Friday, July 27, 2012

Multiple Intelligences....Ommmmmm

I have been trying to incorporate a daily meditation practice into my life, been trying for at least ten years. I start, reap the benefits, and somewhere down the road life changes and the practice is left in a ditch. Let's see, what other excuses can I come up with? I can't sit still for very mind races...I fall asleep. All of these have happened, even when I was in the midst of a daily practice (they call it practice for a reason.) So the excuses take over and eventually I sit in front of the computer, blogging about how I need to start meditating.

I just finished up a summer program, working with a group of young people transitioning to high school. On one of the days we all filled out questionnaires to discover what our learning styles were. This activitity took our answers and tallied them to pinpoint whether we were auditory, kinesthetic, or visual learners. Also, whether we were musical, mathematical, interpersonal or intrapersonal learners. We were all a mixture of the styles, I scored high in the visual, verbal, musical and intrapersonal categories. It helped to explain how best I learn, there were some surprises, but most I had discovered when things didn't work out in a classroom.

Taking this quiz a bit further, I wonder, if we all have strengths in our learning styles, might we all have different ways in which we have a higher success rate with one meditation style versus another? I run every day, it feels great, and I have time to work through life situations with which I might be concerned. The steady even rhythm of my footfall lures me into a meditative state. So maybe I am actually mediating, it just looks different than a Tibetan monk's practice. Some people might need music, others a lap pool. Anything that quiets the mind so that a state of peace can enter. The word meditation itself derives from the 13th century, "discourse on a subject," from meditari "to meditate, to think over, consider." Today I meditate on the many styles of meditation that are available to me. It's ok, I am doing it right, I just need do it.   

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Humility is Humorous, pass it on...

This morning I was reading and stumbled upon a concept that fascinated me. The anonymous writer was talking about humility and humor in concordance with a spiritual tradition, and said that both words had the same root. My juices were flowing, just how can I connect the two words? I would write about it and during the process of writing I could stumble upon some useful nugget that would help me to grasp the difficult concept of humility, one with which I have always struggled. Just how does one become humble? It is a goal to strive for, it is one I would love to say I have accomplished, cross it off my bucket list (swim with dolphins, travel to Asia, run a triathlon, become humble, check.) So I started to do some research, and grabbed my trusty Oxford English Dictionary. I first looked up "humor" and was pulled back through the centuries to the fourteenth. "In ancient and mediæval physiology, one of the four chief fluids ( cardinal humours ) of the body (blood, phlegm, choler, and melancholy or black choler), by the relative proportions of which a person's physical and mental qualities and disposition were held to be determined." In Medieval times humor was any liquid or flowing substance. Our present day sense of humor derives from this concept that one's disposition had something to do with the fluid in one's body. Sounds delicious. I then looked up humble and humility. Different root, from the Latin humilitāt-em, versus the Latin ūmōr-em.

The OED defines humility as, "[t]he quality of being humble or having a lowly opinion of oneself; meekness, lowliness, humbleness: the opposite of pride or haughtiness." I am not sure whether I agree with the OED on this one. Having a lowly opinion of oneself does not sound like it would help me with life's difficulties. To be humble one does not have to lack any sort of self esteem. But can I laugh at myself when I make a mistake instead of wallowing in self condemnation, as if the veins of my body were pulsing with black sludge? Ok, that doesn't quite work, sounds melodramatic. I still like the Medieval concept though, what is inside me is projected out to the world. If I am negative, prideful, angry or just plain mean, somehow those around me will be hit with these energies. But if I can fill myself with Spirit, exude laughter and joy, I am sure it will make its way around. But for today I need to be humble enough to admit that I am still confused. Might as well enjoy it.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


“You must read, you must persevere, you must sit up nights, you must inquire, and exert the utmost power of your mind. If one way does not lead to the desired meaning, take another; if obstacles arise, then still another; until, if your strength holds out, you will find that clear which at first looked dark.” Giovanni Boccaccio

Monday, June 25, 2012


Yesterday, at 8:30 am, I was standing in the middle of 4,500 amazing people. How would I know they were all amazing? Three, two, one and we were off. All of us moving as a unit, with one goal in mind, it didn't matter if we were old, young, black, white, thin or fat. It didn't matter if we were Republican or Democrat, Atheist or Mormon, we were all united, we were all ready. Eighty degrees, sunny, Jennings Beach, we were all clad in sneakers and ready. Moving together toward the 13.1 mile marker and our finisher medal, toward a goal to mark off our bucket list, a PR, or fundraiser for charity, we were all moving toward that marker. Each mile brought smiles, each cheer brought motivation. We moved toward a common goal. We stopped for water, cheered the first place runner as he passed us (he was at mile 11 while we were trudging at 4). We pushed up hills, we raced down the other side. We found relief in the shade and struck up conversations.  "Are you from this area?" "No, I'm from Maryland." We danced as we passed bands, or neighbors blasting car stereos and yelling, "you can do it." We were runners. We were a power. Losing myself in the crowd yesterday, I was aware that I am part of something much grander than I could have imagined. I get sucked into the daily lonely struggle of being human, of separating myself and thinking that I (me, myself and I) have to organize and execute my life. But I am always part of a grander scheme, whether that is a runner among runners or a child of God. I am not alone. I reached the 13.1 mile marker among 4,500 other people. I reached the finish line as a member of the human race, a child of a power much greater than myself. If I am to grow spiritually, the "I" needs to become "We." Because even when I think I am alone, I am not. I am surrounded by countless other people who have gone through (insert blank) before me. Today, we are sore, we ice muscles, we take ibuprofen and we start planning the next race, to beat that time, to experience the middle of the pack. Because we are runners.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mothers and Peace

Julia Ward Howe was the founder of our Mother's Day celebration. In 1870, a Woman's Day of Peace was observed. Today we have commercialized this day and have forgotten the original meaning. The following is the proclamation that explains the original goal for this day. Happy Mother's Day to all of you beautiful, powerful women out there, whether you are a mother biologically or spiritually or both.

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."
From the bosum of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil at the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.

Saturday, April 14, 2012


"Have you been writing?" Four words, and the answer a sheepish "not really." Hence the post, a post that has no agenda, no theme, no direction. But for me the very act of writing brings me great joy, so why haven't I been indulging? I could list my excuses here; maybe even provide you with a PowerPoint presentation on my busy schedule, daily routines, how I have to feed the cats and the birds, plan lessons, pack lunches, and do my taxes. Yes, these never-ending tasks take up large chunks of my day; I do have to grocery shop and exercise and wash the dishes. The dogs do need to go to playgroup. But I also spend a lot of time surfing the web, chatting on Facebook and procrastinating. So I sit here today and vow to give myself the gift of words today, directionless words, just because I am worthy of taking a few minutes away from tasks that will just need to be redone tomorrow. When I finish this post I will feel peace-filled. Maybe that is why I have been "forgetting"  to write. There could be a part of me that needs a little anxiety or upheaval just to shake things up a bit. Life seems smooth today, I am happy with the direction it is taking. I am surrounded by people whom I love. I am secure. I am even content with the  overabundance of short sentences in this post. So why haven't I been writing really? My favorite word in Italian is "perché." Not only do I love the sound of the word when it rolls off the tongue, but it has two meanings. When asked it means "why," and when answering it means "because." So today's question. Why write? And the answer, because. It doesn't matter that it has been a while, I dare not even look at the date of the last post. What matters is that today I am giving myself the gift of ten minutes. Ten minutes of the sound of the computer keys clicking away, and ten minutes of joy. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Likely Story

We humans have been telling stories ever since we rose from the "primordial ooze." The caves of Lascaux in the Pyrenees Mountains hold some of the earliest examples, drawings on the cave walls, some 17,000 years old. Humans thrive on story, from reading to television to gossip, we are walking histories. We like to think that our histories shape the people we are and the cultures we belong to.  In the fourteenth century the Florentine writer Giovanni Boccaccio wrote The Decameron, a book of one hundred tales told over the course of ten days during the time of the black death, which killed 30 - 60% of Europe's population. Later medical treatises  recommended listening to literature and soothing music as a way to stay healthy in times of epidemics. Some scholars speculate that these treatises were written after The Decameron, a book in which the main characters fled the plague in Florence, escaping to the countryside and spending their days telling tales and singing songs. I like to think that these early "doctors" held an answer to our modern ills. Although we are bombarded daily with television news stories, I think that we have become disconnected to others, and that disconnection comes from the lack of real face to face contact, of the act of sharing our stories with another. To have someone listen to one of our stories and empathize, to "know" what we are going through, that very connection is what our Facebook culture lacks. There is a void. And just as in the fourteenth century, that void may be filled by personal contact with our fellow human travelers, to listen to their words and identify with their struggles.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Great Blush Revealed: Adventures in Humility

"Humility" has always been a concept that I have had a hard time grasping. What exactly does it mean? The online dictionary says that it is "the quality or condition of being humble (modest, inferior or respectful)modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc." It goes on to state the synonyms: lowliness, meekness or submissiveness. The antonym is pride.   I can go down the road to humility by being modest, but as a woman growing up in a culture that devalues my gender, I can take humility (by the dictionary's definition) to an extreme. I can think little of myself, because isn't that what the world's religions teach us? And doesn't my culture display women as body parts? (Sorry, just had to get the dig in.) I have come to have a different relationship with the word however. A friend of mine, Fred, always said that humility is teachability. Do I accept constructive criticism? Am I able to make changes in my behavior and admit when I learn I am in the wrong? I am not always wrong, and to be humble I do not have to be submissive. However I need to have a balanced notion of self. I have noticed lately that I tend to blush when community members with a so called "higher rank" than I, approach me. This is not humility. This is an extreme reaction where I do not feel equal. I believe that we are all God's children, and that as a child of God I stand on the same ground as my fellow human. (I believe that animals are equal as well, but I will save that argument for a different day.) I am not better than or less than anyone. Just because I have a "better" job, "better" rank in society, or I make more money, have a greater education...just because my hair is blond or my feet are a size 9-1/2 or eat only yogurt for breakfast...these exterior trappings do not make me a superior human being. The opposite is also true. I am not inferior because I make minimum wage and drive a foreign car. Today I have added a prayer to my morning routine. I have asked God to help me to be right-sized, to remain teachable. I don't have to kiss your feet, or expect you to kiss mine (they get kind of smelly, especially after a run.) That for me is my entry into a humble life. The Budoshin Jujitsu Philosophy states that humility is: "your ability to be humble while maintaining your integrity. You do not need to be boastful or tell people how wonderful you are or how much you know or what you can do. Although you may be quite knowledgeable or competent, it is for others to discover through your behavior and your actions. It is your ability to sincerely apologize when you have erred and help others who are in need without expecting thanks or compensation. Humility is based upon your sense of integrity and respect for yourself and others." (