Saturday, January 24, 2009


I'm not quite sure how to upload images to Blogger unless I add them to the sidebar or include them in a post. I need to upload a couple of screenshots of the blog for BlogSerp and a couple of other things, so ... um... here they are.

Thursday, January 22, 2009


Anne Lamott, one of my favorite people, says that joy is the best makeup. She's right. Joy makes everyone beautiful.

Remember that all the joy of the universe is already there within you. Even if at times it only holds onto you as a tiny spark firing off by itself, waiting for you, joy is always ready to be recognized (and communed in/with) whenever you're ready to hear, to sense, to know, to love.

Joy is like a command that you can't refuse. When you are filled with joy it is intense, unavoidable, but at the same time the potential for joy is like kind of light that waits, patiently, for you to find it.

If you've known overwhelming sorrows, don't forget that the depth of your sorrow is never deeper than the capacity for your joy - if you choose it.

Joy is deeper than simple happiness, because it implies a connection to what really matters. You can be superficially happy, but joy involves your whole heart and soul and spirit.

Joy is not quite the same, either, as simply feeling pleasure or a sense of calm well-being. There is a quiet elation in joy, a profound euphoria. It is ec-static in that it takes you out of yourself.

Joy is outward flowing, peaceful, and even comforting to others. If you pay attention to what brings you authentic joy, that is a great pointer to your faith, your path, your bliss.

Love may fail - mostly because most of the time we have no idea what we mean by loving - but joy never fails. Joy approaches the big L - the big Love, the cosmic oneness, the Spirit.

In joy, there is a kind of truth - a sort of truth that happiness can sometimes gloss over. Joy has a built-in mundacity detector, and it only builds on itself - rejoicing - in what is true for you.

You can't earn joy. You don't receive joy from following any rulebook.

Joy surpasses the ability of language. It cannot be adequately expressed in words, but only in the intuitions of the heart.

When you are joyful, you are smiling inside - where it counts the most.

Even during wretched, miserable, sad, despairing moments, don't forget about that sparkle of joy that never, ever leaves your spirit. Even the simple remembrance of a moment of authentic joy re-activates your heart.

Listen. Feel. Intuit. See. Taste. Take.

Can you feel it? Does joy touch you?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Playing Hide and Seek

Playfulness beams me on! I love to play!

Play is the exultation of the possible.
~ Martin Buber

Children everywhere, in every culture, play hide and seek. They love it - and so do I.

The only time hide and seek isn't fun is when the seeker doesn't really seek; we all know that's cheating - and mean!

Even free play assumes the "scene" of the game, and that's important. Not all "games" are fun! We're all familiar with someone, maybe even someone close to us, who takes pleasure in "playing games." We all know players.

Sometimes hide and seek is more metaphorically played. I wonder if that universal experience of playing hide and seek might not be part of the communication problems between people, especially between people who love one another. What we've forgotten is that games require the scene of the game. It seems obvious, but if no-one signals the underlying structure of play, things can get very hurtful very quickly.

We hide ourselves to see if the seeker will care enough to seek us. We seek when the hider isn't actually hiding. That doesn't work out well.

hide and seek 2 by =Nocturnal-Devil on deviantART

I'm not suggesting some ritualized invocation of the commencement, exactly, although I can picture a doleful official drone:

"At the very moment when I blow this whistle, we will commence a collaboration in a game of perspective, memory, and distinct roles under a commonly agreed-upon set of rules. The role designations will be hider/seeker (questioner/questioned, pursuer/pursued, etc.). The more time and energy that you put into your role, the more points (cred, mojo, rewards) you will be credited with, but if you do not perform according to the expectations of this role, you will lose whatever credits you might have accumulated up to this point. Ignorance of your role is no excuse."

Yeah. That would be silly, but we do this all the time - without signaling it at all.

Once someone gets into the habit of reacting as though they were participating in such a game, it is very easy to assume that the other person is consciously participating, too. Play cannot be playful without some mutual assent. Without agreement, the "game" is just a form of sociopathology.

There has to be some indication of the game-scene, what counts as the boundary and what counts as the realm of play. How long is the game to last? Is it a competition? Is the whole idea of the game to transverse the boundaries of it? Or are there layers, with different boundary conditions for each?

Sometimes the signals can be very minimal, especially if two people know one another very well, but they have to be communicated somehow. If that doesn't happen, then all sorts of projections and insecurities and fears start bubbling into being, even when the other person isn't intending to manipulate at all.

What's the solution if you find yourself thrashing around in this space?

You could try to identify whether or not, in fact, you are involved in a game-scene. This is easier for group settings: national diplomacy, family drama, church community rituals, the courtroom, or a doctor's visit. If you choose to navigate the game-scene on its own terms - assuming you've understood the roles and the rules (they sometimes change) - then that's a choice you can make a little more mindfully. Sometimes being constructive in those spaces requires a little visit to your internal meta-level to be able to (imaginatively or actually) subvert outworn expectations, but at least these scenes and games are recognizable and held in something like the "common" sense of culture/kinship/generational networks.

Things are more dynamic - and confusing - between two people who are friends and/or lovers. The Buddhists have what is probably a very accurate idea about the kind of ego-detachment that truly nourishes loving hearts, but it's pretty difficult to detach at times.

Sometimes the scene is invisible.

Sometimes the game is unknowable.

Sometimes you assume that there is a game when there isn't.

Sometimes you think you know your role in the game, and you discover that you don't.

Sometimes someone else plays a game, but you haven't been invited to join in as an equal.

There have been books on courtship "rules," for example, that play with psychology in just this way. "Is it too soon to call her?" The scary thing is that many of these games work, even if they are horribly manipulative.

It's also very easy to assume games are being played - even if they aren't (or - even if the ones that are being played are relatively common and benign).

Still, it's just a creepy-crawly feeling to wonder what game is being played, a bit like those dreams where you're on stage but you don't know the play or your role and you have no idea what your lines are. One of the aspects of that position that is so awful is that you have to start second-guessing yourself, checking your systems for paranoia, and so on.

Authentic friendship and/or love can only involve such games when they are mutual, playful, and fun. I'm not sure you can really be in a love relationship at all unless you have established trust around this. Then, when it's "game time," it can be just as fun as playing hide and seek was, as exciting as truth or dare. You can play in that space created between you by both of you - and share all sorts of divinely enjoyable intimacies there.

However, if you are playing games without signaling and setting out the game scene, don't be too surprised if your partner doesn't want to play. It's just too scary and hurtful, and most of us are pretty vulnerable when we really care for someone.

If you expect something of others because of the game going on in your head, you could save yourself a lot of heartache by at least communicating the expectations that you have. Better yet - lose the expectations and pay more attention to actual behavior and communication. The gap between your template and an actual person will always be too large to bridge, and if you overlay your vision over someone else, you will never have the chance to know them.

From the other side - if you never trust anyone enough to let them see you, then you will never know if they loved you or not. You weren't there, just a simulation of who you thought you should be interacted with that other person. And you lost every moment together that you could have had - and maybe, just maybe that person would have "got you" and loved you anyway.

Hmm... well, got kind of carried away there by the locomotive of thought, but thinking and writing are also forms of play (to me).

When was the last time you really played?

Why not play hide and seek right now? It's fun! Even in the cold.

And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.
~ Kahlil Gibran

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Trouble Tree

Every religious tradition has its rituals, every community has its rituals, every profession has its rituals, and we create our own, too (these are the best!).

Ritual can help open up awareness of kairos within chronos. Ritual also provides simple imaginative methods to package, sort and file various aspects of our being and experience, and to have a space in which to compare one moment to another - all through actions that are meaningful to us and can be repeated.

Thoughtful, individual rituals can create anchorpoints for grounding and release. To me, rituals are a form of performative meditation. Rituals allow us to pay attention to the "between" of our relatedness - to ourselves, to others, to the phenomenal and the liminal and the cosmic.

As snow is the poor farmer's fertilizer, ritual is one of the most accessible ways to step outside the ordinary spaces into resonance. Spiritus. Gnosis. And - it can be awfully fun.

I found a lovely narrative of a simple ritual at More Than Sew So this morning. Does this resonate with you?

I hired a plumber to help me restore an old farmhouse, and after he had just finished a rough first day on the job, a flat tire made him lose an hour of work, his electric drill quit and his ancient one ton truck refused to start.

While I drove him home, he sat in stony silence.

On arriving, he invited me in to meet his family. As we walked toward the front door, he paused briefly at a small tree, touching the tips of the branches with both hands.

Afterward he walked me to the car. We passed the tree and my curiosity got the better of me. I asked him about what I had seen him do earlier.

"Oh, that’s my trouble tree," he replied, "I know I can’t help having troubles on the job, but one thing’s for sure, those troubles don’t belong in the house with my wife and the children… So I just hang them up on the tree every night when I come home and ask God to take care of them. Then, in the morning, I pick them up again."

"Funny thing is," he smiled, "when I come out in the morning to pick ‘em up, there aren’t nearly as many as I remember hanging up the night before."

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Current Moon Phase

O Moon!

Did you enjoy last month's amazing full moon? It was the biggest, most wonderful and mysteriously luscious moon of 2008.

Guess what? Tonight - January 10th - the biggest full moon of 2009 is coming.

Johannes Kepler explained the phenomenon 400 years ago. The Moon's orbit around Earth is not a circle; it is an ellipse, with one side 50,000 km closer to Earth than the other. Astronomers call the point of closest approach "perigee," and that is where the Moon will be this weekend.

Perigee full Moons come along once or twice a year. 2008 ended with one and now 2009 is beginning with another. It's the best kind of déjà vu for people who love the magic of a moonlit landscape.

January is a snowy month in the northern hemisphere, and the combination of snow + perigee moonlight is simply amazing. When the Moon soars overhead at midnight, the white terrain springs to life with a reflected glow that banishes night, yet is not the same as day. You can read a newspaper, ride a bike, write a letter, and at the same time count the stars overhead. It is an otherworldly experience that really must be sampled first hand.

Another magic moment happens when the perigee Moon is near the horizon. That is when illusion mixes with reality to produce a truly stunning view. For reasons not fully understood by astronomers or psychologists, low-hanging Moons look unnaturally large when they beam through trees, buildings and other foreground objects. This weekend, why not let the "Moon illusion" amplify a full Moon that's extra-big to begin with? The swollen orb rising in the east at sunset may seem so nearby, you catch yourself reaching out to touch it.

You won't be the only one. Even at perigee, the Moon is 360,000 km away, yet the distant beauty beckons to poets, stargazers and NASA with equal force: "Come back," it seems to say, "I'm really not so far away."

I'll be looking at that moon tonight with an especial fondness.

Join me tonight for communion and moonlit sparkles. I can feel it already.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fire and Flame

Fire fascinates me.

Candles. When I was a kid, my mother used to light candles at the dinner table sometimes. She admitted not too long ago that it was a way to calm us kids down. It worked. I would gaze upon the small flame, hypnotized.

Nothing's changed. The surest way for me to calm myself - especially if slow deep breaths are ineffective - is to look at flame. If the burning candle smells good - even better. Most candles are too heavily perfumed, but there are some that are almost divine.

Fire in the hearth. The best place to be in a house (excepting maybe bed) is right in front of the hearth before a real wood fire. We have gas logs now and it's not the same. I love the way fire continues, and can be transported. I love the ancient bonfire traditions, the sharing and dividing of the hearth's fire - the heart of the home. Whenever fire is involved - the moment takes on a resonant quality, even if there is no particular reason for it.

Maybe that's why there are so many candles and fires and lights at the darkest times of the year. Comfort and joy.

Still, I remember being very young (especially for this), lighting matches one by one and letting them burn almost all the way to my fingers, crying for the Little Match Girl. I remember Joan of Arc, and countless women charged as witches, and forest fires, and the general rapaciousness of out of control fire. I think burning - being consumed by fire - must be one of the worst ways to die.

But I love the fire that is understood and respected and somewhat domesticated.

I love the way fire moves, the way it feeds from air and wood and oil, the way its wildness can be studied and almost communicated with sometimes. I love the shapes of flames, the edges, the depth of color from ash to blue to red and orange to the palest yellow.

I can look at orange coals all night long, catching glimpses here and there of quick tendrils reaching out for more. Sometimes I'll feed them a twig, just to watch the flames leap. What happens if the wind is this way? If I stack wood in this shape or that? If I throw in candy?

The best thing about camping is having a campfire - in a mountainside nook, in the desert, deep in the woods. A bonfire is great, too, especially on the beach, under the starry night. The combination of open sky and fire is sublime.

One of the roles I've always played in my secret world is the keeper of the flame. It helps to have a staff - or at least a long stick - for this one. I can keep a campfire going in the pouring rain. A hooded cloak is a good thing too - it doubles as a cozy blanket. And yes, I have one - but it's very old and (ahem) a little singed. I've got my eye on a new one - grey or green?

I feel very mysterious and powerful and very, very female as the keeper of the flame. That's another mode that beams me on.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Playing with My Hair

Anytime someone plays with your hair it feels wonderful, right? It's a pure sensual pleasure.

I love to go to a beauty salon, and feel someone wash my hair, and comb it, and cut it, and dry it. All that hair play - ahhhh. It relaxes me all the way down to my toes.

And there's something very sweet about a child grabbing hold of your hair.

So that's a good relaxation meditation. Picture someone (the someone is of course your choice, so pick someone really. really. good!) playing with your hair, running his (and assume "or her" throughout) fingers through it, taking up a a little chunk of it and feeling the sensation across his own face - just because it is so irresistible.

Imagine someone massaging your skull, too, and your temples, and speaking to you in sweet tones - stopping for a kiss now and then, perhaps. And...

And if you have a true love, imagine him holding a lock of your hair close and dear - a material fixed point for a spiritual/erotic reality - even if you never see each other again.

If you actually have a lock of hair of someone you love tucked away - in a locket, on your alter, on a significant page of a book, wherever seems a secret and treasured place to you - you are already a romantic, so build on that. Not everyone has hair long enough to snip a good lock of hair from, but even just a few little bits will work. You can imagine a thread of connection, a wisp of their spirit that remains present.

A lock of hair is almost always a remembrance, an urge to closeness, even if it is also sometimes a form of grieving and loss. Hair is, I think, inherently meaningful, and in the right circumstances it can be incredibly erotic. There are many associations involved in this particular theme, but the primary thread involves pleasure, happiness, intimacy. If two people feel the desire to exchange locks of their hair, that's a heart signal (in case you hadn't been paying attention) of lasting love, or at the very least, a very singular kind of friendship.

Whenever I imagine my love running his fingers through my hair, I feel happy and relaxed and somewhat purry. It's a toe-tingler, even just in the imagination.

This is something to remember, in case of emergency.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The Meaning of Life

I love to sing "The Meaning of Life" (theme from the Monty Python movie) just as loud as I can, and with the worst possible fake French accent. I admire a song that can make such a strong happy vibe out of such unlikely materials as a deep sensitivity to injustice and overwhelming existential angst.

The song ends with "for once it will all be made clear - this is the meaning of life..." Because this is such a good set-up for the next song, it's become kind of a game with myself just to pay attention to which song comes up next. I usually have my iPod on random play. Maybe it's just a pattern-recognition effect, but the next song always seems meaningful to me, and "Synchronicity" by The Police has been the next song much more often than any other song. I love that.

The Meaning of Life


Disney Villains

I love the old Disney Villains. My favorites are Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty and Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmations. Without these most excellent villains, the other characters would slip into saccharine - but with them... alchemy of counterpoint.



Pebbles and Bamm-Bamm

I'm in the Flintstones generation, and I remember the chorus of this song with great nostalgia and fondness.

How is it possible that I associated it with the freedom of the musical "Hair" - and not the message of hating the devil? That part was totally subliminal to me somehow! Gloominess = giving Satan a grin? Wow! Totally missed that part!

Well, I guess I shouldn't have expected differently from a show that put dinosaurs together with people. So now I know, but I can't help still liking it. The song brings me such a sweet feeling of gladness that I can forgive the association game.

The Flintstones - Open Up Your Heart And Let The Sunshine In

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Godly Kitten

Yes, it's the godly kitten!

Kittens chock-full
of beamy goodness,
lovecuddle furry being,
curled up,
slowly blinking in feline
eye-code, full of
purry pleasure,
striking a pose
at once mysterious,

The Cat and the Moon
William Butler Yeats

The cat went here and there
and the moon spun round like a top,
and the nearest kin of the moon,
the creeping cat, looked up.
Black Minnaloushe stared at the moon,
for, wander and wail as he would,
the pure cold light in the sky
troubled his animal blood.

Minnaloushe runs in the grass
lifting his delicate feet.
Do you dance, Minnaloushe, do you dance?
When two close kindred meet,
what better than call a dance?
Maybe the moon may learn,
tired of that courtly fashion,
a new dance turn.

Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
from moonlit place to place,
the sacred moon overhead
has taken a new phase.
Does Minnaloushe know that his pupils
will pass from change to change,
and that from round to crescent,
from crescent to round they range?

Minnaloushe creeps through the grass
alone, important and wise,
and lifts to the changing moon
his changing eyes.

Helpless Giggling

My favorite comedian right now is Brian Regan. I don't even know why, exactly, but he reduces me to giggles that knock the breath right out of me. He sets it up perfectly, but I think it's partly his voice that just gets to me.

It's the kind of humor that gets even better with repetition, too.

Here's a duo, taken from "Stupid in School" and animated in a basic way.


Spelling Bee

Cup of Dirt