Thursday, July 31, 2008

Abdominal Trends

In the late 1950's and 60's, we were taught that good posture was very important. Good posture, 50's style, required that we stand up straight, suck in our guts, throw our shoulders back, tuck in our tailbones, lift our chins and look proud. It was very military. Then came the 1960's and 70's when everything in American culture changed, even tummy trends. Suddenly, the common abdominal wisdom became: Let it all hang out. We were told in meditation classes and consciousness raising circles to relax our bellies, throw away the girdles, let go.

Oops. Fast forward to the 21st century. Yoga and Pilates teachers are everywhere. Classes emphasize what is now called 'core strength.' That means stand up straight, suck in your gut, throw your shoulders back, tuck in your tailbone, lift your chin and look proud.

What goes around comes around.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Blessings of Damp

I live in a swamp. In fact in the olden days before the United States of America, this part of Washington DC was called "Swamp Poodle." What a darling name, isn't it?

One thing that makes a swamp a swamp is high humidity, especially during late summer when lots of accumulated heat helps the steam to rise extra thick and soupy. On certain high humidity days, I almost expect the ground to begin boiling like it does in horror and sci fi movies, you know that cinematic slow motion big gloppy swamp boil? Yeah, like that.

It's not a comfortable time of year.

There are some benefits to all the water in the air. Thick air combs the light, creates visible sunbeams that streak through the tree branches and spill on the ground like so much liquid gold. Without humidity, there would be no crepuscular rays, a.k.a. God. You know those rays that stream out from behind a fluffy cumulus cloud when it obscures the sun?

Want a quick detox? Just go outside and walk briskly on the sunny side of the street for awhile, then go in, drink water and take a nice cool shower. It feels good, it does. You can sweat out a bad hangover in less than half an hour, they tell me, as long as you drink a lot of water afterwards. Hmmm.

I'm trying hard to come into a nice peaceful relationship with this time of year. Can you tell? Surely there must be other benefits to humidity that will help me find a more balanced way of thinking about it? Yes? No? Help?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In the Stacks

The training I'm receiving for soul retrieval* is now in a research phase. I'm called to study a wide variety of topics ranging from natural law physics (esp. law of gravity, and the "fictitious" forces of centripetal and centrifugal force), geometry (for dummies), and some research into what Edgar Cayce had to say about the Akashic records. I also want to read about the layers of the earth's atmosphere, especially about what goes on in the mesosphere.

I'm dusting off my reader's card for the Library of Congress - might even take the orientation again. is not the right resource for this project. Fine by me! - I love being a bookworm, especially at the Library of Congress, my spectacular neighborhood library.

A part of my Plan to Stay Sane includes life-long learning. Studying is always a good thing, always. Oh yeah!

*I've read about contemporary American soul retrieval, a process that sounds very psychological. The shaman travels in other realms searching for lost bits of identity to retrieve and restore to the client. What I'm learning is not about re-assembling identity at all. Until I can think of what to call it, though, "soul retrieval" will have to do.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Tilt Your Head Back

Pi in the sky. (thanks M.A.)

Reading about the mesosphere (topmost layer of the earth's atmosphere) reminds me to keep an eye on the sky at all times, even though at midsummer in DC it can be hard to find because of the lush tree canopy. I know how to get out from under the trees to have a look. It's always worth it.

Though I can't see red lightning sprites from ground level, nor can I see blue jets, or elves, for that matter, I feel a little thrill knowing they're up there. No one knew about them until recently. Oh, the things we don't know! Wow. Thank God that the people who ride around in the space shuttle have been kind enough to photograph them. I'm very grateful. Maybe some of the pics also come from satellites.

There's a whole lot going on where the blue atmosphere meets the blackness of space. It's amazing.

What I can see from down here, stuff happening in the troposphere, is pretty interesting too - and almost always gorgeous. In addition to the usual puffy cloud shapes and flat layers of overcast, the streaks of cirrus clouds, the rainbows that form from ice crystals in circles around the sun and moon, the sky also sometimes creates a written language made from clouds, contrails and who knows what else. Very cool. I love the sky.

Can anyone decrypt the symbol at the top of the post? It appeared right above the house on Tennessee Avenue as seen from 13th and Constitution Ave. N.E. Beautiful, isn't it?

Sunday, July 27, 2008

How do you get your kicks?

I spent the afternoon yesterday with an old friend, one of the few relationships still intact from my life as a Wiccan priestess. My god, that was another life!

Like me, she made the decision on her own to leave the community because the practices didn't mesh with her values. Even though it was her decision, it's still painful for her, leaving it all behind. I remember vividly the sense of loss and the deep grief I felt when I let go. It took years for my heart to heal itself from that split. Whew. All spiritual communities are complicated societies. Leaving a spiritual community can be tremendously difficult, even when it's the healthiest choice.

Every time I hear what's going on in my old community, a renewed sense of relief and gratitude that I'm no longer involved washes over me. One of the revered teachers in that tradition, someone I was very close to once upon a time, has taken to kicking her students when they fall asleep during meditation.

Why are people attracted to abusive situations? Can anyone explain this to me? Of course there are many spiritual teachers who abuse their students, always have been. But ... how can that be good for anyone, teacher or student? I don't get it.

It's not just in spiritual communities that people welcome abuse, of course. I can think of several restaurants in San Francisco where the waiters are famous for being rude to the customers. I never understood the attraction, but there are lots of people who loved to go eat at those places. Maybe it's entertaining - I'm not sure.

Though bewildered about why it's a good thing to be kicked while meditating, or insulted while eating dinner, I'm very clear about why I left that particular tradition. Many thanks as always to the divine wisdom that awakened me (without any kicking) and helped me get all the way out of it. Oh yeah!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

You do the math ..

My roommates went to the beach for the weekend. It's so nice to have the whole house to myself. All the dogs are here, though, which makes for a very heavy schedule of poop scooping. Three dogs, weighing in at 100 lbs each, all of whom enjoy pooping twice a day. It's a lot of poundage.

Stay cool.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Doctors are using mirrors in such ingenious ways, "tricking" the brain into healing itself from all kinds of unimaginable conditions. For people who have phantom limb syndrome, a mirror box that makes it look like the patient has both limbs will convince the brain to stop sending pain signals. One woman who had an incurable itch was cured using mirrors.

When people are in a room that has mirrors on the walls, they behave better. Being self aware, even in a literal sense, leads to more mindfulness. It's not just the mirror-mirror-on-the-wall that's bringing up our awareness of self. Youtube is acting as a mirror for current culture. It's likely that people might behave more mindfully because they know the Big Brother of the 21st century is out there ready and available, a part of the programming of cell phones and cheap, portable cameras. Posting on Youtube is free. Remember the televised video beating of Rodney King? Watch yourselves out there, people!

What I'm wondering this morning is what I've been teaching my brain to do by looking into, photographing, and thinking about every reflective surface I can find. Convex, concave, or just distorted, I love reflected images. Always have. It is, to me, a parallel universe in which this reality is reversed, stretched and convoluted.

And I wonder why I tilt towards shamanism? I've been showing my brain how to do it all my life. For heaven's sake!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Weather Drama

Wow! What a storm last night in DC! The water poured in sheets not only outside but unfortunately into the kitchen through a leak none of the residents of this house knew about. My roommates were out to dinner so it was just me grabbing bowls and pitchers to put under the deluge, laying out every dish towel I could find (and believe me, we have a million of them).

When the dogs get scared, they not only bark, pant and drool, but they also try to wind themselves around the legs of any human who happens to be nearby. Three dogs, who weigh close to 100 pounds each (it's a "lot of poundage" as my roommate says), all barking, drooling, panting, and winding themselves around my legs while I tried to stem the tide of the waterfall in our kitchen, well, it was ridiculously chaotic. In the midst of it all I began to laugh out loud. I guess I could also have decided to be annoyed, but it was so funny. What a scene! I felt like I was in a sitcom.

The storm passed through, clearing away (for the time being) the thick humidity and awful heat that's been hanging heavy in the District for a couple of weeks. We've switched off the A/C, opened doors and windows. A fresh breeze is moving around the prayer flags on my screen door. The air is sweet.

My roommates have located the leak and are busy doing whatever it is people do when that happens. Birds are singing, the sun is shining and the sky is a beautiful robin's egg blue. Life is good - even including scenes of chaos like last night - and I am grateful. Have a peaceful day.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Who's the Fairest of Them All?

From a completely fascinating article in the Science section of the New York Times:

“When people are made to be self-aware, they are likelier to stop and think about what they are doing,” Dr. Bodenhausen said. “A byproduct of that awareness may be a shift away from acting on autopilot toward more desirable ways of behaving.” Physical self-reflection, in other words, encourages philosophical self-reflection, a crash course in the Socratic notion that you cannot know or appreciate others until you know yourself.

The power of reflection - literal reflection in mirrors - is now being investigated by scientists! Very cool!!

Get out the windex, polish your mirror to a high gloss and get to gazing at yourself, yes? Yes. Nosce te ipsum, ya'all!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Shape of My Brain

I love maps, diagrams and charts, family trees, architectural drawings, diagrammed sentences, anatomical drawings. I love sigils and symbols, too. My brain "gets" the interconnectedness of things and events so much more fully when I see a picture that includes shapes with lines to indicate where the connections occur, and arrows to indicate direction. So it makes sense that when I receive a lot of intuitive information all at once, my tendency is to draw a chart of what's coming to me.

When I began doing Feri initiations, I received the shape of the ritual fully formed, as a picture. I filled two sketchbooks with drawings, a process that helped me understand at a fundamental level the energy of the ritual.

Schematics are also very helpful when I need healing. During a very bitter romantic breakup, I drew stylized caduceuses as a way to document the break as well as my recovery from it. When a Reclaiming community I had been a part of kicked me out, I drew a mandala evey day for six months as a way to process the exile. It really helped.

This summer I'm at it again, this time I'm intuiting the essential shape of a ritual for soul retrieval. Wary as I am of magic, I figure it can't hurt to sit around doing these drawings. The skills I'm learning aren't harmful either, such as learning how to use a drum to connect with the heartbeat of the earth. What's wrong with that? I've hooked up with some animal guides - never a bad thing, is it? - and have travelled widely in the imaginal realm, learning many wonderful, helpful tidbits. It's quite likely I will never put it all together, which is fine by me. I don't really want to be doing this kind of work. Conjuring tends to bind me. The spiritual path I love best is all about letting go of shaping energy in order to allow a pure and formless ray of divine reality to gently touch my heart.

But the information is arriving on a daily basis, so I'm taking it in with gratitude and appreciation, learning, and drawing the shape over and over. So far I've filled one very thick sketchbook with this shape, and have drawn very large and complicated versions on butcher paper, too.

Because people expressed interest in seeing the schematics, below are a few versions. The ritual is a dance that includes linking to the Pole Star, plunging down to the underworld (like bungee jumping - whee!!), retrieving something then getting the hell outta hell as fast as possible. (When I was a little kid, sometimes I had that feeling coming upstairs from the basement, as if something was chasing me.)

Next it's up to the upper world so that the beneficent beings up there can heal what was missing, re-ensoul the missing link, and fill the work with divine light and wisdom. The ritual ends with a gentle landing on the earth plane.

I know, I know!, kind of crazy sounding, isn't it? Oh well. Call it performance art, or a spiritual calling, or just plain nuts. Mea culpa.

Monday, July 21, 2008

My People

The gold dazzle at the center is the setting sun reflected in the Potomac.

Almost the minute my feet touched the ground in Washington DC I felt at home on the land. I love the crazy weather, abundant sunshine, lengthy spring and fall and gentle winters here. I'm crazy for the Potomac River from its headwaters to the place where it empties into the Chesapeake Bay. I love all the trees and green space, and I love living in a city where no building can be taller than the U.S. Capitol. I know, I know, there are bugs, humidity and pollution. The water here is awful, I know. But I love this parcel of land. My feet feel at home treading here, always have.

The people are a different story. It took me years to find a foothold in the local culture. My life goals (such as they are) do not mesh with those of my fellow Washingtonians. I'm talking about the ambitious brainiacs who create national policy in just about every area you can imagine, people who have made it to the top levels of hierarchy in their chosen fields by being tough and relentless, and so very very smart. I'm referring to the people who routinely work 90 hour weeks, just because that's what it takes to get the job done. Even compared to those who didn't finish their Ph.D.'s before the age of 25, and who don't hold positions at the dizziest heights possible, I'm still a complete freak with my part-time work schedule, spirit guides, tarot cards and unusual points of view. During my first couple of years here, I tried so hard to understand the social cues, but failed miserably over and over again. It was humiliating and I was lonely.

In many ways, I will never be a "real" Washingtonian. Still, over time I've made common cause with a small handful of people who accept me exactly as I am (even if they don't completely "get" me). Every one of these friends is spectacular in his or her own way. I love them dearly. They are my people.

I spent this past weekend with some of my nearests and dearests in a luxurious cabin on the Whitings Neck of the Potomac River outside of Shepherdstown, W.V., talking, hanging out on the screened in porch or down by the river. We laughed, talked, feasted, rested, drank too much coffee but not too many beers, compared notes on each other's lives.

It took awhile, but finally I've located my people. My circle of friends is modest, and that's OK. This land has always been home sweet home to me. Because of my dear friends, my heart is now also completely at home. I'm so lucky!

View from "the terrace", overlooking my beloved river, 9:00 a.m. yesterday

Thursday, July 17, 2008


In an article I just read about the now infamous New Yorker cover, the writer was going on and on about how addicted Americans are to anger.

OK. There's yet another addiction to add to the already long list of suspected American addictions. Alcohol, tobacco and drugs are up at the top of the list of course, followed by less intense substance abuse: coffee, chocolate, sugar, Coke, junk food of all kinds.

Some people are addicted to sex, they say. Some of us can't get through a day without tranquilizers, cold medications, nasal sprays, pain killers, cough syrup, sleep enhancers.

We're addicted to TV, our cellphones, Blackberries, ipods, computer games, the Internet. Gambling, jogging, getting tattoos, even compulsive cleaning, even meditation, for God's sake, has been listed as potentially addictive behavior.

What I want to know is if there's anything fun and pleasing that's NOT addictive. Well? Is my photography an addiction? Because if a day goes by when I can't walk and take pics, I'm very disappointed. Is my habit of prayer addictive? I do it every day and it does bring me pleasure as well as a sense of connection, so ... do I need to go to prayer rehab?

Here ye, here ye: I'm letting go of the storyline that says everything is addictive, because it doesn't help me to think that way. The idea that we're all addicts only increases a tendency towards species-wide self loathing. Instead, from now on I'm going to regard human compulsive behavior as a quest for pleasure that's gotten out of balance. The human being is a curious animal who always has a number of itches that need scratching; it's not our fault. Framing it this way is just as "true" as the theory of addiction, but so much more humanized, at least it seems that way to me.

And yes I do think that a person can pray too much. The way I've been going at it lately, trancing with my spirit guides and power animals, sketching the ritual schematics for soul retrieval on huge pieces of butcher paper taped up all over my room - well, as fun, pleasing and possibly creative as it has been, I admit the behavior had gotten a bit out of hand. Oh well.

Luckily for me, I have the Sufi acupuncturist on my team. Every week he teaches me a little bit more about balance and harmony, helps me temper the seductions of psychism and spirituality as well as corporeal imbalances like allergies or indigestion. Oh yeah. The metaphysical impact of these treatments is a sense of connection to divine mystery minus the energy of obsession.

I am so grateful for the Sufi acupuncturist. Wow.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Weekend Forecast: Fun!!

It's always great to have something to look forward to, and in fact I believe part of what's fun about taking a vacation is the anticipation. Why wait for the vacation to start having fun? Simply imagining all the fun is fun, yes? I say yes.

Today I'm gearing up for this upcoming weekend mini-vacation. It'll be a big group of us hanging out in the mountains of W. Virginia, swimming in the Potomac, grilling ribs, drinking wine and of course sitting for hours in the rockers out on the porch, just talking.

Staying up too late. Sleeping in. Drinking coffee for an hour before doing anything else. Wasting time all day long. Oh yeah!

I CAN'T WAIT !!! And...I can wait. I'm so enjoying looking forward to a quick nip out of the crazy buzzy energy field of Washington DC. I feel better already.

This is my brother's addition to yesterday's pic. He is so clever, isn't he?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Benefits of Old Age

How tolerant are you? Do you have an open mind? Open heart?

Once upon a time I was intolerant of almost everything I didn't understand or agree with. I lived within a very narrow spectrum of beliefs and values, and immediately wrote off anyone who wasn't exactly on the same page as myself. Makes me a little claustrophobic remembering that era of rigidity. How did I breathe?

My, my. Life is too short for all that. People make mistakes. All the time, every day. Human beings live in denial, tell lies, keep secrets, fail to communicate but expect others to read their minds. People hurt other people's feelings but are too embarrassed to apologize, or say snarky things behind the backs of their alleged friends. Everybody misunderstands everyone else, practically on a daily basis.

Yeah, so what? Human behavior is like water, always in motion, always changing. Latch on to one thing someone did that was "wrong" and never forgive them? I used to do that on a regular basis. These days I can't for the life of me figure out why I put so much energy into judging the flaws of others. I really can't.

In fact I'm so much more laid back than I used to be even just a few years ago, that I'm surprised when others judge me. Isn't that funny? Lots of people judge me - because I'm such a weirdo! I'm judged for being a shaman, mystic, psychic and all that comes with that, of course, but also because I don't earn a lot of money, never stayed romantically connected for very long, never had children. I'm judged because I "should" be one or two sizes smaller, or should wear better clothes or behave some different way than the way I do. It's a lot to keep track of. Even if I did it all, folks would still find fault with me.

I'm not saying I'm the most tolerant person on earth, oh no. I still get my feelings hurt, get angry, and misunderstand other people's behavior. But these days it's so much easier to let go afterwards, to move on. As I get older, I feel much more inclined to cut people some slack, to forgive, to find the humor in all kinds of awkward situations.

Not everything about aging is bad. Thank God!! Tolerance is one of the blessings of older age. It is, it really is.

Looking straight up at the intersection of Mass Ave. and 8th St. NE. Doesn't it look like a view of the earth from space? As above, so below, oh yeah!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Would a rose by any other name ... well, would it?

Names have always been important to me, so important that I've changed my name a number of times. At birth I was Rebecca. Growing up, they called me Becky. I never liked that; switched back to Rebecca as soon as it was culturally possible to do so (early 70's, when the Debbies became Deborahs, the Pattys became Patricias, etc.)

In my twenties, I called myself Ruby, a fitting label for my party girl lifestyle and deep red lipsticks. In fact there are still people who call me Ruby, including one friend in DC with whom I worked at Kramerbooks the first time I lived here in 1981.

Reya is the name I received at my initiation into Reclaiming. It means "daughter of the sunset." I like it so much that I've kept it even though I'm no longer associated in any way with Reclaiming or with anything wicca.

Other names have dropped away, like my Feri name, The Gold Poppy. Sort of pretentious, don't you think? The poppy part of that title never sat well with me. Several other secret magical names, as well as affectionate nicknames that were part of romantic relationships, are long gone, too.

I do have one personal name for myself that I have never told anyone. When I imagine my death, in a very romanticized way, I see myself uttering this name moments before my soul vacates my body. I imagine this name to be the last word I ever say aloud in this form. But who knows whether that's true or some cinematic figment of my imagination?

The Tao Te Ching tells me not to worry so much about names. I like that, because as soon as something has a name, then I begin to spin my stories about it. Time to look behind all the names, get underneath the labels. Only then (as they explain below) will I be able to gather the streams into myself as I go.

From Chapter Thirty Two of the Tao Te Ching

Things have been given
Names from the beginning.
We need to know when
We have enough names.
This is wisdom.

The Tao has no name
It is a cloud that has no shape.

One who walks the way, nameless
Is like a river reaching the sea
Gathering the waters of the streams into himself
As he goes.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Soul Food

Studying soul retrieval is turning out to be excellent in every way possible. I'm learning so much that even if I never put it all together, it will still have all been worthwhile.

I've learned for instance that the soul's commitment to the body can be capricious. Who knew? Our human bodies are ensouled for such a short time (compared to the life of spirit which is probably endless) that bits and pieces tend to come and go. In Chinese medicine it's believed that the Shen, a significant chunk of soul in that tradition, lives in the heart. The Shen can get displaced by too much emotion, especially the scary ones like anger. Even a stepped-up heartbeat can make the Shen uneasy. Moderation in all things, they say in TCM - for such a good reason!

Some other cool "facts" - good deeds strengthen the soul's commitment to the body. I'm told that forgiveness can be considered a good deed. (Letting your job, friends or family suck you dry, also known as codependence, is not a good deed and will not strengthen the soul.) Another one of my favorite new "facts" is this: anything that opens the heart, whether it's love, sadness, beauty, or whatever, strengthens the "throne" of the soul. A strong throne means the soul will be "well seated" - and thereby more willing to stick with the body through good times and bad.

This morning's question: What is the impact of birth on the soul? We know what happens at death - it's ya me despido for the soul. But at birth what happens? Some kind of soul infusion? (Thanks for that phrase lacochran.)

Part of my plan for growing old with style includes learning something new every day. This training is definitely fulfilling that goal, and then some! My head loves being kept busy. Oh yeah!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Civil Society in the Age of Aquarius

Top of a tent in Lincoln Park that will shelter the people celebrating Mary Bethune McCloud's birthday this afternoon.

In a perfect world, I would apply for a grant to do soul retrieval under the Metro bridges between Union Station and Takoma Park where homeless people set up camp. Gazing at them from my perch far above, inside the Metro train, I sense something missing among the bodies of the people there. It's hard to tell whether they're sleeping or dead.

The events that made them homeless in the first place were probably terribly traumatic - bad enough to rip off a chunk of soul. Add to that a life lived without shelter from the elements, no way to ever get a good night's sleep, plus the bad food and whatever else, drugs? drink? - it's a wonder that any of them can hang on to any part of their souls. I feel sad and scared when I see them from the train.

I'd like to get a job doing soul retrieval at a hospital. I imagine working in the intensive care unit and on the surgical wards quite a bit. Anesthetics, intubation and other common surgical procedures must surely chase away the dainty parts of a soul. The things they do to people in hospitals! Yikes. I know it's all meant for the good of the patient, but it's so extreme.

A friend asked if I would work in oncology. I don't think so. The cancer survivors (and sufferers) I'm personally acquainted with are abundantly soulful. Something about that disease seems to almost always bring out the best in people. It's a cruel blessing.

Even as I daydream about socially responsible soul retrieval I remember it isn't a perfect world, so I won't hold my breath about receiving a grant or getting a soul retrieval position at Georgetown Medical Center. Oh well. It's a fine if imperfect world. Life is good and I am grateful.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Wake up and smell the coffee

Consciousness is more pervasive than most of the people in my culture care to admit. Scientists are looking into it lately though, something I find very encouraging and very interesting.

In particular, there's been a recent surge of scientific enquiry into consciousness in animals and even in plants. Everywhere scientists look for consciousness, they find it. I believe this is because everything has soul, a prerequisite for consciousness. I'm no scientist, of course.

I loved reading about how butterflies remember their "past lives" as caterpillars. Unfortunately, the way we discovered this marvelous fact was to administer severe electrical shocks to caterpillars, and later, to butterflies. (Can you imagine applying a severe electric current to a BUTTERFLY?? Jesus. We are so cruel sometimes.)

More interesting to me (maybe because I don't know what they did to the birds to figure this out) is the series of discoveries about zebra finches and their dreams. Oh yeah, zebra finches dream. They have REM sleep and everything, just like us. Previously this was believed impossible due to the very basic structure of their brains. I mean think of it - a finch brain can't be any bigger than a caper. Wow. No matter how small their brains, zebra finches dream about singing. It makes me happy to imagine gorgeous musical dreams floating around in tiny finch heads all night long. It's so sweet.

Plants wave at passing insects, and tend to hang out with other plants they're related to. Trumpet vines and other vines often choose a plant to kill, then subsequently wrap themselves around the enemy plant and begin to squeeze. Trumpet vines are the boa constrictors of the green world. My, my! Who knew they had it in them?

All of our human qualities, all our most noble thoughts and dreams, as well as our lowest, most unevolved behavior, is inextricably woven into the drama of the world. We always think we're so special, and well yes in a way we are. But in most ways we're not that different from all the rest of nature. We have our own brand of consciousness, yes, but ours is just one in an endless variety that is our reality.

Do Androids dream of electric sheep? I think they do. It looks like science is catching up with us mystics. C'mon in, all you lab coated geeks. The water's fine! Oh yeah!

Cinema verite - as it were - on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. It's a mockingbird, not a finch, but you get the idea. Love his tiny mouth opening and closing as he sings.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

All I can say is, Huh??

Please explain the world of professional art to me, can you? I don't get it - never did. Why are some artists so touted, while others sink into infamy? For instance, Jeff Koons - can anyone explain why he's a good sculptor?

Went to see the second half of the Cinema Effect show at the Hirschhorn today. I was completely bored by every piece. Afterwards I sat on a bench in front of the gift shop, made a (boring) video of people's feet as they walked past. But when I watched my own boring video, all I could think is that what I'd just made was at least as interesting as most of what was chosen to be part of the Hirschhorn show.

I have so many questions about the art world. Probably these questions will never be answered. Oh well. Whatever.

Stay cool, ya'all.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Summer's Fun in Washington DC

What a great summer we're having. OK, yeah, it's humid, but it hasn't been too hot at all. We're having lots of rain, too, a very good thing. Not too much, though. And thunderstorms! I love thunderstorms, the drama, the quickly changing light and dramatic cloud formations. The land is lush and green but not soggy, everything is blooming, people are smiling.

I feel so sad for the waterlogged landscapes of the midwest and the non-stop fires in the west. I'm grateful beyond belief for this particular summer here in the midatlanatic.

Summer 2007 was awful for me in every way, internally and externally. Summer 2008? Oh yeah!!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A Strategy of Calm

Practice makes perfect, nor near-perfect, or somewhat-perfect. Whatever. Practice anything and your brain will cut the neural pathways of whatever you're practicing nice and deep. Practice makes habit, both "good" and "bad."

Once upon a time (seems like another life) my life strategy centered around ambitions to pop every one of my neurotic zits. I believed in so doing I could eventually clean out my angry heart. My goodness. In order to conquer my anger, I believed I needed to gather more power for myself (as if we humans aren't already so powerful!) Though on paper these seemed like good ideas, in practice this toxic brew of strategies brought with it even more unhappiness than I experienced in childhood - God forbid! But it did. All my heroic efforts to expell my demons with jacked-up personal power backfired completely. Instead of clearing my black heart, all that fussing and fighting became an invocation, inviting in more dark energy. Can you imagine how much I suffered? And all for what?

These days I am practicing peace from the inside out. It's working! Not saying that I feel peaceful 24/7. The old habit of anxiety is a well worn path in my neural network. Its true, too, that anger is one of the few acceptable emotions in the culture of DC, so at times it's hard to resist blowing my top. But I'm learning how to notice when the mean reds come up. Next step, ask myself what's going on. Then I ask myself, Is this worth getting all worked up about? Nine out of ten times, the answer is no. Fantastic!

I was even able to remain calm and steady yesterday during a visit to Takoma Park, not my favorite place on the planet (maybe because of how miserable I was when I lived there, maybe because of the sanctimonious tone of its citizens, maybe just because it's a suburb and suburbs creep me out - who knows?) Feeling calm in Takoma Park is a big deal for me, a sign of good things.

Calm is an excellent habit to cultivate. I love being able to remember, much more often than I used to, that one of my birthrights as a human being is the ability to choose how I experience my life. Calm begets peace and peace is what I'm after for the last chapters of this lifetime.

Shalom, ya'll. Shalom!

Friday, July 4, 2008

My Kind of Flag Waving

Feeling matriotic today in a big way. I'm hopeful for the future, thanks to Barack Obama. I'm peaceful, too, because for some reason the neighborhood children haven't set off a single firework yet. It's noon! Usually the mayhem begins days before the 4th. But this year? It's nice and quiet. What a good portent! Wow.

It's not too hot, either. Hot enough to feel summery, but pleasant, as July days go in Washington DC.

In a couple of hours some of my favorite neighbors will come by to feast and drink beer, swap stories and hang out on the porch for a few hours.

Life is good. Happy 4th to all.


Prayer Flags on the Kora (Circular Path) around the mountain top of Ganden Monastery, Tibet. Lung-ta, the windhorse, carries these prayers to the Eternal Blue Sky for the benefit of all beings. Nice. Music by Phil Thornton.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


When I googled the string that's the title of this post, the second link was to my blog. I had to laugh. Looking outside of my own heart for information on this ancient practice lead me right back to myself. That is so funny!

If you've met me, you know that from the outside I appear to be an ordinary middle-aged woman. In 'real" life I do what everyone else does - go to work, walk the dog, cook dinner, hang out with friends, etc.

My inner life is very colorful. Oh yeah. I have past lives and spirit guides, animal guides, a psychedelic dream life. I talk to dead people, take trance journeys, feel waves of different energy passing through and around me. It's all completely harmless, and doesn't cost a nickel.

Sometimes my psychic life is relatively uneventful. Othertimes I'm very busy, like right now for instance. For the last fifteen minutes I've been trying to figure out how to post about what's going on in the inner sanctum of my psyche, but every draft explaining what I'm now learning (from the inside out) makes me sound like a nut case.

Hmmm. Maybe I am a nut case. Or maybe I'm a modern day shaman, dancing in alignment with the energies of the moment. Or both. Whatever, it's a fascinating time. Wish I could figure out how to write about it. Oh well.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Horse Sense

This morning I listened for a long time to what I call 'flag pole music' coming from the state flags that form a half-moon shape outside Union Station. Of course a significant part of flagpole music is the sound of cords clanking against hollow metal flagpoles. It's very avante-guarde.

The other piece is the sound of the flags, snapping and rippling in the wind. It's very fun to have learned that for Mongolan shamans and Tibetan Buddhists, flagpole music is also the sound of Lung-ta the windhorse, galloping, taking prayers to the Eternal Blue Sky for the benefit of all beings. Very cool!

While I listened, I watched the sky and its ever-changing topography. The cloud formations were spectacular, revealing a terrain every bit as dramatic as the Himalayas, though of course not nearly so enduring.

That windhorse must be really quick on his feet to negotiate the precipitous midatlantic sky. Wow. I am completely entranced by the idea of the windhorse. Giddyup, Lung-ta! Bravo!!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Changing Gears

Aging is humbling. Since crossing the abyss between 49 and 50, I've had to make so many changes in my approach to life. More changes are no doubt ahead. I want to be healthy and robust in old age, not all shrivelled and confused. Know what I mean?

Last night I made a list of apres-55 guidelines for myself, just in case my behavior has anything to do with keeping me healthy and alert. What have I got to lose? I might as well try anyway, yes?


1. Receive Treatments
It could be as simple as manicures/pedicures, getting a good haircut, facial or other spa treatment. Treatments also include alternative health care like acupuncture, therapeutic massage, psychotherapy, chiropractic, etc. I like to maintain a balance between healing treatments and beauty treatments. Rarely does a week pass when I don't have an appointment for some kind of treatment. I believe in treatments.

2. Choose your Battles
Once upon a time it seemed important to fight for what's "right." I still believe in it, but I've discovered that fighting really wipes me out. After a terrible argument I feel like my adrenal glands are completely drained, lying forlornly on top of my kidneys, looking all grungy like old squeezed out sponges. At least this is how I imagine it. It takes me a long time to recover from a harrowing fight. Now I'm not saying I'll never argue again, oh no. Arguing brings up a lot of electrical energy which is occasionally a healthy thing. But too much of that energy is exhausting.

Is this worth fighting about? is a question I ask myself any time I notice I'm getting annoyed. Nine times out of ten, the answer is no.

3. Connect with Divine Light
The thirtiess and forties are excellent decades in which to fight inner demons from your past. Introspection with the aim of healing old wounds requires facing your least desirable traits, bringing mistakes you've made out into the light. It's very important work, very hard work. It's a life-long work, too. I'm not giving up on it completely, but these days I'm more interested in cultivating noble qualities like compassion and generosity than on rehashing what's wrong with me. If I lived to be 100, I could never cure myself of all my neuroses, so why not spend my remaining years polishing my innate nobility to a high gloss shine? Well?

4. Don't Sit Down
At this age, if you sit down on the couch and do nothing but watch TV, pretty soon you will not be able to walk up and down stairs. People over fifty should throw away their car keys or do something else that will make walking around compulsory. Massage therapy is actually a great profession for middle aged people, (for so many reasons, really). It's a vigorous, physical profession, just what people of my age need. We do not need to sit at desks all day.

5. Learn Something New Every Day
Old people in all cultures are the keepers of history. They are anchors to the past, wise ones who have seen it all and are available to offer advice and counsel. But if I'm dazed out with Alzheimer's or because I'm over medicated, I'm not going to be a very great adviser, am I? So I keep my brain engaged. Needless to say, life is more interesting with an engaged brain. Use it or lose it, fellow geezers.

6. Let Go
Don't hold grudges, stop feeling guilty, forget what was so great about the good old days, stop worrying about your weight ASAP. Life is short. Onwards & upwards. I mean it!