after returning to the hotel. that is when I learned I left my phone somewhere. Eventually I found it…it had been run over by a car.

Antique shops and thrift shops in the area filled my time after my friend was home and on the way to her doctor. A pleasant time exploring a friendly town. Near dinnertime I was debating either a poke bowl or the free apetizer at the steakhouse that the restaraunt provided when things went another direction.

My car, who I haven’t owned long but have had no problems from, overheated. I stopped to wait it out and explored Target and a couple other places in the shopping center. However, I was only just recovering from being sick and was tired so I went back to the car hoping to get to bed. this led to a hand full of 2nd degree burns and eventually a doctor visit. I saw the doctor several times and the nurse, and an assistant as my hand was checked, cleaned, treated, then wrapped. I had a prescription and instructions for care and left unsure how I would drive several hours home with my right hand bandaged like a club and hurting like hell. I am right handed and although I use my left hand often, I found it really challenging to do so when I had to.

I returned to my hotel to rest and found by morning that my hand was healing but I was getting sick again. Once I got home, after a detour to return my friend’s keys, I spent several days in bed sick. Still congested today, I can hardly hear out of my right ear.

All of this did not ruin my trip however. New Braunfels was friendly, quiet, and pleasant. May painful new years is not really a new thing and getting sick is not the fault of the trip. Pleasant weather and good food was a soothing side note to the chaos wending it’s way through my peaceful trip that remained peaceful other than moments of screaming pain and rain clouds chasing me home after.

Today, I type this with no bandages and no medication for sick, and my car shows no sign of any problem. No evidence of overheating or what caused it shows itself but she obviously felt I should have gone back to the room and rested a bit sooner…when I first thought about it.

Relationships

Relationships are a intricate part of life and communication. We have relationships of many types from casual friends, neighbors, close friends, parents, siblings, spouse, children, work, employer, and many more. How we interact, communicate, react, act, and view others depends on our relationship with them, ourselves, others our brain deems like them, and others around us at the time. Some people are more influenced by some factors than others. sometimes a close relationship can mask truly unacceptable behaviors or words because we have viewed it through a filter. But things can change those filters and that can change our relationships in every area. Every action, reaction, bias, interaction, decision, and communication we have is influenced by the others in our past. Our mind tries to predict what the outcome will be and triggers responses down to our emotional state that may or may not be appropriate from someone else’s perspective. Some people pay attention to those responses and make more active decisions about response and some are happy with that state.
Have you ever had a time when something happened that changed how you viewed a whole host of other things? Relationships are subject to this same thing. You can be is a long term relationship that has been a comfortable place you don’t want to leave for years but a major pain in another relationship can suddenly cause you to see the red flags you were ignoring before. A conflict in one situation can be the last straw that leaves you unwilling to accept similar behaviors from anyone. Sudden realization of ongoing trauma and abuse in one relationship can cause you to see it it in others. Our relationships are not vacuums and our lives are an intricate web of who we are and who we are around, and what we do and think. Just as what we say and repeat impacts what we think, so do relationships affect each other.
How does your family and your past with them impact your spousal relationship? Do you have certain behaviors that trigger responses because of childhood? Do you have tones of voice that cause you to respond in predictable ways? Do you accept behaviors or words that you don’t agree with because you feel it is how things always are? Do you expect a level of intimacy or closeness that is in some way related to what you knew from your family? Do you fear being alone more than bad relationships? Do you fear bad relationships more than being alone? Has your family changed how you give or accept trust or compassion? Have you ever looked at these things and decided to change them and be aware of them?
We spend a great deal of our time at work. In the US, we often spend the majority of our time at work. These are the people we interact with the most and they will impact our other relationships. A stressful environment at work not only changes what you need and want at home but it changes our level of patience and communication. When I go home angry at a coworker that in many ways reminds me of my husband then I am less tolerant of things I might otherwise accept in my husband. The question is sometimes should I accept those behaviors and this is just lowering my tolerance wrongly; or is it just highlighting things incompatible to a relationship I want to have? I’m not sure I can answer that even for myself.  Our work relationships may strengthen personal relationships like friends or they may strain them. I may leave with great relief to be out of there and with my friends or I may leave under too much stress to deal well with others. A happy work environment leaves you more able to have casual relationships that are not touched by work but how many of us have that?
So what about the other direction? When you fight with children or spouse in the morning do you enter the office affected by it? Maybe your commute is long enough to diffuse it or maybe it makes it worse. If you are having a long term issue with family does it change your mood at work? If it impacts your mood, it impacts your relationships. Returning to the we don’t live in a vacuum and our lives should be viewed as a whole picture not separate parts. When we try to be someone different for each hat we wear, we are straining all the others.  The cross impacts can be positive or not, both from trauma and pleasure. A terrible fight can open your eyes to things in many other areas. A peaceful and wonderful trip can highlight the unhappiness in areas of life. A depressing occurrence in one relationship can hurt other relationships or tie them closer. A new strong friendship can show flaws in other relationships or show you why you love them all.
Our work/life balance is important because it is part of how we live, how we interact, how we grow, how we connect. Change and growth is good and should remain part of our lives all our lives but we also need the stable parts that draw our core. Some people need a stable job and career. Some need a home they own and love. Some need family connections. Some need the little rituals they can do anywhere like my bedtime pot of tea. For some it is a place, others a person. For some it is a feeling or a state of being, and for others it is whole picture. But the state of that stable point impacts our relationships. Knowing what our stable point is allows us more freedom in other areas that we may not need to be as stable in as we thought in our fear of change.
Relationships are work and they require patience, acceptance of others, commitment from all involved, communication, and time. But how often do we fall into the trap of sunk costs? A marriage is a commitment we made and it should be honored and helped, worked for and treasured. However, the sunk costs of our time, commitment, work, emotional state, and years of tolerance do not equate to requiring us to keep sinking our value into it if it is a lost cause or should be ended. How far does tolerance extend? Just because we are at a fragile state and accepted things in the beginning we should not have accepted, does not mean we should continue doing so. You should grow together so if one person heals and grows and sees these issue and the other can’t join that then there is likely little to be done. If communication and passion is a one way street there is no relationship in the positive sense. that leaves you in an unequal and destructive relationship that drains one person to feed another. Instability or unequal states can be emotional, verbal, physical, economic, and any other area of the relationship. It is not wrong to reevaluate those commitments and consider that all parties must be keeping the commitments or it is not being held to value.
Friendships have the same issue of sunk costs. A close friend for many years that has drifted away on their side but you still hold in the same position can be just as much a drain on you and the pain is real when you realize it. There is no vow or legal commitment to a friendship and you can choose each day how you will continue to connect to them and nurture a friendship they no longer care about but you hold dear. In any relationship there must be balance and communication but you have to be able to see when the communication is one sided and it is not of value to try and show someone something they don’t care to be a part of. Honesty is important and they must be honest and open with you or there is no path forward.
Blindness to reality is a disservice to you, to others, and to your relationships. We need to be open and clear minded to aid our best emotional state and nurture the relationships that nurture us. We also need to build the strength in ourselves that allows us to deal appropriately with unpleasant and but inescapable relationships like often occur at work or in families.
How many drains can you allow in your life before there isn’t enough in you to live your life? What areas can you or will you change to address the overabundance of drains and add more inflow and balanced interactions?
The painting is Nemesis, acrylic on stretched canvas by me.

Society changes.

Changes happen, sometimes fast and sometimes slow but the interesting point is what changes. Often changes are skin deep or partial. I have been reading some of Asimov’s Robot series and the parallels in conversations to our society are still relevant. He shows this same point in the 50 worlds and their relationship with Earth, each other, and in particular with robots. When you look back in your own lifetime you will see many changes. Examining history beyond that reveals many more. But how many of them are complete changes in society and not overlays? How many fluctuate and move through various parts of society, thus never really uprooted? One of these is the sense of other, of the group beneath. Who that group is varies by place and time but there is a villain, a scapegoat, and an inferior. These may be each a separate group or combined in a complicated image of what a group is.

When the detective in the stories talks about the equality of robots on Aurora being only words you can see the same in society now. How many discussions have we had or read about equality for all and that this society or that doesn’t have discrimination. But inside we know that isn’t true, some are just more aware than others of the depth of the disparities. The poor don’t have the same opportunities and are portrayed as lesser people in most aspects. Different religious groups are viewed differently and often it goes so far as to call them evil and dangerous for no other reason than their faith. Races are treated vastly different in ways that range from the subtle to the downright deadly. Cultural norms of one group are considered superior or normal thus rendering all other cultures as other. Genders are not treated the same and are exposed to different expectations. Medical differences are hugely limiting on most societies I have visited or lived in. Gender or sexual variances are so divisive that many groups don’t acknowledge their existence and simply label them as evil. Educational groups are highly divided and mistrustful of each other. The difference in how corporate executives at any level view business people in other fields can be drastic in practice.
Changes happen though. Remember schools in the 1980’s and 1990’s? Remember offices in the 1990’s and 2000’s compared to recently. Suddenly we have seen a resurgence of many issues in recent months but there is a difference this time. Now, we can talk about it. some people always talked about it and always pushed for change but now you hear the discussion in the office, at school, in the news, on TV, at restaurants, and in the home. For the first time I talk to friends and we are all bringing up issues at work to be addressed and we feel that even if the changes are not made or are not complete, we are heard and we do not feel our jobs are at risk. There are still many jobs that is not true but change is permeating in a different way than it has before. What we are seeing is a society trying to change how it thinks and discusses issues which can bring about greater and more durable change. What we have is not a society with a sense of equality but rather a society trying to understand equality and trying to get all of society to see the issues. We have a society trying to communicate with each other from vast differences and sometimes succeeding better than others.

Robots on Aurora are expected to quietly stand in their niches in the wall when in a room with humans. They are not allowed in restrooms. Humans expect them to respond immediately to commands and keep silent unless there is reason or they are asked a question. I have personally been told to keep quiet at work or in churches. Expected to be quiet while the men speak or the important people talk I found myself remembering childhood in independent Baptist churches where my mother was in trouble for daring to teach men or question the word of the leaders. considering how to handle the situation I felt the feelings I had as a child told to be silent unless spoken to or brimming with anger as some man told my father to correct me and send me away from the dinner table for questioning his biblical statement that was directly in opposition to the verses I quoted to him. But then I thought of more than that, I thought of others outside myself and how their situation in this place would be different. When a coworker says a child visiting will be fine because he is a good Chinese kid he shows his racism. When a few days after saying how open he is to gays since they are a big part of this business world he makes a comment about two men that “well I think they are more than friends or coworkers are you sure you want to eat what they made?” he showed a massive bigotry and blindness to his own views. When a woman in town assumes the mas she passes is there to mow a lawn or that the man entering the courthouse is there for a drug trial when one is a business owner and the other is just getting some paperwork they show their racism. When a coworker puts his arm around me and says I need someone to protect me he is showing his sexism and is imposing intimacy on me without consent.

Reading articles, studies, news reports, and watching those around me I began to see that there was as much an issue with the deep bias and intrinsic bias as ever but that many people genuinely believe they aren’t biased. People that are opposed to discrimination will act or speak from the place of ingrained privilege and internalized bias that is so intrinsic in their society that it is normal to them. I noticed that some of them intended a compliment when they said these things. These are the things that require more than laws and regulations, they require visibility of issues, broad and pervasive conversations, they require a light to be shown on the assumptions people make and the limited viewpoints people live in.

Violence and mass shootings are growing to be commonplace in the United States and it is risking becoming a normalized part of society. Most of them are incidents that highlight these differences in society, the fear of either changes in society or of some other that has been vilified. Political discussion grow heated and angry in any arena from the home or the office to the media and online. These discussions center in almost every case I see on some aspect of other, of inequality, of difference, on fear and anger. As discussions about society and the differences between equality, justice, and equity grow and get into the commonplace they bring out fear in those that fear change and that are either aware of their bias and happy with it or unaware of their privilege and happy with it. Fear displays and anger and without opening to the discussion, the walls have come up in their mind.
When a person looks around and sees changes in society that make them think longingly of a past that they are remembering from a particular perspective. they are longing to have the next generation grow up in what they have created in their head. When people talk longingly of a simpler time, I always wonder what they mean by that. I know in general what they are thinking of but when you compare that image to the worldwide reality you can’t help but think it is so much more than unrealistic but that it was never a reality. Many people think back fondly to a happy childhood but how would their grandparents remember that same time? My parents worked hard and tried to buffer their kids from some things but they wanted us to know what was really happening. When we struggled to put food on the table I knew it. I don’t look back and think that a simpler time because while it was in theory simple for children my parents were literally killing themselves to survive and my friends from other countries lived in fear, my neighbors died in shootings or fires, and I knew to stay out of reach of any man in his 50’s.

Today, men in their 50s are still most likely to touch me inappropriately or say unacceptable things in situations like work or with guests. But I am not a child anymore, I am in my 40s so it is different. We still have victim blaming and shaming, especially regarding rape and race issues. People still fear for their safety when doing simple tasks, especially any person that knows they are an other by race, religion, relationship orientation, or medical needs. Doctors still tell patients that they need to lose weight rather than evaluating actual medical needs or seeing medical causes of their weight or even noticing when every test shows they are healthy. Black men are still more likely to be shot before arrested than any other group in the US. We have a lot of work to do. A conversation is a step but it is a step that causes reactive changes both positive and negative.
We can’t ignore our past or hide it. We can’t ignore the problems now. But we also need to acknowledge the steps that are working, not to pat ourselves on the back but to know what else we can do and what is working. When we discuss them we need to be honest about both positive and negative impacts of the work and changes. Science and research must be a guiding director that leads the conversation.

My high school had 2 black students. How many of that student body do you think came out of there and took the time and effort to learn and open their experience? In our school taxes was taught as the primary reason for the civil war. Christopher Columbus was a hero and religious leaders made historical lists above any social justice leader. Evolution was taught but in the context of a disproven theory, highlighting only faulty projects. My point is not to discuss the faults of my school but to highlight the ongoing need and some of why the issue is what it is today. Our education system is fractured and varied and filled with bias reinforcement. When students are taught to study using confirmation bias then they have a longer and harder path to understanding the issues and they must want to get there.

Conversation around me in the small town I am in or in groups of guests at work reveal the dominant biases and entitlement issues in play. Many people genuinely believe a woman in a short skirt or with sexy underwear is at fault in rape. They genuinely believe a man that has rapec or is okay with it is unbiased for a court trial but any woman that has even been harassed isn’t… actually the issue is they don’t want unbiased. People genuinely believe it is understandable that a cop shot a black man that was unarmed, the cop feared for his life. They genuinely believe it is okay a woman died in the jail a few miles away because if she wasn’t a criminal it wouldn’t have happened… Nevermind that her crime was a misdemeanor like their speeding. They genuinely believe asylum seekers are illegal and dangerous. They genuinely hold racial biases about most groups. I could go on for hours about the conversations I witness but it progresses nothing beyond teaching us that we have a lot of work ahead of us.

Meditation Series – part 5: development of a practice.

Meditation practice is a staged development, that flows and fluctuates with our inner self.
You first focus on awareness, focus, the positioning of the body, and calming the mind. You are developing the receptivity to seeing inside and the peace to sit in calm awareness and quiet.

Next, you will reach the stage of introversion where you can view your self, your emotions, your fears, your doubts, memories, and internal connections. These can be re framed in a different perspective of the same, to change your response. The act of acknowledging these things changes them. Simply having the receptivity to see them as they are and not as you want or fear to see them, changes how they affect you. You practice letting them go in meditation and you will see the root of them.

Next, is the subconscious states that are the true beginning of meditation. This is where you begin to truly touch the subconscious mind, the energy, and the knowledge. This is where you move toward the goals of self-realization, transcendence, enlightenment, and bliss.
You start your practice in non-threatening, quiet, controlled settings to develop the foundation that allows you to delve into other forms of meditation and to take those you do to new levels and methods. You will be distracted, you will think of other things, you will have that annoying itch, you will want something to listen to. The practice of silence (even if it is only one of the forms you use) will help you learn to let them go. Experience them, acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them, fight them, or have emotions about them. That is why you start with a focus, whether it is a physical thing like the flame, a word, a thought like compassion, or an action like breathing.

We have through this series used a lot of terms and names you may not know offhand but you will find as you research that many forms of meditation have multiple names. Partially this is because the same form may come from multiple cultures and thus the names and even translations may vary. Also, we continue to develop new names as branches continue and branch again into new varieties of the same basic form.
Open monitoring for instance is a term I only heard recently because there are so many other names for the same thing. This is the silent observation forms where you are simply present and fully aware and immersed in the moment and what is. Most mindfulness meditations will fall into this type. Another example of this is Shikantaza from Japan. it is, like many in this group, a Zen based meditation.
Focused attention is another one but it is both fairly obvious and little different than the term I have used throughout, focused. Just like it sounds, these forms focus on something. The focus can be words, sounds, breath, an object, a point, or a body. You will also see this referred to as concentrative meditation. Mantra meditations such as transcendental meditation can be very helpful for focusing and clearing the mind. The specific mantras vary by form and culture and the tones tend to have very long histories and purpose. Those in the TM practice came out of the Vedic traditions.

There are some, like Vipessana (or in Tibetan rather than Sanskrit
lhagthong) that use aspects of both forms. Samatha is a form that also does but it is often today a paired form with Vipessana and you develop both together. The very long history of these forms leaves a lot of room for research and discussion about how they combine or don’t. “According to Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “samatha, jhana, and vipassana were all part of a single path.”” The early roots are Theravada but it ended in the 10th century and was revived in the 18th. The idea of open observation is to see all without interpretation, expectation, editing, self, or bias. You are seeing physical phenomenah such as breathing without engaging with it. It is not you, it simply is.
Vipassanā jhanas are stages describing the development of samatha. The four vipassanā jhanas are: one – explore the body/mind connection, nonduality; discover three characteristics. See these points in the presence of vitakka and vicara. two – in which the practice feels effortless, Vitaka and vicara disappear. three – piti/joy disappears leaving only happiness (sukha) and concentration. four – purity of mindfulness due to equanimity, leads to direct knowledge. Comfort disappears in seeing the dissolution of all phenomena. All phenomenon is seen as unstable, transient, and disenchanting. The desire of freedom.
Other methods that combine forms often combine an empty or open meditation with another form. Some examples are shambhala, loving-kindness, open awareness, analytic, mindfulness, dzogchen, and stabilizing. Chakra meditations probably fall in this group also.

Several forms use prayer bead such as those found in Catholicism, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism.
Taoist meditations were heavilly influenced by Buddhism and like many of the others we discussed have a very long history. Ding is the concentrative form. It is also called intent concentration or perfect observation. Guan or observe is to obtain unity with the Dao. Cun is is a visualization tequnique to be present and increase longevity. Inward training of the qi through breathing tequnices are another form. The sit and forget form from the 3rd century is an empty form. Internal martial arts or neijia include qigong, neidan, taijiquan. The related meditation forms are quigong, zuochan, nd taijiqan.

Many faiths have forms that combine prayer and meditation such as the Catholic rosary. Judais, Bahai, and Islam each have a combination form that falls in this group.
Chakra meditation could take a post of their own and are something you should look into if you choose to practice meditation regularly. they are often incorporated into meditation practices and used with other types of meditation.

Forced Intimacy – hugs, personal information, consent, and space

Weather has halted my bug project and I hope to work on it over my days off next week. In the meantime I have continued the meditation series and I have a side piece I have written…

Forced intimacy – hugs, personal information, consent, and space

I have read several articles recently about forced intimacy from a variety of perspectives. Few of them were rape related or directly related to sexual consent although that is where most people’s minds first go. Instead the conversations were about forced physical contact, emotional contact, information sharing, and other types of intimate coercion. Several things have really struck me in this.

First is that for most of my life there has been the social expectation of many of these forced intimacy and forced consent situations on people. This is really the first time I have seen these discussions seriously entertained and continued not laughed off. While we have huge amounts of progress to be made we have at least gotten to where the discussions can start. For the first time people can say that children should not be forced to accept intimate physical contact and explain why. For the first time people can talk about the difficulties of living in the world as society has built it when they have disabilities hat require assistance or design considerations. For the first time employees like myself can discuss in serious terms with our companies how we can address the accessibility issues onsite and feel people are listening and actively considering the issue not risking our position.

Second is the impact on today’s society of the assumptions made previously. I often hear opponents of many topics say things about what their parents did as examples that it doesn’t cause damage or why it is good. But that very argument shows otherwise. they are demonstrating a lack of compassion and ability to be open to the discussion. They are demonstrating the continuation of the abuse cycle because it is just how they think it should be. They are showing they cannot conceive of a better way or a healthy society that renders these things obsolete. Damage has been done but the alternatives are still in flux and discussion so the issues are not clear to everyone and I don’t see them becoming so anytime soon.

What are people talking about when discussing forced intimacy that is not sexual or not considered sexual by observers? The first article that comes to mind is one that discuses the forcing of little girls to accept hugs and why it is not okay. Forcing them to accept hugs that make them uncomfortable teaches them they have no choice in who touches them, who is physical with them, how physical someone is, how they choose to interact on an interpersonal level. If they have compromised immune systems or are regularly in contact with someone that does then lives can be at risk. If they are highly introverted or have social anxieties then it can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable for them. If the people are subtly doing inappropriate things it is just wrong. I was a little girl and am now a woman that looks younger than I am. Men will often try to force a “friendly” hug on you. Hands stray uncomfortably close to where they have no business, they crush you in close as you cringe and pull away and they laugh.

I am open for hugs and happy to hug many people. I am an introvert but I am also a professional and know that it is an expected part of business and life in the south. But that is the point, I know it is expected that I will smile and pretend to be okay with it and not show that the not quite visibly inappropriate men make me uncomfortable. However, it has changed over the years, there is already improvement. Most guests do not reach in to hug instantly now, they may reach out to shake hands and more than a few actually wait to see what I will do first. So, we are making progress in understanding the issue. Women are more likely to lean in for a hug but are less likely to be as close and crushing about it as some years ago. I think most women expect that any woman is okay with a hug from another woman, which is likely typically true but still I would prefer to have an indication of what people want in their space prior to initiating close contact.

Another point of intimacy is personal facts, feelings, and medical information that people are asked to share. One of the articles discussed places, especially venues, that are only partial accessible and rather than posting details of what their accessibility is and how they accommodate needs, they ask people to tell them what their needs are. Some of those are probably trying to be nice and offer personalized help but that singles people out when it could just be a part of how things are done. It also asks them to share personal information when they should not need to. Beyond that, many places are not fully accessible so guests may be required to rely on other people. So let’s consider how that looks in practice.

When you see a person approaching a door that looks like they need help most people assume the polite thing to do is step up and open it. However, they are likely to prefer you ask “may I help?” first. Also, their needs may dictate how is best to open the door. I tend to open it so that I am behind the door with it between the person and I so that they have all the space and can avoid contact if they prefer. I would never reach my hand out and grab a person without permission. If they look like they need an arm I will ask if they want assistance and offer my arm waiting for them to indicate how is best for them. I learned this from my mother as she grew older and had more medical issues. She often required assistance but she was fiercely independent and had a strong sense of personal space. Recently in learning from friends and reading I have grown to understand even more and to see that even in that, there is assumptions on my part and that it is not my place to assume they need or that I know what they need. If I have the capacity I should ensure ease of access for as many as possible but I cannot assume the personal contact needs of others.

I work at a public garden still in transition, which means our accessibility is at best described as under development. Our founder lives on property, but as he grows older the garden is a challenge even for him and he designed it and built it. Being available to him as needed but not imposing has taught me a lot about how it is different when work space and home space intersect. I am often a buffer for him and help for others to understand the balance he prefers. The expectations of others is changing and they are more likely now to ask his preferences and agree we shouldn’t press him if he is uncomfortable.

I think this brings me back to my basic point. The question is one of comfort levels. If someone is uncomfortable then something is wrong and we have no right to force people into those situations. It isn’t necessary. they do’t need to hug in greeting or enter the home when there is a table and chairs on the porch. There is a growing understanding of the concept of personal choice and active consent.

What I am seeing now is a growing conversation about consent. In a culture that has normalized forced consent in so many areas this is a huge change is is both uncomfortable for many and slow to develop. Many talk about what rape culture means but often you hear a lot less about the details of that, like the casual moments of intimacy that are expected and the level of consent that people are expected to give. It is an interesting and very in depth topic that can branch in hundreds of ways.

Meditation series part 4: Active meditation

Active Meditation is recommended for those with some experience with passive meditation. However, it can feel easier to those that have trouble with the extended passive meditations sessions. It will be effective on its own but a time of passive meditation should be combined with it for best results.
Quoting one source “Once the ego mind has quieted down after passive meditation, and you then shift into an active form of meditation, this is where you can truly harness the power of meditation for creating inner transformation and charging up with new energy.”

The first example many people will think of is the use of meditative yoga or walking. Other actions and work activities can be meditative: think of raking a zen garden. Any task you can drop into a meditative state while doing is appropriate.
All meditation trains your attention but active meditation can be a great help to those that have trouble with long periods of sitting or quiet. Although it is recommended as a later stage if it is needed to help train your mind, it is the right time.

Active meditations are used to develop a connection between mind and body, drawing your attention to breathing and making use of the adaptive network of the brain. As in passive meditation, active meditation will have distractions. Simply acknowledge them in general terms and let them pass. Do not try to make them go away or identify them, just let them go and focus on your breathing. This practice is one of the stages of developing full awareness and connection to all parts of the body and feeling every part of it.

The 4 types of meditative yoga are pratyahara, dharana, dhyana, and samadhi. Research and try different yoga forms and activities when you are learning.

In active meditation, you are using some of the same principles as in a mindfulness meditation. Here it is with intent to engage all your senses in the focus. This is often aided in early stages by having an actual physical focus such as a sound, a flame, a bowl of water, something you can physically interact with and engage the senses to help train yourself. This is one of many reasons active meditation is not step one, but a physical focus can be used in active meditation.

Walking meditations: think of the Christian practices like James Way in Spain. Many people walk to clear their head or relieve stress. Time to walk at lunch can change the work day. At many jobs or schools I have used lunch as a time for some type of meditation to keep stress down. In Zen, walking meditation is called kinhin and is combined with extensive sitting meditation.

I prefer to do walking meditation outside but it can be done in an office or other room. You know meditation mazes, paths, and other things designed to focus you but you usually just walk, pause, breath, and be a part of only walking. Two forms are done. One is a clearing and open form that is less focus than empty. The one we are discussing here is clearing the mind by focusing on walking. Do not go on autopilot, that is why it helps during work. For 10 minutes be actively aware of the steps and breathing and nothing else.

Start by being aware of the major components of walking: the lifting of a foot; then the standing and slow movement of that foot forward; then the foot lands on the floor, feel it; feel the weight shift off that foot and how the foot begins to lift. Different forms focus on breathing, the movement itself, the sounds you cause, or other parts of the walking.
Work meditations include gardening or cleaning. Think of monks and the work they do. Working at a garden I hear many people talk about gardening and although they may or may not intend it that way, they use it as meditation. The practice is very similar to walking.

Art meditations: think of the zen doodles or free-form painting. Other activities include flower arranging (Ikebana), calligraphy (Shodō), and archery (Kyūdō). Really, you have no limitations in art meditation and the details vary. This is definitely one I recommend. Art is a release anyway so it’s a perfect outlet. I do free form sewing sometimes also and you can research this and try activities for years without exhausting the options. Some are open or empty mind to allow the art to express. Others are focused like the walking.
Dancing: think of Dhikr in Sufism, trance meditations, Mevlevi Dervish and Sama. I love dance meditation. Although I have not done it recently, it was my primary form for a long time. When I would dance, I was alone even in a crowd. The only thing that existed was dancing. Fully immersed in dance you find a completely different place of meditation than walking or working. My choice is the free form dance with music that you just do as it feels.

Exercise meditation can be any form of exercise but most the recognizable will be yoga or tai chi. Tai chi is also the first option most think of regarding martial meditation. This is another section that could be a series of books to itself do I recommend research and trying them. Even if you plan to practice alone, taking a class can really help you. You want to learn the forms enough that you are not thinking about them. You want to be able to meditate.
Again with meditative there are many forms that include both open and focused. Empty mind forms often use yoga. Focused forms are often guided or use equipment like weights, blocks, straps, muscle focus, or music. Your form must be right both for safety and to be most effective. Take the time and training to perfect your form and work up gradually from repeating a couple of perfect forms to more. Yoga, for instance is good for you and the learning time is stress relief itself.
As with all meditation, find what works for you and in your path. Research, experience, and think of you in the activities. The important point is a consistent and continuous practice that you do every day. A combination of types can give you a way to do that. In some jobs I did yoga at lunch and sitting forms at night. Other places I walked at lunch or meditated on the beach before work and did a water meditation after. What I need changes, what is available changes, time availability changes. It will grow easier to make time but start by working we within your schedule and altering it as little as possible. You are building a practice and it will develop.

Meditations Series part 3 – Short sessions and tea

Short sessions and mindfulness practices to help build your meditation skills. They are not a full practice in themselves but are a useful and helpful addition to life.
Quoting an article from Science News: “Zeidan likens the brief training the participants received to a kind of mental calisthenics that prepared their minds for cognitive activity.
“The simple process of focusing on the breath in a relaxed manner, in a way that teaches you to regulate your emotions by raising one’s awareness of mental processes as they’re happening is like working out a bicep, but you are doing it to your brain. Mindfulness meditation teaches you to release sensory events that would easily distract, whether it is your own thoughts or an external noise, in an emotion-regulating fashion. This can lead to better, more efficient performance on the intended task.””
There are a lot of brief exercises that can be done anywhere that are tools to help you learn the process and to help you with stress management.
One is Anchoring. Stop, breath, and feel your feet (remove shoes if you can.) Just feel whatever sensations they are feeling, feel them completely and move up through your lower body. This can be done sitting ,standing, walking, or riding.
Another is the many forms of simple breathing exercises that can help you with your breathing during longer meditation sessions. Some of them you count, some you just feel the breath. Most involve slowing the breathing to breath deep and even. One even uses a simple motion to focus you…run a finger slowly along the sides of the fingers on your other hand. Starting with the thumb, you breath in as you go up and out as you go down. If you pause to do this with both hands you have a decent moment of meditation that is small and contained enough to do in most offices.
One breathing exercise/mindfulness exercise came from a medical journal recommending it to doctors in a busy hospital. It uses a doorway because that is a natural passage from one metal space into another. Pause before opening the door. Stop walking, reach for the handle, close your eyes and take 1-3 deep breaths before you open the door.
Tea is my preferred choice to stop to focus and center. The practice of stopping for a few breaths to focus just on those breaths and clearing the mind and emotions can help settle you, prepare you, and maintain your self and peace. Pause before entering a room and be present and aware, breath and feel the door handle you are touching or the feeling of your feet on the ground. But, let’s be more specific, how do I use tea as a meditative practice?
A tea meditation starts when you enter the room or space you will prepare the tea. You slow down and do each thing with intent, mindfulness, and quiet. Think about the traditional tea ceremonies. This is the same idea. The full ritual continues through finishing the tea and cleaning up after. When you are busy at work, you may only have time to do it in 2 parts, one making the tea and for the first couple swallows, and again when you drink the last swallow and stop to clean the cup rather than just setting it aside. It can often be very worth it to stop and have a full cup of tea (or coffee if you can prepare it and have the same experience.)
The basis of most tea rituals is that you be aware that this moment is totally and completely unique, and will never come again as it is right now, you drink your tea with complete awareness and appreciation of the moment. It is a balance if internal and external. You are fully present and aware of the moment, of a guest if you have one, and of the ritual of preparing and drinking the tea. That is all you are doing and all you are focused on. For most ritual forms the process begins well before you heat water, as you prepare for tea, then boil the water, then steep the tea, pour the tea, breath the tea, taste the tea, and clean the cup and pot.
After preparation, pause. Be thankful and breath in the steam. consider the tea and how you came to have the tea and the moment to savor the tea. breathe until you are quiet and calm.  Drink the tea in small savoring sips, being mindful of the motions involved, the feel of the steam, the feel of the hot tea, the taste, the smell, every part of the experience. You are becoming a part of this experience only and for a brief time leaving all other parts of life aside. You are fully committing to this moment and knowing it is one moment and will not occur again and has not occurred before.
Both of these – tea and short sessions, are areas that you can find a lot of information on and I recommend you do. the short sessions especially are very personal, so try it until you find the ones for you.

Meditation series – part 2: Focus and Stillness

We started with some basic types and categories because, face it, most people…well Americans I know at least, need to categorize things to understand it. So lets dig into some of these and how they overlap. Because focused meditation is often recommended as a first place to work we will start there. Specifically lets look at the overlap between focused and open eye meditations and how they can help you develop your meditation practice. I love the forms of meditation that once you are confident in them you use in active and public places because they teach you peace within the chaos rather than your mind and body learning there is a place for peace and a place for chaos. The combination can be very helpful. A quiet space for meditation is highly recommended for your primary meditation space.
Visual meditation techniques like candle meditation are a great contemplative practice. They can help you develop the focus and ability to sit quietly and let go, so they are a good starting form for many people. They are so commonly used that there is a candle meditation in the Wii Fit Plus program. I have used a variety of candle meditations, including the Wii fit one that is an interesting start to someone with an inability to sit still and quiet for long periods. It is a great way to practice stillness since it measures motion by you sitting on the balance board. Lets look into the basics of a candle meditation.
Start by preparing the space. The preparation for a deep meditation is very important for most people and is in many forms we have learned from history.  For a deep meditation or a longer session the preparation helps ease you into it and is preparing you as much as it is preparing your space. It also allows you to control the environment and ensure limited distractions. You will want dim lighting, quiet, a place to sit quietly and comfortably upright, and space to set the candle approximately 2 feet in front of you. Keep some distance to protect your eyes from strain. Set the candle at eye level. Try to ensure there are no drafts. Drafts can distract you and they can flicker the flame. Some people use small LED, lights, or use some other focus in the same type of meditation. That may not be a candle meditation but it can be very similar. Water is a good example and can be done either in water or with a bowl of water as a focus.
Start with your eyes closed, focusing on your breathing. When your breath is calm, even, and you are ready, open your eyes and focus just above the wick. This is another stage of preparation and moving into the meditative state. Your breath is your focus here in most forms of meditation that do this. Breath deep and steady but don’t think of your breath as wrong or in need of correction. Just feel it, be a part of your breathing. You are slowing it but not fixing it.
Most forms have you go as long as possible between blinks and not rubbing your eyes. As you stare, allow the flame to occupy your mind and let any other thoughts or feelings pass. Again, do not correct or chastise yourself just let them pass. You are acknowledging their presence and letting them go by focusing on the flame, not discarding them or disapproving. The flame, water, or other focus is simply the object of attention and the space your in. This is a good early form of meditation precisely because of that focus point that helps train your mind to let things go. This is a way to learn the clearness of mind, the focused mind, the stillness of body and mind, and the quiet spirit you are working for in meditation. Whatever your end goals or preferred forms you are working towards, these can help you build toward that.
Some people do more visualization of breathing in the light or being surrounded by the light, but a simple meditation simply clears and focuses the mind. As you focus long term without variation your mind and optic nerves are able to relax and stop fully processing the surrounding input. You are aware of them but they are not active unless you acknowledge them. It is an odd sensation of both being unaffected by and any not processing things around you but being also more sensitive to them. It will become familiar and comfortable, a place you want to be and a being you want to be.
When you are done, if you need, cup your hands over your eyes, without touching them, and let them rest. Do not press on them or rub them. they may water or have after-impressions. Simply breath and still yourself until you are ready. The intense focus can tire them and the candle light can tire them so give them time to rest.
The variations of this are vast and many both modern and ancient are hugely effective. One of my favorites is often done with objects of nature like leaf. The focus in on the details of that leaf, becoming aware of it in every possible way from sight to smell. Another is focus on you body or a specific part of it.
Most physical training regimes from weight lifting to martial arts will teach you to focus on the muscles you are working in each form. This is a more intense version of that. I first learned of it in a sci fi book, Dune but later was shown an old form of it in I think a qigong class.  You focus intently on specific muscles or parts. I have been shown 3 basic forms. One moved through the whole body one muscle at a time, including all the tiny ones you never notice. Another focused on one part at a time like a finger or hand and intensely focused on that part to feel and be a part of and aware of every aspect. Like the leaf, you are aware of the skin, muscles, lines, bones, nerves, circulation…all of it. The third was the form used in some active meditations of focusing in an activity like tai chi on the muscles and energy of the activity. In this last you focus on them and you increase the work of specific muscles in an activity and increase their resistance to magnify the load and work they are doing.
(note that the image is not mine and I am uncertain of the source, if you know please let me know.)

Meditation Series – part 1: Intro

Some time ago I did a lesson on meditation for a multi part series. Recently I decided to update it for posting here in a parallel series to my ongoing Bug restoration. This will develop and dig deeper into each section but starts with an overview of the class as I wrote it.
Meditation is something used to some extent by most paths, practices, by many religions, and many people outside of religion. I am going to briefly cover what types of meditations are used and describe some of them. I will have a more detailed descriptions of a few, especially those I personally use or have received instruction in. If you know more about any of them, please share, none of us know everything about all of them or even any of them. This is a foundation and general information designed only to fuel imagination, interest, and understanding to prompt further research and experimentation. Meditation is intensely personal for many people and should be understood in that context. Also, it is an incredibly old practice with a lot of varied research attached both for and against. There is a lot of history and cultural relevance to the many forms of meditation. My personal forms are a blend from the cultures that have impacted my life, just as my blood is blended and my path is blended, they are very specific to where I am and what I am doing.
A complete meditation practice will combine active and passive forms. How often you should do it is discussed in every practice but it relies on your ability to know when you need it and your dedication to a consistent practice. You are best able to know the state of your self. frequent and regular is best, but do not berate or punish yourself for your available time and focus. It is something that develops itself with use. Consider short but frequent sessions interspersed with fewer long sessions that allow you to fully immerse in the experience. you will find more time for it when you are doing it regularly. Be consistent but be open to life and self, doing otherwise is counter to the very process.
So what are the types of meditation?
Note, that there is some overlap between the categories I list here and this is not exhaustive but most others will still fall within one of these. These are broad and cross lines so they are only a starting point.
Eye open meditation. 
These include gazing (including candle) and most active meditations. A common one you may recognize is zentangle.
Active meditation.
These include walking, Tai chi, yoga, work, gardening, repetitive action, swimming, art, doodle, writing, chanting, dance, martial. When considering the mental state these also include guided, sound, chant, and other focused and directed forms of meditation. This section is pretty self explanatory and you can see how these will overlap into other categories.
Focused attention. 
These include sound, manta, zazen, Loving Kindness, Chakra, Kundalini, Pranayama, some forms of Qigong, guided, spiritual, Primordial Sound, tea, visualization, mandala, Heart Rhythm, and chant. You may know gong or bowl meditation, or guided meditations, but most people will recognize the chant meditation form. Many awareness exercises and mindfulness exercises fall into this category.
Open Meditation.
observation of thought or function of self, mindfulness, Vipassana, some types of Taoist, Heart Rhythm, and Yoga Nidra. This can be a hard one to pin down in the mind of many people but is actually widely used on a small scale. Most types, if not all, will also fall into another category.
Blank or effortless.
Self-Enquiry (“I am” meditation) of Ramana Maharishi; Dzogchen; Mahamudra; some forms of Taoist, some advanced forms of Raja Yoga, Choiceless Awareness, and Pure Being. Probably the clearest way to describe this is the open becoming one with the true nature and true being. There is a focus on the true nature but you are not focused, you are open. It is not empty mind meditation but it can sound like it at times. Some people include empty mind in this category and make the distinction on the deeper levels of understanding.
Note.
I do not personally recommend the forms of meditation that use mind-altering substances. The practice is to develop your awareness, your self, your connection, your peace, your focus. The use of mind-altering substances in other practices or trances has a long history and purpose but in this case of regular practice to develop and clear yourself it is not in my observation conducive to the purpose you are working toward. There are descriptions of those methods available elsewhere if you are interested, I will not be discussing them here.
So, what is the base difference in some of these forms of meditation and why would you choose them?
Think of the focused forms that have you focusing on a specific thing, be it a word, idea, breath, action, object, whatever, they are a form of concentration and focus development. They calm the mind by focusing all processing on a single thing. All sensation is focused on one thing. All emotions are focused on one thing. It is openness through a calm developed out of repetition and attunement. A sound will resonate in your body and mind. A light will fill your mind as you look at it and feel it. A word will fill your consciousness through your focus. Each of these allows you to develop the empty mind, the focus, and the peace by allowing you to learn how to let sensations and thoughts pass unhindered and without impact. The mantra stills the normal discourse of the mind and resonates in you. You are detaching from the external world through focus on something like a mandala. Art is used in many focused meditations and active meditations.
Mindfulness, empty mind, Vipassana, and observational meditations are different in that they are not focused. they are open and observing everything that occurs. they observe and release all thoughts, sensations, emotions, and responses. They are for many a development from the focused forms. You are being present in yourself and in the awareness of what is happening in yourself. Some medical practices teach these forms for pain management. Zen and empty mind are emptying your mind and sensation. You are not so much being aware of these things as letting them go. You are working to have the state of emptiness and openness not impinged on by thoughts, sensations, emotions, actions, not by anything internal or external. Vipassana does focus on breath but not in the same ways that the more focused forms do. It is a focus in order to empty. A distinction not clear without feeling it. You are, in these forms, detaching both from the external world and from your response and judgments of things. You let thoughts and sensations go without judgment or response, and clear your mind by not focusing or judging. They often start focusing on breathing to reach the state of empty calm.
Active meditations can be focused, blank, open, and may be done either eyes open or closed. Active meditation first bring to mind such things as walking, yoga, tai chi, dance, or other full body activities but they can be painting, drawing, writing, washing, cleaning, and any number of other things. If you have trouble with the stillness of some types of meditation, active meditation may give you a place to start but it is usually recommended as a later stage not a starting point. It is a later step to draw your whole being into the process in a new way. It is very important o stay focused and clear and not be drawn away by your body, surroundings, or the activity. An active meditation can be a good start in many ways but it can be hard to work on the completeness of the experience using these forms.

Another weekend has come and gone on the Bug project. More bits are on the way here and many bruises and scratches later we survived.

I required help this weekend that will extend through some of the week as we get ready for the arrival of my orders. First we pulled the engine and the one of the heads.

While he cut pieces of remaining floorplans out, I cleaned the head. I used kerosene for a lot of it and it works remarkably well. First you carefully scrape dirt and oils and accumulated gunk off, pick it out of holes, and check mating surfaces. Then you get the brushes to it. After that you can get to the kerosene with not too harsh scubbies and cotton balls. A razor blade is useful if you avoid mating surfaces.

The valves are rusted but not bad. I will need a valve cover and rods. As I already knew, the most work will be interior. I have to rebuild some mating surfaces for the floor pans to seal. I have a plan and what I need on the way.

The most entertaining aspect this weekend was lifting the body off the frame to get better access and view. It is remarkably easy on a bug and really helped access. Pulling the motor was easy too which is a nice change.

S

o…it’s coming but is slow. I have a lot of hurry up and wait since I order parts when I get paid and prep and evaluate in between.

Sexism and Casual Discrimination Today

Today, a slight departure from my ongoing Bug work.

Sexism at work, in life, at home, and among friends is being discussed more and more in society, but what has and hasn’t changed? How are we affected day to day in ways that people are so inured to that they don’t notice them or accept them as how things are or should be? I am opposed to all discrimination and imposition of will on others but this is simply and observation and statement of what I have seen and read personally not a statement of what should be done. It is important to note that discrimination is not being told you can’t discriminate, that is a fact of life when you are part of a society and share space with other beings. A requirement to not discriminate and to follow the rules is not discrimination. But let us return to what are some day to day things we deal with.
As an office manager at a public garden I deal with a wide variety of people in a lot of different situations from office business to private events, simple transactions to technical discussions, I lead tours of the garden and I coordinate events. Other offices I have worked in include construction, medical, university, hospitality, and industrial. If you have worked in these fields as a woman you know the relative amounts of discrimination to expect in each. Everyone knows the major and blatant issues of being clearly passed over, insulted, ignored, payed less, disregarded, and having your work or credit stolen. But what about the simple things that can be just as blatant to us or not but are typically not noticed by men?
Just this week I had an example in a large group arriving for a tour. We set up in front of the building as we always do and the other docents went to do their final things while I prepared to greet the group. This is standard procedure and often the other docents are all men since we only have a few docents and they are most available. As the group exited their bus and looked where to go, the woman (I particularly note it is a woman in this case) that coordinated walked down to the office area where we were set up. She has dealt with me for over a month as Office Manager coordinating scheduling on the phone. She walked past me with no response to my greeting, asked if that was water quite brusquely and proceeded to ignore me. The moment one of the men stepped out of the bathroom her whole demeanor changed. She smiled, stuck her hand out, and stepped to introduce herself and ask where they should go. He directed her to me and walked off after a brief greeting to help organize the group. This in itself is pretty common, I get the response that basically boils down to hello little girl direct me to someone actually in charge and working here. As He and I walked over to start the tours ( was actually leading one of the tours that day) I mentioned it and he noted that he was apparently more inured than he should be to that type of thing but it seemed odd. My only comment was that it isn’t unusual even if it is a bit odd, it is rather common actually.
This is itself what I am talking about. He didn’t notice, not out of any sense of it being right but just because it is so ingrained that it is part of the background. He even acknowledged that, and as the one person trying to change those type of things here he meant it. But that is something directly professional, what about other interactions?
Recently I went to lunch with a friend. He and I went along the line getting our food separately and I approached the counter to pay for mine. I had to prompt her to ring me up because she was waiting for him. When she did ring me up she included his order. I had to get her to redo it so we could get our lunches. Again, servers typically hand the receipt to the male present or speak to them when they have a question about the bill. Many women are okay with that or prefer that, but it is rooted in an assumption that doesn’t fit a huge portion of society. As people marry later, go out with friends, prefer to keep expenses separate, are not necessarily identifiable at a glance, or for any number of other reasons do not have a male head of house or split bills that way when out, it isn’t reflective of the broader view in many areas. I always appreciate, as the only income in our home, the places that set the bill on the table between us with no preference or give it to whomever asked for it or has a card ready. But, although it has gotten better, more than half the places I go still hand the bill to my husband or friend not me or speak to them like I can’t answer.
When the news shows doctors being questioned about credentials for no apparent reason other than being a black woman, and this is not the first and only case in emergency situations. When we have an event here with a lot of things to be carried, someone will invariably say something about getting the men to carry things. When I worked at Aulani as houseperson (I set up events and carried the heavy stuff) it was constantly remarked on that I was the only woman and I was small. Why do we ask for a man to carry something when what we want is someone strong enough to carry said item? Why do people defer to the male when people approach?
As a woman that has spent a lot of time alone, that has a lot of male friends, and that has a relationship where I am the breadwinner, I am made very aware of the issue regularly. When I am out, places assume he is deciding and paying. When I am at work people assume I am just the secretary and don’t know anything. Since I also look significantly younger than my age I also am made very aware of the age discrimination from the perspective of having had the years to develop myself and look back and still being treated like a new intern with no experience. The combination often highlights and exacerbates the issue.
Work increasingly takes most of our time. People my age and younger are working a lot of hours and often have multiple jobs, as I have typically done over the years myself. So the situations that arise will most often be noticed at work and in relation to work. This about applying or interviewing for positions, or listening to the discussions about applicants in your office. How many times have we heard comments about applicants with a sense of amusement because they were female or a casual disregard because of age or gender. How many times have you heard them debate whether she will be out for children or pregnancy, or illness, or other thing they associate with women. I know many single fathers and married fathers that actually take the time with the kids equal with their spouses. I also know both genders get sick and that no job has the right to use any of these as a reason not to hire.
But one of the issues in evaluating and even just describing many of these situations is the way many types of discrimination intersect and overlap. When I am at an event with our donors, I am the lowest paid person in the room and many of them will act like it and it is clear I am “the staff” or unimportant unless needed. When I am with a business group I am young looking and obviously don’t know anything. I have had them flat out tell me no one wanted to hear what I had to say I needed to just be quiet and be myself. Consider that. I have been to told to be myself and told that means to be quiet, to be separate, to be submissive…I am none of those things.
When I was in school for Architectural drafting I was often the only woman in the class and despite being older than most of the other students was often treated as the youngest. The bank has asked for my husband to confirm things despite the fact that he was only recently added to an account I have held for decades alone. When filing taxes last year I was told that I couldn’t file as head of household as a woman despite being the only income in the house. When I go to town with the gardener at work to run errands for the garden people stare and occasionally comment on us together because he is an older Mexican man and we are obviously comfortable together after 4 years working together in a small office. When I ride motorcycles or work on them I am in my leathers and a full face helmet and assumptions are made. When I go in for parts I have waited for a significant amount of time and eventually had to insist someone help me but if my husband goes with me they speak to him within seconds of entering. He typically directs them to me since I am the one getting parts if we are together, he gets his himself and often online.
The results of dealing with stores has led me to more and more do my shopping online. I don’t feel like the hassle of justifying myself to simply shop. I get some food delivered, all my mechanical and electronic parts and equipment, most art supplies, and frankly anything I can get online for a close price to what I can in person I am likely to look there now. It is more than price that pushes us out of stores, for me it was both how I was treated and social anxiety making that even harder to deal with when I was already having issues with just being in a crowded public place. It is creating a further separation from society and a growing distaste for dealing with any business or person that does any of these things not just to me but to anyone that I see or know about. I don’t own a Harley and likely never will because they have always been horrible to deal with. Honda has only once shown an issue and I own 3 Honda including my car. When I am negotiating for my own business I have people ask for the owner or the person that can make decisions. It is my company and I design all the pieces, create all of them, am the only one that sells or distributes items, I make all decisions. I had to add my husband’s name to get a response in several areas.
In groups I am a part of I see the shock at men that are exceptional sewists and the slight differences in terminology referring to a woman’s art as crafts and male’s as art. The differences hit everyone and when they collide you may get a very blatant situation. But these subtle things are the ones that perpetuate the problem and keep it acceptable to our psyche. They are the everyday accepted details that are internalized from childhood on. How was it different as little girls than for the boys? How many years of these things have led to the internalized acceptance of place that many feel?

And the bug is slowly coming together…

The process of restoration always fascinates me. The stages of cleaning and evaluation that move into collection of starting needs and price lists. From there you fix parts, clean parts, replace parts, restore finishes, and test things hopefully one at a time.

What I fail at is doing one task at a time. So, in typical fashion I am restoring 2 vintage sewing machines at the same time as my car. Both are Singer, one is a treadle and one us a single stitch electric from the 40’s.

But back to why you came here…the bug is ongoing. I have stripped the interior except the headliner. The fuel tank is out. The engine is stripped and loose but not out. I have new floorplans to install but need to remove the jack points first. So there is progress both mechanical and aesthetic. Having performed extensive rust treatment inside, I still must treat the exterior of the tank. The interior is pretty clean.

I am preparing to order exhaust and probably a wiring harness so you know what the next updates will likely be.

Writing, art, Business, and practice, any medium is fair game.