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.