Friday, December 26, 2008

Kwanzaa Etc.

Happy Kwanzaa!

Yesterday our daughter reminded us that it was going to be Kwanzaa today. I don't even know whether people say "Happy Kwanzaa" to each other or whether there is another phrase. It is a unique holiday celebrated since 1966 in the US and mostly, but not exclusively, by African Americans here and around the world.

Kwanzaa is a rather new invention, yet it already feels like a tradition here, with holiday stamps at the post office etc.! We often forget that Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan and all other holidays - at some point - were simply invented by people with a goal to unite in celebration of higher ideas. The more the merrier! Most people celebrate several kinds of holidays at once, or reinvent their own family version that is meaningful to them. My son's best friend was Jewish, so he got to celebrate Hanukkah in addition to Christmas. As far as kids go - it is all about the presents - and there are endless discussions whether Hanukkah - with a present a day for seven days - or a one-time showering on Christmas Eve - is "better". "Both" is the best as far as they were concerned - they had it made.

The rituals differ but the fundamental ideas of holy days all seem quite similar in spirit. So, to all the people in the world - Happy Holy Days!!! and Happy New Year!!! May we all live up to higher ideas and evolve into the peaceful beings we already are, but keep forgetting.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas - Awe and Humility

Merry Christmas!

Such nice traditions surround Christmas - and so many controversies. Sometimes it seems that if we all just celebrated things we were sure about - like the longest, most silent night of the year, and our planet's return to the sun - we could all unite in simple yet meaningful celebrations. Reverent celebrations of celestial events would not only unite the world in agreement, but also be quite educational for our children. Focus on our Earth and its place in the universe, with a constant awareness of the universe as a whole, would maybe make us a bit more responsible regarding our planet as well. Awareness of the vastness within which we exist leaves us in awe and humble silence. Much like the lives of people like Jesus, whose birth we celebrate on Christmas, can and should leave us in awe and humble silence.

Awe and humble silence leads to compassion - for others, for animals and plants, and for the Earth itself. Let us unite in this awe, silence and humility - and love and respect one another.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silent Night, Joy, Love, And Laughter

Here is a beautiful version of Silent Night sung by the St. Thomas Boys Choir (Thomanerchor). May Peace be with you this Holiday Season.

I prepared this post last night. Then this morning I learned that, while we were still having breakfast here in California, my mother had just sung this song to her children and grandchildren in Germany on Christmas Eve, in that silent and sacred moment of remembering the reason for the season, before the opening of all the presents and all the accompanying joy, love and laughter.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Intellectual Suicide

In response to Monday's Post -

Q: Excuse my ignorance but this sounds an awful lot like intellectual suicide.

MM: Better than actual suicide - as so often the case with philosophers and genius intellectuals, no?

But, to address your concern more directly. Slowing, calming, and transcending the mind is not supposed to be an intellectual, or intelligence suicide. It is getting yourself completely out of the way and into a space of infinite possibility and uncertainty which means facing life and yourself as it truly is, rather than the way we construct it with our minds.

No matter the level of sophistication by the most intelligent philosopher or can never be defined. As it says in the Tao...the Tao that can be named is not the Tao. A wide open mind - to all possibilities in utter uncertainty - is a completely free, still mind. At that point of no thought - it is like a Ferrari in neutral - or a VW in neutral - your intelligence level does not matter. That is why Alexander the Great can learn from a beggar in the street. This kind of mind is simply awake. Awake has nothing to do with logic or intellect. That is why athletes soldiers, and criminals are such great candidates for meditation. Their life already depends on being awake.

Faith, though, is a sort of intellectual suicide, where the mind is still involved, but disregards logic. Faith realizes the truth can't be figured out, so it just makes up something that works. But even faith is still a mind "in gear".

The intellect tries to figure out the truth, which is impossible. It can easily drive the thinker to insanity and suicide unless a master is around. Or, the intellectual will settle for a "conclusion" and stay there proclaiming it truth, at which point it is nothing but faith in disguise and a new "ism". Atheism is a perfect example.

Meditation is a way to come across the truth by happenstance if you're lucky and if you can handle it. Not everyone is ready to face infinite uncertainty, infinite possibility, and eternal not-knowing, and the surrender this entails, even though it means liberation. That is why meditation is so difficult to begin with; and faith or philosophy so much more popular, but then fails us.

Jesus said: "You shall know the truth and it shall set you free." He didn't say: "Don't worry, kids - you'll figure it out". It is not a question of figuring it out, it is a question of being able to face it - this already existing truth within all of us. Love and trust are essential. Most people need Jesus, God, Buddha, Mohammad, Saints, Santa Clause, pink Unicorns, or a puppy in order to relate this love and trust to someone or something - once again a handicap we have because of our logical minds. Even atheists worship Richard Dawkins, for example, and Buddhists the Dalai Lama. But - love and trust can also be cultivated - without any reference point, which is the point of meditation. When this love and trust reaches infinite patience, we're home, and set free.

So - 40 days in the desert - regularly - for everyone ;)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Monday's MeditationMom's Moment - Buddhism and Atheism 12/22/08

Q: Is it possible to be an atheist and a Buddhist?

MM: In the beginning, yes.

But eventually, Buddhism and meditation will destroy atheism - and all other "isms" - even Buddhism - in ones mind. The goal of Buddhism and meditation is an empty, open "beginner's mind" of "don't know" which is incompatible with any conviction about God's existence or non-existence, or any other conviction about anything else.

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Recently I came across the "108 mental afflictions" in Buddhism several times on the Internet but it took me a while to find them listed anywhere. One thing that made me want to look into this is Dr. Emoto's theory that chemical elements are directly related vibratioanlly to our emotions. His research with water crystals has made him write in one of his books about the connection of sadness and aluminum, for example, and gold and gratitude. Maybe some day there will be a periodic table of the emotions.

I finally found the 108 mental afflictions listed on a well researched site called

Buddhists are very much scientists of the mind and have dissected its movements to very fine points of observations so I find this interesting, although tedious. In my own meditation practice I watch for minute movements of the mind, but without naming each movement anymore. For example - blaming and then forgiving are just a tension to be noticed, and then a relaxing of that same tension. There are too many thoughts involved in actually analyzing the various tensions like blaming and the how-to-s of forgiving, and all the 108 others. But - that is after years of doing it "brick by brick", so to speak.

Going over the list makes for great self reflection. One instantly recognized ones own and others' most habitual afflictions. Also, I learned a few new English words I didn't know. James Barton's site is well organized and alive as he updates it regularly. A great resource for not only Buddhists.

The 108 Defilements of Buddhism

I (James Barton - creator of created this page to help me and my readers explore the meaning of the 108 defilements mentioned in Buddhist literature. Due to my studies with the virtues and vices (check out my free ebook: "Inner Medicine") it seemed to me that the 108 might not be arbitrary but perhaps had an inner logic reflecting reality. If you have any information regarding them then please let me know. Also if you have a website that deals with the 108 defilements let me know and I will put it up here.

abusedebasementsexual lustsarcasm
eagerness for powerlyinginsidiousnessself-denial
greed for moneyseducementvindictivenessinsatiability
obsessionprejudicearroganceviolent temper
garrulitydogmatism presumptionintransigence
oppressionprodigalitylack of comprehensionobstinacy
calculationunyieldingdesire for famedeception

The 108 Kinds of Emotional Desires (Klesas)

108 kinds of emotional distress: (S. Klesas, J. Bonno) This doctrine is from the Abhidharma; The different kinds of Emotional Distress (S. Klesas or Klistomanas) are the afflictions of mind that stain or defile comprehension of realities (dharmas). Most kinds (darsana-heya klesas) are conceptual errors (false views) and can be eliminated by the path of insight, which is proper knowledge of the four truths. The most intractable (bhavana-heya klesas) must be eliminated through the cultivation of meditation practice because they are habitual and ingrained compulsions. The 108 different kinds are calculated as follows:

There are 36 in the Realm of Desire:

A. 10 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of Suffering: greed, hatred, ignorance, conceit, doubt & the five false views (disbelief in cause & effect, clinging to views, belief in the ego, belief in extremes, and belief that rituals will lead to salvation)

B. 7 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of Origination: The above ten except belief in the ego, belief in extreme views, and belief that rituals will lead to salvation

C. 7 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of Extinction: The same as above

D. 8 eliminated by knowledge of the Truth of the Path: The same as above except belief in that ascetic practice or rituals will lead to salvation is added.

E. 4 eliminated only through practice of meditation: greed, hatred, ignorance & conceit - To a degree these four can be eliminated by knowledge of the Four Truths as conceptual errors, but there is a habitual and ingrained aspect to these that can only be eliminated by the intensive practice of introspective meditation. Doubt and the Five Views can be entirely eliminated through knowledge.

There are 31 each in the Realms of Form & Formlessness (Total of 62): In these two realms there is no hatred because they are purified from the desire for food or sex. Since the Realm of Desire associated with much suffering, it is easier to eliminate the relatively more crude afflictions. Since the Realms of Form & Formlessness are associated with more subtle kinds of contentment, it is more difficult to eliminate these afflictions.

A. 9 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of Suffering (like above but without hatred)

B. 6 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of Origination (like above but without hatred)

C. 6 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of Extinction (like above but without hatred)

D. 7 eliminated in each by knowledge of the Truth of The Path (like above but without hatred)

E. 3 eliminated in each by greed, ignorance, & conceit

The 10 secondary afflictions (Upaklesas): absence of shame, absence of embarrassment (before others), envy, stinginess, regret, sleepiness, restlessness (distraction), sloth, anger, and the concealment of wrongdoing.

36 + 31+ 31 + 10 = 108

Then there are our modern attempts at making these kinds of lists .The emotions are paired in such a way that you can use them as antidotes. If feeling harassed or trapped, for example - turn it into amusement. It works. Just find the corresponding emotion in the Happiness column and it is surprising how simple it can be to switch, if you know what the corresponding emotion is you are looking for. If you were to try to feel secure instead of uneasy it wouldn't work, but if you tried to feel glad instead of uneasy - it can be an instant shift to hapiness. Give it a try. The title links to the site this list came from.

Feelings Are A Matter of Degree

Happiness Depression Anger Fear

  • Relieved
  • Refreshed
  • Glad
  • Pleased
  • Amused
  • Content
  • Optimistic
  • Calm
  • Composed
  • Comfortable
  • Cool
  • Secure
  • Relaxed
  • Confident
  • Flat
  • Bored
  • Discontented
  • Resigned
  • Apathetic
  • Numb
  • Blue
  • Gloomy
  • Low
  • Sad
  • Down
  • Bewildered
  • Blah
  • Melancholy
  • Peeved
  • Bugged
  • Annoyed
  • Ruffled
  • Harassed
  • Irritated
  • Irked
  • Frustrated
  • Put-upon
  • Resentful
  • Shy
  • Startled
  • Uneasy
  • Tense
  • Concerned
  • Timid
  • Apprehensive
  • Cautious
  • Pensive
  • Up-tight

  • Delighted
  • Joyful
  • Merry
  • Ticked
  • Glowing
  • Festive
  • Frisky
  • Spry
  • Happy
  • Proud
  • Joyous
  • Excited
  • Cheerful
  • Giddy
  • Great
  • Playful
  • Disappointed
  • Slighted
  • Drained
  • Disheartened
  • Hurt
  • Ashamed
  • Depressed
  • Lost
  • Regretful
  • Ignored
  • Burdened
  • Rotten
  • Lonely
  • Unhappy
  • Distressed
  • Forlorn

  • Disgusted
  • Ticked-off
  • Mad
  • Smoldering
  • Riled
  • Pissed-Off
  • Hot
  • Contemptuous
  • Animosity
  • Jealous
  • Fed-up
  • Mean
  • Spiteful
  • Angry
  • Alarmed
  • Jittery
  • Scared
  • Frightened
  • Fearful
  • Threatened
  • Trebly
  • Shaken
  • Anxious
  • Worried
  • Nervous
  • Afraid

  • Elated
  • Ecstasy
  • Blissful
  • Sparkling
  • Overjoyed
  • Radiant
  • Wonderful
  • Fantastic
  • Exhilarated
  • Enthralled
  • Miserable
  • Crushed
  • Helpless
  • Humiliated
  • Worthless
  • Abandoned
  • Overwhelmed
  • Hopeless
  • Lifeless
  • Dead
  • Enraged
  • Fuming
  • Burning-up
  • Furious
  • Incensed
  • Infuriated
  • Destructive
  • Hate-filled
  • Explosive
  • Dread
  • Panic-Stricken
  • Terrified
  • Horrified
  • Petrified
  • Shocked

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Mockingbird Books In Seattle

7220 Woodlawn Ave. NE, Seattle, WA

Mockingbird Books is a unique and wonderful new children's bookstore in Seattle, WA. Spacious and full of light, and furnished with big tables to read and play at for small children, it is a great place to hang out with your little one.

The book selection is fantastic and obviously caters to the smart kids in Seattle who often already are members of Science and History Museums before they are two. Seattle is full of highly educated, young parents who are looking for educational fun for their curious offspring. Museums are one thing, and a cozy bookstore - well, it can't be beat.

We spent a whole hour there with our grandchild after visiting the Seattle Aquarium. And - since my son had discovered it a week earlier, babysitting Seattle style - reading in a bookstore - while my daughter-in-law had a chiropractor appointment a block away - they knew all about Here You Are and are happily carrying it now. So - if you are in Seattle with a little's a great destination.

A Hug For Southwest Airlines

It's the Christmas season and people everywhere are stressed, short tempered and in a rush. Not so the employees of Southwest Airlines! On my recent trip to Seattle things got pretty hectic on the way to the plane and I hadn't even noticed that I had left my purse behind in security check until it was handed back to me, literally as I stepped onto the airplane, by a well-dressed, friendly Southwest Airline employee who had made it his single duty to reunite me with my purse, and said:"You look like Mayke" when he had matched me to my driver's license picture. As the problem of losing my purse, and the relief of having it back all washed over me at once, and this nice young man was smiling at me in triumph, I gave him a big hug which surprised all of us and had everyone smiling, since everyone could relate.

So, Thank You, Southwest!!! It saved my short weekend in Seattle, visiting my grandchild - where a grandma definitely needs her credit card.


This is my one-year-old grandchild's favorite animal. He even owns a stuffed "Occopooey" he often wears on his head. This handsome boy, a Giant Pacific Octopus, lives in the Seattle Aquarium. His name is Popeye and he lives next door to his female companion, Olive Oil, who is more of a napper. Their two tanks are connected by a water tunnel that will be opened for them on Valentines Day. I might have to fly back to Seattle to see what two Octopi do with each other on Valentines Day. Love, when you have three hearts and nine brains, not to mention eight arms, with salt water as a conductor of electricity, must be quite an experience.

Popeye made quite an impression on me. He looks at people as he floats gracefully along. We were told Octopi can see faces, and tell them apart. There seemed to be a lot of intelligence in that tank. The awareness level of a nine-brained, three-hearted being may far surpass our own. While we need Hubble Telescopes to become aware of our surroundings Octopi may just be able to see it all as they float and commune in silence.

Meet Popeye himself -

And here is what things would be like on Valentine's Day. He sure lights up when he sees her.

Make sure you watch the end of this video - and you'll see what can be done with nine brains.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Total Uncertainty

Richard Dawkins admitted on his holiday season book tour, that, as a scientist he cannot say with 100% certainty that there is no God, any more than he could say with absolute certainty that there are no pink unicorns. A scientist never says "never". It has been proven foolish to do so. In a universe of 100 billion galaxies, and the possibility of infinite parallel universes in addition to ours, what could we possibly say "does not" exist. Most likely anything we can think of - God, the devil, or pink unicorns - if we think it, we may have created it. Maybe we should watch our thoughts. Dawkins settled for 99.99% certainty, that there is no God, and no pink unicorns. Luckily there are enough little believers in pink unicorns.

Likewise - most religious people - have the opposite problem. They struggle with doubt about God, especially when they see their loved ones go through great suffering. So we could say that religious people also are only 99.99% sure, that there is a God.

Great suffering often turns the religious against God. Suffering also, just as often, turns devoted atheists towards God - even if it is just a defiant outburst, or demand to prove his existence. So that 0.01% is a powerful thing.

The very nature of suffering is that it takes away our certainty - as such it has its place in the universe and serves our ultimate liberation. Religious people say to themselves :"God knows best." - and Atheist say: "Nothing matters." Both religion and science with great teachings try, and succeed, in relieving our uncertainty - even though it is the very thing that can set us free.

It is the 0.01% that explains everything. As a matter of fact - this level of certainty about anything is still far, far too much for enlightenment or the Big Bang. Both can only happen at a point of total and absolute uncertainty! So the religious as well as the atheists - both with their 99.99% certainty - are impossibly far from the goal.

Religious people sometimes fare better because the very thing they are being made fun of - the ability to go beyond reason - makes them able to trust. Trust comes from the heart.

The atheist only "trusts" his intellect which is such a small thing and under ones own control - it can hardly be called trust. It's like a man locked up in his own house with iron gates, body guards and 24/7 alarm systems in place, a gun in his pocket accompanied by two Dobermans, telling people he feels perfectly safe. Unfortunately, many religious people are not much better, also just using their intellect - and badly. No wonder these two sides have to battle it out.

Peace is in absolute uncertainty. When in doubt about God's existence or non-existence - just open or close your eyes, and discover what is beyond doubt. It is always there.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Doghouse

Sent to me by my grateful daughter-in-law who has been fantasizing about a vacuum cleaner for the last two years. We gave her one so my son is safe. Maybe.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Monday's MeditationMom's Moment - Nihilism Versus Buddhism - 12/15/08

Q: I wonder if you can shed light on what possible difference there is between the idea of non-identification and nihilism. I used to think that spiritual enlightenment came from non-identification with anything, while nihilism was an identification with nothing. I'm no longer so sure there is any meaningful difference between them. I no longer see what that difference might be. The erasure of the ego may seem like a necessary step on the path to enlightenment, but if you're not a tree or a flower but an actually living human being with choices, with responsibilities, what practical use has it?

MM: There is no practical "use" for enlightenment."Usefulness" is a very human idea.

Flowers will be flowers and human beings will be human beings. A human being will make human choices and flowers will make flower choices. A flower will turn towards the light and open to warmth, and retreat from coldness and darkness. Human beings are the same - until they get confused. They think too much.

This distinction between "nihilism" and "emptiness" is very important.

Nihilism is the result of thinking (philosophy) whereas Buddhist teachings about emptiness are a result of not-thinking (meditation). The mistake many people make is that they approach Buddhism as a philosophy. They try to grasp and understand Buddhist teachings through intellect, rather than confirming them through meditation.

If a person studies Buddhism without meditating he or she will often end up a nihilist. Nihilism concludes that nothing matters and life is meaningless - so depression or insanity is a common side effect. Nihilism, as well as Buddhism emphasize non-attachment. This leads to arrogance and coldness - a false kind of detachment which avoids attachment and as such is nothing but attachment in disguise. A more experienced Buddhist teacher is often around to pull the student out of this blindness by demonstrating to him his attachment to the idea of non-attachment itself. The Nihilist usually has no such teachers.

Genuine non-attachment, on the other hand, as a side effect of maturity developed through meditation, leads to warmth and compassion, even glad self-sacrifice and service. It does not avoid responsibility or making choices, at all.

Nihilism - and even the teachings of non-attachment of Buddhism - are a great attraction for the young - because it helps with overcoming the heartbreak of failed romance. But only initially, because later it becomes an excuse for avoiding love altogether. Therefore, this so-called non-attachment creates suffering as it serves to protect the self rather than risk it.

Meditation leads to the discovery of what is behind existence. Through it we encounter the source of all things. Everything is recognized as of no ultimate importance because of impermanence. At the same time everything becomes infinitely precious and miraculous, not because of its usefulness, but simply because of its very existence and interconnectedness.

Attaching importance of meaning to things, ideas and people imprisons us, while deepest gratitude without attachment - frees us. The Buddhist goes about his daily tasks in gratitude valuing even the tiniest insect. The Nihilist, on the other hand, values nothing, and is only almost right. He is even a step ahead of others. Therefore Nihilism is dangerously deceiving.

The infinite and eternal - manifests as something finite and impermanent - therefore pointing towards the eternal... in an inexhaustible variety of forms, endlessly appearing and disappearing - for our enjoyment, inspiration, and in-formation about the beyond. The Nihilist, attached to his intellect, ideas, and insights, does not go beyond - he stays here with nothing - dying of thirst while swimming in the river.

The whole thread live here at

Monday, December 8, 2008

Monday's MeditationMom's Moment - Mary, Atheists And The Religious - 12/8/08

Q: Do you ever see peace among all the religions?

MM: Yes, I do. It already exists. In many parts of the world, people share deep, lifelong friendships, love, and peace with people of other faiths. It drives fundamentalists crazy. We should understand that whatever divides us is misunderstanding - never superior understanding. Even the atheist with his superior scientific mind suffers from misunderstanding. But - misunderstanding is human, and disagreement is human. And feeling superior - oh, so human! Only in death, or in enlightenment - whatever comes first - do we wake up to the truth and laugh at all our notions, wrong conclusions, and interpretations - atheists as well as the religious.

Mary came to my mind the other day, in regards to peace among the religions. Here is a Jewish woman and Jesus' first teacher; who is mysteriously impregnated by someone other than her husband - a big problem in all religions when a woman "does that" - although strangly enough, the way most prophets and sons of God seem to be conceived ; who has to watch her son being crucified - far more suffering than being crucified if you are that person's mother; and whose statue is the only statue of all the statues of saints, gods and prophets (which were all stored in the Ka'ba in Mecca), that Muhammad did not destroy in 630 C.E. upon entering Mecca. Muhammad's love for Mary was very, very deep.

She could have easily been enlightened herself. The depth of her joy, her suffering and her transcendence is equal if not deeper than that of all the prophets' or apostles, yet she remained silent.

In her silence, compassion, patience, humility and example, she could unite all major faiths in the world - unless! - we start arguing about her pregnancy. That, of course, would instantly be a problem. Was she impregnated - by man, by holy ghost, or by alien - three new religions right there, over which we could keep killing each other. That would have to be the first commandment of our new world religion: "Thou shall never discuss, contemplate, speculate, or claim knowledge about Mary's pregnancy, her virginity or her sex life (Jesus had many brothers) - at all- ever!"

Even atheists could come on board. Just as a mother, just as a human being, who had to transcend human suffering, who was an expression of love, humility, compassion and trust - she could unite all of us in love. Once love and peace is found, God is found also. God is never a question of which religion, non-religion, teacher or scientist one follows - only a question of how deep one's love, one's trust, one's compassion, and one's peace is. Then God finds us. Atheists and believers alike.

Michelangelo's Pieta, St Peter's Basilica, Vatican, Rome
© Pictures of Rome courtesy of

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Santa and Atheists

I do love atheists for their intelligence and scientific way of thinking - but frankly they do not know entirely what they are talking about for one simple reason - they generally do not meditate a great deal. The same can be said about many religious people. Pursuit of truth without thousands of hours in silence is like the pursuit of physics without thousands of experiments, or the discipline of endless hours of doing the math.

Do atheists offer a scientific explanation or theory about how much better off we actually would be without the major world religions - most of which teach compassion and kindness? That would be more interesting and convincing than ridiculing organizations that have managed to survive thousands of years and have offered relief to millions of suffering people. If all religions united around the fundamentals of compassion it would be better than getting rid of them altogether, in favor or what? Governments? Universities? It would be like getting rid of science because of all the deaths from car crashes, atom bombs, medicines, guns, etc. Science has killed as many people as all the religions put together, and may actually be in the process of destroying life for good on our planet.

It would be hard to imagine that famous atheists like Dawkins do not understand that all so-called religious wars are nothing but power struggles for resources with the excuse of religion. If we remove religion - other excuses for violence will arise, so what would be the point? It would be throwing out the baby with the bathwater. We should not do that to religion or science. Do both religion and science need to wake up in a rather big way? Yes! And let not money and power be their motives!

A favorite argument of atheists is that one cannot prove the non-existence of a pink elephant in the sky who runs the Universe. And it is true. Atheists cannot disprove God's existence, nor can anyone else prove God's existence - scientifically. But, that is the whole point! Scientific proof only applies to the material world. Anything that is of the non-material world is up for grabs. We are allowed to invent anything - "dinglehoppers", pink elephants, and God - whatever makes us better people, or life more enjoyable. Our devotion and worship of what we imagine defines us and leads us beyond the material. It is with God in mind that some of the greatest music in the world was composed, for example. Far more fascinating and limitless than the material world. Once we venture into the non-material world we will eventually stumble upon the truth which is far beyond our imagination. This is unlikely if we stay focused only on the material world, no matter how Bison-Higgs-like.

The reason for this post is, that my nine-year-old son who "knows" there is no Santa Claus, refuses to give up the fantasy and I am expected to play along like a mother should to the point of providing excellent details about the Northpole, present delivery, rules of goodness that guarantee lots of gifts, etc. My inner atheists and scientist, including my traumatized self of having been "lied to" as a child, have a lot of resistance to this, but as I was triumphantly told by my Jedi warrior two nights ago: "Nobody can prove to me that Santa does not exist! You can't prove ANYTHING that doesn't exist, that is doesn't exist!" A child's mind is naturally Buddhist, non-dualistic and free.

So why not create a magical world of love and surprises - like my mother did for me. Fantasy Christmas is much more fun than secular, scientific Christmas. Atheists do not know the joy and pleasure serious religious people - those who simply have infinite trust and faith like children, or those who do their own endless experiments meditating - indulge in. Science is almost as much fun, but not quite. Scientists and religious people who have it right have a twinkle in their eyes. All the others look miserable and grumpy in their struggle for fame and power.

When I could only find this "dinglehopper" clip in Norwegian I realized - even language is a crazy invention of the imagination. One man's religion makes no sense to another - neither does one man's language make any sense to another. As Ramana Maharshi says: "We need to discover our own true source. That is all that is required." We can start with a smile. Maybe while sitting in silence.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Library Journal For Librarians and Teachers Reviews Here You Are

It is always exciting when I get "official" sanctions from the book industry or related organizations like libraries and trade organizations. Today I received a notice that the Oneota Reading Journal from the Decorah Public Library and Luther College, endorsed by the Iowa State Librarian, reviewed and liked Here You Are. Teachers, principals, reading specialists, and librarians use the Oneota Reading Journal Reviews reviews to inform their purchasing decisions for their classrooms, homes and libraries.

Here is the review by Caitlin M. Sanders -

"This is a refreshing picture book that is perfect for starting a discussion with children about who we are, how everything was created, and why we are here. The questions it raises are those that every human being asks at one point or another. These questions are a common thread throughout humanity and therefore transcend cultural and religious boundaries. The simple yet exquisite illustrations compliment the text to provide a meaningful experience for all readers." (CMS)

Thank You Ms. Sanders!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Truth About Meth

If you can handle one more depressing post this week - here's the truth about Meth. Since I work with college kids, and since a lot of parents and teachers read this blog I like to put even sad and depressing information on here if it can serve to educate and give timely warnings. Casual decisions to "experiement" may be prevented that way.

YouTube is full of helpful videos, but usually I end up with only one or two that hit the nail on the head. In that way my hour on YouTube saves someone else the time and trouble. ( I watched two hours of water drops to finally decide on my one clip for the Water Drop Perfection post) That is the video to watch after any depressing videos, by the way - or the one of The Laughing Quadruplets)

Then, of course, there is always meditation to end your suffering from depressing posts - or any other suffering.

Meth is highly addictive and destructive to the brain after only a few weeks. The earlier one knows the facts, the better. I know some great kids from good families who tried Meth "to have more energy to study or to lose weight". Their parents were in one of our workshops where we taught them the signs of use which not only made it possible for the parents to become aware of what was going on, but they had also already learned communication skills in our workshop to be able to reach out to their children effectively. These were extremely lucky cases since there is such a small window of time before it becomes very difficult.

The good news is that Meth use in the US is way down according to government statistics. Nonetheless - there are hundreds of kids out there who need reliable information and education about the subject, as well as alternatives to finding the peace and joy they are seeking. A picture - aka a YouTube Video - is worth a thousand words -

Shot At - Nine Times- But Not In Iraq

A few weeks ago I went to a Spelling Bee Luncheon that was a fundraiser for the KIPP Schools, an alternative public charter school system here in California. The 20 fourth to eighth graders were amazing. During lunch I sat next to a young man who had just made it into college after graduating from one of the KIPP schools. He was there to give a speech about his experience.

The most amazing thing was, that he was alive.

His younger brother was already dead, shot by gangs. He himself had been shot at nine times, but had miraculously never been hit. He explained to me later, that that was highly unusual in his neighborhood and among his friends. Most were dead. When I asked him how many kids in a classroom in his neighborhood would typically be dangerous, versus the kids who are just trying to survive and learn, he said about 10 out of 30. Seems like they should wear helmets and bullet proof vests to school.

His mother had found a flyer for the alternative KIDD school in a trash can.

We bonded over the surreal feeling we get when going back and forth between two cultures - for me between Germany and the US, and for him now between his college, and previously his more normal KIDD school environment - and his dangerous neighborhood. We talked about meditation and he said his brother who had been in trouble with the law often took court ordered meditation classes and always was better when he was involved in them.

On the way home - coincidentally ??? who knows how these things happen - an 82-year-old grandmother called into the radio talk show I was listening to, asking how to overcome her rage because her 17-year-old grandson had just been shot by gang members - the youngest of three boys. His two older brothers, still alive, were on their second and third tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"My Marines" (earlier post, here) told me Iraq was a paradise. A little known secret, they said. Yet so many people have been killed in Iraq and so many have been killed here as well. Too many ideas and too many weapons spoiling paradise.

Then again - maybe I am spoiling paradise right now - with my complaints.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Monday's MeditationMom's Moment - Impermanence - 12/01/08

Q: Firstly let me say I find a lot of good things in Buddhism. In fact I was tempted to become one at one stage. However there is something which has been bothering me lately.

First let me define devaluation as a defense mechanism to avoid ambiguity. An example would be say if you failed an exam and to avoid self criticism and frustration you came to the fallacious conclusion via compartmentalization that the subject was irrelevant in the real world or the test was unfairly structured. Basically if you can't get something you devalue its worth to avoid frustration etc.

I've noticed that Buddhists tend to do this a lot in regards to pleasures of the flesh. Whats the point in accumulating wealth if its all impermanent. It will only lead to a cycle of craving resulting in more suffering. To people in poor nations who watch the decadence of the Western world on their T.V.'s I can see how from a psychological perspective this could be a useful defense mechanism.

So is it a truth, a defense mechanism or something in between?

MM: No question these teachings can be used as a convenient excuse, or as a "feel better about your lot in life" defense mechanism, and more often than not, are being used for exactly that.

That does not take away from the truth, though, that all wealth and pleasures of the flesh aka wives, husbands, children, knowledge, status, money, etc, are impermanent. Even our own body is impermanent.

What that means is that all things are therefore infinitely meaningless and infinitely precious - in this very moment in which they exist. Wealthy - poor - sitting in the dirt - in your own blood - on a golden thrown - or in a Ferrari - if you miss the moment, you simply miss. If you don't miss, you discover what Buddhism is trying to teach - the true end of suffering instead of a clever way to avoid suffering.

You bring up a good point, too. "Defense mechanism to avoid ambiguity" - the whole goal of Buddhism is a serene "don't know" attitude after a long dismantling of knowing. You'll have to forgive those in Buddhism who are still learning to unlearn to reach full ambiguity.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Google Sky To Keep Us Humble

Here is something cool and interesting to make us feel both powerful and oh so insignificant in this vast Universe - Google Sky! If Google Earth made us feel powerful like a spying fighter pilot Google Sky will make us feel like Luke Skywalker. Or, frustrated and greedy in that curiosity kind of way, for more detail when we fly up to a planet or galaxy. Then there is that feeling of being lost at sea without a compass or any understanding of what we're encountering, and you just want to hang out in the solar system just so you know - kind of - where you are - "up" or "down" or "sideways" - ideas that lose their meaning.

Then there is that other, though very familiar feeling - of too much Universe to explore when you really should get your work done.

My Favorite Story For Brad Pitt

So Angelina is not pregnant, after all, after just giving birth to twins four months ago. Who would have thought?

But - just in case, here is one of my favorite stories - for "poor, exhausted Brad Pitt":

A man, at the end of his rope, drags himself to the rabbi and collapses at the rabbi's feet and starts sobbing. "Rabbi, I am exhausted, desperate, and can find no way out. My life has become nothing but suffering and a great struggle. I can barely feed my wife and my twelve children. We live in a tiny house with her parents, go without food many days, and the overwhelming demands of our large family threaten to take my wife's health, and mine as well. The noise, the chaos, the need, and the suffering - it is all too much. And then, today - I found out that she is pregnant again, Rabbi. Please Rabbi, I am at the end. Please tell me, what am I to do?" The rabbi takes a moment to think, and then turns to him and says:

"Moshe, just stop! You have done enough!"


Great Quote -

"Expecting the world to treat you fairly because you are a good person is a little like expecting the bull not to attack you because you are a vegetarian." Dennis Wholey

And an Ethical Question -

"If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had eight kids already, three of whom were deaf, two blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis; would you recommend that she have an abortion?"

I found the above quote and this ethical question in my bookshelves as clippings from old newspapers - from the days before I used the Internet and couldn't copy and paste things into computer files or a blog - which was only a few years ago. I found mountains of clippings like these in my mother-in-law's files as well when we cleaned out her little office after she died. I guess that is what we used to do. Clip and shoebox.

To get back to the ethical question. I believe abortion has to stay legal. I must admit, though, I am getting more and more clumsy at defending my position, especially in light of how this freedom of choice is being abused so casually by so many. As with all freedoms, they come with inbuilt responsibilities. Every time we are irresponsible we risk losing these freedoms.

Like many who are pro-choice - I am against abortion at all cost - yet for keeping it legal for the very unfortunate circumstances in which it might be the most compassionate choice for the child, the mother or a family. Who would want to be the judge of what circumstances that would be? This responsibility is the mother's and it is a great one. So - in summary - anyone's answers to the above question does not matter. It was Beethoven's mother's choice to make, and contrary to what we might expect, she may even have had a choice, as women and midwives in those days knew the herbs one could take to induce miscarriage.

Friday, November 28, 2008

I Am Your Brother...

A while ago, a silly man with a big heart, Renaldo Lapuz, gave this moving performance on the talent show American Idol. Since then hundreds of people have made videos singing his song of eternal friendship and brotherhood. Many videos on YouTube slightly or outright mock him, yet people young and old cannot help themselves - smiling and singing his song, endlessly.

Here are two sincere and excellent versions I fell in love with.

I am your sister...
Your best friend forever
Singing the songs,
The music that you love.
We are sisters 'till the end of time
Together or not, you're always in my heart

Your hurting feelings will reign no more!

You are my brother...
My best friend forever
Singing the songs,
The music that you love.
We are brothers, singing all the time
Together forever, always in my heart
Your heart's hurt feelings,
Will reign no more, no more, no more!

I am your sister, you are my brother!
Your hurting feelings, never will reign no more!!!

Thinking of the girls in Afghanistan and sending them love.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Where The Hell Is Matt

As sent to me by my younger daughter today.

Yoda Wisdom

The powerful nine-year-old Jedi who lives in our house and controls what we watch on TV several nights a week, has moved on from Planet Earth and the Science Channel to Star Wars. "Here comes your favorite, Mom" is how he announces every scene with Master Yoda in it to make sure I stay and watch all the episodes.

"I am not afraid"
"Good. You will be! You will be!

"Ready? Are You? A Jedi must have the deepest commitment. The most serious mind."
"This one, a long time have I watched. All his life has he looked away to the future.
Never his mind on where he was, what he was doing. Hmph...Adventure,
Hmph...Excitement, Hmph...a Jedi craves not these things. You are reckless!"
"Will he finish what he begins?"

"My ally is the force and a powerful ally it is. Life creates it and makes is grow. Its energy surrounds us and binds us. Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter. You must feel the force around you. Here, between you, me, the tree, the rock, everywhere, yes."
"You ask he impossible. I don't, I don't believe it."
"That is why you fail!"
"You must unlearn what you have learned."
"Try not! Do! Or do not! There is no try!"
"Concentrate! Feel the force flow. Through the force you will see other places, the future, the past, old friends long gone."
"Difficult to see. Always in motion the future is."

"Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering!"

"Careful you must be...
The fear of loss is a path to the dark side.
Death is a natural part of life.
Rejoice for those around you who transform into the force.
Warn them do not.
Miss them do not.
Attachment leads to jealousy.
Shadow of greed that is.
Train yourself to let go of everything you fear to lose."
"Do not give in to fear, and hate, and depression" (from another clip)

"Never! I will never turn to the dark side. I am a Jedi, like my father before me."
"So be it Jedi. You will be destroyed, you fool. For your lack of vision!"
"There is still good in you father."

The power of love over evil is accomplished with losing one's fear of death and at the same time holding life's preciousness as one's highest value. A paradox truth where the highest power is powerlessness.

Senators McCain and Obama - At Their Best - Post Election Reflections

The Alfred E. Smith Foundation Memorial Dinner is an annual white tie fundraiser dinner event for Catholic Charities, held at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, in honor of former New York Governor Al Smith, the first Catholic presidential candidate. The first dinner was in 1945, the year after Al Smith's death.

What many people outside of the US may not know is that as far as stereotypes are concerned - "Catholic" in America used to be equated with "low class Irish drunk". The Klu Klux Klan was after "Catholics" as much as it was after "Blacks" because of competition for jobs and resources. African American and Irish women shared a strong history as servants to the upper classes who looked down on both groups. "First Catholic presidential candidate" - Governor Alfred E. Smith, therefore is a historical figure in the US, much like JFK as the first Irish Catholic President. Of course, by now, we know the historical outcome of this year's election. The US keeps growing and rewarding heroes from its lower social ranks who end up elevating all of us.

At this traditional dinner during our campaigns, the candidates make fun of themselves and each other. The event is shortly before the actual election and tensions are high. We get to see the candidates at their best, and are reminded - that if we can keep laughing together, and especially - at ourselves - there is hope for all of us.

Here are the two speeches in the order given.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Monday's MeditationMom's Moment - Logic and Paradox - 11/24/08

Q: Can free will and the idea of God's omniscience co-exist?

MM: If a nature observer is watching over a forest population of dear, bears, raccoons, etc. and in his wise old age becomes so familiar with everything that he can predict and know exactly who is going to show up where and when and do what - as in "omniscient" - would anyone say that all these animals are not acting out of free will? Or - that he is orchestrating any of the animals' behaviors? Or, causing suffering if they hunt and eat each other, or fall of a cliff?

Just because actions are predictable and based in natural, universal law does not mean there is no free will. There is an underlying free will within the source of all universal laws to begin with. This "law" is love and attraction, free will, which starts on the subatomic level. This law of love is rooted in our longing to re-unite. It is misguided in its action but not in its intention, and makes all of material life possible. Example being the hope to unite in love and ending up multiplying - so two do not become one, but three, four, five, six etc. In other words - this re-union cannot happen on the material plane.

God's will (if you believe in God), and our free will (if you believe in us as separate from God) are just two versions of the same end goal of re-union. We assume that time and space - and with it separation - exists, which in truth they don't. Only to us they do. So we worry about things like "free will" and "God's will". "In truth" - there is neither "God's will" nor our "free will". The whole idea of "will" is a very human idea and invention and based on the desire to manipulate the material world. "No will" is "God's will" if we want to be precise - in other words, total peace.

In our illusion - time/space existence - omniscience and free will do co-exist, but it is a paradox. Paradox - is not illogical, but the highest level of logical insight that can be reached. The distinction between "paradoxical" and "illogical" is vast. Paradoxical insight is wisdom. Lack of logic is simply stupidity. Then there is a third way. If people who do not have the ability for paradoxical insight trust a person who does - they can just have faith. It only gets silly when they try to argue points of faith with a logician, who has not reached the level of paradoxical insight through the disciplined pursuit of truth by logic and experiment. Then it is a situation of the blind arguing with the blind.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Indie Bound

I did not know what that means - even though I should know by now. You can look it up here. Basically it is the idea of supporting small, local businesses - bookstores in particular - in favor of large national chains.

As a small publisher, and author, this is an interesting topic for me. I have nothing but gratitude for Amazon, as well as Barnes & Noble who carry my book. Not only do they carry Here You Are, but also do all the accounting and fulfilling. In the beginning, when I was having trouble convincing small bookstores that my book is a bestseller - as I found out at school book fairs - Amazon and B&N just let me put it onto their virtual "shelves". B&N even approved Here You Are for placement into their New York City bookstore - so that I could just start selling it without having to go around begging for shelf space at small bookstores.

At the same time, though, my very favorite thing in the world of shopping, is going to my local bookstore. It is my true love. What is it about bookstores and guitar stores that just makes you want to be there for as long as possible? They seem to be a retreat that not only provides relief from the hustle and bustle of the world, but also lifts or soothes our spirits, unlike most other kinds of stores.

Amazon takes care of necessary and impulse book buys when I am working online, or when I have a long Christmas list to fill and to keep track of, especially for products besides books I don't have time to hunt for at the mall in stores that may or may not have them in stock. Especially this year, with Amazon's commitment to only sell products that are not entombed in hard plastic casings that need special tools to open, and more often than not, seriously cut your hands.

Nonetheless - it is the local bookstore I love and particularly look forward to visiting several times during the Christmas season. Book Passage in Corte Madera (see my event in August) and as of yesterday - Books, Inc - in the Marina in San Francisco, make me especially happy by carrying Here You Are. It's like getting your kid into a really nice and wholesome school where you know good people show up.

Books, Inc is a great company. After going bankrupt when Barnes & Noble as well as Amazon appeared on the scene, they made a full restart, out of the small, independent neighborhood bookstore concept, and managed to build a wonderful business, preserving for us humans the human scale bookstore you like to hang out in, in your very own neighborhood. Not to forget the Books, Inc. bookstore at the San Francisco Airport - my favorite "Executive Lounge" - where I spend most of my time and money between flights.

Now that a few copies of Here You Are have made their way over to the Books, Inc. Store in the Marina, maybe some day Here You Are will be greeting people - especially arriving ones - at the airport as well. Lots of grandmothers hanging out in the Books, Inc. "Executive Lounge" looking for useful items to bring to the little ones they're visiting.

The question about the small, local business versus the national and international super chains remains a koan for all of us. The Golden Middle Path is to support both kinds of businesses equally and fairly, by enjoying and rewarding them for the different things they do well.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


Drugs have been on my mind ever since we flushed large amounts of Oxycontin Pills down the toilet in Florida. This happens on a daily basis down in beautiful, warm and "better taxes" Florida, when all the elderly who live there die - one after the other - because that's what old people do. The nurses and doctors witness this and sign the forms vouching for the fact that the drugs have been "destroyed". My husband was tempted to keep a few for skiing backaches as well as hip and knee agony, but the nurse didn't let him.

Oxycontin, a potent time release painkiller, was a true blessing for my mother-in-law's long and painful death from breast cancer. It is what it was designed for. It was not designed for parties, nor for fish food - nor skiing, I suppose.

My other "experiences" with Oxycontin are the mother who came to our meditation a few years ago, whose daughter - freshly graduated from Highschool - had just died. She came with her younger son, the girl's twelve-year-old brother. The daughter's boyfriend had given Oxycontin to her at a party, celebrating going off to college. The Highschool diploma somehow didn't help to prevent the decision of opening up a time release drug capsule and taking it all at once, subjecting the brain to life threatening shock and disbelief, simply for the "party fun" of feeling one's body go numb. The risk versus reward calculation went terribly wrong and could have been prevented with a little more respect for, or understanding of science.

Three years later the same thing happened to the son of our carpenter. Both were working on our house at the time, including the friend who provided the Oxycontin as a "gift" one night. The father found his son in the morning on his front doorstep, after he had heard him come home late at night, thinking he was having his usual Friday Midnight Smoke, enjoying the moon and stars, as he loved to do.

Now the poor fish in Florida are on Oxycontin, too - and many other drugs as well. It is illegal here in California to flush drugs down the toilet - but in Florida it is required. Water is water and it circles the globe - so Florida "is" California, for all intents and purposes.

How useful these drugs could be to people who cannot afford them. How harmful to the fish and therefore to our food supply. People in Florida joke about how happy everyone will be on all the anti-depressants and painkillers in the water - leave alone all the illegal cocaine and other concoctions that get flushed down toiltes and sinks in all states, when the police knocks on the door.

Well - now that I may have depressed everyone, most drug use among teenagers - is actually way down in the US, - except for Oxycontin use, which is up 30%, as is Vicodin. See this graph, here. Thanks to people, young and old, who fight drugs with education in schools and on the Internet - often former drug users themselves - as well as our under-appreciated police departments, military units, and government agencies. Lots of good people there who don't make the news, but make all the difference. Thank You.

People come to meditations, or fall in love with "Here You Are" - even heavily tattooed and pierced teenagers - hoping to find a way out of their sorrow and suffering from those kinds of situations. Meditation and ancient teachings can provide this way out, far better than drugs. Losing a child is one of the most difficult paths there is. Most difficult, and therefore also the most precious and sacred of motivations to discover the innermost treasure.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Invisible Rope Trick One and Two

Hope this gives you a good belly laugh for today -

Water Drop Perfection

Moebius Transformation

Thank You, Douglas N. Arnold and Jonathan Rogness of the University of Minnesota.

f(z) = \frac{a z + b}{c z + d}

By August Ferdinand Moebius

Animating math formulae, is like taking sheet music and actually playing the music.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

And Then There Is E8

Claudio Rocchini /e8 graph as 2-dimensional projection, by Peter McMullen

Have you heard of E8? It is quite beautiful and also an extraordinary accomplishment of the human mind. Listen to this announcement in Congress:

It may not be such a recent discovery, though.

On (the Garrett Lisi video below takes 20 minutes but is a pretty good explanation of what E8 is all about) - a woman commented on this talk:

"So, I learned that a circle has one degree of symmetry; a sphere has three; a space whose symmetries are described by E8 has 248 symmetries.

Then I went back to the Kabbalah book I was reading, called The Tree of Life, and read: . . . each one of the five Partzufim, which are in every single world includes all 248 limbs. . .
Another way of saying that is: each level of reality or each universe consists of 248 vessels . . . and these 248 vessels exist everywhere, eternally.

Vessels in Kabbalah are essentially a condensed form of Light or divine consciousness.
It just struck me that Garrett Lisi is saying some things that are similar to what Rabbi Isaac Luria taught in 1570."

A picture's worth a thousand words - so watch these additional short videos to get more of a sense of E8.