Saturday, August 23, 2008

Something Big And Round, So I Don't Get That Way

When my daughter moved from Los Angeles back to San Francisco, I somehow inherited her silver yoga ball. We live in a house with small rooms and no closet space to speak of, where every inch counts, so this ball has been getting on my nerves. But, there is something about a big, round ball that doesn't just let you throw it away, especially when your nine year old loves it, too, and guards it in his room.

Three days ago I stole it. No - not to secretly dispose of it, but to sit on it when I am at the computer!

It has already done wonders for my middle. I suddenly feel toned and have a spring in my step. I tried everything else - from chairs to couches, to barstools, to standing, to walking on an exercise machine - while writing, but nothing made any difference, or was too annoying. My time at the computer has expanded to such a degree that the "how" of it has become important. I have been looking for a way to make it more positive for my health.

Sitting on an exercise ball is not new - and not to be recommended if you are doing delicate design work - but for writers, bloggers, researchers turns all that unhealthy "blob" time into exercise, which reduces your middle - and your guilt for all the time you actually don't HAVE to spend on the computer, but do so anyway. I am now wiggling on my "chair" like a little kid all the time, and I sometimes even get close to falling off, since I do role, bounce, and balance on my ball when I am waiting for uploads.

I am thinking of sending a whole truck load of yoga balls to my daughter's office.

PS: "My" stolen ball is a 65" version. When I put my lap top on the pull-out keyboard tray of my desk, it works out beautifully. Even sitting still, it has me sitting in a much better posture than I used to, in just my regular chair.

These balls also come as chairs in many design versions- which is very clever for the office, but I think you would role around less and only get the posture advantage.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Chew On This

The most basic advice often offers the most powerful results, yet can be the most difficult to follow. If we ask ourselves what is preventing us, most of the time we have to admit that it is a lack of presence, gratitude, peacefulness, and all the other good qualities we embody but are temporarily out of touch with.

My oldest son at age ten once chewed a mouthful of brown rice 1000 times. 50 times is recommended for healthy people to maintain their health, 100 times for people who are sick. If we practice this, the most simple food becomes infinitely delicious and satisfying. And foods our body doesn't want, are easily recognized. It used to be natural for people to eat this way when food was less abundant, in order to make each mouthful last as long as possible.

Gandhi said to drink our food, and to chew our liquids. The following video explains the science behind it. Health is wealth is wholeness is holiness. If we can slow ourselves down enough, at least for chewing, breathing, lovemaking and interacting with each other and our children - everything can once again feel sacred and precious, rather than mundane and replaceable. Happy chewing, everyone!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Light Of Consciousness

Here You Are has a beautifully written review coming up this fall in Light of Consciousness Magazine. They very intelligently and knowingly describe the very essence of Here You Are.

The Magazine itself is an inspiring collection of higher spiritual wisdom and guidance by Swami Amar Jyoti, and life in the community that has formed around him.

Here You Are, by Mayke Beckmann Briggs; Hardcover, 40 pp,
10.5x8.5, $16.95; Boathouse Books 2007;
The non-dualistic path of self-inquiry—“Who am I?”—is
conveyed to children in this delightful book. Inside the cover
page (in small type for the grownups) is a quote by
Ramana Maharshi that says, in part: “If you find out the
truth about yourself and discover your own source,
this is all that is required.” Here you are, it begins,
standing on the ground. The text is simple; the colorful chalk
drawings are whimsical and sweet. We end by touching love as big
as the sky and read: Here you are. The whole is a joy. For ages 4-8.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Wise Monkeys

When I saw these four monkeys in a catalog the other day I was surprised. All I remembered ever seeing was three monkeys.

The three wise monkeys (Japanese: , san'en or sanzaru, or , sanbiki no saru, literally "three monkeys") are a pictorial maxim. Together they embody the proverbial principle to "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil". The three monkeys are Mizaru, covering his eyes, who sees no evil; Kikazaru, covering his ears, who hears no evil; and Iwazaru, covering his mouth, who speaks no evil.

Sometimes there is a fourth monkey depicted with the three others; the last one, Shizaru, symbolizes the principle of "do no evil". He may be covering his abdomen or crotch, or just crossing his arms.

In Chinese, a similar phrase exists in the Analects of Confucius: "Look not at what is contrary to propriety; listen not to what is contrary to propriety; speak not what is contrary to propriety; make no movement which is contrary to propriety" (非禮勿視, 非禮勿聽,非禮勿言, 非禮勿動). It may be that this phrase was shortened and simplified after it was brought into Japan. (more here at Wikipedia)

I practiced "Hear No Evil, See No Evil, Speak No Evil, Do No Evil", until I discovered Psychology as a teen, and learned to "free my spirit" through uncensored expression of all the evil I saw in my present and in my past. Eventually I discovered the evil in me - which brought me right back to getting more quiet about it all. Eric Clapton's "Before You Accuse Me" comes to mind - or Jesus with the splinter/log advice.

That was a long time ago. Now I know there is no evil - in others, or in me. It is impossible. What we fear we call evil to give us an excuse to fight or destroy it, in order to defend ourselves. There are many things that make us shiver and qualify for the word evil. But as far as human beings are concerned, all evil acts are a result of profound misunderstandings of what pleasure, fulfillment, liberation, joy and power are. All is forgivable, because people do not know what they are doing. Human acts of evil may not be any more evil than a volcano burying people alive in hot lava. The joy a torturer gets from torturing is not so much evil as simply stupid. Yet "evil" fancies itself as very intelligent and superior to the fearful. It is a false and mistaken sense of power.

When it comes to punishment of evil, defending ourselves, or protecting ourselves against it, we need to be aware that we are trying to defend ourselves against those who make us afraid. Once we truly realize that there is no evil and with that realization lose our fear - particularly our fear of death - we can act with far more wisdom, compassion, justice and practicality.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

String Theory

I love math and physics the way men love women - it's all so mysterious and irresistible, and can drive you out of your mind. Yet those sweet moments of inspiration make it all worth while. String theory is definitely irresistible. You don't have to understand it all to notice its beauty. To fully appreciate it, you would need the discipline required by a mathematician or physicist. In the end, all math and physics is but a koan, as in - "what is the sound of one hand clapping?". Or, my husband's favorite: "If a man speaks in the woods, and there is no one there to hear him, is he still wrong?"

String theory's hadrons, and friends like leptons, quarks, and my favorites - gluons, I am getting very fond of - maybe because of the names, or maybe just because they are so very, very little - the inherent virtue of smallness. String theory even has kaons - which are not koans, but something small enough to blow your mind anyway.

Interestingly, as we consider the smallest of the small, our sense of the infinite vastness of the universe expands. Maybe when we get down to nothing - God will become clear. Atheists will be right - "there is no God" - and Muslims, too, when they add..."but God". There is no place where God is not, yet there is no God. His very non-existence makes God omnipresent. This may drive a mathematician out of his mind. Then again, maybe not - they are used to logic problems like this.

God's infinite powerlessness is his infinite power. If you don't understand the power of powerlessness, you haven't spent much time with a baby. The power of small things is very clear to mothers and physicists.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Stretch Your Mind, Then Drop It

The answer to all the questions anyone could ever come up with - the final answer - is found in deepest stillness. This sounds "silly and simple" in direct proportion to a person's perception and experience of stillness and silence. Once this infinite and eternal stillness is known, there is no need to know anything else, yet infinite things can be studied for fun and in order to change whatever one would like to change - be it for survival, pleasure or just because it would be interesting.

It is like the "needs versus wants" thing. We want to know a million and one things about the universe and beyond, but we only need to know one thing. This one thing is accessible to all through meditation and stillness. The depth possible of this stillness and meditation is in direst proportion to a person's lack of fear and ability to trust and love. This may sound easy - and it is - but it can be as impossible as the professor trying to find the glasses that are sitting on top of his own head.

So here is an interesting video. It is an attempt to understand with the mind what ultimately is inaccessible to the mind. To have some fun with the mind, though, this one is a nice yoga stretch into the ninth and tenth dimension. Don't hurt yourself! Don't worry if you don't get it one or two dimensions past the fourth or fifth. It's OK. You'll want to understand all the dimensions, but you only need to understand the dimension before the first, and after the last.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Daniel Wheeler

A little boy, many years ago - on a whim, as children do - used to let himself sink to the bottom of pools and look up at the sky through the water. I used to do the same as a little girl. The magic world under water somehow fascinating me with its silence and the bright play of light, as well as the liberation that came from liquefying solid reality.

When I think of this boy who loved to look at the world from the bottom of pools to see what would happen to the shapes of trees and clouds, I am reminded of my husband's best childhood friend who drowned in a pool when they both were five years old. Maybe a drowning child's last moments are full of wonder and peace as he or she looks up into the dancing light above, immersed into the peace found under water. Isn't it this peace and letting go of the world that is the idea behind baptism by submersion? A small taste of the freedom from the fetters of the world that the spiritual life holds in store for us. A small taste of death as blissful peace that is available to us in life if we only lift our thoughts or let them go all together.

Well, this other boy grew up and became an artist in Los Angeles. After years of sculpturing, and installations of all kinds that started him on his way to fame, it occurred to him to take photographs from the bottom of pools. His name is Daniel Wheeler, and we bought one of his 40" x 40", "Gulp" prints last year, which is now hanging in our house to greet visitors at the front door.

What Andy Goldsworthy is to stone, earth and wood, Daniel Wheeler is to trees, clouds and water. Just as Andy Goldsworthy arranges leaves and feathers, stones and sand, and wood and ice for his photographs, Daniel Wheeler waits in the silence of the bottom of a pool for the light and water to arrange itself around the solid shapes of trees and clouds above, until it is all just so. The active yang, and receptive yin, of two great artists.

When we are born our first breath is in, and when we die, our last breath is out. In an interview Daniel says: "Exhaling is what allows me to descend. I can't go down if I don't let go of that gulp of air. So the resulting image is a document of that action."

This stillness after a breath let out is a small death and surrender. As such - in addition to the pleasure that comes from the fantastic blues, and greens, and whites, that float and ripple around familiar yet mysterious shapes and glorious, ascending bubbles - Daniel Wheeler's work communicates a spiritual concept of great significance, whether this spiritual experience is fully understood by the viewer at the time or not - it instantly feels familiar and true.