The Black Book

These were my mother’s words, written by her hand, words describing her loneliness, her longing for her new husband. What I was reading felt so private, so sacred, but it was also about me, my story, mine. I closed it quickly, feeling shame, and put it back in the box of photos my mother had handed me – the photos of my great-grandparents and grandparents and parents as children that she was going to throw away if I didn’t want them. She had incurable cancer and was cleaning out closets, or maybe her life. When I left a few days later, the box of photos was in the back of the car sans the small black journal.

fs_717690-e1407185075778Cecilia and Radney grew up in the same southeast corner of town, if we consider 17 and 18 grown up. She lived a block from the railroad where her father worked as a boiler maker’s helper in the roundhouse. This was the Polish neighborhood where she attended St. Stanislaus Catholic church with masses in Latin and Polish, and went to the Catholic school. He lived on the outskirts of town, on the few acres his father farmed, along with being an inspection supervisor at Motor Shaft. Radney played football at the public high school he attended. His family didn’t go to church, until this incident led his mother to religion at the Baptist church.

They met at the soda fountain at Johnson’s Drug Store. Cecilia worked there after she graduated from 8th grade, as high as Catholic education went for girls of her station in their town in 1940. She scooped ice cream behind the counter and Radney would stop there to have a soda on his long walk home from high school. It seems she (being a normal 17 year old girl) wanted love, and he (being a normal 16 year old boy) wanted sex. She fell in love and he got lucky. Sometime in adulthood I realized that they got married in February and I was born in August. He dropped out of high school so he could support his new family but was drafted into the army soon after I was born. We moved into to her parent’s home, then his parent’s home.

fs_717682-e1407185429741I don’t know anything about their wedding. When I would ask about her growing up years, my mother would get a strange look on her face, as if to ask why I would expect her to think about things that happened so long ago. Maybe her mind wouldn’t let her reach back into those years, maybe she thought it irrelevant. I knitted together a piece of detail from here and a piece of detail from there; not from stories they could have told, but public facts, printed on things like birth certificates and marriage licenses. Maybe that is why I longed to read what was written in that black book, to examine the personal side and analyze how it happened to me.

The family never talked about that year but it must have been a tough one. In 1943 a 17 year old Catholic girl didn’t date a 16 year old non-Catholic boy. Everyone knew Catholics were to marry Catholics. And to get pregnant and have to get married was unthinkable. Neighbors whispered and counted on their fingers. Oh, the shame that was heaped upon them. My chest tightens when I think about the conversations that took place when my grandparents were told, and when siblings found out. Did the Polish speaking parents and the English speaking parents meet to discuss options? Who planned the wedding and what was it like? Did they really love each other; did either feel trapped?

============

At some point I learned shame. They didn’t sit me down and teach it to me; I learned it through osmosis. Shame was so much a part of my being that I couldn’t name it until some thirty years later. People said I was a shy child, but shame can look like shyness when worn by a child. Those who know shame understand the hung head and the hiding behind trees instead of joining in the play. They didn’t know they were teaching me shame. My grandmas and aunts and cousins taught me their love as I lived among them, and my parents taught me their shame. For the first half of my life, the shame was stronger than the love.

They were good enough parents, they worked hard to provide for us and we had fun times as I was growing up. But early on when I was four and my father returned from the army and my mother became pregnant again, it tore open some wound in him. He took it out on us. If she wouldn’t have gotten pregnant, if I wouldn’t have been born, he wouldn’t have been trapped. I heard the screaming and hateful words; I felt the bruised and bloody body. He did unspeakable things and it was my fault. I learned to hang my head and hide, so no one would see my shame.

===============

Have you noticed when we carry something, like shame, for a long time, it becomes how we think about ourselves? We are what it is. I remember when I realized my name didn’t have to be Shame. It wasn’t a light bulb going off, but a gradual reprogramming in how my neurons fire. I began to realize that I wasn’t responsible for my own conception. Everyone else knew it and I knew other people weren’t able to conceive themselves, but I had to realize it about myself. It wasn’t my fault I was conceived. It wasn’t my shame so I could come out of hiding.

My place in the world became brighter and lighter, but my relationship with my parents is still murky. I gave up the anger at being hurt and not being protected, and I had a relationship with both until they died. But something is still missing. We couldn’t talk about it so I never heard their remorse or told them I forgave them. When I was leaving after my last two visits with my dying mother, when we both knew it could be the last visit, my mother stared deep within my eyes for several minutes. I waited for her to ask what she needed to know; I wanted to tell her I forgave her for what happened. I was stuck between wanting resolution, but also fearful that the memories of the incidents were so deeply buried in her that I would be opening a Pandora’s box when she was dying and I was leaving. I hugged her and told her she had been a good mother. She said she hoped so.

===================

fs_1111456How complex our minds are, that balance adult concerns on top of childhood memories and decisions. When I thought like a child, I believed my parents loved me because they told me so. But I also learned to fear love. I remember being at Grandma’s Baptist Sunday School when I was maybe 5. We were lined up in two rows and were led in singing “Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so. I am weak and he is strong…” I couldn’t sing it; I was mute. If my parent could love me and hurt me, I didn’t want any part of accepting the love of the even stronger Jesus.

After my mother’s death, I asked her husband if he knew where the black diary would be. He looked hard and wasn’t able to find it. She must have burned her words. I was heartbroken because I was hoping to know her better and maybe learn that she really did want me and love me. I was hoping her words would help me in my mental exercises of sorting out childhood decisions using my adult reasoning.

I was on my own to figure it out, but that is okay. I don’t feel bitterness toward my parents because I believe they loved me as best they could. But I have also decided I don’t need to let them define if I am loveable. I know who I am and know I belong at the table.

© 2014, text and all photographs, Patricia Bailey, All rights reserved

Sun Road 287PATRICIA BAILEY (A New Day: Living Life Almost Gracefully) ~ I retired from doing things I loved; teaching university students, directing a university major that was growing and meeting the learning needs of both traditional age and returning students, and helping people heal as a mental health therapist. In retirement I have found new and renewed activities that I love; photography, blogging, traveling, and quilting. It is important for me to have a purpose for my living, and my photography and blogging fulfill my need to touch and enrich the lives of others in a way that is healing and to help people grow and develop. Along the way I am drawing on the knowledge gained from getting a Masters in Social Work and a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. I am also continuing to learn about myself as I am writing and about the world as I view it through my lens. You can visit my blog at http://imissmetoo.me/

On perfection

146439I was gazing at a darn moth the other day, bumping its head against an old mattress, testing the resistance of the now worn-out and arguably colored satin to the heaviness of its evanescence, when it just hit me: we are just a bunch of pathetic liars. We pretend to be so preoccupied with achieving perfection, we lie to each other and to ourselves that this is what we want, that this is our ultimate aim and goal and that this should be the official target of any sane human being. We build our whole lives around the obsession of becoming “perfect”. But to claim this while being aware that we cannot achieve perfection because first of all we don’t even know what perfection is, is the biggest proof of hypocrisy of all. Because, in the end, what IS perfection?

To find perfection we would need to establish a set of rules that would define perfection, a set of rules that would be unanimously accepted by all the people living in this world, a set of rules that would leave no room for misinterpretation or anything else. But do you realize what an enormous task that would be? Because then you’d have to define perfection for each and every notion. Just imagine this: how should the perfect human being be like? How should the perfect piano sound like? How should the perfect tiramisu taste like? How concentrated should the perfect mint tea be? Gosh…my head is already spinning.

Of course, there will always be the branch of the religious ones, who will say that “we are not perfect, God is”. Aye, maybe. To those I will only say one thing – if God is perfect, and God created us “in his own image”, shouldn’t that make us perfect, at least from the image point of view? (And this makes me think – what a wide array would be covered just by the perfect image of a human being…)

But it’s easy to lay on (a) God’s head the burden of some ambiguous invention birthed by our fear that otherwise our presence here might actually be just an accident – a purposeless accident.

The reason why we pretend this is that this way our lives would appear to have a reason, that search for perfection would provide us with a necessary and sufficient reason for us to BE here, to LIVE. It would give us the excuse for the mistakes we are making, because that way we could always claim that those mistakes are merely the steps of the stair we climb towards our ultimate goal – “perfecting” ourselves. We invented the concept of “perfect” so that we may have an excuse for when we are not happy – “life is not perfect”. We invented the concept of “perfect” to justify our fear to simply live.

Perfection may exist, but too many of us are so obsessed with the abstract notion that they fail to truly open their eyes and see the world as it is. Because in this world, in this dimension, the real perfection is simply whatever brings you happiness and peace in the “now”. From my point of view, “perfection” is by no means related to “flawless”. And what we don’t see, is that “perfection” is also not related to “everlasting”. Perfection is relative, and it’s adjustable to all of us. We can stretch it and contract it to fit whatever we may need “now”. It’s not rigid. That’s the beauty of it. We don’t have to find perfection, or to achieve it – it is already here, within us, around us. We just have to WANT to touch it and feel it as it is. Wake up, people! Each of you already has a grain of perfection in your life – don’t be afraid to see it! It begins with “love”.

As for the “absolute perfection”…who needs absolutes in a world governed by relativity? 🙂

 

The photo used here was taken from http://www.morguefile.com. The essay belongs to Liliana Negoi.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Perfection and Creation

We have a saying in my family, “Nothing to it, but to do it.” It’s meant to be a motivator, a call to action, and can be applied in many different situations. When it comes to the craft of creating, however, sometimes that motivation of knowing that “it needs to be done, so get to it”, isn’t enough. Some of us want to wait for the perfect time or inspiration in order to begin. Others of us start, only to become frustrated with how our efforts are proceeding.

john cleese quoteIt can be hard to create (whether it’s visual arts like painting or photography, or writing poetry, or coming up with a few bars for a new song) if/when you wait for the perfect inspiration to hit you or if you keep revising something in the quest for the perfect color, the perfect frame, word or note, etc.

have-no-fear-of-perfection Salvador Dali

Perfection is an illusion, anyway. But there are a couple of different schools of thought when it comes to applying “perfection” to the creation of one’s art. Some people feel that seeking perfection can lead to trying harder and ending up with something as close as you can get to perfect.Vince Lombardi perfection

Others think that it can demoralize a person to the point of giving up (or not starting at all, which is worse).

perfection quote Margaret Atwood5154-if-you-look-for-perfection-youll-never-be-content Leo TolstoyBoth approaches have their merits, and while both points of view can lead to success, I think they take very different types of people to make them work. Some people work better under pressure than others. Some enjoy more of a challenge than others do.

Quotation-Oscar-Wilde-practice-perfectionWhich camp describes you? Does the search for perfection in your craft motivate you? Do you find that striving to reach your personal best leads to success in your creative endeavors? Or do you feel that all that pressure tends to backfire and leads to being paralyzed with inaction? Do revisions make you shudder? Do you “edit” as you go?

Regardless of which attitude toward “perfection” that you have, it’s important to realize that the true meaning of the word only belongs to the Divine. We may come close. In fact, finding peace and acceptance of ourselves as part of the Divine is necessary, realizing that we are perfect, exactly as we are. Can/Will you apply that same perspective to your art?

It may seem as if I am advocating the acceptance of ‘mediocrity’. I am not. By all means, aim for the moon, you may at least hit the stars! But also realize that everyone probably has a different idea of ‘perfection’, and, barring editors, publishers and the like, you have to be able to stop at a point in the creation and decide when it’s done, or when it’s “good enough”.

Quotation-Michelangelo-shadow-work-perfectionIn the end, the matter of whether our creation(s) have achieved “perfection” is completely up to us. Only the artist knows and can decide when something is done, and whether or not it’s done to the satisfaction of the creator. Remember: YOU, as the artist/creator are the only one you have to satisfy. Maybe in many cases, “good enough” IS perfect.  😉

Perfection-Quotes-Ring-the-bells-that-still-can-ring Leonard Cohen

* * * * * * * * *

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

We cultivate love . . .

vulnerability-quote-webVulnerability is

1. The bearing of ones’ soul.
2. The exposing of our frailties
3. The peeling of our layers
4. The kiss and tell of our heart
5. The revealing of our inner being

Vulnerability feels like

1. Pain from an open wound
2. A throbbing in our head
3. A punch in our stomach
4. A thump in our brain
5. A thief stealing our soul

Love Feels Like
1. A quenched thirst
2. A harmonious gratifying touch
3. A warm breeze on our skin
4. Lips soft and sweet
5. An enchanted heart dancing

What does vulnerability mean to you?
What does vulnerability feel like to you?
What does love feel like to you?

Take the vulnerability test Brené Brown has offered us …..

“We cultivate LOVE when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and heard. ” Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW (b. 1965), American scholar, author, and public speaker, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work

Write these three sentences down and list your five answers.

Vulnerability is ….

Vulnerability feels like ….

Love Feels like ….

 

© 2014, essay, illustration and portrait (below), Isadora De La Vega, All rights reserved

unnamedISADORA DE LA VEGA (Inside the Mind of Isadora) ~ is a guest blogger here for the first time today. She was a copper-and-silversmith award-winning jeweler for twenty-eight years, exhibiting in more than 200 galleries across the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. Now semi-retired, Isadora maintains a web-site, Isadora Art Jewelry, for liquidating her remaining art jewelry. She is also the president and co-designer of Copper Whimsea’s by Al.

Isadora is a wife, mother of three, grandmother of eight, and a novice writer and a photographer. You can find her written work at Inside the Mind of Isadora and her photography at Isadora Art and Photography. She started her blog to hone her writing skills and never thought she would touch people in so many ways with her words and images. She is delighted to be able to do that and says, “I’m even happier that I am accomplishing the goal I had set for myself: touching peoples’ hearts.

Personal Change

I once was the target of a nasty online attack.  I dove right into the fight and fought the good fight, then extricated myself.  This was long ago but it remains an unnerving and unpleasant memory.  For the most part I believe that kindness is the way to go.  I made a comment not too long ago in another place where I thought I had no contact with these individuals.  The comment was inane really. OMG – the same attacker – same persons all over again in a new place.  I respond to an attacks.  I do not hold back.  And I do not let people walk on me.  This time however, I chose not to respond. I could have done so and I truly “felt” like responding.  Cattiness, meanness, exclusivity don’t play into my vocabulary particularly well.  Had I chosen to respond, those traits would have been encountered immediately.  Instead I wrote a poem, diffusing my own anger.  I stepped back and ignored the persons comments.

the-schoolyardLike most, I have encountered provocation numerous times.  Planned behavioral changes within have given me the tools to navigate life, to navigate provocation.  The second time that I found myself in this situation (mentioned above) I knew to ignore the nastiness.  I would have found myself in the midst of the same sort of fight.  This situation makes me think about kids today who are bullied online.  I cannot imagine the hell into which kids are placed.  For that is exactly what I experienced, a barrage of attackers.  I also know that at 8 or 14 years of age one does not possess the cognitive abilities to make the choice to ignore their bully.  When one is being bullied one fears being seen as weak.  These feelings may elicit a response from the bullied.  Then the fight begins and the bully keeps pushing and bullying.  Then there may be no clear way out.  This second occasion of bullying made me think clearly about consequences (something a child cannot do).  I knew that no response was the most powerful response.  Instead of responding I chose to deal with my emotions by writing in a creative manner.  Writing about what you are experiencing emotionally can release the negativity within.  Now, the poem below is not meant to be a fine poem … just a release valve.  And that valve indeed opened and let escape some of the steam and pressure of that second experience.  The results were all positive.  There was no negative fallout.

dear poet within
i am having
a hard time
finding you

you seem
to be lost
why have you been
drawn into

a swirl of negative
energy a small swirl
when there is so much
that is positive

try to find yourself
do not get lost
find the massive
positive that exists

extricate yourself
from this one small
negative spin
from one very

small negative person
it wasn’t worth
it then
it isn’t now

– Liz Rice-Sosne 

© 2014, essay, poem, and portrait below, Liz Rice-Sosne, All rights reserved; illustration “The Schoolyard” courtesy of Katrina Joyner, Public Domain Pictures.net

.
unnamed-2LIZ RICE-SOSNE a.k.a. Raven Spirit (noh where), perhaps the oldest friend to Bardo, is the newest member of The Bardo Group Core Team. She is also our new Voices for Peace project outreach coordinator and our go-to person for all things related to haiku.  She says she “writes for no reason at all. It is simply a pleasure.” Blogging, mostly poetry, has produced many friends for whom she has a great appreciation. Liz is an experienced blogger, photographer and a trained shaman. We think her middle name should be “adventure.”

Flower power

Photo0113This morning I took my coffee and went to drink it in front of my house, enjoying some minutes of peace and quiet before the day starting to unfold. Some weeks ago I took outside the house some geraniums, and put them on a shelf near my entrance, and today I was watching them, thinking that I might have to move them back inside, because most of them didn’t seem to enjoy the weather too much. And just when this thought crossed my mind, I suddenly noticed four tiny buds blooming at the tip of one of the flowers, which I could have easily ignored, due to their pale pink colour. And when I came closer to take a picture of them, I also saw that, beneath the layer of leaves slowly drying, a new layer of leaves was coming to light, as if the flowers, now exposed to the outside conditions, was shedding its “skin” of fragile limbs and is now putting on another one, stronger and eager to live.

I then realized that it was Wednesday, and that I hadn’t written something in a while, because I was simply caught up with loads of personal things and it took me some time to untangle them all. At some point I even felt that I was never going to get out of the multitude of threads and tasks that surrounded me – fortunately, time proved me that anything can find itself a solution, with a little bit of patience and open-mindedness.

Today, looking at those geraniums blooming against the heavy odds, I understood (for the umpteenth time) that even when circumstances seem to be the harshest, one can still adapt and keep on living. And the flower power concept (which, as a funny coincidence, was the dress code of an event which I attended on the past Sunday) suddenly attained a new valence. Nature has its silent but splendid ways of teaching us its lessons – but only if and when we’re ready to learn them :).

@ 2014 Liliana Negoi, essay and photo

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  She is also the author of a novel, Solo-Chess, available for free reading HERE. Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

A Day of Renewal

April showers bring May flowers, and I’m so glad! 🙂 The rains wash away the dirt and dust, and the new plants and flowers burst forth with a clean, green scent and gorgeous palette of colors!

Chicago Peace Rose from my yard
Chicago Peace Rose from my yard

Spring is a well-known time for renewal, and I recently discovered that May 4th has been designated as “Renewal Day”. Webster’s defines the word “Renewal” as:

re·new·al

noun \ri-ˈnü-əl, –ˈnyü-\

: the act of extending the period of time when something is effective or valid : the act of renewing something.

: the state of being made new, fresh, or strong again : the state of being renewed.

This can apply to countless things in life, but it is definitely life-affirming. It’s an active process, not something that just passively happens. When you think of the word “renewal”, what comes to mind? Your driver’s license? Your wedding vows? The Oil of Olay skin care product? What about renewing yourself?

The author of the book, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey, says of balanced self-renewal: “Renewal is the principle–and the process-that empowers us to move on an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement.”

Image borrowed from http://www.holistic-mindbody-healing.com
Image borrowed from http://www.holistic-mindbody-healing.com

Three of the most important aspects of life that need renewing from time to time are related to self: body, mind and spirit. Like so many truths about life, there needs to be a balance of all three. Too often, we become conditioned to the routine of every day survival and forget that sense of wonder and passion we once held for life. People talk about finding your “inner child” again, and while that’s a good start, I mean the capacity to actually enjoy the life we’re given, each and every, single day. Because each day is a new chance to start over. We can renew ourselves every day!

It’s so easy to become inattentive. We neglect our bodies because we simply don’t have the time to exercise, eat right, etc., or we don’t pay attention to what we allow to enter our minds because we’re so tired that it’s just easier to veg-out. The spirit often suffers even more, unless it’s somehow made a regular part of every-day life.

  • When was the last time you felt completely at ease with and positive about your body?
  • When was the last time you were truly amazed by something or someone out in the world, or learned something new that fascinated you?
  • How about the last time that you honestly felt connected with the planet, the universe, the Divine?
Image borrowed from http://www.namaste.tv/blogs/blog/7619089-the-active-process-of-renewal.jpg
Image borrowed from http://www.namaste.tv/blogs/blog/7619089-the-active-process-of-renewal.jpg

All three (body, mind, spirit) are intricately joined, and balance between them is important. It can be hard to find the energy sometimes, to look for the things which replenish and renew us, but it’s necessary. If you’re not getting at least a little joy, happiness or even satisfaction out of life, then you’re not living, you’re existing. There’s a huge difference between the two.

So what is it that renews your body, mind and spirit? It’s different for each individual, of course, but a good place to start is to find something that evokes a positive feeling or emotion. What’s something that fuels your passion? What makes you smile? Sometimes it’s necessary to break out of your comfort zone, break out of your routine and try something new. Make a commitment to renewing yourself, even if it’s just part of you. You’ll be glad you did.

Energy and renewal

P.S. You don’t have to wait for an “official” designated “Day of Renewal” to do it. Every day you wake up is another chance to renew yourself. 😉

– Corina Ravenscraft

© 2014, essay and rose photograph, Corina Ravenscraft, All rights reserved

effecd1bf289d498b5944e37d8f4ee6fAbout dragonkatet Regarding the blog name, Dragon’s Dreams ~ The name comes from my love-affairs with both Dragons and Dreams (capital Ds). It’s another extension of who I am, a facet for expression; a place and way to reach other like-minded, creative individuals. I post a lot of poetry and images that fascinate or move me, because that’s my favorite way to view the world. I post about things important to me and the world in which we live, try to champion extra important political, societal and environmental issues, etc. Sometimes I wax philosophical, because it’s also a place where I always seem to learn about myself, too, by interacting with some of the brightest minds, souls and hearts out there. It’s all about ‘connection(s)’ and I don’t mean “net-working” with people for personal gain, but rather, the expansion of the 4 L’s: Light, Love, Laughter, Learning.

Quid est veritas? … Veritas vos Liberabit

(What is truth? … The truth shall set you free)

The story of cosmology is the story of our search for the ultimate truth

Produced using Cloudart
Produced using Cloudart

This quote comes from a recent episode of one of my favourite BBC documentary programmes, ‘Horizon’, which was titled ‘What happened before the Big Bang?’. It centred on the thinking, with the aid of mathematics and string theory, of a handful of professorial academics from around the world, who have developed some new theories. One such theory suggests that the expansion of our known universe since the Big Bang, nearly fourteen billion years ago, is only one ‘bounce of a ball’, of a cyclic series of events and that its apparently infinite size is merely a minimal starting point for the next Big Bang. I don’t know about you, but I find this, at the same time, utterly mind boggling and totally fascinating. It also serves to bring into perspective the true meaning of our lives and, in particular, the meaning of truth, which, in consequence, is only a relative term, particularly when it comes to this area of science. There may be a myriad of learned tomes, on the subject of truth, written by countless thinkers and philosophers over the millennia of human existence, but, setting aside the search for the true answers to scientific and mathematical questions about the origins of our universe, it is on the most basic social and spiritual level that I choose to focus.

My first prompt for this piece occurred three years ago, when I observed, amongst other exceptional acts of forgiveness and the search for truth, the effects of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in post-apartheid South Africa under Nelson Mandela’s leadership. The second prompt is that constant irritation: politicians! To be fair, this affects all those in positions of influence, with vested interest in maintaining status quo or personal wealth, who are so often inclined to be ‘economical with the truth’, if the truth is likely to compromise their position or possessions. This probably includes all of us from time to time. However, if you are in a position of power, when your decisions affect whole populations, then being economical with the truth may be considered, at best, morally wrong, if not downright contemptible! So much depends on the ulterior motive. Difficulty arises when you listen to words spoken by someone, whose allegiances are unknown to you, and therefore leave you with the dilemma of whether or not you believe they are speaking the truth. For me, sometimes, the solution to this is to do your own research; it is your call.

The third prompt is meat to those who, in telling lies, would argue that the truth is relative to its context. As true as that may be, there are some fundamental questions, which it may be helpful to ask. These questions and their answers rely heavily on my own life’s observations and experience. I’ve presented this, for clarity, in the form of a mock interview …

What is the truth?

The truth is without bias, in conformity with fact and reality, and is concerned only with honesty and integrity.

What defines truth?

The truth is not only defined by its context, but also by your ability to address your conscience*, head on, assuming that it has not been corrupted by external bias (i.e. vested interests). Equally important is an ability to face reality, however unpleasant or painful that may be.

How do we justify the limits we place on our honesty about the truth?

We justify limits on our honesty in many ways: by joining a tribe and deferring to its rules; by focussing on our own self-preservation or our vested interests; and by denying voice to our conscience.

How do we know what the truth is and how do we recognise it?

In order to know what the truth is, it is necessary firstly to cast off our natural bias and prejudice; to open our minds; perhaps also to become pantheistic in our outlook.

How much of the truth can we individually consciously face head on?

Knowing your limits is a safe harbour, but may also be a block to discovering the truth. So, it may be necessary to be courageous in the quest.

What strategies can we devise to help us get to the truth?

Somehow we may not only have to overcome personal prejudice and swallow our pride, but also face the facts and stop echoing and repeating popular myths that come from the pens and mouths of those around you.

How much do we have to sacrifice both to seek and to tell the truth?

We have to set aside our need for material things and kick the habit of consumerism. We also need to examine, evaluate and better understand our pride and prejudice (with apologies to Jane Austen).

Who will speak the truth?

Any of us can speak the truth, but, before we do, we will have to develop the inner strength to resist and cast off all those temptations that beset us with envy, greed, carnal hunger and cognitive bias.

I recently attended a concert, in which the headline act were a folk and roots duo, whose talent and performances we have come to enjoy. The unusual and refreshing part of this concert was that the supporting act, who came on to ‘warm’ us up, was a poet, whom I had first met last year through the Sheffield WordLife movement, at the opening of the Sheffield Literature Festival. The poet is Joe Kriss. One of the self penned poems he read, concluded with words to the effect: stop talking, start thinking and listen to what lies between your ears; only then will you know what’s true.

There are many parts of our lives for which exposure of the truth, if shared with the majority and if reconciliation was achieved, would make for a better world. I wonder, however, if finding the truth in every part of our lives would challenge our humanity. If that truth were too unpalatable to face – the prospect of our own imminent failure, the discovery of a skeleton in our own cupboard, life threatening illness and death … would we still want to know the truth?

Perhaps you might let me know if you have found your truth … and whether you feel it set you free? 

_________________________

* The defining of conscience could, no doubt, be the subject of a veritable treatise. For now, suffice to say that conscience is defined as “the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls or inhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual”. Put more simply, it is “the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one’s conduct or motives, impelling one toward right action: to follow the dictates of conscience“.

© 2014 John Anstie

John_in_Pose_Half_Face3JOHN ANSTIE (My Poetry Library and 42) ~ is a British poet and writer, a contributing editor here at Bardo, and multi-talented gentleman self-described as a “Family man, Grandfather, Occasional Musician, Amateur photographer and Film-maker, Apple-MAC user, Implementation Manager, and Engineer. John has participated in d’Verse Poet’s Pub and was an early player in New World Creative Union. He’s been blogging since the beginning of 2011. He is also a member of The Poetry Society (UK).

*****

Petrichor Rising Book Cover.phpd'Verse Anthology Book CoverJohn has been involved in the recent publication of two anthologies that are the result of online collaborations among two international groups of amateur and professional poets. One of these is The Grass Roots Poetry Group, for which he produced and edited their anthology, “Petrichor* Rising. The other group is d’Verse Poet Pub, in which John’s poetry also appears The d’Verse Anthology: Voices of Contemporary World Poetry, produced and edited by Frank Watson.

Petrichor – from the Greek pɛtrɨkər, the scent of rain on the dry earth.

On gardening tools

gardening toolsI was doing some spring gardening a few days ago.  At some point I saw my mother-in-law (who was visiting at the time) grabbing the scissors in order to remove some withered branches from a bush. I heard her murmuring “that’s it, you waste the roots for nothing anyway”. I knew why she was doing this, and I also know she was right to do it, it was a simple gesture but I couldn’t help thinking about it in the days to come.

You see, when we look at a plant or a tree and we see a dead leaf or branch still attached to the body, we cut it down, because “it pointlessly consumes energy”. And it’s a good thing to do that, because the plant or tree, thus freed of a dry limb, can grow a new one instead. What it’s more difficult to understand is, since we’ve learned to do this to plants, why can’t we do this to ourselves? What prevents us to cut the sterile, dry, energy consuming parts of our lives, and grow new ones? I think we do (or better said, don’t do) that because we’re afraid of the pain. We’re afraid that it hurts to do that self-trimming, and we’re scared to death of what we may discover if we do that.

It’s easier to linger in that perpetual state of presumed wildness, slowly turning into a messy bush, suffocating the flowers with the ever growing thorns and blocking the light from reaching to our core. I know that, because, as the saying goes, it takes one to know one. You don’t need much to garden yourself and arrange your inner landscape; it’s only a few tools. Honesty first of all – raw, painful, cutting honesty. You look at yourself and see exactly what’s the pointlessly energy consuming part. Then there’s the willingness to fix things. You will also need patience with yourself, because nothing happens over night (oh well, sometimes it does, but those are exceptions), and last, but not least, love. You cannot do anything without love. This list of “gardening” tools can always adapt to the each person’s circumstances, the point is not just having them, but also using them. Yes, it will hurt. You may even bleed. But you are allowed to ask for help, and you are allowed to cry. You’d be amazed what marvels can a little self-gardening do :). And for heaven’s sake, if, for some untold reasons, you decide however to be a wild bush, then be a burning one, like the one from the story of Moses ;).

© 2014, essay, Liliana Negoi, All rights reserved The image was taken from http://www.finegardening.com/item/31544/the-basic-gardening-tools-guide-pick-up-your-weapon IMG_7667

LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

On learning and remembering

I was installing something on my computer this morning and I smiled when I remembered that, prior to meeting my husband, computers were for me something that I barely touched, using the one in my house back then only to write some paper work for university from time to time (yeah, that was a different age, we used handwriting more often 😛 – I still use it probably more than half of you, dear readers, although I discovered also that Microsoft Office is quite a friendly application :).

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that after meeting my husband I “evolved” up to the point where I’m not only capable to use the current system, but I’m able to assemble one from pieces, install the software (starting with the OS) and whatever other programs I need, and do many other things with it. In other words, “I learned”. Which is something that we ALL do, all our lives, voluntarily or involuntarily – we learn in order to adapt to the circumstances presented to us by life. Some say that we are able to learn even prior to being born from our mothers’ wombs – I don’t know about that, but for sure we are able to learn starting with the moment when we are born, and we continue to learn until the day we die.

The reasons why we learn are obvious. The reasons why we don’t learn can also be obvious, but neither ones nor the others make my topic for today. Instead I am going to mention a discussion that I had with a friend only a couple of days ago, in which he (my friend), who, coincidentally, is going to be a professor, was telling me that if I’m not able to teach someone a certain thing, maybe it’s because of the method that I’m applying.

I was tempted to reject the idea, for many reasons (pride among them), but fortunately for me I was smart enough in that moment to simply shut up, to listen to what he was saying and to chew on his words later that night. And then I realized that he was pretty much telling me what I always stated – that prior to teach someone WHAT to learn, you have to teach them HOW to learn. Ignacio Estrada said that “If a child can’t learn the way WE teach, maybe we should teach the way THEY learn”. The final goal is not for our own teaching to impose itself unto the mind of a being, but for that being to learn something from our teaching.

What my friend may not have realized at that point was the lesson that I myself had to learn that evening – and that is that the hardest to learn is when you think you already know what you’re learning. But as John Cotton Dana said, “He who dares to teach must never cease to learn”. And I myself feel lucky to have remembered such a beautiful lesson of life – and above all, lucky to have friends to teach it to me again :). Namaste!

who-dares-to-teach-must-never-cease-to-learn-education-quote© 2014 Liliana Negoi

The image used was taken from http://quotespictures.com/who-dares-to-teach-must-never-cease-to-learn-education-quote/

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Monologue

file00034904762ahhhh, my dear reader…
today I shall talk to your soul about a lake…
they say that someone threw a stone in it,
breaking the mirror of the surface in circles…
and the parable follows
that even though the surface of the lake became still again after a while,
the lake itself has changed
and that it knows that deep down it is not the same lake as it was…
allow me to extrapolate from that, my dear reader:
the lake is not defined by a stone
thrown at anger by a silly child…
for first of all the lake is the valley in which that water holds place…
not perfect, with ups and downs,
paved maybe with sand or maybe with mud,
but eager to withhold in it the magic of life…
then, the lake is the water
cradled by the valley…
the clear, life-giving and life-hosting water…
and then the lake is also what lives inside the water…
life forms that sometimes we notice
when they catch our eye by beauty of by fierceness,
but other times we tend to ignore
because they are usually too small to catch our glance
or even our thought…
so there it is, after embracing that stone,
the same lake as before,
as the stone becomes now a part of it, a part of its own life…
just the same,
a human being is more than what you may see in front of you:
for we have the valley of our body,
sheer beauty in its entire imperfection,
then we have the water of our soul,
filling us with life and energy,
and then we have our life experiences,
sometimes big and sometimes small…
so you see, dear reader,
the real lesson here, in my opinion,
is not that of not throwing a stone,
for each stone rises a bit the level of the water…
but that of making sure of not throwing too many…
for sometimes lakes can also effuse…

From “Sands and shadows” © 2011 Liliana Negoi

The image used was taken from http://morguefile.com.

IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI  (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru) ~ is a member of our core team on Into the Bardo. She is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

Claiming Rites of Passage

St. Luke's columbarium
St. Luke’s columbarium

A few years ago, I went to an exhibit on mummies at the Milwaukee Public Museum.  It was fascinating.  Listening to the whispered comments and questions of other patrons was fascinating as well.  We have a very scattered cultural approach to death, with so many various ways of marking the rite of passage, including not really marking it at all.

American culture, as a whole, has been dominated by technology to the point that important parts of our lives are relegated to “experts” and taken out of our hands completely.   My mother fought against this trend in the late 50s when she insisted on breastfeeding her babies instead of allowing the “experts” to convince her that artificial formula on an artificial schedule was better for them.

Birth experiences have become sterilized, institutionalized, and anesthetized as well in the mainstream. My 4 were all born in a hospital under the HMO system (but not under any pain killers!) because in my 20s, I wasn’t brave enough to seek more creative options.   However, my sister birthed one of her children at home, and I once assisted a friend who had a home birth.  It’s not impossible to choose to take full responsibility in this event.

Death is another part of life that more and more people deal with by proxy. The hospice movement is a wonderful example of the purposeful effort to maintain the grace and dignity of this stage of life by bringing it back into the home, away from institutions.  I recently watched an Ingmar Bergman movie set at the turn of the century, called Cries & Whispers (well, it’s actually called something in Swedish, but that’s the English title).  This intense family drama deals with the death of a spinster sister from cancer.  The action all takes place at home, in this case an elegant manor.  The doctor’s largest role is in an affair with one of the sisters, in flashback.  When I think of the family drama of my husband’s death, experts and technology played a huge part.  Unfortunately, that became a distraction from entering into the rite of passage, from experiencing the more intimate aspects of the dynamics that were changing my family.  What I mean to say is that it enabled denial.

The last photo taken of me & my husband
The last photo taken of my husband: 11 days before he died at home.

What does it mean to choose to take responsibility for my life?  Not to delegate the more painful or complicated bits to an “expert”, not to live by proxy or by representative?  In which situations do I most often abdicate my ability to decide a course of action?  Are they likely to be mostly financial, political, medical, social, spiritual, emotional or physical?  I am only beginning to wake up and ask myself these questions.  Steve often puts it to me this way: in every situation, you have at least 3 options:  1) Run away or hide  2) Try to change the situation  3) Change yourself.

This is a good time for me to think about aging, about how I want to live and address the changes that are happening now and will continue to happen.  What do I want?  I want to experience life in a more authentic way, not behind a duck blind or a proxy, not behind a curtain of denial or dogma, not by avoiding discomfort or hard work.  I want to make decisions about who I am and how to live proactively.  How do I embody this?  At this point, I am still figuring out who I am and want to be and recognizing places where that has been dictated and I have responded without looking deeper.   My father and my husband took great care of me.  I want to learn to do that myself.   I often dream about Jim returning as if he’d never died.

Last night, I had a powerful dream about him, set in the house I sold, with my young children around.  My consciousness struggled with it; I knew that the house was emptied and I’d moved.  I couldn’t understand why the furniture was back and the place looked so “lived in”.  I couldn’t understand why Jim was there.  He told me he was going out to work because he wanted to support me and the kids.  In a choked whisper, I closed the door behind him and said, “Don’t come back.”  I woke up crying.  Talking about this dream with Steve, I realized that I do want him to come back and float through my subconscious and consciousness without confusing me, without affirming me or correcting me, just visiting.  I suppose when I gain the confidence to affirm and care for myself, my dreams will change and Jim’s place in them as well.  Then we will both move beyond this Bardo and into a different sphere.

—- Priscilla Galasso

© 2013, essay and photograph, Priscilla Galasso, All rights reserved

004PRISCILLA GALASSO ~  started her blog at scillagrace.com to mark the beginning of her fiftieth year. Born to summer and given a name that means ‘ancient’, her travel through seasons of time and landscape has inspired her to create visual and verbal souvenirs of her journey.

Currently living in Wisconsin, she considers herself a lifelong learner and educator. She gives private voice lessons, is employed by two different museums and runs a business (Scholar & Poet Books, via eBay and ABE Books) with her partner, Steve.

On diamonds

Some say that “diamonds are a girl’s best friends”. When you first hear that, it tends to sound very…material, shallow-meaning, But if you take a little time to think about it, you will understand that it’s actually a very true statement. Diamonds are not only a girl’s best friends, but often even mirrors.

Quoting Wikipedia:

“In mineralogy, diamond (from the ancient Greek αδάμας – adámas “unbreakable”) is a metastable allotrope of carbon, where the carbon atoms are arranged in a variation of the face-centered cubic crystal structure called a diamond lattice. Diamond is less stable than graphite, but the conversion rate from diamond to graphite is negligible at standard conditions. Diamond is renowned as a material with superlative physical qualities, most of which originate from the strong covalent bonding between its atoms. In particular, diamond has the highest hardness and thermal conductivity of any bulk material.”

Very scientific, precise and cold. Allow me though to warm things up a little bit, by pointing out one of the most beautiful similarities between diamonds and humans: they are both carbon based. Maybe this would explain in a certain measure so many women’s attraction towards these gems. After all, they can always say “Hey, it’s family! And family should stick together!” :)

But did you know that a diamond is just as fragile as it is hard? That it only takes for a tiny scratch on one of its edges for it to simply crack into shards? The hardest known thing to man is also of an unbelievable fragility. And here, diamonds relate, again, to women (well, they would relate to men too, but you know men, they would never admit they’re fragile :) ). The same can happen to the strongest one of us. We are diamonds until someone (or something) finds that exact spot where just a tiny scratch tears us to pieces. Sometimes we get fixed, sometimes not. However, the essence remains the same.

I’m a woman. And diamonds are indeed my best friends. Because I’m one of them.

Marilyn-Monroe-Diamonds-29664

© 2013 Liliana Negoi

____________________________________________________

The text is mine, the image was taken from http://www.fansshare.com/gallery/photos/535118/marilyn-monroe-diamonds/?displaying

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IMG_7667LILIANA NEGOI (Endless Journey and in Romanian curcubee în alb şi negru)  is the author of three published volumes of poetry in English, which is not her mother tongue but one that she came to love especially because of writing: Sands and Shadows, Footsteps on the San – tanka collection and The Hidden Well.  The last one can also be heard in audio version, read by the author herself on her SoundCloud site HERE.  Many of her creations, both poetry and prose, have been published in various literary magazines.

The Turtle and The Hare

As a little bit of back story, in the course of my life, I spent quite a few years in the company of a blues musician. By spending a little time with him, I also spent time around a lot of different blues musicians.

Men and women with a deep vein of soul and history and rhythm.

When you are around blues people, you hear a lot of stories. Telling stories is pretty much the foundation of being able to play the blues. As a storyteller in my own right, I used to soak in these stories, letting them enter my pores and fill my soul and tap my DNA on the shoulder and ask it to dance.

The stories are in me. Not all of them are true. Few of them are pretty.

All of this is a long winded lead up to a particular story I have in mind.

It goes something like this:

Back in the 1950’s in a small suburb of Dallas, Texas, two talented brothers grew up together.

Both had music in their bones and talent for playing the guitar. The world knows a little bit more about Stevie Ray Vaughan because of his breathtaking musical style and early death, but Jimmie Vaughan has also seen a fair bit of success with his music.

If you listen to each of their music, you can hear their very different styles. Stevie’s music was intense, complicated and at times frenetic. Jimmie likes to play a bit slower and wider and easier.

Legend has it that back in the day in Oak Cliff, Texas both boys not only liked guitars but they liked cars.

Stevie, unsurprisingly, liked real fast hot rod cars that he could jump in and race around town. Stevie used to vex the local police who couldn’t slow him down.

Jimmie on the other hand liked to cruise. He liked big, heavily finned, tuck and roll upholstered, Buick with a “smile” kind of cars. He’d put his girlfriend beside him on the bench seat and slowly roll through town, vexing the local police who wanted him to speed up.

I think of this story pretty frequently in relation to my own roll through life. My approach is more Jimmie than Stevie, though I admire Stevie very much.

Perhaps this owes to the slow “land of mañana” pace of where I grew up. We don’t move with alacrity in New Mexico and tend to be suspicious of those who do. When I still lived in the state and traveled to San Francisco or Boston for work, I was always comforted to come home, get off the plane, and visually see how slow people moved. Then I would match my pace to theirs and know I was home.

There is a great comfort in moving at a calm pace.

I find, however, that is not how the world thinks one should move.

Let’s take for example, New York City. In New York, you are supposed to walk fast. Very fast. Head straight, eyes forward, and walk.

Despite how much I love Manhattan, I have quite a hard time keeping up. The Good Man (my husband) was born in Brooklyn so moving at that pace comes natural. It does not come natural for me. I prefer to toddle along closer to the buildings and let the people pass me by on the outside of the sidewalk.

I am the person that New Yorkers yell at for walking too slow.

This all came back to mind this past week. It is New York Fashion week and I follow Nina Garcia, Marie Claire magazine’s Creative Director, on various social networking sites.

She has been posting photos from all of the various designer shows and I have been lapping them up like at kitten at a bowl of milk.

I may not have a figure for fashion, but I love it. I love seeing how textiles and stitches and notions come together to create something fantastic or ugly or offbeat.

So a couple of days ago, Ms. Garcia posted a photo of a sign she saw backstage at the Michael Kors Spring show. Oh my, I am a huge fan of Mr. Kors.

Here is the photo:

I read the words and my heart sank a little. I am happily romantic, strong and my own version of gorgeous.

But I don’t walk fast and with energy.

I would love to kill them with chic, but instead I must maintain my killer sense of humor.

For some reason, this really got under my skin and whispered to those demons in my head who heckled me and said that if I can’t walk fast and with energy, I am a nobody. They said I don’t measure up, don’t belong, don’t matter because I can’t keep up.

And that’s when I remembered the story about the Vaughan brothers.

I don’t need to race up and down the streets of New York. There are plenty of people who have that covered. I want to cruise the Manhattan blocks and tip my head upward to wonder at the buildings and smile and give my lungs room to breathe.

Slow though I walk, I always get where I’m going. Pink cheeked, a little sweaty and smiling.

Perhaps I am taking this hand written sign a little too close to heart. I’m sure this was simply a note of encouragement for the models walking the runway, reminding them to keep it peppy and light.

Perhaps it just hit me on a bad day when the demons were a little closer to the open door than I would like. I let them out to play awhile, really let them run, then I whistled and corralled them back into the pen.

And I remembered that a strong, courageous New Mexican doesn’t have to walk fast unless she wants to. That is true both when walking the Bosque or NYC’s Broadway.

A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.

–Coco Chanel

Thankfully, I am both.

–Karen Fayeth

© 2013, essay, Karen Fayeth, All rights reserved

Photo from the Instagram feed of Nina Garcia. All rights belong to her.

webheadshotKaren Fayeth ~ is one of our regular writers. She is our tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine, an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet, and a short story in Foliate Oak. Her story “What Leibniz Never Learned” will appear in the Fall edition of The Storyteller.

Underpainting With Love and Kindess

work by Leslie White 
.
I could not believe my good fortune when I found a photo of Grandpa Elliot posted to the wet canvas photo reference library for artists.  It was a must-do for me..Several bloggers have made mention of underpaintings; the most recent being Amy from Souldipper found here. She asked me about an artist’s use of an underpainting.  I responded something like it is the foundation that we build our final work on. That made me think more on the subject as we were also talking about underpainting our lives with love and kindness.  Then I came across the photo of Grandpa Elliot who has actually underpainted his life with sharing music to millions in New Orleans and becoming part of the project, “Playing for Change”, a CD whose proceeds go to helping others.The other connection I can make about an underpainting is that it always, for me, sets the tone for where the light will fall in it. BINGO! I see the same in life with passing on kindness. Light is passed on through our kindness to others.  The above stage of my painting illustrates how I carved out areas where I wanted the light to fall.

grelliot

The above image is the finished result.

I can not think of a better way to start the weekend than this:

Video posted to YouTube by .

– Leslie White

leslieblue6LESLIE WHITE (lesliepaints) ~ is a guest writer here and an artist, teacher, book illustrator, and blogger. She’s been blogging since March 2009 and appreciated for the skill and beauty she shares. Her gifts to us are mini-lessons in a artistic technique. Often there is value added with life lessons, such as the one presented here.  Leslie shares information on new art products and techniques and enriches our understanding of and appreciation for art.  Her blog-posts go a long way toward encouraging others. She often enchantes us by sharing the work of her granddaughter and her students.


Who Would I Be Without My Story

the work of Shakti Ghosal ~

You are what exists before all stories. You are what remains when the story is understood.
Byron Katie, American speaker & author of  The Work

I muse about this Coaching question asked me.

So what is my story? As I think of this, I see its tentacles going into the past.

The year is 1911. A lowly placed accounts clerk of the British Accounts Service in India boards the Kalka Mail train from Calcutta with his family. He is shifting home to Delhi in accordance with the British colonial Government’s decision to shift the administrative capital of the Indian subcontinent there. He is following his work, the only thing he knows that sustains him and his family. He is my grandfather.

east_indian_railway_mail

ast forward fifty years and it is my father in the midst of a career in the Indian Audit and Accounts service. Now settled in Delhi, the capital of independent India. Content with a middle class lifestyle. So grooved in his office work that he feels insecure to take up an exciting consular opportunity in the US. He regrets it citing family constraints.

Fast forward another fifty years and it is I sitting at the desk in my office wondering what next. Having been on a sometimes exciting, sometimes lacklustre roller coaster ride through diverse business areas for three decades, I can claim fair knowledge of the nuts and bolts of corporate working. But like my grandfather and father, I see my work primarily as the means to provide a comfortable life to me and my family.

My story. The story in which working at an office desk equates to life comfort and sustenance. The story which I accept as me. And as I accept, I see it gaining power and dictating what I do. I see it protecting me in a ‘safe box’. As it allows me to peep through my perception coloured lenses and read meaning about the world at large. But as it protects, do I also see it confining and preventing me from setting forth, taking risks and achieving my true potential?

What is it that has embedded this ‘office work’ DNA in me thus? What is it that has made it such an integral part of my story? As I muse, I sense that in my office work DNA resides a gene harking back to the industrial revolution. A gene that through generations has altered my value system. And made me shift towards valuing business growth, productivity and profits over beauty, compassion, love and community ties. Over generations, the gene has also lured me away from simplicity and frugality and towards materialism. An attachment to materialistic possessions which has fuelled insecurity. And has manifested in my life through frantic work schedules, technology tying me down 24X7, scarcely any time to “stop by the woods” or “wander lonely as a cloud”.

So, who would I be without my story? Who would I be if I could shed the above DNA and gene? Would I have that glorious opportunity to start from a place where I am no longer confined and am free to define and implement what I think is important? What do I see?

I see myself slowing down, without the pressures of societal expectations of wealth and ownership. As I take personal responsibility to do that which is meaningful, creative and liberating to me.

I see myself effortlessly crossing those artificial barriers created by economic, social and racial compulsions.

I see in me the birth of a great willingness to learn. From all corners of the world. Unfettered and unhampered by beliefs of my education and experience.

Like the return of the Jedi, I see in me the comeback of the human heart. As I acknowledge intrinsic qualities like Empathy, Faith, Creativity and Interconnectedness and bring them centre stage.

I see how work would look like for me. Passion…. Art…… the pulse of the environment.

photo-0613

Who would I be without my stories?
Like a tree
Without the rustle of the leaves
Winter mind
Kind
Aligned
To the Inside
Inside the inside
A space so wide
It has no centre
Because it is centre

From Caitlin Frost’s Web log

In learning………………… Shakti Ghosal

© 2013, essay and photographs, Shakti Ghosal, All rights reserved

Shakti Ghosal
Shakti Ghosal

SHAKTI GHOSAL ~ has been blogging (ESGEE musgings)since September 30, 2011. He was born at New Delhi, India. Shakti is an Engineer and  Management Post Graduate from IIM, Bangalore. Apart from Management theory, Shakti remains fascinated with diverse areas ranging from World History, Economic trends to Human Psychology & Development.

A senior Management professional, Shakti has been professionally involved over twenty-five years at both International and India centric levels spanning diverse business areas and verticals. With a strong bias towards action and results, Shakti remains passionate about team empowerment and process improvement.

Shakti currently resides in the beautiful city of Muscat in Oman with wife Sanchita, a doctorate and an Educationist. They are blessed with two lovely daughters, Riya and Piya.

My Moment Of Zen

respiteIn a full to overflowing bathtub, I relax, soaking the ache out of legs and content to be surrounded by water. It’s not long before I slide down, legs crawling up the wall under the shower, head dipping below the surface. My right hand plugs my nose and my left hand covers my eyes like a sleep mask and water fills my ears.

I savor these few moments I have to just float in nothing.

The water amplifies noise but bends the sound waves into something more beautiful. Even the passing fire truck with its shrill siren and blaring horns sounds almost musical when passed through my warm, clear water. The rhythmic hum of the clothes dryer puts me in a trance and I enjoy this until my lungs ask politely and then not so politely if we can surface and take in some new, unused air.

I reluctantly rise up and gasp in a big breath and go under again. It’s just too delicious and quite addictive. This time I think about buying a snorkel so I can stay under the water and still breathe. I’ve considered buying a snorkel so I can stay under my bath water ever since I was a kid.

Even as a child I was drawn to the solace and quiet of being under water. One early evening as I was taking a bath and creating my own sensory isolation chamber, my mother walked in to check on me. As any protective mother of three children would do when presented with the sight of her youngest lying apparently lifeless in a bathtub full of water, she freaked out.

My mother yanked me from the water and shook me hard, shouting my name. I unplugged my nose and uncovered my eyes and said, “What?”

I got a well-deserved and thorough chewing out and was told in no uncertain terms that I was never to simply slide under the water and remain motionless. Ever.

When I later emerged from my bath and got dressed and ran a comb through my unruly long hair, I was confronted by my father who ripped into me for scaring my mother.

I always thought that was quite unfair. I didn’t set out to intentionally scare my mother. I simply wanted a moment, if even half a minute, where I didn’t exist in the world. Where everything was blocked out and time slowed down and sounds bent in pleasing ways.

My solution thereafter was to continue to dunk my head well below water and plug my nose with my right hand. With my left hand, I would raise it above the surface and wave it like the Queen on parade so that any passerby would know I was still conscious, just submerged.

This seemed a suitable solution for all. A nice compromise.

I’ve always wanted to visit one of those sensory isolation tanks. It sounds like a little slice of heaven to me. Floating in a tank with no light and hardly any sound and just the quiet to embrace me. Yes, I think I would love this very much.

The Good Man thinks I’m half a bubble off level to consider this. “I always figure while you are locked in there, the people outside will steal your stuff or do something weird,” he says.

This is how his mind works. This is not how my mind works.

A few years ago we visited a spa in Calistoga, California. The spas in Calistoga are known for their mud baths. You give them money and they allow you to slide your nekkid body into a warm tub of slightly sulphurous goo. The weight of the mud resists your body, you actually have to dig in there. Once settled, you are surrounded and suspended and oh my goodness I could have stayed in there for weeks.

The Good Man did not feel as kindly toward the mud. He said he was antsy the whole time he was in there and ready to vault from the tub. He couldn’t wait for it to be over. I never wanted it to stop.

Perhaps it’s something Freudian that I like to slip into warm suspended places and forget about things for a while. I choose to think it rather normal to want to seek out genuine moments of respite where the world and all its crazy spinning and shouting and clanking and cruelty goes away, for just a moment. For as long as it takes me to hold my breath.

Until I buy a snorkel.

– Karen Fayeth

© Karen Fayeth, copyright 2013, all rights reserved. Bathtub image found on Rodale.com and all rights remain with the website and photographer. Bio photograph by Claudia Akers.

webheadshotKAREN FAYETH ~ is one of our regular contributing writers. She is our new tech manager, site co-administrator along with Jamie and Terri, and fiction and creative nonfiction editor. She blogs at Oh Fair New Mexico. Born with the writer’s eye and the heart of a story-teller, Karen Fayeth’s work is colored by the Mexican, Native American, and Western influences of her roots in rural New Mexico complemented by a growing urban aesthetic. Karen now lives in the San Francisco Bay area. When she’s not spinning a tale, she works as a senior executive for science and technology research organization.

Karen has won awards for her writing, photography, and art. Recent publication credits include a series of three features in New Mexico magazine and an essay with the online magazine Wild Violet. Her latest short story will be published in the May edition of Foliate Oak. Karen’s photography is garnering considerable attention, her photo titled “Bromance” (featuring Aubry Huff and Pat Burrell) was featured on MLB Network’s Intentional Talk hosted by Chris Rose and Kevin Millar.

FINDING YOURSELF Part 2: What Story Do You Have to Tell?

What experience of the presence of the divine can you speak to?

Where has grace moved in your life?

Every time I meet with youth in detention, I am interested in hearing their story. Monday, I heard the story of a young man who is extremely disappointed in himself. So we read the Tales of the Pointless People by Dan Ehrlander. Here we explored that the keeping score, comparing, ourselves to other, leads to spiritual death. Holding yourself responsible and bearing guilt beyond your capacity are two separate things.

“Write your story as it needs to be written. Write it honestly and tell it as best you can. I’m not sure that there are any other rules. Not ones that matter.” ― Neil Gaiman

What story do you have to tell?

sailboat

“It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living. I want to know what you ache for, and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are. I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love, for your dream, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon. I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow, if you have been opened by life’s betrayals or have become shriveled and closed from fear of further pain! I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own, without moving to hide it or fade it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy, mine or your own, if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful, to be realistic, to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true. I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see beauty even when it’s not pretty, every day, and if you can source your own life from its presence.
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I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine, and still stand on the edge of the lake and shout to the silver of the full moon, “Yes!”

It doesn’t interest me to know where you live or how much money you have. I want to know if you can get up, after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone, and do what needs to be done to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know or how you came to be here. I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom you have studied. I want to know what sustains you, from the inside, when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”

Oriah Mountain Dreamer*

Shalom,
Terri

* Oriah Mountain Dreamer is the author of several best-selling books: The Invitation (now translated into more than fifteen languages), The Dance, and The Call: Discovering Why You Are Here. Her book, What We Ache For: Creativity and the Unfolding of Your Soul, explores the challenges, rewards, and necessity of doing our creative work. 

mailTERRI STEWART is Into the Bardo’s Sunday Chaplain. You can expect a special post from her each week. She comes from an eclectic background and considers herself to be grounded in contemplation and justice. She is the Director and Founder of the Youth Chaplaincy Coalition that serves youth affected by the justice system. As a recent graduate of Seattle University’s School of Theology and Ministry, she earned her Master’s of Divinity and a Post-Master’s Certificate in Spiritual Direction with honors and is a rare United Methodist student in the Jesuit Honor Society, Alpha Sigma Nu. She is a contributing author to the Abingdon Worship Annual.
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Her online presence is Cloaked Monk.This speaks to her grounding in contemplative arts (photography, mandala, poetry) and the need to live it out in the world. The cloak is the disguise of normalcy as she advocates for justice and peace. You can find her at www.cloakedmonk.com,www.twitter.com/cloakedmonk, and www.facebook.com/cloakedmonk.  To reach her for conversation, send a note to cloakedmonk@outlook.com.