Tag Archives: Musings

ABCs of Life

Are we sure this is the life we love?
Being someone else’s path to their dreams?
Careful not to rock the boat or risk failure.
Does it take drastic change?
Every person exists part of the whole and in a vacuum,
Feeling connected or isolated desperate and afraid,
Going anywhere to make it okay
Here we are.
Internal peace or external salves to our pain.
Just because what we want makes us want more.
Killing the moment in the distractions.
Love this place or hate this place
Mystery of the daily grind.
Never alone but never in control or connected.
Ordinary life stretches before us.
Pleasure and pain blended in a patchwork.
Questioning the purpose and our dreams.
Ready to be something greater.
Settling for the safe comforts of the known.
Taste the difference of a risk for a dream.
Until our wants no longer control our lives
Victims we live lives like rats in a wheel.
When we go outside ourselves and our designations
eXtended to see the world outside and inside
Years change as our perceptions warp our path
Zero distance to peace the desire is an addiction.
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Cults and Memories

The past, mothers, religion, improv, and relationships are coming up a lot lately in a mesh of memories and reminders. Relationships are challenging when you have depression and social anxiety. Flashes of memories or just the feelings from the past can sweep over you when triggered and your mind is confused but your body is set in the reaction to something years long gone.
My family was very religious, restrictive, and poor. Unlike some of my siblings, I did not do home schooling at any point. I attended private religious schools. However, I was expected to follow my parents rules of dress, behavior, music, work, speech, and life and not participate in most of what my fellows at school did. Simultaneously being told I needed to be more open and friendly because I was shy and felt isolated from others I was expected not to integrate or enjoy the things they did. My clothes were a source of mockery, along with my speech impediments and that I wasn’t allowed the entertainments those around me shared.

I am a reader. I always have been a reader. But my choice of books was highly restricted. I read everything I was allowed multiple times, even the encyclopedias and dictionaries. But once my options opened when I left their home, I realized that despite the apparent attempts at a good education I was woefully lacking in knowledge, experience, and variety. I began to read a wide variety of books and materials and continue that to this day.

Each incident at school was the start of a chain of emotional events and trouble I knew to expect. In many ways, the expectation was worse than the series of punishments. The schools had orders to use swats for any offence they felt worthy, which is broad and covers most things including failing to turn in homework I completed but didn’t give them. I would ace a test and go to receive my swats for not doing the homework to prepare for the test I aced. Walking dejectedly to the office I knew it was only the first because when I got home I would would get a lecture separately from each parent and swats again from one of them.

Rarely did I do anything truly deserving of punishment because I had a very clear understanding of the consequence and reward ratio. I felt I had a hard enough time without adding extra issues for limited reward. Of course, that means when I did choose to do something the punishment was fairly pointless because I knew what it would be and chose to act anyway. I had already determined the risk to reward ratio was in my favor.

The lives around me were like another world to me that I watched from a distance without relating or fully understanding. From the girl whos parents dropped of hundreds for her to go shopping in the mall alone after school or to take her friends out to the kids sharing the newest dance moves in the halls I could not participate. I was quiet, shy, and introverted and places like a shared locker room were a terrifying thought. Numerous times I opted to accept detention for changing in the nearby restroom rather than endure mockery and embarrassment in the locker room. I also had it drilled into me not to undress in front of others so a locker room was a problem.

Conversations were hard because we shared nothing in common other than classes and those were mostly boring and too easy so I didn’t really pay attention. At some point there was always the risk conversation would veer toward my mother and her cancer, which was not something I wanted to discuss. Religious people would imply either that they were praying which was obviously not working or that if she actually had faith she would not be sick. The added issue that she was a test patient because we couldn’t afford treatment much less any extras or luxuries. I absolutely was unwilling to discuss where the food on our table came from because that was a mockery I knew I could not handle. How do you feed 7-10 people on $20 a week, sometimes more, sometimes less? The poor ladies of the church had a list of stores that discarded usable food and mom had an agreement to collect discarded vegetables for the horse. We sorted through the horses vegetables to see what could go on the tale first.

Many times I remember sitting in a parking lot while my mother composed herself or cried in the one place no one could see. After a horrifyingly degrading day trying to meet the needs of the family or accepting charity she would go home to dad’s anger and screaming rants about anything and everything. She would go home to 2 children in constant medical car and her own terrifying medical care. She would go home to the holes in the floor and walls and the car held together by duct ape and wood. She would go home to watch me cower from dad’s anger and my brothers acting out. Failing that we would go to church, where we spent more evening than not to be told how we were all sinners and needed to give more, do more, be more, bring in more people, and earn a place. We went to the church where I was yet again alone and mocked and here knew the question of my families lack of faith and why they were poor and sick would come up. I knew there would be taunts and often physical confrontation. These happened at school but more consistently at the churches.

Each service I listened then as mom taught me I went home and studied. I read their books and teachings. These always led to questions that if I asked someone other than my parents resulted in something to the effect of me being a girl child that should learn my place and be silent and do as I was told. Years of memorization and reading led me to no other conclusion than the religion was a compounded grouping of modifications stolen from older teachings and chosen by various leaders in the worst periods of history to best control, dominate, and instill fear. It is a religion based on fear and control. It is a religion that teaches the only reason to be a good person is to avoid punishment not because it is right. Each test of the history I was taught led to the inescapable conclusion they had manipulated the teaching to show a lie and manipulate the views of the children they took into their care.

What I saw from the outside was a cult that manipulated participants to view the world through a filter and with careful blinders. They were trying for the isolation of those in the retreats but in the city so they could better raw more people.

My mother was a brilliant and strong woman trapped in a world that treated women as a lower level being. She did all the work for a doctorate but was denied the degree because she was a woman at a baptist college. She was a writer and a researcher by nature, a leader and communicator but denied the right to lead, teach, research, or speak freely. The man was the head of the household and the wife was expected to follow him, obey him, accept his behavior, and not question or attempt to teach men. With permission a woman could teach other women or children but that would be shut down if they questioned her teachings or behavior outside class. Children were under her rule but punishments were the prerogative of the man, as were the rules she was to teach. Girls were expected to be obedient, submissive, silent, and learn the proper behaviors of a good wife. I refused to learn any wifely duties at every step, only many years later learning some of them were fun skills when used for your own pleasure or business rather than in service to a master.

Tea at 1024 Nuuanu

Teacups all around me in rows, in stacks, and in random groups. Cups, saucers, teapots of all sizes teeter and sit. Music, not exactly quiet but that feels quiet and helps mask the sounds of others around me. I feel alone in a small teashop waiting for slow steep tea and an afternoon teatray.
Flowers, hats, and patterned teacups surround me in a soothing comfort like Alice falling gently down the rabbit hole. Some are tied to their saucers to keep them together, like they might run away or leap off the shelf. One set is a saucer and small teapot with no cup. It reminds me of the women with saucers of tea in historic novels rather than cups of tea because it cooled quickly with no unmannerly blowing. An orange pot pops out at the eye in front of a jar of shells. A tray of blue and yellow teabags perches behind a music stand, slightly masking a set of tiny tins. Clear glass teapots rise in an acceding row on an old sewing machine. On the top shelf one pot perches precariously on the handle of another.
I ordered the vegetarian afternoon tea. An adorable tea timer with three sand clocks to determine strength arrives right before a fresh salad in a teacup. After that, hte tray of bite sized bits lands in front of me and each piece is new flavor. Each thing was excellent and perfectly balanced with the others. The rich, creamy chocolate in a thick layer on a chocolate brownie is two bites of chocolate bliss. Perfectly spiced jackfruit in a fresh wrap is a bright tasting bite of pleasure countered by one of the 2 tiny scones with clotted cream.
Because I came late, the lavender scone is slightly stiff but the flavor is good and the cream softens it. The tray is set perfectly to alternate one savory to one sweet until done. Music, mostly instrumental opera soothes the experience. Friendly staff tries hard to keep up with the busy flow of people that enter and settle in for a long tea. I watch them setting up a tea party and greeting guests both planned and unplanned as I enjoy my tea.
Creamy kimchee bites are a surprise for a tea tray but are a fine counter to the sweet bites. It is creamy and flavorful but gentle and sits well. Each piece on the tray is two to three bites and all quite different from each other.
A creepy antique porcelain doll in a crochet dress looks down on my table. Soft fuzzy, sheep like chairs cushion me. Beaming little girls look wide eyed at all the cups, pots, hats, and accessories. A flash of bright blue eucalyptus stands tall on the top shelf.
My host was unwilling to serve inferior tea and recommended I alter my selection because upon review they had a bad batch of my first choice. Their attention to detail is part of the experience. You choose your cup and a hat and sit inside or out to have tea alone or with companions. They don’t intrude but are there to keep things flowing. When I finished my tea she refilled it with more water to re-steep the leaves.

A tall wicker dress form stands elegant by the eucalyptus, reaching for the ceiling. Butterfly wings hide in the next room. Tall silver candlesticks hold large pillars of white on the top shelf I see through the window into the next room.
The sweet clotted cream flavor lingers soothing my pallet as I take in my surroundings. A precariously tilted tray of stacked cups, saucers, and pots stand secure beside a running girl in blue. Glints of glass and silver sparkle around me. I can almost hear the dormouse in the large blue and white teapot. My red pot is as round as the queen’s skirts beside my sleek white cup with swirls like the white queen twirling and swishing away. One tiny tea set stands on a tiny cake stand that would hold a mini cupcake.
The berry cheesecake bowl like a tiny trifle and the storybook chocolate brownie square that is half creamy rich chocolate sit in my memory and taste buds as a girl in her pink hat counts teapots in the throne like window seat. I sit and enjoy a second pot of tea to settle my snacks and sweets.

At the back of the restaurant a door opens to a very Victorian hall comprising the passage to the restrooms, the stairwell, the entry to the kitchens, the doorway to the courtyard seating, and a couple work areas in the back. In the bathroom, tiny tiles sit under your feet as you stand at the old, low sinks that are from another time.This place is a quiet retreat from modern reality with soothing tea, foods, and simple environment.

https://www.teaat1024.net/

Balance of Justice

As with every other thing that has come up recently in need of evaluation, meditation, consideration, action, or writing I find everything I read this week is tending toward justice, balance, and how relationships fare within. The recuring theme has been one of the need and requirement for balance for there to be justice and the imposition of justice. News has stories on the topic. Public demonstrations demand justice and a more balanced approach to issues. One book talks about a created entity enforcing justice but failing to head the balance and the destruction it causes. Another focuses on a god that renders justice when no other justice is availible or done and that requires a balance in his judgments. Another talked briefly about the historical divine female justice. As I meditate and try to settle my mind and emotions to know what to speak and how to act in the strugles in my own life I find myself wanting justice. Balance has always been a prime goal in my life but I fear I have of late lost that balance and cannot clearly see what balance would be justice.
What is justice in a relationship? It justice what we want in a relationship? Without it accountability is questioned and trust is eroded when there is need for it. Balance becomes a critical part of the equation when you are talking personal level issues. But no portion of our life is lived in a vacume and each impacts not only each other but our emotions, thoughts, and ability to deal with the others. Stress with friends and stress at work make home life more difficult. Add in that home life may be seperate from the relationship issues and there is another layer of question. Can you evaluate the balance of justice when you are in the middle of the maelstrom?

I speak of living alone, far from any frineds and from my husband but in truth I rent a room sharing an apartment with four other women. I am never really alone. My space is a room that shares walls with my neighbors. My work is a desk open to all and with a camera on me at all times. My volunteer hours are spent across the window from the supervisor. I travel the city on a crowded bus. I meditate in a group. I write in a group. I swim on beached full of locals and tourists. I game in a group. I share my kitchen and every space I live in with strangers. The distance often feels greater because so many strangers are always so close to hand. No one close to me is close to me. If I returned today to Texas this would not improve however. I would have space but I would have no more close companions. Family is a distant thing without my mother and marriage is a strange uncertainty hovering above an ocean we have yet to cross.
When you give up everything in your life to move to a new and uncertain life you act on a choice to accept uncertainty and lonliness for at least a time. When you do so in a relationship but find yourself alone anyway it is a difference of gradiation. How many times do you let someone hurt you before you step away? Do you let them prove they can change if they make it clear they are opposed to people changing and don’t believe people can change? How do balance and justice affect the situation? When fear has stalked you for years it becomes the overriding sense of the world. Every action is tinged with the fear that it will be the one to cost you something critical from job or home to friend or husband. Sometimes you fight to protect those things even though they are already lost because you can’t accept the loss of another thing.

But by the same token has the fear colored your judgment of things so you cannot make a balanced judgment? Stess wears you down and damages your health. After a while you are tired, sore, sick, and afraid all the time and reaching out of it alone becomes a Herculean effort that becomes almost sisepheyan. Doing so alone, without even friends is something I would not wish on anyone. I am not the type to wish ill on others anyway as that is against my sense of balance and peace. I have for some years now striven to live in the balanced and clear understanding of Buddhism. Though I did not entirely give up my Child of the Trickster place it took some time to understand that the same balance is required for both. It is not contraditory to be a pacifist that will fight to protect what is right in the same way as it is not contraditory to stand with the chaotic trickster and be a voice of peace and balance from them. The trickster has always served the good of humanity and balance over the rules and other gods. Knowing yourself and touching the divine spirit it part of the path. But what of justice and depression?
The idea of depression on either path has always been a problem for me. For a long time it made me more depressed because I was sure it was wrong to be depressed and be on this path. But at some point in my meditations I realized that it just is. It isn’t right or wrong or something to do with me but it is just depression. Depression can be a physical thing that needs addressing. Which I have, admittidly not had checked. It can also be a response to stimuli and this will abate when the stimuli does. In truth both external and internal, they are both stimuli and can be addressed not as a personal flaw and internal identification but rather as a state that must be acknowledged and seen for what it actually is not for the excess impacts it causes.
So too, justice is not my choice and action. I have no control of those things. I can act with equinamity and balance and maintain justice in myself but I cannot control others and their impacts on the world. I can see their impact on me and what is my response but I cannot change their action. I can choose to exclude them from my sphere of influence and I can withdraw my trust from them but I cannot make them act as if my path is theirs. But can we have a relationship with those of a drastically different path? In some cases yes. and in others less so.

remembering that enlightenment is a moment to moment thing and not a permenant state of being helps. I am not striving to be in the perfect state, I am balancing myself in this moment. I am aware of now and of life and am striving to reach the state of peace and calm acceptance I remember from what feels like a great distance. It is the point I have for reference at this time. It seems like so long ago I moved off my path and lost that balance but that I still know the feeling tells me it is not out of reach. But also it tells me that depression is a moment to moment thing as well. I do not need to be confused by the drastically different feelings or thoughts that come across me because all things are moment to moment. We do not live in tomorow or yesterday, in this evening or morning but we live in now. If I can accept that at this moment tears threaten to spill and accept in another moment that rage consumes me then I can accept those moments I am at peace just the same. Why does it seem harder to accept the reality of those moments and allow them to be without analysis and disruption? Is there something in all of us that rejects that or is it the fear and depression? I think it is a lot of things wrapped into our ego trying to maintain control however destructive the path it pushes us onto.

Alone

Living alone in a city I have only been back in for a couple months I joined several groups to keep active and around people, and to hopefully make some new friends. But sometimes it is really hard to get out the door and join a group of people and smile and be social. Usually I feel better after, if very tired. Social activities leave me tired and both drained and restored.
This week has been a particularly challenging one for that. I am not ready to face my emotions and thoughts around the insight and choices in front of me. Writing has been difficult and drawing just hasn’t happened. Sometimes I am very calm because I did find the insight I needed. but often I’m just numb.

I spent today playing video games. I don’t do that often, it’s a waste of time. But I just couldn’t get myself ready for a group. If the morning one hadn’t cancelled I would have gone to coffee with them but after that…it just wasn’t happening.
I’m not upset anymore, not right now. I have a life to live and anyone that wants to be a part of it knows where I am. But I am remarkably grateful I am here in the place I chose and have the ability to wait it out. I can be at peace while I work through the thoughts and emotions and act when ready. In the meantime , I am living again not just surviving.
Money is short and I am lonely but I am active, doing things I enjoy and things I believe in, I am working, I am growing things, and I have a room to live in that is clean and simple. I game, volunteer, cook, swim in the ocean, read, sew, meet people, and meditate. It is enough to live and I will recover.

Weight

What do you say when your emotions have given up trying to keep up and you are just tired? It is hard to write and hard to think beyond the basic tasks in front of you. Your mind hovers, not stopped but unwilling to
touch the items pending and straining like a weighted cloud over you. The world around you is heavy and distant like you are working through a perfectly clear morass. Nothing directly hurts but your body aches like you have just finished a hard
day of martial training and bruised and strained everything. You aren’t sad or angry because that would focus on it and take an effort you just can’t muster. Motivation drains away like someone pulled the drain plug and if you manage to think of things to do it is a constant effort to actually do them.
Numbness is much worse than sadness or anger. Numbness comes
after the pain and anger and saps you of the strength of will to do something
about it. You know what is happening. You know what you need…well sometimes you do. The problem is you can’t pin it down and act on it. Even focusing on the thought is like holding a giant jelly ball that won’t be still. You feel the wrong size for the world around you and like you are moving the wrong speed. Your hair feels wrong and the world sounds too far away.

These are often times you don’t recognize yourself in the
mirror or can’t think of things about yourself. Good things bring a moment of light or lifted weight but it can’t hold it off you long enough to get free. Certainty that things are going wrong or will go wrong grows and the thought is more resigned than warning. Someone that normally stand up to anything and can go through anything can be stopped in their tracks by this weight of
depression. These are the ones least prepared for it and least sure how to
cope. Most likely there is an actual physical component that should be treated involved but they are very unlikely to seek the help they need.

We need to speak for what is right.

They say nothing happens you can’t handle. Bullshit. That’s right up there with everything happens for a reason or god is testing you because he loves you. No. People can heal, they can recover but they can’t always handle what happens. a lot if what happens is because people don’t care about the other beings on the planet are are selfish and self righteous. and if you think a god is ordering your life and testing you with a bad relationship then you believe that same god is starving millions and torturing people around the world. That selfish and egocentric view is killing society.
Life is often hard. it isn’t right. It isn’t fair. But it is. we should try to make things better because it’s the right thing to do not because it helps us. When we ignore the beatings next door because it isn’t our business or ignore wrongful imprisonment because they are the other we are wrong.

There isn’t always something we can do but the choice to ignore it and accept it is the problem. The choice to agree is worse.

Connection

It seems every time I write lately what I write about comes up in what I read the next day and what I read about comes up in the talks at meditation. Not the topic and action that I start on, the deeper parts.
Today I wrote about a moment that changed everything. The story meandered through the past and the memories of my husband and moments of impact.

It ended with a thought about his calm acceptance of what everyone sees as my sudden decisions. I was trying at one point to explain how they aren’t really sudden even if they are. After leaving the Lanai to catch the bus home I went back to reading.

The chapter I read was The Third Thing. It talks about this very topic. That when you are torn between two things you need a third thing. Two things is not a choice. But a third will come and balance things out, offering the way forward. It appears sudden but it is the culmination of the process that the two things created.

my first meditation session with this group they talked about dealing with intense emotions and sadness. I cried on the way there and going to sleep for several nights before.
The next time we talked about what is and the whole talk meshed into what I read the days before. I had been reading Writing Down the Bones. The idea of using writing meditation as a path to not following the thoughts and emotions when sitting meshed interestingly into the talk about sitting.
The last thing I read before one session was that a well that dashes about cannot draw water. We cannot do happiness, it flows through us in our stillness. I was a few minutes late and sat in stillness with the group. She talked about ending suffering and sharing love. We talked about enlightenment being a moment to moment thing not a permanent state. The balance of mind, and the four keys. She talked about the calm acceptance of what comes that you feel in enlightenment.
Saturday we sat on the ridge through the day. I was at a crossroads in my mind and emotional state. I had one of those two choices that need a third way. I didn’t realize that is what I needed. But in stillness I found a moment of peace and acceptance of what is. it didn’t change the situation but it let me see what is and reach a new possibility.

I went to the meditation Sunday lonely and sad but more at peace. Leaving , when she hurried over, obviously she had somewhere to be she was putting off, to give me a flower it struck a light in me. I’m not alone even if I have no close connection here. We are all one and connected. It is enough.

I don’t know what now but I do know I will be here for it.

Cooking

I love to cook. I love the ingredients, the flavors, the smells, the history, and the tastes. I spread my ingredients out and chop and prep running several dishes at a time until I have a meal or several meals ready. My goals are to have good food within a certain flavor profile for as many servings as I need and to have no ingredient waste if possible. I try to prepare lunch for several days and take the remainders for my meal that evening I prepare them. I want colors and flavors textures and scents. Food starts when you smell it and see it and the richness of the flavor is increased by the richness of the colors, scents, and texture. Some things I love the flavor of do have troublesome smells or textures but they are worth it.
I really learned to cook here in Hawaii the first time I lived here. Obviously, since I was in my 30s I did cook prior to that. But food wasn’t the same kind of interest. There were times I worked hard to prepare and learn complicated dishes and meals but I didn’t’ really understand them. I didn’t understand flavor profiles, cultural distinctions, the historical and cultural reasons certain dishes are what they are, why some substitutions work one place and not another. I loved good food but had not yet developed the love of ingredients, history, cooking, and the rich value of food and sharing food.
After I moved back to the mainland I had a really hard time adapting to what was available in stores. They are the usual things to people there and to many of the dishes I ate but not to how I learned to relate to food. Since I have returned here I find myself once again enjoying my time picking vegetables in China town or visiting the various stores I love to find ingredients at. I am coming back in to the pleasure of just cooking something because I want to not just so I can feed my family. I don’t come home too tired to think about cooking or to a kitchen I am unwilling to cook in. The kitchen here is small but clean and decently stocked with pans and needs.
Now I buy a few ingredients and spread them out to prep. I can take a couple vegetables, a protein (today it was tofu and mushrooms), a base like starch or purple sweet potatoes or kamut, and whatever I happen to have in my cabinet for spicing and flavor extras to create a series of different dishes for the week. Each is put into it’s container and sealed for the freezer and a bit is put on my plate for dinner. I spent $7 today and made dinner and 4 lunches by adding rice I made while I ate lunch and some spices from my cabinet.
I love that feeling when I finish eating something really good and know I have several meals ready for lunch in the freezer and when I look back to check the kitchen it is clean and ready for the next person with no sign I have been in there. I had only a few vegetable tips to discard and I could use those for broth if I had a way to store them.

Last week my flavors were mostly Italian leaning and this week they are more Thai or like those you see in Buddha bowl recipes. The week before I made each one different (to be able to do that with the same few ingredients pleases me.) Sometimes I have an ingredient I don’t know the name of because all the signs were in Chinese. I have used some of them many times and am familiar with them even if I don’t know what to call them. Others are new and that is always fun. I have learned usually to tell how to substitute or how to cook/prep something new by examining it.
I love food and cooking. Good food is calming and pleasant to enjoy. The ingredients have a history and a story. They are connected to cultures, people, and history of our lives. These foods rose out of cultures and impacted the changes in cultures. Food are the foundation of sharing and communication in many situations. They can be a way to connect or smooth interactions. Food is important and it is a foundation of society.

An Office Divide.

Politics, the great divider. It is interesting that the thing designed to run our society and equitably distribute power is seen in people’s minds as a way to control power and ensure their way which they know is the only right way is done. People argue and discuss, fight and work without hearing one another or understanding the reasons.

Compromise is not always the
answer, often you cannot compromise and move forward. When you continuously compromise with one that is extremely wrong you move gradually closer to that wrong. The person with the destructive plan may have other good concepts and desires, may care for their family and friends, may stand as a beacon in some things. None of that in any way changes a destructive or hateful trait that must not be allowed to dominate a society.

Early morning discussions of politics in the office almost always devolve into arguments and disagreements that fall back on irrelevant statements that misdirect from the discussion and inflame responses by sounding taunting and snide. That does not lead to understanding but people are not trying to understand they are trying to win. Politics is about wining and it is reaching into every area of life.

Outside the team is working too hard to have these discussions unless they do it on lunch. But in the office you hear these most days. The same men that talk about wanting to hang a basketball court to prove to the crew that they are better at physical stuff because they can play a sport and entertain themselves with sports all day bring that same mindset into a political or racial discussion. The boss that firmly believes each race can be categorized and slotted into a work and skill level will argue politics on any topic with no regard for human decency because in his mind they are the other. Throwing fallacies, irrelevancies, and false information into arguments is common in discussions and it prevents any of them from actually becoming a
discussion.
Living in Texas religion and politics were intricately tied together and one rarely was discussed without the other. Here in Hawaii it is different. Not that people’s religion does not affect their political stances but discussions are different and even when directly opposed there is often a smile in the voice and an underlying knowledge this is someone I like even if we disagree. One man in my office is incredibly religious and blatant about it. His religious stance is drastically different than mine but unlike the similar stance people I was around in small town Texas, here we not only get along well and work together but we only discuss it when on non-confrontational topics. There is a customer that is of an opposing faith that brings it up on most calls and
insists there is religious discrimination happening. The interesting point is that none of us knew his religion until he started doing that and we never discuss religion in the office.
I often have lunch with the crew working the warehouse that day and discussions with them are about life, working, playing, the island, families, and what we are doing to earn money on the side. We discuss the future and our goals. We discuss how people eat and live and the cost of living. Politics is a side note that is discussed only as how it impacts people. Religion isn’t discussed often. Some of the office people understand that and discuss it with an attempt at balance and compassion but that can be a challenge.

This is the difference, politics as a discussion or power or politics as a discussion of impact.

Just writing

Chill air from the AC feels like it is cooling my bones in my bare arms. The odd wavering drone of the long flat ceiling mounted unit above my head can be felt in my head where the pressure from the back of my neck is trying to produce a migraine. The first thing I do on arrival is reach
up and lift the vent to direct more of the air away from my desk. I didn’t move to Hawaii to be cold. Pulling on my hoodie the soft fuzzy interior brushes my arms lightly with a silky softness that doesn’t really match the heavy grey exterior. Staying on track when writing has been a challenge so I have started using the Shut Up and Write group as a place to do writing exercises and practice just writing or specific skills in writing. Some of them I post here, some of them I don’t. My primary goal write now is to write, and when that isn’t happening, to draw. I practice tones, descriptions, PoV, and styles. I practice topics, timing, speed, focus, freeform, and themes.
I get the exercises from writing magazines, talking to writers, reading books about writing or comments from writers, a few came from online. Some are hugely helpful, some just keep me writing. I am once again
building a collection of scenes and moments, thoughts and characters, lines and stories that are swirling in the back of my head trying to become a coherent story. Like Sir Pratchett talked about it is still like standing on a mountain looking across a valley and seeing only the highest peaks as you slowly lower the clouds and reveal more and more spots until the whole valley is cleared and coherent. I have a sense of it but it isn’t clear to my coherent mind yet.
The light in this room is adequate but dimmer than it seems. When you enter from good light you see the off tinted dingy feeling light that lends the old white walls a greater age than they have. Highlights in grey and tan increase this rather than combat the sense of tired efficiency. A quiet competence fills the space but radios and videos play here and there, competing for attention from a group that each has different interest and taste. A mix of rushed immediacy, detail specific, and relaxed tolerance pervades the workspace with a tension born of loose structure blending with OCD details. A need for a constant inflow of cash means an urgency touches everything and errors are a risk so the tolerance may be natural but it is pressed back out of necessity.
Doing more, being more places, being around more people, seeing more things – all of this feeds my writing. When I hide in a hole and see no one I can’t write. Writing for me is visceral in a way that requires experience and sensation. The feel of the sun as I walked down the hill from my car to the office at the garden was a pure experience that inspired a myriad of sensations and thoughts, memories and questions. Watching the people swarm at the intersections in Waikiki with their chattering noise and bright colors like
plumage of birds on display inspires amusement, observation, stories, loneliness, comfort, anxiety, and memories. The birds diving out of the tree for bugs in quick short swoops reminds me of the kittens learning to hunt and the bees moving between flowers. Each thing is a host of trains and streams of consciousness that arise from the scent, the sound, the colors, the pattern, the words, and
the moment.

Why do I Write ?

Today, another writing exercise. This is a sort of stream of consciousness based on what is around me and a question. It is unedited and random.

Why do I write? That is an interesting question, and one I
am not certain I can fully answer. I write to express myself. I write to get
the words out. I write to remember. I write to describe. I write to share. I
write to heal. I write because writing is part of who I am. I am not writing
but writing is and writing is happening. As Writing the Bones said “writing is
writing.
The sun is out. The ac is on. Heat wraps around you with a
wet blanket. It isn’t hot like I remember as a child. The stifling, heavy heat
that press on you and pushes tendrils into you sapping all your energy is
pervasive in Texas and Louisiana. The damp heavy air makes the heat oppressive
as it nears or passes 100 degrees. Mosquitoes and gnats swarm and bite causing
you to bleed and itch into your dripping sweat. Plants wilt in the sun and
often in the shade. You can’t water during the day or you burn them but you
have to water or many plants will die from the heat and dehydration. This same
dehydration will hit you if you spend to much time out in it when hiking,
working, camping, walking, or playing. People frequently fail to notice just how
dehydrated they are. In some areas the dry air draws the moisture out of you. In
others the heavy, wet humidity causes you to sweat it out.

A pounding echoes through the shop as the crew loads and
unloads materials and preps those that need pre-assembly or dismantling. Hearing
the sound outside the glass door my mind tries to picture what they are doing
and what equipment they are working with. I am uncertain what crew is here
today, although I have seen several of them coming in for equipment or paperwork.
Having taken the time to get a tour of the shop I know what equipment we supply
and assemble here. It helps me to follow the calls and conversations around me
if I know the materials we are working with. Having grown up on construction
sites and reading blueprints all the details make sense but the names are a
blur and a mystery. I don’t remember names. I remember the sounds of metal
alloys as they are worked or hammered. I remember the sounds or the specific
tools. I remember the smell of sawn wood and how the acrid touch of arsenic
touches the treated boards lending a different smell than the white pine or the
rich cedar smell.

Image and Bias

Like many other authors, my writing is often inspired by
what I am reading or by the people around me. One of the books I am reading
right now is
A Slip of the Keyboard
by Sir Terry Pratchett. Of the many tangents it inspired, one is how others see
each of us and how we build our views of others. How I see myself is its own
conundrum but reading this book and
Finding
Mary Foster
brought to mind the many varied ways I am viewed by others,
both those I know and those I do not.
Some people have a particular image they want to put forth
for others, like playing to an audience. Others have a mold or image they
strive to fit into. Unconscious or not most people have an idea or image of what
they should be. Inherently this implies they have an idea what others should be
as well.

What are the triggers that create and build the internal
stories you have about those around you? Clothing is a major social marker and
is the first point of information in many instances. They are an indication in people’s
minds of a person’s sense of style, their social status or standing, their
interests, personal and grooming habits, financial status, origin or home
region, connection a person may have, and sometimes their religion. These
images and indications may be completely inaccurate but they are typically
automatic and impact our interactions. Some people have an image of what other
things imply about a person and their background based on skin color, gender,
hair, eyes, voice, or mannerisms.

Depending how and where we met, you may have a very
different view of me than someone else. I am naturally quiet, introverted,
adaptable, passionate, generally untrusting but very trusting of those I am
close to, compassionate, and interested in learning and growth. I am aware of
some images of me, such as those that find me cold, distant, angry, and harsh.
On the other end you have those that find me open, caring, trustworthy,
compassionate, and quiet. On another range you have those that find me eager to
learn, intelligent, thoughtful, practical, and diligent compared to those that
find me flighty, uninformed, brash, talkative, and uncaring.
If I am viewed on such a broad scale as loquacious and brash
in one corner and silent and shy in another what purpose is served by me
worrying about my image? It is of interest though. As a gamer I am accustomed
to roles and displaying an image in short sessions. The idea of being a
different person for different needs is not hard to understand.
When someone enters a room in an expensive, tailored suit
people tend to respond differently and treat them differently than the one
entering in shorts or the one in a mini skirt. Their memory of each person
tends to be colored by the clothes as well. Consider, each of those
descriptions gave you an image of someone didn’t it? It was likely more
complete than just the clothes really give you reason to know. Play a game with
me for a minute or two.

Take each of those outfits in turn and create a brief story
showing a person of different origins, social classes, and put both more than
one gender in each role. How does your image change?

We each live many roles in life. In many ways we are a
different person for each. However, none of these roles define us or are
actually separate. What they define is the view others have of us and maybe how
we contain the needs of our lives. This could bother us or it can inform us. We
can learn to notice our own reactions and stories we build about others.
Perhaps we aspire to be the same in all our roles but perhaps we do not. That
choice is personal and is a point of growth or awareness we may not all be
striving for. But not judging others on a biased view or opinion of minor
factors.
On the other hand there will always be some words, actions,
and patterns of behavior that are incompatible with our own standards or
beliefs. That one item may be the foundation for a judgment of exclusion. We
should always strive to not base judgment on invariables such as physical
traits, medical issues, orientation, place of origin, or gender. We may be
unlikely to completely remove bias but that does not mean we accept it in
ourselves or others. I have no interest in associating with hate, control,
violence, or divisiveness. These are variable traits and chosen actions and beliefs.

Return with me to the images of the people entering a room.
Take each individual of each gender from each story and picture them
demonstrating extremes of emotion and behavior such as hat, kindness,
professionalism, laziness, fear, love, open mindedness, and closed mindedness.
Now, after all that, when I step back and say someone in a tailored suit,
someone in shorts, and someone in a skirt enter the room what is your mental
image? Has it changed? Do you get one image or a series of varied ones? Have
the colors changed?

Distance

Distance. My last post was the distance of those that lost their place. This is about distance within society and relationships. Sometimes we feel distant from someone we see every day. Other times we feel close to someone at a great physical distance. Other than a few nieces, nephews and cousins I am distant from my family. For years some of us lived in the same area but we rarely saw one another and after mother died we were increasingly distant. My husband and I are physically very distant but we talk every day and text all the time, we are not distant. We don’t have the emotional distance that is the standard in my family or his. My job is new so there is a natural distance of strangers that must be together every day and interact on a proscribed pattern. My roommates are each in their own worlds with little contact between us. We are distant in a whole different way.
Having moved back here again I feel the great distance to the mainland friends. However, when we lived in the same state we all worked and rarely saw each other. So, is the physical distance the source of that distance? Recent years have brought a new battle, with depression. That is part of the distance. Social anxieties and my natural introvert tendencies are also factors. My distance is often of my own devising and probably often in my own mind.
Crowds have always been difficult, sometimes to the point of physical pain or illness. I don’t make friends well, so moving many times, often great distances, allowed my circle to shrink from small to near non-existence. When you don’t make the casual friends most people have, you tend to have fewer but closer friends. To suddenly realize they consider the outsider and casual acquaintance you feared you are is not so much a shock as a blow. You are not surprised but you don’t know where it leaves you.

Gaiman at one point says that events are cowards. Like events, stresses tend to leap out at you all at once rather than one at a time. We all have stress and problems. How many can add up before you feel like you are being killed by the death of a thousand paper cuts while a mountain falls on you.

Many people add a little distance to those around them when a major stressor hits. By the same token some people distance themselves from people undergoing large amounts of stress. When debt becomes a problem or their marriage is strained that may become a verboten topic and one less thing friends are party to. A fight at work or uncomfortable relationships there are another type of stressor. Illness, auto problems, children, family, sick pets, trouble with neighbors, natural disasters, fear, debt, lost of income, each thing adds up a little or a lot and affects you and those around you. Each thing adds distance somewhere.
When work stresses you out and you come home angry it affects your family. Each thing adds to or changes the distance somewhere. Often that distance is more inside you than outside or it is in response to the changes in your behavior. But that distance feeds the fear, depression, anger, and pain. Distance creates distance.

Okay, so I feel distant and far from friends. But, as I settle back into the peace of living here where I choose to be I can admit that the distance is no greater here than it was anywhere else. I can allow myself to admit the distance is my own pain, social anxiety, and fear of being hurt more. Recognizing that allows me to acknowledge when I am creating a distance that I choose not to develop and to change my actions and reactions, thus breaking the triggers and changing the stories. The distance here is the same in every meaningful way as it was there but I am taking action in my responses.
Distance in society and relationships is a constantly changing thing with each layer and interconnected connection flowing with changes in the others. Our work life impacts our emotional state and our energy levels. What we eat, read, enjoy, and where we go affects our relationships and energy levels. I quit drinking and found my circle of active friends changed because we had different interests and pastimes. When stress levels are too high I find it hard to maintain the social connections that could help my mental state. But all of those things are also impacted by the many facets of the lives of each other person involved.
We live in a web of constantly changing distance that is as much internal as external.

Neverwhere and Distance

Taking the bus to work allows a lot of time to read. One of my books this week is Neverwhere. I am reading it again for a book club but it has been a favorite for years. One idea has especially stuck with me for years. That is how easily one falls from society and how hard it can be to return.
On the streets near my place you see a lot of homelessness. Mostly people ignore them, avoid them, and fear them. I often wonder why. What is it their fear? Sometimes I wonder if part of it is the fear they could easily be in that position themselves. Does it feel contagious or dangerous to get to close or acknowledge them? This is part of the the idea in Neverwhere. The act of acknowledging them, of helping them causes him to lose his place in society and fall through the cracks into the city under the city.
I understand this. Over the years I have spent a lot of time with homeless in many cities. There is a distance, a sense of separation from society that feels insurmountable. Being there either with them or as one of them you feel like you are in another world, a harsh and dangerous world far removed from the life you so recently knew. People rushing by have no connection to you and look down with a demeaning disdain and fear of contamination. Parents pull children away like you will eat them or infect them. Women move across the street like you are a threat to their safety.

By contrast, living in the high rise and living on the farm were vastly different from each other but they are connected. There is a pleasant and casual hostility between the sections within society, a rivalry of place and meaning. It is vastly different than the alien world underneath that none of them want to acknowledge.

The department head at one job asked the group how many of us were 1 or 2 checks from being homeless. Less than 5% could say no and most of those shared expenses with families. Working every day, many with multiple jobs, most with two or more family earners, many in school, most sharing expenses, yet we all lived paycheck to paycheck. Each of us knew that we needed every single check just to survive.

When that is always in the back of your mind (And how could it not be niggling at you to some extent) you see those homeless and know that you are one injury, illness, pregnancy from being where they are. Maybe the fear isn’t fear of them but fear of our economy and society that will not protect those on the edges. Would your friends be there if you went on the street? Would they blame you for being lazy or understand what happened? Would they help or would the distance grow? Would you be able to let them help or would your shame increase that distance?
I volunteer at a public garden and many people walk there or take the bus. Nearby is a walking underpass everyone avoids and says is unsafe. But the only reason anyone has ever given is that the homeless sleep there and need to have regular purges by the city. Daily I see homeless people. They are desperate, hungry, dirty, often broken. Many have given up. Sometimes they make me uncomfortable with smell or actions or talking to themselves but they don’t make me afraid.

But I approach them as someone that feels a distance from society and those around me at work, in stores, on the bus, on the beach. I still struggle to relate and communicate as a part of society. They talk about sports, family, nights out drinking, casual friendships, and simple lives they assume everyone relates to. Groups have always been hard for me anyway but life has made that more true rather than less. My degree was gained in classes with students half my age. My family is distant, callous and judgmental. Friends are far away. I worked my way to a high rise apartment and fell more than once in life. I have lived in many cities and in many parts and sections of society from the farms to the law offices, the hospitals to the construction sites, the streets to the high society events.
When people around me talk about how hard it is to afford living I remember mom sitting in the car calculating how she would feed 8 of us on $10 for the week. I remember selling cookies or anything else she and I could make so I could afford to be a part of the business meetings. When they talk about taking time off work or leaving their jobs or their 18 year old needing to look at getting something I remember I was a model at 14 and carrying lumber before 12. I remember working 5 part time jobs to pay for school and still being buried in school debt now. I remember driving my shiny new Mini and my limping 40 year old Honda. They talk about fearing the homeless and I remember the van of guys trying to grab me and the old man shooting the shotgun at the kids picking blackberries and us running unsure if he would really shoot us. I remember fights in the street and quiet nights answering phones in the room beside the morgue. I remember gardens and farm animals. I remember dark streets and formal dresses. I remember dying friends and casual game nights. I remember motorcycle trips and camping in the cold. I remember hospitals that couldn’t tell me what was wrong because there was no point in testing someone with cheap insurance and hospitals with spacious private rooms for comfortable recovery for those with the right insurance. I remember losing my job knowing I wouldn’t be able to pay rent and just leaving to avoid it. I remember using a public bathroom to get into my suit or formal dress so I could be at the event and smiling or the interview. I remember mother crying after a hellish trip to get to a meeting because she realized everyone there just had dinner, dressed, drove over and was reasonably calm and feeling normal and she was desperate, stressed and exhausted. The car caught on fire on the way there, her cancer treatments were possibly coming back, she had a migraine, one child was sick and another hurt, dad and she fought that day, a storm slammed into the house as we left for the meeting but there was no rain when we arrived and everyone else was dry, the floor in the bathroom collapsed and the mortgage company wanted to take the house.

Distance. It will never fully leave me. I can never completely escape the feeling I may not belong and that those around me can see it. Even when they cant and I know it, I feel like they can. I feel the distance so I can’t escape it. So, I understand the idea of falling through the cracks.

Distance

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.

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 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.

Wacom and the Economy

Today, I received my Christmas present – a Wacom Bamboo Fun Pen and Touch. Very cool, I have wanted one for a long time. We are getting it set up now but I may need to pull my desktop out of storage for much work, my laptop just doesn’t have the art tools on it. I have been actively working on development of a card based board game, Steampunk theme recently and I want to work on the art. Thus, the Wacom… I have been reading about the tablet since we got home and looking at how to set it up. It seems really neat, I am still amazed at how much they usually run (Craigslist is my friend on this one). They are a great tool, and very entertaining, but this business model that everything is worth the maximum amount you can convince someone to pay is somewhat absurd and dangerous to me. I understand trying to make a profit, but it has gotten so inflated that each step of the economy must inflate more to cover the cost of the other falsely inflated prices and the end result is a stack of numbers beyond logic.

I felt the same way about a company I worked for in Hawaii. They were a pointless business, falsely inflating the price of construction, and they were one of several unnecessary steps in the process. The result? Insanely high construction cost and building purchase costs. Not the only factor of course, but an important one. We talked to suppliers that supplied items they marked up from manufacturers. We took their price, marked it up and bid to sub-contractors that took that, marked it up and bid to general contractors, who marked it up and bid to architects, who marked it up and bid to owners (sometimes there was another couple steps in this process). You see my problem with the result? Remove some steps and the price drops to half with no change in design, quality, product, supply, source, or anything else. We see this in the grocery store and gas station every day. I have heard recently of a new plan already approved to take chickens killed and pre-processed in the states, ship them to Chine to finish processing, and then ship them back to the states to be sold as fresh or frozen chicken. How bizarre. I am not certain where one should start on the flaws in that one, economy or not.

But, back to the Wacom: Soon, I shall be learning a new tool and working on the project full steam. It might be nice to have another artist for some areas I am uncertain of my skill in, but I have learned so many others, what is one more. Now to find a safe way to keep the Wacom on my desk when it is not in use…Cats.