Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Lunch for me is the same every day. It's built around a banana, an avocado, and an orange, and may occupy an hour or two of each early afternoon.

More and more, I regard food as medicine which doesn't have to be unpleasant, or a chore to take, and fruit as the most natural food for humans, considering the state to which our digestive systems have evolved. It's mostly what our recent ancestors who lived in the trees lived on.

Oranges, bananas, and avocados are all teeming with essential nutrients. The 70 milligrams of vitamin C in a medium-size orange is its outstanding attribute, and it contains 237 mg of potassium as well. Bananas have even more potassium, 422 mg, but the mighty avocado seems to be the king of fruits, containing 975 mg of potassium and significant amounts of niacin, pantothenic acid, vitamin A, and B vitamins in addition to four grams of protein.

I usually start with the orange, and even though I'm supposed to avoid dairy, I can't resist having a few slices of cheese with it. The wonderful taste of the combination is simply too good to pass up. Then comes the banana, al fresco.

It took me a long time to warm up to avocados, and I still don't like eating them by themselves. So I mash my daily avocado up in a bowl, mix it with a squirt of lemon juice and black pepper, and scoop it up with low-fat and very inoffensive tortilla chips from Trader Joe's.

I'd recommend this lunch to anybody except people who may be allergic to one or more of the three. It's filling, but also provides a good way for a person to maintain or lose weight, especially if you skip the cheese.


Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Saturday, November 27, 2010

straight 8

...............................The list of supplements I'm taking every day adds up to about $480 a month. The first six directly address symptoms of Parkinsonism, although some of them have additional benefits; N-acetyl-L-cysteine promotes respiratory function; D3 helps with skin disorders; marijuana is an anti-depressant.

Co-enzyme Q10................200/mo




Vitamin D3............................13


Red yeast rice.......................16
(cholesterol control)

Nicotine patch........................60

This tells me that I need to work enough to come up with about $500 a month in additional income.

In addition to the supplements, I follow dietary requirements: a daily dose of carrot juice, fish three to five times a week, lots of turmeric and pinto beans. Then there's exercise -- usually the topic of this blog -- including exercise for the breath and the mind.


Thursday, November 04, 2010


Monday, rained out, ugly.

Since then, warm with plenty of sunshine, and we're supposed to get more of the same 2day. Haven't missed a day on the bicycle.

You really don't expect weather like we've been having at this time of year.

No home practice today; thursday means yoga in greenwood in the pm. So morning and early afternoon will be devoted to house cleaning.

Better get started!


Monday, November 01, 2010


Nasty, rainy weather today. I started to go outside for a walk at one point, but didn't even get to the end of the walkway before turning back and coming inside.

Where is the dividing line between the body and the mind? In examining cases of spontaneous remission of cancers and other diseases, Robert Anton Wilson points out that such phenomena only remain inexplicable as long as we reside under the sway of the mind-body dichotomy. This bafflement persists because of what Wilson calls "our habit of thinking that anything we have split verbally must reflect a similar Iron Curtain in the non-verbal existential world.* This is similar, he points out, to what's happened in the physical sciences, where post-Einstein scientists no longer deal with space and time, but space-time. Similar considerations led the Buddha to conclude, contrary to Hindu orthodoxy, that there is no immortal self housed within the mortal body-mind, that such a concept is "an illusion, a dream," and that a "self" (or human being) is a heap of undifferentiated characteristics.

As I went through daily practice today I was mentally in the breath as it united with the physical process. Effortless mindfulness, free of distraction, can be learned along with learning the habit of not differentiating.

*Quantum Psychology, p. 134.


Monday, October 18, 2010

body & soul

Today is one of those days spent entirely attending to self-maintenance. Might as well; I have nothing better to do.

After a necessary and crucial good night's sleep, began the morning (after e-mails, etc.) with pranayama and meditation, the former accompanied by the mesmerizing drone of a tanpura, the latter in silence.

Breakfast, the usual couple of eggs, will be succeeded for the rest of the day by vegan fare -- fruit, nuts, brown rice type of stuff.

After a thorough shower, shave, tooth cleaning, and so forth, dressed warmly for the bike ride to Greenwood (even now, at 3 p.m., it's just barely above 50). I'm returned home from Capitol Hill now, so back to scrupulously working on leaving the faintest possible carbon footprint.

During an hour in the studio, fitted into place the final piece of daily practice, movement and exercise (asana). I noticed while working that daily yoga pays dividends; all my muscles are well toned, the body balanced and well proportioned if somewhat undersized and underweight.

Got my cardio workout on the bike ride home. (Going to Greenwood is downhill, returning is uphill.) I've become a believer in the necessity of daily cardio-pulmonary work -- as necessary as stretching and moving to achieve strength and flexibility.

Some people might say all of this is self-indulgent and narcissistic, and i suppose to some extent that's true. But I don't have much else to do, and anyway the better care each of us takes of ourselves now, the less someone else will have to take care of us later on.

Right now I think I'll go stir in what at this point is the only missing ingredient -- a nap.


Thursday, October 14, 2010


Yesterday I moved up to Capitol Hill for a few days of cat sitting, taking care of Ole. Besides having to drive more to get to where I need to go, being here is not much different from being home. Life has begun to be pretty much the same anywhere I go.

I moved across town with a small knapsack with a couple changes of clothes in it, a bag of groceries and supplements, a few toiletries, a laptop and a cell phone. I also came with a car, of course, but I'm getting to the point where I could carry everything I need on a bicycle, and ditch the car. I could be gone from home for six months and never miss a thing.

How simple my life has gotten. When I was married, owned a home, and was working things always seemed a lot more complicated. I think it was working that mostly made it that way, since a person needs to figure out how to fit in all that other stuff we need to do around working. But now life is amazingly simplified, and it gets simpler all the time, and any place I go, I'm home.


Sunday, October 03, 2010


At this point it's all about breath. 50 Years of smoking can't be overcome, but with adaptation even emphysematic breathing can be optimized.

Practice starts with establishing a relatively slow and deep breath pattern, with abdominally-activated exhalation. Once movement begins, the initial pattern is retained for the duration of practice, and closely linked with the movements throughout.

Pranayama follows, and sometimes there's difficulty. The concentrated and purposeful breathing can be frequently interrupted by coughing, as the discipline of yoga activates fluids and impurities in the lungs and encourages the body to expel them. That's actually a good sign, indicating a slow but gradual improvement in the baseline condition of the respiratory organs.

Related: I've lowered the temperature of the marijuana vaporizer from 350F to 325, because the cooker was giving off a bit of smoke at the higher temperature. Smoking not allowed!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

strength and weakness

It's not always easy to tell the difference between strength and weakness.

Sometimes belligerence and a willingness to use force seem bold and courageous, when they're really not. Sometimes tolerance and forgiveness seem weak or wimpy when they're actually just the opposite.

It seems ironic to me at times that at the same time I gather strength with age, the society I find myself living in falls ever more deeply into irreversible and fatal weakness. The profound spiritual illness we've suffered as a people is nothing new, but it becomes more intense as the nation clings ever more tightly to bad habits and destructive behaviors, especially indulging in perpetual and pointless wars, and abandoning the national conversation to a professional commentariat employed by a mercenary and commercialized mass electronic media.

That latter group has taken over the function of thinking for us, so we don't have to.

I contrast this sad situation with my own, personal circumstances. My body is getting gradually stronger, even though I have a couple of degenerative conditions which will no doubt grow worse at some point. My breath is still troubled, but improved and progressing. My mind is clear; my spirit becoming aware of itself, and acquiring shape and substance.

This is strange and interesting, and it's hard telling what my long-range reaction to the combined set of circumstances will be, or what it should be.

Illustration: St. Michael the Archangel defeats the Devil and kicks him down to hell.


Saturday, September 11, 2010

fall sunshine

It was a wonderful, gorgeous fall day in Seattle today, with lots of clouds but lots of sunshine too, and temps in the low sixties.

I did a long, slow, indoor yoga practice, but spent most of the day outside on the bike, just cruising around the neighborhood and soaking up as much sun as possible. Winters last a long time around here, and you have to take advantage when you can.

I have to say, hardly anything has ever given me a sense of empowerment, or of powerful independence, like this bike has. I think it could make the average person feel twice as strong.

I really have to get out and explore the Burke-Gilman Trail a little bit before winter sets in.


Monday, August 23, 2010

past imperfect

In dreams last night I found myself once more in the company of someone who was for a time very dear to me. She was giving me frequent injections of amphetamine, which I didn't want to take. But I submitted obediently, while questioning the reason why such a pointlessly harmful procedure was necessary.

I didn't get an answer, just an admonition that "You need to take your medicine."

The shots weren't particularly painful, and in the dream space I didn't feel the radical effect that would actually result from a dose of crank. But I knew that those closely-spaced administrations of the drug had to be doing me harm, and wondered why I was going along with the routine.

Then the curtain of darkness dropped, and when it was lifted again I was alone and standing before a bathroom mirror. I was shocked to discover that I had gone completely bald on top. "I must not have noticed because of this fringe of hair I still have in front," I said to myself, and then in one of those changes of perspective peculiar to dreams, saw the top of my head from above. I still had the aforementioned line of fuzz along the top of the forehead, and hair along the sides and back of the skull, but the entire top was as hairless and shiny as a cue ball.

I can't interpret the first part of the dream. However, chapter two is clear enough: a dream of losing one's hair, especially occurring in people for whom that fate is highly unlikely, is almost always a symbolic expression of emasculation.

Photograph by JKirlin.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

different day, different world

Something is happening to me and I'm not quite sure what it is. This morning during meditation I descended pretty far down the mine shaft. It was very quiet down there, but also very bright, with lots of what looked like colored lights flaring and then fading, mostly purple and yellow ones.

Gradually returning to the world, I poured a cup of coffee and prepared to sit down to do battle on the internet. But I couldn't do it. Something was different. Instead of anticipating arguing brilliantly on a discussion board, or wowing correspondents with my flashy and elegant prose, I was mildly repulsed by the prospect.

So I took a shower and went grocery shopping (with a list of course), and even drove to the store -- the first Saturday I've driven since I got the bike, I think. Then I parked and walked up to the Uncouth Buzzard to get something to read. The interesting and unusual proprietor checked my account in his account books, rather than with a computer, as people once did and will again. And since my account is active, I got a used copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "One Hundred Years of Solitude" for $1.37.

I've waited for about 50 years to start this book, and I waited until exactly the right time, the right day even. This guy's imagination is like an out-of-control zucchini patch, and he makes no effort to restrain it. it's all very Latin as one might expect. They experience the world differently than we do, and when talented express themselves with lavish exuberance.

I don't understand what happened this morning, and it certainly wasn't intentional. I don't know were this is leading, and it's a little strange at times, but I like it.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010


The water and air of my mind are choppy, unstable, disturbed by the book I just finished reading, what I've been doing, and what I've been thinking. Even the morning practice failed to yield the sense of placid equilibrium it usually does, although it helped settle things down quite a bit.

We're partly political animals, that's for sure, and we should be. After all, we have to live in the objective world of concrete, cars, cats, and cluster bombs. So we look for a Moses or a Mohammad to lead us out of the wilderness of our own confusion. If we can get a grip on what's happening, we'll have a pretty good idea of what's going to happen, and that will help us to know how to respond.

In his first sermon in the Deer Park, the Buddha said this world is a snare and a delusion. But I don't think he meant that we should respond with navel-gazing, withdrawal, and feigned ignorance. The world we look upon is a delusion because it never stops changing, but we still have to be here now.

Sculptural assemblage, "Paradise Lost" by Jud Turner.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

optimum health

Achieving optimum health -- the best health we can enjoy under our particular individual circumstances -- is a fairly simple matter, but not easy. Though there are few rules, observing them means giving up a lot of the things we've grown used to.

Most of us really need to tighten up our intake of free radicals, that cell-destroying, one-electron-short matter we pick up heavy doses of in most restaurants, where cooking oil is used, re-used, and absolutely poisonous after a time. A lot of processed food releases free radicals as well. Overloading the system with free radicals leads to noticeable intestinal, skin, and immune system distress in most people in a fairly short time, with a few inexplicable exceptions.

As far as a very short dietary prescription is concerned, I can't do any better than echo Michael Pollan: "Eat food; not too much, mostly plants."* This abbreviated but comprehensive advice is as notable for what's left out as what's included -- Pollan implies we should eat little meat, very little in the way of dairy products, because we're eating mostly fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.

Any population that follows that simple formula will be very nearly free of obesity and diabetes, and a lot of heart and arterial problems would be more seldom seen.

Everybody should exercise. Morning stretches and later on a cardio workout of some kind are necessary to achieving and maintaining optimum health. A good cardio workout is a vigorous bike ride or swim.

Alkalized water as a constant drink helps balance Ph levels and contributes significantly to optimum health. Some people pay thousands for machines that alkalize their drinking water, but lemons are the best natural alkalizer, and a lot cheaper.

Drugs are always a problem. It's probably best to leave them alone entirely, but nobody does. Like a lot of people, I take two prescription drugs and both have side effects. But they also enhance my life and contribute to optimum health. So do some "recreational" drugs if they're not overused. We should probably stay away from drugs like nicotine and cocaine altogether, because they're so addictive. Alcohol is good for people and a wonderful social lubricant if taken in small to moderate amounts, and likewise coffee and marijuana, are both mood enhancers. In all cases, the biggest danger is from the temptations of overindulgence and dependency.

Finally, work, but not too much. Sleep as much as you want, unless you find yourself sleeping 13 hours a day, in which case you're depressed, and that's not healthy.

*Michael Pollan, "In Defense of Food" (see sidebar on left; click on "Read This Book").


Sunday, August 08, 2010

breath in, breath out

...(T)he Buddha spoke and said:

...the method of being fully aware of breathing, if developed and practiced continuously, will have great rewards and bring great advantages.

It is like this: the practitioner goes into the forest or to the foot of a tree...and sits stably...holding the body quite straight. Breathing in, one knows that one is breathing in; and breathing out, one knows that one is breathing out.

Breathing in a long breath, one knows, "I am breathing in a long breath;" breathing out a long breath, one knows, "I am breathing out a long breath."

Breathing in a short breath, one knows, "I am breathing in a short breath;" breathing out a short breath, one knows, "I am breathing out a short breath."

...This is how one practices.

"I am breathing in and making my whole body calm and at peace. I am breathing out and making my whole body calm and at peace."

"I am breathing in and am aware of the activities of the mind in me. I am breathing out and am aware of the activities of the mind in me." One practices like this.

"I am breathing in and concentrating my mind. I am breathing out and concentrating my mind." One practices like this.

The Full Awarenss of Breathing, if developed and practiced continuously according to these instructions, will be rewarding and of great benefit.

Taken from "The Sutra on Full Awareness of Breathing," translated by Thich Nhat Hanh.


Saturday, August 07, 2010

fifth chakra

When I meditate it's on the chakras.

Up until now I've only done meditation on the first four, those lower points on the tree of life of the spine, on its trunk you could say, which is rooted in the earth and governs those parts of our existence we share with the animals, fundamental instinctive behaviors driven by the urge to survive, the need to procreate, to experience the transformations of birth, maturity, and death, and capacity for love.

These four are the eath-bound chakras, corresponding to the earthly elements: earth, water, fire, and air. I silently say the name of each, think of its characteristics, its associated element, its attributes and qualities, then with the breath going out silently chant its one-syllable root mantra, five breaths for each chakra.

Today I incorporated meditation on the fifth chakra, called vishuddhi, which is at that big knob at the top of the thoracic spine, where the neck begins. It corresponds with the throat, and governs the functions of voice, communication, and speech. At this point as a species we depart from the animals, since words are not things, but abstractions which symbolically correspond to things, and are beyond animal understanding. This capacity to form words and make speech is something we share with the gods rather than the other creatures on earth, thus the material associated with the fifth chakra is the ether of space, which is not of this world.


Monday, August 02, 2010

in memoriam

Donald S. Brice, professional newsman. 1917 -- 1983.

Born on this day in Morenci, Arizona.

Had he lived till now he'd have been 93, the same age as the late Daniel Schorr, with whom he had a lot in common.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Too Much Yoga II

For only the second time ever I think I'm yoga'd out.

Got up this morning and about 2/3 of of the way through my asana routine my daughter called. It was early, and she'd just got up and was on her way to the place where she coffees up.

Then, after a quick shower, it was off to Edmonds and working for an hour with the old guy who has Parkinson's and also suffered a couple of strokes. Poor guy. It's not yoga exactly, but it is exhausting.

Then it was the drive home, a quick lunch, and time to saddle up and head for Greenwood where I taught an hour-and-a-quarter class to four lovely ladies. It was a terrific class, but when you work with an older crew they like you to demo everything. By the end of it I was over yoga for the rest of the day, and right now I'm sitting in the Green Bean decompressing. The sun is out, it's after five, and the day is winding down. I just need to caffeinate, and find the energy to pedal home.

I'll be up early tomorrow, as usual. I've got class at 9:30 (as a participant, not an instructor).


Monday, July 26, 2010

simple moves

I did my daily routine at Whole Life today where Sheryl led us through asana practice, and it was great. I've noticed that when yoga movements are left purposively simple and uncluttered, when there are not overly many of them and each is explored thoroughly, and the instructor moves through the sequence slowly and gracefully, with due deliberation, that it's much easier to tie one's breath to each movement, which is one of the main objectives of this discipline.

It begins with a complete preparation of breath and mind; the depth and frequency of breathing during movement is established before movement begins, and the mind cleared of extraneous clutter. The exercise of the asana sequence then becomes more like a formal dance than calisthenics, and the transition to pranayama, during which movement ceases and all attention becomes centered in the breath, is seamless. Following that, the stillness and internal focus of pranayama leads naturally into the deep interiority opened up during meditation.

I've done little more than scratch the surface of this discipline for the body, breath, and mind. Still, that exploration, which grows gradually deeper with time, has made a tremendous difference in my life, especially enhancing the ability to see clearly. Some of the time I feel as if this vision is transmitted by an interior eye.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

james alley blues


Times ain't now nothing like they used to be;
No, times ain't now nothing like they used to be;
And I'm telling you all the truth -- Oh take it for me.

I done seen better days but I'm puttin' up with these;
I done seen better days but I'm puttin' up with these;
I'd have a much better time if these girls now weren't so hard to please.

'Cause I was born in the country you think I'm easy to rule;
'Cause I was born in the country she thinks I'm easy to rule;
She try ta hitch me to her wagon, she want to drive me like a mule.

You know I bought the groceries, and I pay the rent;
Yeah, I buy the groceries, and I pay the rent;
She tried to make me wash her clothes, but I got good common sense.

I said, If you don't want me why don't you tell me so?
You know it? If you don't want me, why don't you tell me so?
Because I ain't like a man that ain't got nowhere to go.

I b'lieve I'll give you sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt.
I'll give you sugar for sugar, let you get salt for salt,
And if you can't get along with me, well it's your own fault.

How you want me to love you, and you treat me mean?
How do you want me to love you? You keep a-treatin' me mean.
You're my daily thought, and my nightly dream.

Sometime I think that you're too sweet to die;
Sometime I think that you're too sweet to die;
And another time I think you ought to be buried alive.

--Richard "Rabbit" Brown, b. 1880.

Rabbit Brown lived in the toughest part of New Orleans, and resided on James Alley. This is his most famous song.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

teaching yoga

Today was a milestone of sorts. I've been teaching here and there and struggling with it, mainly because so many of the people I deal with in my classes struggle with it. Most of them have serious limitations of one kind or another caused by arthritis, or high blood pressure, or Parkinson's Disease, or dementia, or a combination of two or more of those things. It's very difficult to find movements that people suffering such conditions are able to do that are also helpful for them, and that address their physical and mental irregularities. And imagine for a moment trying to get someone who's both hearing impaired and disoriented to follow simple instructions such as, "Sweep your right arm overhead as you inhale."

This morning I actually got some participants for my Thursday class up north (third time's a charm; I had nobody show up for the first two classes scheduled), a family. The wife didn't practice, but helped him through the moves. The granddaughter was an experienced yogini; what I was doing was too easy for her. But what're you gonna do?

I helped him as much as I could for about an hour. It was difficult and uneven, and I left the place wondering if I can help anyone, really. I was not looking forward to subbing a class back in town in the afternoon, because I pictured another challenge -- and I hate challenges. I had never been to this place before, I was subbing for a well-established teacher in a senior center, and I imagined an indifferent bunch of the usual older crew, with lots of problems and other issues. I ate a quick lunch at home, got on my bike, and apprehensively pedaled down there.

But they were warm and friendly, and though a mature group, seemed young. All were in fairly good shape, and for the first time in my short career I was able to run through a standard floor routine after beginning with a few minutes in chairs. It was the longest class I've taught so far, but I had no trouble filling the time, which was something I was concerned about beforehand. At the end of the hour and a quarter I filled up with a tremendous feeling of accomplishment and gratitude.

I'm a real yoga teacher, and it's great. I'm ready for a lot more of this. Where do I sign up?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

merderer with yellow eyes

Every once in a while you run across a short story that beautifully condenses the form down to the absolute essentials. This is such a story. It was written by a six-year-old in England some years ago.


Once there was a merderer with yellow eyes and his wife said to him if you merder me you will be hung. And he was hung on tuesday next.


Monday, July 12, 2010

atop the ridge

I went to the yoga studio for practice today instead of doing my regular home routine. I biked along the top of Phinney Ridge, mostly on Phinney Ave, and returned the same way.

It takes only about 15 minutes to cover the 25 blocks from my apartment down to 87th and Greenwood because it's a gentle declivity almost all the way, never steep, but you do almost all of it coasting and braking intermittently, unless you're a speed demon. Coming back is a little harder, of course, because a gentle declivity in reverse is a gentle incline, and that takes mostly first gear and about half an hour. So if you're going for yoga, this means you get a workout after your workout.

Practice was great today -- it was well-attended but not crowded; the routine Sheryl put us through was vigorous but not taxing (it is an over-fifties class, after all), and I got home with the muscles burning a bit as is appropriate to a post-exercise feeling, but having never broken a sweat, partly because the weather is much cooler today.

I think I'll finish lunch and take a nap. The beautiful life is by necessity simple and uncluttered. Tomorrow I have to do something complex and speedy, and drive the car 40 miles round trip to work. But until then I'll enjoy the pristine simplicity of today's hours.


Thursday, July 08, 2010

birthday practice

Today marks the beginning of my 66th year, and besides not expecting to live this long, I never imagined in my wildest dreams that I'd be in better shape than ever before. But so it goes, as the late Mr. Vonnegut often said, and besides enjoying excellent physical health, my mental and spiritual condition improve day by day.

You're a lucky guy, too, when you get birthday cards from two of your best friends who happen to be ex-wives. Interestingly enough, both sent Jacquie Lawson cards (though not the same one). I also got a greeting from my daughter, who called from the Netherlands just to wish the old man a happy birthday, and who reminded me once more of what wonderful things can happen when you combine two creative people and stir.

I just finished my daily practice -- so refreshing! I've gone back to my old practice because it contains almost all the elements I need every day. I'm thinking particularly of balance, always of prime importance in alleviating the effects of Parkinson's Disease, and inversion. Those headstands and/or shoulder stands reverse a lot more than just the flow of the body's vital juices; I'm convinced that to some extent they reverse aging as well.

It's a terrific day; the sun is shining and we're having a heat wave, which is fine with me, since where I recently migrated from we called weather like this a cold snap. Ok, that's an exaggeration, but in Desert Hot Springs, low 90's, even with humidity, is something of a relief this time of year. I picked up another temporary teaching assignment today and start next week, so everything is looking good. In fact, I can't think of anything I'd change. I suppose more money would be nice, but does anybody ever have enough money?


Monday, July 05, 2010

clearing in the west

I just finished doing an hour of yoga in a studio with an instructor, and it was great -- exactly what one needs to get a running start at the fat part of the day.

And what a day it's going to be! There's actual clearing in the west, and in an hour or two the sun will be out to stay for a good long time. Gone is the gloom and funk of a cancelled spring and counterfeit summer. Gone, the depressed and enervated apathy of dashed hopes and unrealized "what-if's." For when sunlight warms the weary earth, coaxing her into yielding up one more crop, anything is possible.

The bicycle stands patiently in the garage, letting me know I can ride it any time I want. It's time to put the car away for the summer, except for trips of ten miles or more. It's a brand-new day today, and there's a brand-new world for it to happen in, making this an appropriate time to begin to "clear away the wreckage of the past," as they say in AA.

So let's begin. There's a lot to do.

Photograph by Larryosan.


Saturday, July 03, 2010

inside out

As I was going through my morning practice early today it occurred to me that we get what we need.

Devo has a new compilation on the market, and it's a sign of the times. Older and fatter now, but as irreverent as ever, they've replaced the drummer Alan Myers with Josh Freese, a capable veteran of Nine Inch Nails and Axl Rose's band. Other than that the personnel -- Mark and Gerry and their brothers, both Bobs, are the same, and so is the sound. The message is pretty much the same too, only a little more urgent now and more appropriate to the times than ever.

It also occurs to me that even though there seems to be a disconnect between our internal lives and what's happening outside, in "the world," that's an illusion. The laws of causation rule everything, and what we choose to become is to a large degree a response to what's going on around us.

It's very quiet in here this morning -- inside the apartment and inside my head. Outside, the world of human over-reach and of humanity suffering the disasters born out of hubris roar like wounded buffalo. There's no situation so bad that it can't be made worse by selfishness, dishonesty, and corruption.

It's only natural to search for purity in a dissolute world. With 23 pure and clean breaths undertaken with intense concentration, I'm ready for anything. What I expect will happen today is that a few more of my fellow citizens will wake up to the horrible reality in which we all find ourselves, and respond appropriately.

"Sooner or later," says Mark Mothersbaugh in one of the tracks on the new album, "everybody finds out."


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

new routine

Since I've been doing the same daily yoga practice for over a year now, I decided it was time for a change, and moved to a new template suggested by Viniyoga's founder, Gary Kraftsow, as one that will engage the mind, specifically the intellect, and body simultaneously.

Instructions for the manomaya practice -- that's its name -- are laid out in the Kraftsow book I've enjoyed most, Yoga for Transformation.

The new practice takes about an hour, as did the old one, but has pranayama and meditation integrated into the sequence, whereas before asana, pranayama, and meditation were discrete elements practiced sequentially.

This new routine isn't hard, but it's demanding. The only pose I can't do by the book is Bharadvajrasana, which Gary is doing in the picture. I need a strap to access the foot resting on the thigh when my arm is coming around behind the back. With practice, I should be able to make the stretch.


Monday, June 14, 2010

a time fo de bike ride

Fun time deh yah a time fo de bike ride,
Sunshine deh yah a time fo de bike ride,
Sunshine deh yah a time fo de bike ride,
Fun time deh yah a time fo de bike ride

Bright sunshine and 70 degrees -- a time fo de bike ride, mon.

I seriously have to get myself a new bicycle seat. I have no built-in cushioning on my bony butt, so I require perch that includes a little gluteal compensatory material.


Sunday, June 06, 2010

the devil's philosophies

(Loosely based on the example of William Blake's "Proverbs of Hell," from "The Marriage of Heaven and Hell.")

All wholsome food is caught without a net or a trap.

Teach your kids how to read, write, do sums, and work. Other than that, leave them alone; they already know how to be human.

We came out of the earth, and the earth came out of the sun. One day soon we'll go back into our mother, the earth; one aeon soon, the earth will be consumed by its mother, the sun.

All sustainable and environmentally harmonious shelter likewise comes out of the earth, is made of earth, is a vertical extension of earth, and breathes and pulses like the earth.

If God had intended us to go 70 miles an hour, we'd have been born with wheels and internal combustion engines.

Safeway is full of fluorescent light, angelic music played by machines, frozen processed pizzas, and unhappy people, thus it is not a market.


Friday, May 28, 2010

cardinal points

Work in the morning.

Think in the afternoon.

Eat in the evening.

Sleep at night.

Photograph: "Morning Work" by J.H. Field, early XX century.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

st sebastian

Why do I feel like St. Sebastian
All shot full of arrows?

The cell door is open.
I can walk out any time I want,
Yet I stay in here.

I used to go to the beach
And watch the gulls, but now
It's too much trouble,
And the gulls are depressed.

The sand runs through the glass,
And the glass lets it.
Water always runs downhill,
And the cell door is open.
Yet I stay in here.

"I'll never be free," I say.
"Never able to go to Safeway
And get what I want with
My handsome face and my
Luxiurant silver hair
And moustache."

Painting -- St. Sebastian, by Andrea Mantegna, oil on canvas, c. 1480. Click on the image for a larger view.


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

apple girl

Young Korean who calls herself "Apple Girl" singing Beyoncé's "Irreplaceable."

She's accompanying herself on four i-phones coordinated in a series. One is a mic and the other three she uses as instruments.

She has more videos accessible through the thumbnails at the bottom of the window which will pop up after the song ends.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010


Tiring of the unsightly and increasingly painful skin lesions that have popped up on various parts of the body over the past eight months, I finally saw a dermatologist. "Psoriasis," he said. "That's what I thought," says I. So now I have some new jelly to put on those nasty spots. This is a prescription med, so I'm hoping it works better than the over-the-counter ones I've tried.

Lesions didn't stop me from having a great practice this morning. The sun is finally shining in Seattle, and we're supposed to hit 70 degrees the next three days in a row. It's a pleasure to get out of bed in the morning and look out at the bright, moist world and abundant greenery of this charmed city. After the optimal two or three cups of coffee, it's time to sit cross-legged on a couple small cushions and attend to the breath, and so begin.

The stretches and bends, especially the back bends, feel wonderful after a night's sleep, and coax the body more fully awake. Pranayama quiets any Parkinson's tremor. All's right with the world.

It occurs to me that if I start feeling much better than I do now, I might have to seek more medical attention.


Thursday, April 29, 2010

older, but better

Got up early this morning and got a jump on the daily routine, since I had to be somewhere later in the morning. I didn't rush it, but wasted no time moving through a brisk and invigorating practice.

Then it was off to observe and take notes at Tim's yoga for Parkinson's class, where I'm usually a participant. I wanted to write out his sequence because there's a lot of detail -- small variations within poses -- and the bulk of what he's doing would be excellent for any senior/chair yoga class.

I'm feeling unusually positive and upbeat right now. I saw the neurologist for the first time yesterday, and the news is nearly all good. She told me I'm in great condition for the condition I'm in, that I'm doing all the right things and my "proactive" lifestyle, especially the exercise and attention to diet, is no doubt helping me. The only borderline negative aspect of the visit was her recommendation that I add a new drug to my daily regimen which I have since found out would cost me five bucks per once-daily pill, even with insurance picking up part of the tab.

That's a little rich, and would still be even if I only took half a pill a day. But I might try that for a while.

Over all, however, I have no complaints. Now what I need is more work, which means it's time to rattle all my contacts' e-mails, and get out and beat the streets.


Friday, April 23, 2010

the chair

Chair yoga is an idea whose time has come. For older people with physical limitations it delivers most of the benefits of conven-
tional yoga with hardly any of the risks associated with the deepest bends, stretches, and twists.

It's made-to-order for people over 60 who have had joint replacements or may suffer from arthritis, high blood pressure, movement disorders such as Parkinson's Disease, or a host of other complaints and conditions.

Try sitting on a metal folding chair, crossing an ankle over a thigh, and then bending forward. Compare the hip stretch you get, the "opening" of the joint as it were, with the effect of lying on your back and assuming the same posture then pulling the free knee toward your chest. The result is virtually identical.

Chairs can help practitioners adapt strenuous standing postures as well. Forward bending, either symmetrical or asymmetrical, becomes possible for people whose flexibility and capacity for movement is limited if they stand, then bend and place their hands on the chair's seat. Even someone with moderate-to-severe spinal arthritis can experience the benefits of stretching the low back with this approach.

When I started my yoga teacher training a little over a year ago, I never imagined that I'd be specializing what seemed to me at that time to be a sort of substitute for real yoga, as opposed to the "real thing." But since then I've experienced yoga adapted to the chair both as an instructor and a student, and I've become a believer.

There are some things, of course, that simply can't be done while seated. For example, it's next to impossible to do a true back bend in a chair. However, if one's students are able to stand as well as sit, they'll be able to achieve sufficient spinal concavity by standing while leaning their chests against a wall to accomplish true back bending. And while I don't always tell them this at the beginning, one of the teacher's objectives for clients with limitations should always be to get even the most limited among them to the point where they can get themselves down to the floor and back up again unassisted.

With help from a chair, if necessary.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010


It is possible to recover from nearly anything that afflicts us, but you have to want it more than anything else.

Today's practice was near perfect, with an assist from a preliminary blast from an inhaler accompanied by a cup of hot peppermint. The movements were slow, deliberate, and mindful; the disciplined breathing a glacial 23 cycles over 11 minutes, and very deep.

The breath is the link between body and mind, the bridge by which it is possible to cross over from an energized physical to a purified mental state. In my case, that's doubly true.

I do best when recovery and doing the actions necessary for it remain the primary focus, 24/7. If I get distracted, and start running down side tracks, the focus turns to fuzz and I fall into holes. I suppose that happens to nearly everyone.

When you fall into a hole, there's nothing to do but climb out and re-establish the right road. Truly, as one of the Upanishads (I forget which one) says, "The path is straight, and narrow as a razor's edge."

Photo by Jody Bergsma.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

books and paper

Though frequently derided as holdovers from and the detritus of previous centuries, hardbound books and writing paper are poised to make a comeback.

The computer is a wonderful tool, but it has a tendency to dominate and tyrannize users' lives, like a drug habit, if it is not closely controlled. This is especially true when the machine enters and fills a life which is otherwise a vacuum.

New York Times columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg addressed this topic yesterday with his typically few choice words.

"I love the typefaces and the bindings and the feel of well-made paper," he says. "But what I really love is their inertness. No matter how I shake “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” mushrooms don’t tumble out of the upper margin, unlike the “Alice” for the iPad. I never have the lingering sense that there is another window open behind page 133 of “the lives and times of archy and mehitabel."

And he concludes that "The truth is that I need that help to keep reading, especially as much as I always have. The question isn’t what will books become in a world of electronic reading. The question is what will become of the readers we’ve been — quiet, thoughtful, patient, abstracted — in a world where interactive can be too tempting to ignore."

I have any number of hardbound volumes I haven't read, and quite a few that are calling me to read them again. Like Mr. Klinkenborg, I love the look and feel of high-quality paper, especially if it's the long-lived kind, made with rags, that's kept it's integrity for over 100 years. For example, the pages in my five-voume set of "The Library of Wit and Humor," published by Gebbey and Company in Philadelphia in the 1880's, are still white, as are the pages of a History of England by David Hume I once handled and looked over, published in the mid-eighteenth century.

Also, I love the look and feel of inscribing black letters on white pages by hand, with liquid ink, and plan to return to maintaining a primitive "blog, "i.e., keeping a real, handwritten diary one day, if it's in the cards for me to ever get my handwriting under control again.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

inner space

Here's a shot of the north half of my living room. Finding the space for a daily yoga practice can be a challenge in an urban, one-bedroom apartment, but I managed.

Approximately half of the big room is devoted to the yoga space and my computer work station. When it's time for yoga practice, I simply move the chair out of the way and there's plenty of room.

My current ambition is to find space in the apartment to put up a set of drums. They're an electronic kit, so I'll be able to plug in headphones for silent practice -- or at least silent for everyone but me -- so as not to disturb the building's other residents. I'm thinking there might be room at the foot of my bed, if the drums don't block access to the bedroom closet. We'll see.


Monday, April 12, 2010

the healing spirit

No, that pretty, green herb is not marijuana; it's peppermint, and it has begun to replace coffee as my constant drink.

I don't plan to quit drinking coffee, but henceforth it will be more of a treat than a staple. The advantages of drinking peppermint, known in Spanish-speaking lands as "yerba buena," make it too beneficial to pass up.

This cheap and common herb is a well-known remedy for anxiety, a treatment for both the common cold and bronchitis, is a heart tonic as well as a treatment for digestive disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease and chronic flatulence. When applied externally, can serve as an insect repellent or a deodorant. It helps in the treatment of migraine.

All these benefits derive from peppermint's high concentration of volatile oils, of which menthol and menthone are most prevalent.

Try waking up with a hot cup of peppermint instead of coffee. Despite the absence of caffeine, I believe you'll find it gives you the same a.m. lift as cup of high-octane java, but without the side effects of caffeine. Peppermint will render you alert, but calm, as opposed to nervous and excited.


Friday, April 09, 2010

age of mud

Aging is not easy. "Getting old is not for sissies," expresses the thought a little more emphatically. Advertisers selling golf-course condos and resort vacations may try to tell you that the latter days of our lives are "golden," but even they know better.

There are two naturally stressful and difficult times in every person's life: adolescence and the onset of old age. In both, all of us experience dramatic and rapid physical and hormonal changes. The main event of the teen years is the genesis of a dragon-like lust whose fiery breath consumes the adolescent mind. But as the body begins to deteriorate and is invaded by disease, the dragon mostly sleeps, only occasionally raising its head with a feeble roar which sounds more like a bleat.

The oddest coincidence of my life is that my decline parallels the decay of the nation and society I live in. When I was a baby, Americans were confident and hopeful. It was an article of faith that the next generation would "do better" than the last. America made tangible goods of lasting value. The town where I spent my small kidhood made steel.

Now weeds sprout from the floors of the abandoned steel factories, and birds nest in their rafters. Our immediate ancestors lived in split-level three-bedroom ranch houses. Our children will soon be inhabiting hobbit houses made of mud.

I'm witnessing the ending of the industrial age. I hope I'm not making that sound like a bad thing.

Grass grows on the master's grave, Ben Bolt,
The Spring of the brook is dry;
And of all the boys who were schoolmates then
There are only you and I.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Siddhartha sat under the tree. For a long time.

"Why are we even here?" he asked himself. "What good is it?"

"Everybody suffers. Everything suffers. And then, after a life of suffering, everyone and everything alive gets old, gets sick, and dies. Not only is all of life suffering, but it always ends badly. Life's a bitch and then you die."

He thought about this for a while and decided his body was at fault. If he could free his mind from his body, he reasoned, he would experience enlightenment. So he deliberately abused his body. He didn't eat but a double handful of cooked beans or lentils a day. His ribs stood out like exposed slats, and the skin of his belly pressed so tightly against his backbone that he could rub his fingers on his vertebrae from in front. But enlightenment didn't come.

He had hoped to realize the self his teachers had told him of, that self which is the intelligence that created the universe. The first without a second. That which never changes. But when he looked for the self, all he encountered at the core of his being was a heap of undifferentiated characteristics -- instincts, impulses, animalistic inclinations, half-remembered infantile memories, dreams, and so forth.

He decided punishing the body was not the way to enlightenment, for the body, and the mind, and the breath are all present in the self, and the human self, far from being eternal, is a thing that arises, then passes away; here today, gone tomorrow.

He sat under the tree and ate again. He sometimes arose and went to wash himself and exercise. He ate rice and vegetables and beans, and enjoyed the taste of sweet fruits. He took in the odor of flowers and felt the sunshine on his face. He sat under the tree and breathed, feeling his upper spine grow longer when he inhaled; pressing the belly toward the spine when he exhaled. He focused his attention intently upon his breath. Peace began to settle over his mind.

He meditated on the chakras, the energy centers of the spine, that central column which holds up the physical structure of the self. He concentrated on their individual and unique attributes, and kept his attention on the bija mantra, or syllable associated with each chakra as his mind dwelt along his backbone, and his breath came and went strongly, evenly, tranquilly.

After a time, he became enlightened. He found himself sitting under a tree, taking in prana from air, water, and food. He knew why. Then he got up from the tree, and went out on the road to teach people what he had learned.


Saturday, March 27, 2010


It's reached the point where I have to face it. I never go anywhere or do anything, and sometimes I don't even cook for myself. Internet addiction is real, and no fun.

Usually I manage to set aside an hour in the morning for yoga and another in the afternoon to go to the store. That's about it most days.

It wasn't always a bad thing, this surfing-and-posting habit. It got me through a wicked divorce and nasty drug withdrawals, a Desert Hot Springs summer and a Seattle winter. It proved to be the best way for me to self-impose the discipline it takes to spend an hour or two working at writing something every day. It's a relatively benign alternative to wasting hours watching toxicvision. And even though it keeps me in contact with people, it's no substitute for face-to-face interaction.

There are so many good things about spending significant time on the net that I'm not even thinking about giving it up. But I'm now determined to learn how to exert some kind of control over what's become a nervous, reflexive habit. And for someone with an addiction-prone personality, that's difficult-to-impossible, like trying to learn how to "control and enjoy our drinking."

Maybe the thing to do is not have a high-speed connection at home, which would force me to get up and go down to Greenwod if I wanted to get on line. I'd probably drink too much coffee and spend too much time sitting on ergonomically incorrect chairs, but it would be preferable to spending 10 or 12 hours a day hunched over my little writing desk waiting for something new to appear, or checking my bank balance 20 times a day.

I did manage to spend a couple hours soaking up the beautiful language of my 1611-edition King James Bible today (the O.T. Book of Judges), and it was wonderful. So right now I'm going to wrap this up, but some pinto beans and spinach and rice on to cook, and go back to those old Israelites, and how they smote the Canaanites and destroyed their "charets of yron."


Thursday, March 25, 2010


Today's was a short but excellent yoga hour, and it included all three elements -- four if you count savasana (deep rest). Asanas were kind of breezy; pranayama deep, meditation brief but effective.

It was a new start for me (again), three days after that tough fall I took on Monday morning. I have to say, falling down on the sidewalk like that rocked my world. I didn't think it did at the time, and the fact is it could have been a lot, lot worse. No broken bones, injured joints, sprains, etc. Just lost skin and bruises.

It was dark and I tripped. Splat! Down on the sidewalk face first.

There's some indication I'm starting to have some balance issues.

So today I turned over a new leaf and got a new start. I've done this so many times now I've lost count, but the important thing is to just keep on doing it. If you fall, there's nothing to do but get up and get back on the right road.

I always recognize the "right road" when I see it. I don't know where it's going, but maybe we shouldn't think about that.

Just look at those pink little shoats. They always know the right road to be on. I'll bet they're lucky little pigs who live in a pig parlor. Sad to think they'll probably end up as bacon on somebody's plate.


Friday, March 12, 2010

rice & beans

I love to eat my rice and beans in the evening.

Boiled pinto beans, cooked with red or golden bell pepper. Steamed white rice.

I top it with a half handful of grated cheddar cheese, so it's vegetarian but not vegan. Also El Pato salsa de chile fresco (Mexican hot tomato sauce), four teaspoons stirred in at the end.

Some people like lots of garlic in this dish.

Eating like this is a way of telling your body you love and value it. And it will love you back.


Thursday, March 11, 2010

cold, wind, and rain

It's a cold, rainy, blustery day here in Seattle, and much more typical of this time of year than what we've been having. You won't catch too many people complaining, however, since we've experienced something of a precipitation shortage during this unusually mild winter, and the combined rainfall and snowpack won't permit City Light's usual sales of excess electricity to California this summer. We really need the rain for a change.

Yoga was home practice again today, from 10 till 11:00. It felt good as it always does, although I found my mind wandering aimlessly during the 40 or so minutes of asana, then managed to establish a disciplined concentration during the period of controlled breathing, only drifting off a couple of times for a few seconds.

Today is the second day of no nicotine; the final seven-milligram patch came off early yesterday morning, and I've been wrestling with my naked nervous system. I'm finding that a combination of first pranayama, followed by a little cannabis settles that down.

The world seems a quiet and muted place during periods of winter weather here. The indoors are very inviting, and once the traveler is nested in a warm spot and armed with hot tea and cookies, it's hard to leave and venture outside.

I ran across an article on AOL about the number of divorces that occur after the man retires and is home all the time, trying to figure out what to do with himself and driving his mate crazy. My life has very little purpose or meaning at the moment, but a new raison d'etre is now beginning to take shape. It involves work, of course, and my advice for anyone contemplating retiring from a job you've grown to hate is to retire from the job, but don't quit working. The "daily grind" is one of the things life is all about, and much as we might tell ourselves a life of idleness is what we want, the actual result of achieving it surprises a lot of people.

Oil painting, "The World's Mine Oyster," by Anna Wakitsch, Santa Fe, NM.


Sunday, February 14, 2010

yoga and smoking

Sometimes while lying awake for a couple hours in the middle of the night as older people often do, the desire to revisit cigarettes and feel that nicotine drug rush gets on me. Fortunately, when that happens I have the antidote. After finishing my night's sleep and upon arising the next morning, I waste no time commencing the day's yoga practice. It includes a period of pranayama, or deep, controlled breathing, and getting in touch with the breath neutralizes not only any desire for tobacco smoke, but any inclination toward depression, as well.

Depression is somewhat heretical. If we do theology the easy way and define God as simply what's real -- and I do -- then the most important and uplifting aspect of reality is life itself. By that I mean the fact that life on earth exists and that we're part of it can lead us to transcendence over small, petty, annoyed, and severely limited states of mind that are the constant companions of self-centeredness and its twin, self-pity.

Respiration is the primary indicator and first function of life. It connects the living organism with its source, and close attention to one's own respiration reminds us not only that we are in that sacred space called being alive, but also of what that means. Everyone wants to know the meaning of his or her own life, but as the abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock once pointed out, "Nobody ever looks at a rose garden and asks 'What does it mean?'"

The meaning of your life or mine is identical to the meaning of Pollock's rose garden: its very existence is also its meaning.


Friday, February 12, 2010


I finally saw "Avatar" yesterday -- travelled to the IMAX at the city center for the occasion -- and I have to say it was impressive. It's a technical extravaganza that gets away with using a predictable and well-worn story line (if you've seen "Dances with Wolves" you've seen the low-tech version). The theme of this overused story, however, never gets old -- the notion that the aboriginal and tribal peoples whom we destroy wherever we come in contact with them are much wiser than we are. They know things about God and nature and what it means to be human that we've simply forgotten. This idea continues to resonate with modern audiences because they recognize it to be true.

The new-style 3-D technique of "Avatar" lifts the image out of the screen, so that viewers feel like they're inside the picture rather than out front of it. The effect is physical, somewhat disorienting, and gives some people flashes of vertigo. The computer-generated part of what is largely, in essence, an animated movie are impressive, but we've seen stuff like it before, in the Ring trilogy for example. But this film excels in its use of creative visual devices which move the story along.

For example, you already know, given their role as the wise aboriginals, that the N'avi have a much deeper bond with nature, and a stronger knowledge of it than humans. A lesser director than James Cameron might have chosen to depict this bond in symbolic terms, showing the medicine man chanting on the mountain top for instance. Symbolism is fine in college literature classes, but movies are a visual, concrete medium, requiring the N'avi to physically connect with their natural environment. As Dan in his review of the film at the Andyatthemovies site descibes it, the N'avi are so in touch with their planet they carry biological USB ports in their pony tails –- pony tails which they can use to peacefully and literally connect to virtually every creature living thing.

Dan also calls attention to the creative way Cameron establishes the consummate villainy of the invaders from earth, by making them the equivalent of the American invaders in Iraq and Afghanistan. References that clearly link the pillaging of the planet Pandora by mineral-seeking buccaneers from earth with current headlines are everywhere, from the weasely on-site corporate executive (shades of Exxon and Blackwater) at whose behest this piracy is occurring, to the bloodthirsty, technology-worshipping army colonel who vows to "fight terror with terror."

"Avatar" uses a very contemporary, pulpy, sensational, comic-book vehicle to tell a very profound truth, and like any movie that sums up its time, is both a statement and a reflection of our current perceptions of the truths of our world and ourselves. We now recognize that so-called "primitive" peoples knew and still know things about God, nature, and the essence of humanity that we've forgotten in our rational, secular culture. You don't have to look very far to see for yourself that this is true -- for example, the mostly-Catholic virgin worshipers of Mexico, partly modern, but with very strong, conservative ties to the past, seem to me to have an awareness of mortality and eternity that North Americans totally lack. All we have is reason, and reason tends to relentlessly orient itself to the bottom line. As the philosophers might say, reason is "necessary, but not sufficient."


Monday, February 08, 2010

parallel universes

There are people who claim they don't believe in global climate change. Or, conversely, that if there is such a thing, there's no proof that it's caused by human activity.

They usually leave out the implication of all this -- that they don't need to change any of their own behavior. One such person was offended by my contention that there's no way to avoid changing our behavior, and said ...all restrictions on human rights to live, to pursue happiness as they deem fit, must be not only well-justified, and lacking solid sciense IS a problem for the GW Insisters, but clearly must be made in a democratic way, or else they are draconian and oppressive, unAmerican, in short.

So, we're going to take a vote on reality? And if reality is voted down, what then? Do we repeal it?

The reality that real-world actions have real world consequences is hereby voted down. From now on, every place will be Disneyland and every day will be the Fourth of July. We'll all eat hot dogs and never suffer from elevated cholesterol levels or diseases of the colon.

We'll drive our SUV's forever and we'll waste as much gas as we want, secure in the knowledge that the wastes of billions of internal combustion engines have no effect whatsoever on the atmosphere.

And I suppose we could do that, except for the fact that reality, like God, doesn't give a damn whether we believe in it or not.

Either we deal with reality, or it deals with us, because reality isn't just like God, which is that which never changes. It's also the real-world effects of real-world causes, which never changes. The consequential unfolding of events never changes -- what actually happens is absolute reality.

I don't know what to tell anyone who finds that "disgusting," "distasteful," and so forth.

What I do know is that people who believe in fantasies, and who react with anger and irrational resentment when their fantasies are punctured, and hate anybody who knows more than they do, and want to make it all their fault, are hopelessly foolish. And quoth the Buddha, "For a time the fool's mishchief tastes sweet -- sweet as honey. But in time it turns bitter, and how bitterly he suffers."

Painting: "Parallel Universe" by Steve Hester.


Monday, January 25, 2010


One of the things that causes many psychiatrists and psychologists to become convinced that their peer C.G. Jung was a madman is Jung's belief that dreams can sometimes foretell future events. "(D)reams can have an anticipatory or prognostic aspect," he wrote in "Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams" (Ch. 5, p. 117), "and their interpreter would be well advised to take this aspect into account, particularly when an obviously meaningful dream does not yield a context sufficient to explain it. Such a dream often comes right out of the blue, and one wonders what could have prompted it."

And he gives examples of what he believes were such dream portents, of which there are also numerous historical or mythological examples, such as Joseph's interpretation of the Pharaoh's portentous dream of years of plenty followed by years of famine in Genesis.

I've told the story elsewhere of how I once accurately divined the future in a card reading I did for myself, whose analysis I wrote down at the time it occurred. This was the prediction of my separation and divorce from my wife of 25 years, and the disturbing, and, to my mind, frightening reading took place four years before the event. Now a card reading is not a dream, of course, but I've long believed that the cards can serve as a bridge between the conscious and subconscious minds.

Until now I had not been aware of any accurate predictions I may have dreamt, but I now realize that I once dreamed a premonition of death which came true. I didn't recognize it for what it was at the time, or or even for years after the death occurred. Even though I wrote it down when it happened, my conscious expression of its symbolism and images misses their meaning. In this dream:

I was at the old Spanish mission church at San Miguel, California, which has one of the best preserved early 19th-century churches on the continent. While there I visited a side chapel of the type so common in the old mission churches, which I said was at "the back of the church," near the rear of the nave and the front entrance to the building. I referred to it in my account as "kind of a storage room or cloak room" and observed that "Numerous people" were "milling around" in there.

Now I had been to side chapels in mission churches before, and knew that they were often crowded, but not with the living. Many of these small chambers at any given time contain photographs and other memorial artifacts of any number of the departed, along with dozens of burning candles that have been lit in their memory. Those were the people who were "milling around" symbolically in what I mistook for a "storage room," and after noting that "I don't know any of them," I saw "a cardboard box with V.J.'s name written large on its side."

V.J. was one of my favorite students, a lovely and intelligent girl enrolled in one or another of my classes for three of her four years in high school. I dreamt this strange, ominous, and completely unrecognized portent of her coming death, which I clearly saw boxed up with her name on it and waiting to be opened, on November 20, 1997, which was the year she graduated, in early summer 1998.

V.J. met her death in a Saturday night head-on collision on a two-lane rural road in Tulare County, an all-too frequent occurrence in those parts whenever weekends and alcohol combine to victimize the innocent. That happened either the year I retired or the year immediately before that -- I can't remember. She was in her mid-twenties by that time, and left a daughter and the rest of her family behind.

I find it neither surprising nor alarming that I saw this beforehand, nor am I surprised that I misinterpreted this fairly straightforward sequence so thoroughly.

Painting: Soft Construction with Boiled Beans (Premonitions of Civil War) by Salvador Dali.


Monday, January 18, 2010

furniture mover

According to the ancient Norse and Germanic peoples, thunder and lightning were spectacular celestial effects produced by the great god Thor smiting enemies with his short-handled hammer, Mjolnir. The strength he needed to wield this instrument with enough force to produce the atmospheric pyrotechnics was generated by his special belt, called Megingjord, and his pair of iron gloves, Járngreipr.

Thor had a very long career making war and thunder, well over a thousand years, until finally the Vikings surrendered to the spread of Christianity, the last western Europeans to adopt the one new God who drove out the many old gods, about 1000 C.E. For a while the fireworks and sound effects that come with thunderstorms were still divinely ordained, but as rational and logical modes of thinking and science came to prevail, thunder and lightning were diminished to fairly pedestrian and scientifically legible occurrences -- electricity, and and air rushing into the vacuum produced by the sudden discharge of electricity into the air.

Except at my house. When my sisters and I were very young, we lived in Ohio, where there are lots of storms. My sisters when they were still small told each other, and firmly believed that thunder was caused by God moving furniture. My own infantile conception of those awesome events was more generic than theirs -- I thought the sky was angry, and in his anger produced the dangerous lightening flashes and the frightening thunder. It wasn't that far from believing in Thor.

Who's to say which explanation is the "right" one, or which is the most accurate? I do know that the angry sky is a more satisfying and emotionally healthy way to think of those things than analyzing them in terms of depersonalized electrons and emotionally sterile vacuums. Can anyone categorically deny that the sky is angry, or that the universe and all its parts are sentient?


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

repeat offender

I dreamed I was back in the high school classroom again last night, a recurring nightmare that I'm hoping will eventually go away now that my true feelings about the fifteen years I spent there are out in the open.

And the truth is, when I was in the actual classroom, as opposed to the one in my dreams, I usually didn't encounter anything even close to the extreme hostility and resentment exhibited by the students in my nightmares. What I'm seeing in my dreams, then, is my own feelings projected onto the people I was supposedly teaching, many of whom were quite attractive and likable in real life. Sadly, however, as personable as they were, they mostly had no interest in learning anything.

The sorrowful fact is that anyone who teaches high school has to be ready for a wrestling match every hour of every day. The classroom is a test of wills that never ends, since we want to see our students' best effort and they, or most of them, want to get away with doing as little as possible in exchange for whatever grade they think they deserve. And my anger grew out of that endless bashing of foreheads, a perpetual contest in which the only goal becomes winning, and surviving to fight another day, a strategic objective which replaces the learning objectives to which we pay lip service.

Up until now I had managed to repress and bury these sentiments, in spite of having an aversion to ever going back into the classroom verging on phobia. But now that these insistent messages from the subconscious have surfaced, I'm at last forced to acknowledge my real feelings, even though others may find them offensive and politically incorrect.

But social disapproval is nothing of any consequence to me, and the only real problem I have with all this is that it's a very superficial use of the subconscious. When we repress our true feelings, we're pushing them down below the conscious level, and using the subconscious as a garbage can. Dr. Jung explains it this way in his "Symbols and the Interpretation of Dreams:"

If (the subconscious mind) contains too many things that normally ought to be conscious, then its function becomes twisted and prejudiced; motives appear that are not based on true instincts, but owe their activity to the fact that they have been consigned to the subconscious by repression or neglect. They overlay, as it were, the normal unconscious psyche and distort its natural symbol producing function.

Therefore it is usual for psychotherapy, concerned as it is with the causes of a disturbance, to begin by eliciting from the patient a more or less voluntary confession of all the things he dislikes, is ashamed of, or fears, This is like the much older confession in the Church, which in many ways anticipated modern psychological techniques.

Clearly, then, I have not yet even launched the voyage into the deeper parts of the mind. I'm still engaged in the process of making the vessel seaworthy and clearing away the debris in the harbor.

There's a lot more to come.

Illustration, "Nightmare" by Daniel Montuoro.