Posted in find yourself, General Interest, Liz Rice-Sosne, memoir, Mental Health, Writing

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

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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.”

Posted in Culture/History, Essay, General Interest, Liz Rice-Sosne, poem, Writing

A Culture of Blame

Memorial Day in the USA has come and gone.  I have been thinking a great deal about veterans of war recently.  This is probably due to the really awful press about the U.S. Department of Veterans’ Affairs (Veterans’ Administration or VA)  and Ray Shinseki.  As many know he holds the the post that oversees the VA  The proverbial “they want his head on a platter” underscores the culture of blame in this country – and perhaps worldwide.   I know nothing about Mr. Shinseki, but I do know that there is enough blame to go around.  The change of one man at the top will not right wrongs.

man-pointing-silhouetteThinking about this tragic situation with the VA made me think about the fact that we live in a “culture of blame” in this country.  Watching the news makes it appear that it comes naturally to wish to affix blame immediately for any problem that is discovered among us.  I know it well not just because I have seen it over and over but because I have lived it.  I was raised in a culture of blame.  I know what it feels like to be blamed at a young age for mistakes or problems that may or may not have been caused by me.  I ask myself, why do we do that?  When a problem is discovered anywhere, that problem should be carefully reviewed.  Facts should be gathered.  Then they should be weighed to determine how and where the problem originates.  Pros and cons ought be carefully determined and then decisions made that fix the problem with a solution that makes the entire situation better.  Instead of affixing blame we should fix the problem sooner and faster.  We would then waste less time and make needed changes more quickly.

When I ask myself, “why do we live in a culture of blame?”  I do not have the answer.  Is it a result of the need to be the best and the brightest?  For surely we can be none of those things while we make mistakes.  Is that why we need to make those mistakes belong to another?  That question makes me think back to the time when both my mother and my father stated to me that there are two places in life: “first and last,” with nothing in between.  This was an especially difficult view as they entered their children into competitions during all months of the year.  It is of course a farcical view of life and one that is not true.  This view of life does not allow for mistakes to be made while one is growing up.  And what are the mistakes made along life’s pathway?  They are merely moments of growth.  Without the mistakes that we make, we would not grow, we would not mature and we would not be able to reach our dreams.  Personal mistakes when carefully reviewed and nurtured help us to develop empathy for others.  Empathy is one of the most important of emotions to develop for empathy is the place of caring (for others).

9780226094991I spent two to three years at the VA as a volunteer in 2007 and 8.  At that time I was developing my masters project while there.  I was creating a booklet on creative writing for veterans.  Oddly, due to the bad behavior of the one under whom I served (at the VA) this booklet did not come about.  Instead I was to be responsible for bringing in and overseeing an event.  Upon retrospect, this change was a very good thing.  This event brought to the VA an expert author on creative writing with veterans.  He had spent time in both Iraq and Afghanistan leading writing workshops for veterans  I learned a great deal from him.  My initial desire had been to work with young veterans returning from our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Andrew Carroll edited Operation Homecoming.  This book supported by the National Endowment for the Arts is a collection of writings by service men and women at war.  I recommend it to all.  In my opinion we live in these modern times too far removed from our wars.  And they are our wars.  Those who serve are doing so in the name of freedom whether or not we agree with the current war.  The old adage “war is hell” is very true.  If we (the citizens ) are far removed from war, we will confuse the war with the warrior.  We blame the warrior for the war, then we forget that warrior upon their return home.

While at the VA I worked primarily with those who had been to Vietnam or those who had served during that time.  Not all had seen combat.  As a result of war many were not able to engage life fully.  Writing gave them a way to do that.  Writing about your war experiences allows some of the pressure that you experience to dissipate. By sharing your feelings on paper and then sharing them with a class of like minded people,  some of the pressure is released.  That is a healing moment.  It is something that works for any situation, not just war.  I was able to see much of the good that the VA does.  And although my thesis was changed, I had the opportunity to work with someone who truly loved and cared for her patients.  While at the VA I wrote the following poem.

An Observation

at this table
this quiet place
where they write
this flat surface
where poetry
spills
for the hungry ones
those
who wish to leave
their wars
behind
where recidivism
is high
where
eyes are glazed
stares penetrating
where
nothing is
given away
not even longing
empty bodies
hollowed
angered 
in a
fog
they write

– Liz Rice-Sosne 

© 2014, essay, poem, and portrait below, Liz Rice-Sosne, All rights reserved; illustration “Man Pointing” courtesy of George Hodan, Public Domain Photographs.net; bookcover art, University of Chicago Press, All rights reserved

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.”

Posted in Culture/History, General Interest, grief, Liz Rice-Sosne, memoir, poem, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Poets/Writers

November 22, 1963, Lives in Memory

Haibun

I had been to lunch in Third House.  It was a warm spring day, just the sort of day to leave lunch early and walk in the sunshine.  I ambled over to Second House and plopped down in front of the TV.  I had spent my sophomore year here and I had always loved it – it felt like home more than any other dorm.  However, that day I was a senior, an upperclassman of 17 years of age.  While at Dobbs’ I had lived in each of these Queen Anne houses.  Today I lived in First House.  They were rickety and old, painted a dull boarding school gray.  None the less I was quite comfortable for they represented home for me for three of my four years at school.  I comfortably seated myself on a couch in front of the television.  It might no longer be my dorm, but it still felt cozy and I felt confident, that day so long ago.  That confidence must have come from some of that upperclassman swagger that one acquires as they move though their grades (although, to be honest, I didn’t have much swagger).  It felt strange as I did not have many confident days in my youth.

wild grey geese above

flew in perfect formation

chaos left behind

 

Haibun

I flipped on the black and white TV, there was no color in those days. “Oh My God. What was happening?” I was in an instant state of shock. President Kennedy had been shot right in from of my eyes – in his limo in Dallas, Texas. “Was this true?” There was growing chaos everywhere on the television, then this horrific  event seemed to ebb out of the television and blanket me. It was thick and dark. I knew that I must get away. I had to get up, go back to the lunchroom and tell of the shooting. I thought of our beautiful first lady and what her sadness must be like. It was so hard to move. I made myself leave.

woodpecker knocking

high above in the maple

a chick all grown up

 

Haibun

I ran back to the lunchroom and shouted out the news. I do not remember another thing that afternoon. I do remember crying myself to sleep that night filled with such emptiness, dread and a sense of loneliness. Of late, I have been reading a good deal about the Kennedys. I will never believe that this assassination evolved out of the crazy thoughts of one lone Soviet sympathizer. I also suspect that the full truth of those moments in Dallas that November 22nd of 1963 will not be known by the public within my lifetime.

shells upon a beach

dry cool windy autumn day

creation of sand

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 numerous 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.”

Posted in Essay, Liz Rice-Sosne, Spiritual Practice

A Second Spiritual Experience – Part Two

During this time in November of 2005 I communed with a Great Horned Owl and a Red-Tailed Hawk each who each resides in Forest Park.  One evening I was meant to take to the hawk, as an act of thanks, a chicken wing and place it upon a particular iron waist-high pole on the edge of the ball fields. It was Friday night. My husband kindly came with me to Straub’s the family grocery where I shop.  He hung back a bit somewhat embarrassed.  On Friday night the place is mobbed.  So, I got in line at the butcher’s counter and waited until my turn. There was a long wait. When it was finally my turn I ordered one chicken wing.  Everyone else in line hearing my request went nuts: “one chicken wing!”  Well no, actually, “just a half of a wing I did not want the drummie.”  People were looking at me in utter disbelief, as though I had wasted their collective time with purpose.  Once I had the wing I left for the park.  The problem there was that there were police everywhere.  It looked as though I was putting some garbage on a post.  But, I fulfilled the task and had no encounters with local law enforcement.  Aside from my request to God, the other thing that initiated my experience was my long conversation with a Vietnam Veteran.

What this experience in its entirety did for me; was to give to me the actual feelings that many war veterans experience during their times in war.  You might wonder: “how could that possibly be?”  I suspect that I was meant to feel what many soldiers felt during war, because I would later work with them at the VA.  For all of my life, veterans were persons to be thought of on Memorial Day and on Veteran’s day, period. I was conceived immediately after WWII.  So, my relation to veterans was not unusual. After my experience in which I sensed the emotional torment of those who have seen battle I was radically changed.  I studied war. I volunteered at the VA for several years and I gained a healthy respect and love for our country’s veterans. I might add I truly gained a deep respect and love for Vietnam Vets as they are of my generation. I also acquired abhorrence for war. I truly came to understand “love the warrior, hate the war.”  Most cannot enter into that cliché and act upon it. It is very tricky and very difficult for it is so political.   But my experience lacked all political thought or sense.

The other thing that I did was write about 20 poems about war, veterans, acts of war … really anything that came out of my experience that year.  My first poem titled: “A Certain Madness.” It came about during one particular writing class that I taught at the VA.  The poem follows.

A Certain Madness

Each one came, soldier, marine, airman, frog, walking quietly as if wrapped within the cocoon of his own world.

War’s sad energy like a gray, heavy mist lay upon the shoulders of each, reality spiking their dull black piercing shadows.

Each man sat at the table abandoned. 
 “Just a word? Coffee please.  May we write yet?”

And then he stood.
 A large and heavy presence, poorly balanced.

He shouted:  “Don’t you see them?
 There, in the corners … there is one in each corner.”

“How dare they come here?
 I ought-a know. 
I was with the CIA.”

Then he sat down defeated, again. 
 He seemed to relax until another
stream of madness crept out of his throat.

“I will NOT be giving you a sample today! 
 There will be no writing samples. 
 THEY … are here for that reason you know, to collect them.”

And I thought to myself: 
“Does the madness hide the pain? Or perhaps this pain drives one mad.”

© Liz Rice-Sosne

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 numerous 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.”

Posted in Essay, Shamanism, Spiritual Practice

A Second Spiritual Experience – Part One

I feel privileged to be in the company of those who write here upon The Bardo.  It is an honor.  Though untrue, I often feel as though we write together.  That is comforting to me.

Spiritual experiences are by their very nature exceptionally private.  They can be difficult to speak of due to that private nature and due to the lack of an adequate lexicon.  I am not terribly private.  So, I would like to share one of my own experiences with you, as it radically changed my life.  It was 2005 and I had been retired for two years.  I served on several boards as a volunteer but otherwise I was bored.  So I will say to you before you read further – do not be offended by anything that I say.  This is a personal experience.  I am not proselytizing nor would I ever.  I am merely sharing.

I have never served in the military and I have never been to war.  The closest I came was in 1967-8 when formerly married and living on Okinawa, close to the war in Vietnam.  But that experience bears no relation to this experience.  This experience of which I speak was the second life changing spiritual experience that I have had within my lifetime. The first was Christian in nature in 1973.

This life-changing experience came to me via my plea one day to God: “What do you want me to do? What should I do now?”  At about the same time I began an ongoing conversation with a Vietnam Veteran, a former B-52 Bomber Pilot.  The experiences that followed were all a part the answer to my question. This experience was shamanic in nature. Shamanism is something that I studied in the 80s and 90s. This experience lasted about 6 weeks, it appeared to many that I might be having a “nervous breakdown.”  My friends were worried. My husband trusted me but worried nonetheless.  The experience was very dramatic, very painful and most ecstatic. I knew that I was doing exactly what I was meant to do.  None-the-less, I hung on for dear life. It was extremely hard to remain grounded. To do so I engaged the services of three different people, a body-worker, an exercise therapist and a counselor.  I remember and will recount one particularly humorous thing that happened.  Tomorrow.

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 numerous 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.”

Posted in Essay, General Interest, Liz Rice-Sosne, Poems/Poetry, poetry, Spiritual Practice, Writing

Haiku – A Spiritual Experience

600px-Poecile-atricapilla-001I am sitting here trying to remember what prompted me to write one haiku per day during the first 6 months of 2012.  I was ill, that was the first reason for doing so.  I wished to remain connected to my writing community, keep alive my connection with the friends that I had met online.  I knew that I could not manage an article daily so I needed to write something short.  I decided that haiku was the answer.  Was there any shorter form of poetry?  The learning and the writing that year became for me a spiritual experience.  It taught me to see the world through a new and different lens.  I am so grateful for this experience

I have always been drawn to haiku even when young.  What can be said in 17 syllables, those three short lines of 5, 7, 5 syllables?  It would be easy – just compose three short lines of poetry a day.  Those thoughts will tell you just how little I knew of haiku when I began.  Experience has shown me that many Americans have little knowledge of haiku seeing it simply as three lines of poetry with the 5-7-5-syllable count.  If seen this way the reader and writer of haiku will never be fully satisfied.

The first thing that one should know is that the syllable count fits Japanese words or syllables.  Japanese words or syllables are nothing like English language syllables.  When attempting to write a haiku there are many things to consider before considering the word count.  The second thing that I learned is that it is often written in one line.  Just one.  In Japan that line is often written from top to bottom.  It is vertical.  I do not write vertically.

Poignancy in haiku is important.  The most important thing about haiku for me is very hard to put into language.  For I see haiku as a language all its own.   A haiku ties things together.  Haiku conveys the depths of nature’s beauty and its power.  Haiku shows ones relationship with nature.  One haiku can express in a few words what it might take a psychologist an entire magazine article to profess.  Haiku can evoke within the reader new understanding.  I equate haiku to light.  It can dazzle in brightness.  It can illuminate a path.  It can act as a halo separating yet conjoining reader and writer through the poem.  You are placed within the poem.  Haiku connects the ancient with the modern, the light with the dark, and nature with man/womankind.

The book to which I turn most often for reference is “The Haiku Handbook, How To Share Write and Teach Haiku,” by William J. Higginson.  I would go so far as to say that he has he has “lived” haiku, making his teachings easy to understand and to apply.  When writing haiku my goal is to be living in the moment, to be “living haiku.”  It is a spiritual moment.  I wish to express that moment to you so that you feel what I feel.  I believe Higginson tells us that haiku is about the eloquence of sharing those feelings.  It is easy to say to your friend: “the sky is beautiful.”  But in doing so, you do not really convey what you feel.   Nor are you conveying any degree of real beauty.  According to Higginson, when we share the depths of what we feel through haiku we are building community.   What more important act is there?

The first thing that I do when writing a haiku is search for a kigo.  A kigo is a season word and mandatory in haiku.  Your haiku should be driven by what you feel for your subject and your choice of kigo.   I view the kigo as an anchor.  There are numerous kigo databases online.  New words are always being added.

We have just experienced a foot of snow here in the midwest.  The last time we had so much snow was 1982.  This is an immense weather event here.  Along with subzero temperatures accompanied by wind many of us are pretty much homebound.  I would like to share this large weather experience with you by writing a haiku.  I edit and re-edit before I am happy with them.  Each of these are a part of my process for creating one haiku.

wall of snow – broken branches dangling from trees (this sounds awkward to me)

or

deep white snow – hidden branches (this coveys little feeling)

or

drifting snow – a chickadee’s cap (this possesses the essence of what I am looking for)

Final haiku:

blowing drifting snow – chickadee’s black cap

– Liz Rice-Sosne

© 2013, essay, Liz Rice-Stone, All rights reserved
Photo credit ~ Black-capped Chickadee via Wikipedia and under CC A-SA 3.0 unported license

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 numerous 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.”