Monday, June 25

Buddhist Thought of the Day

The bliss of a truth-seeking life is attainable for anyone who follows the path of unselfishness. If you cling to your wealth, it is better to throw it away than let it poison your heart. But if you don't cling to it but use it wisely, then you will be a blessing to people. It's not wealth and power that enslave men but the clinging to wealth and power.
Majjhima Nikaya

That last line is key. I am completely convinced that you can do well and do good. You don't have to be a user. I, of course, don't have much wealth or power to worry about but I still have to work on the selfishness, which I can be a form of manipulation.

Nuevos Galacticos!

Now Barca has less of an excuse for losing La Liga.
Henry said it was the departure of vice chairman David Dein in April that had changed his mind and led to the $32 million move. Dein, a friend to both Henry and Wenger, quit after falling out with other members of the board over his support for a possible takeover.

"Before Mr. Dein left, for whatever reason, I went to the boss and said I don't want to leave," Henry said. "But after Mr. Dein left, that unsettled the team and the boss.

"He (Wenger) said he will see out his contract but you cannot be sure if he is going to go or stay. Hopefully, he is going to stay but I need to be certain and reassured of that."
The whole article.

Sevilla can do as well as they do w/o many big names but for some reason Barcelona acts like the Titans... I will miss seeing Thierry play ball and wish I could get more La Liga game on Fox Soccer Channel; GolTV is looking more and more like a necessity.

Saturday, June 23

Owen Meany's Book Club

What am I missing?

At some point Tara and I talked about important books and she mentioned Prayer for Owen Meany. I started to read it, got about 50 pages and was done. I didn't care about anything or anybody in the book. Several months later I tried again. I struggled with those first 50 or so again but once I made it past that I sailed through the book but at the end I still didn't care. Throughout the reading of it people would comment on how great it was and how much they enjoyed it. All I wanted to know was, how and when Owen was gonna die.

I was looking at Zen Habits' discussion of high impact books and several commentors have mentioned Owen Meany as a book that had a profound impact. Maybe if I had been at a spiritual crossroads or less sure about my spiritual state, maybe if I had been younger. I don't know but it just didn't mean much for me.

The books on my list (closer to chronological than anything):

The Giving Tree (Shel Silverstein) I actually remember reading this when I was a kid and I also remember working the story over and over trying to figure out what it meant.

Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee (Dee Brown) As a child and even as a teen I was utterly infatuated with Great Plain natives. I was (am) also an idealist so I saw them as heroes and victims. This book provided evidence of all of that. This is probably the book that cemented me as a liberal.

The Sound and the Fury (William Faulkner) I'm still not completely sure what this book did to me. I think the main thing was that it showed to me that there are no boundaries to how a book is written. I think I also like trying to figure out what the hell is going on.

Sunday, June 17

Welcome to the new face of Christianity.

Rod 2.0:Beta: Nigeria
Homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria. Those convicted face jail terms in the mainly Christian south and execution in the mainly Muslim north. Meanwhile, proposed legislation would be the most homophobic laws in any country, effectively stripping gays and lesbians of all civil rights and freedom of speech or association.
This is the Anglican environment the conservative Episcopalians want to join. Very sad.

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Friday, June 15

Whiny Babies

Freaking conservatives. If they don't get their way they run away. (I know people have said the same thing about liberals.) Why can't we talk thing over?
London, Jun 14, 2007 / 10:30 am (Catholic News Agency).- A powerful coalition of conservative Anglican leaders is preparing to create a parallel church for conservatives in the United States, according to a report in The Daily Telegraph.

The parallel church would be in defiance of appeals made by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, to his fellow primates to refrain from provocative actions. If this parallel Church is pursued, it would provoke the biggest schism in the history of the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Welcome Dirty Hippies!

Actually, I guess Bonnaroo isn't as much a hippie fest as it used to be. With the addition of extra tents (Comedy and Jazz, maybe more) it's more like New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Fest North.

And by being a former dirty hippie I can call them that.

Have fun, be careful and remember Manchester loves you so be nice.

Thursday, June 14

1-9-9-2 Wellesley, Rah!

Last weekend I attended my wife's college reunion. This was the first reunion I have attended since we've been together. Things are different at a women's college. I am used to homecoming, football and debauchery. Wellesley, apparently like a lot of New England colleges, has reunion shortly after their graduation and it seems pretty common that the alumni (alumnae, in this case) stay in the dorms - we didn't but Tara wanted to. We, along with 6 other adults and 2 sub 4 year olds, stayed at a friends swank condo in Brookline, MA.

Saturday we drove over to campus and you could feel the excitement in the car. These women were all very excited as they pulled towards and through the gates. Then reality hit, we got out of the cars and were greeted by lightning and claps of thunder. We meandered across campus, greeted at every turn by a cheerful young woman and driver of a limo offering us a ride. Of course, these 92ers were mockingly appalled that someone would think they were old enough to need a ride. In the quad was the big tent filled with returning alum packets and at the end of the tent was a table featuring Wellesley bottled water and cookies. Looking around I was struck by how cute the student workers were as well as how ethnic. Then I looked at Tara and her classmates and saw this is not a recent development. Wellesley seems to have been populated by cute and ethnically diverse students for awhile; this would be further verified at the parade on Sunday. I guess I thought my wife and her friends were an exception to the rule. I was still living with the not-so-attractive, nerdy, northeasterner stereotype that I associate with those northeastern, private, all women's schools. There was a huge picnic lunch which most of us agreed should be the end of the day. The alumnae did some campus shopping and we headed for home.

That night the overwhelming choice for dinner was Boston's North End. I was just along for the ride b/c I'd only been to Boston once b4 and don't know which end is up. We hopped a train, walked down this street that was nothing but Italian restaurants and a Paul Revere statue. We chose a place called Cibo and oh-my-God. This is what italian food is supposed to be. I can't tell you how fantastic I thought the food was. I sampled a couple of different dishes at the table and they were all delicious. I got Penne Arrabiatta b/c a couple of weeks ago I heard it mentioned on the Sopranos. Tony used the phrase to describe his hot-headed bodyguard and my ears always perk up when I hear some extra-cultural reference to Africa or the Middle East, so a pasta dish called Arabian pasta is interesting to me. It was a tomato based sauce with sausage and some red pepper.

Sunday was the main event. We got up early and made our way to campus. The kids were gone and over night we had added the last expected member of the core group who was coming. See, at Wellesley and it might be like this at other institutions but I have never seen it before, each class has a color; there are four colors - red, yellow, green, and purple - that cycle through. In addition to that the classes have a reunion every four years. This year was reunion for the 2's and 7's. Tara is the class of 1992 and their color is red. None of this means much until the parade on Sunday; at that time the classes, dressed in white from head to tow with only their class color and their reunion paraphernalia get in line from youngest to oldest. The paraphernalia is another oddity each class gets a different item for their reunion and I saw all sorts of items from canes, berets, umbrellas to the cheesy red megaphones and red feather boas which rubbed off on everybody's white outfits that the Class of 1992 had. The alumnae then parade from the oldest, who was from the class of 1932 or 1937, to youngest with each class greeted/honored and cheered by all younger classes and lastly the University president who seemed to be having a grand ol time at the end of the parade route. When the class makes it to the president they stop and chant their Rah, or cheer or whatever they call it. 92 was pretty lame. I think Tara and her friends need to talk to the class alum assoc in order to get cooler paraphernalia and recreate their cheer. That being said and as I am one for pomp and ceremony, I thought it was all very cool. As a husband at the reunion of an all women's college I didn't even feel that out of place.

After the ceremony there was shopping and one by one everybody trickled away. Tara, Pauline and I wandered around this stunningly beautiful campus. There is a lot of greenery and native plant landscaping. Comparing it to Sewanee I see Sewanee's campus as an area that has always been and the woods grew up around the campus but Wellesley it seemed was plopped down right in the middle of the woods. On one level those two images seem much the same but in my head, and I apologize for not conveying this mental image very well, despite all of the similarities of architecture and landscaping, I see two distinct campuses.

I expect to have some photos up on flickr in the next few days.

Wednesday, June 13

Hermoine, oh my

The Magic of Puberty

This commentor says it all.
JMBell says:
Then I have no opinion on her looks, nor will I, until next year.
At that point, I will happily point out that she certainly got pretty, but, no, not yet.
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Buddhist Thought of the Day

As rain penetrates an improperly shingled roof, so passion overwhelms a confused mind.
As a homeowner I completely recognize the importance of this analogy. I get a pang of fear everytime it rains. I also understand the second part, both from my experience and that of family. Once you start down the road of self doubt or blame or victimhood you have to work extra hard to turn that ship around. My crutch is procrastination, which at some level comes from a fear of loss and at some other level comes from fear of success AND failure. These fears lead to confusion and that confusion leads to more fear or guilt or suffering and so on and so on.

Coach for life

I know its early, too early to say Bob Bradley should be lifetime coach but 3-0-0 in the Gold Cup, +7 goal differential and 3 shutouts. Eddie Johnson, Demarcus Beasley and Clint Dempsey are scoring. The new kids are playing almost as well as the old guys. What more can you ask? I'm excited for the team. Yes, I know CONCACAF is for the most part a lame-ass confederation but this is where we live.
FOXBORO - Coach Bob Bradley stressed the importance of getting better every game out in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and the U.S. men’s national soccer team has done just that.
From the Boston Herald

Monday, June 11

(Sort of ) Buddhist Thought of the Day

It takes a while to get me stressed but I have a hard time letting go when I get there. My wife is the opposite, she gets heated up pretty quickly but she also forgets about it pretty quickly. She is the the yang to my yin. Anyway, I have incorporated some of these techniques, although it's tough to remember them in the heat of the moment.

I would add another one...taking a deep breath. That combined with closing my eyes helps quite often.

Six Strategies to Calm Yourself Down
Here are some physical strategies Aron mentions if you find yourself overaroused and about to have a meltdown (like I did in Toys-R-Us). She offers psychological methods, too, but I've found it more helpful to start with these physical suggestions. (Then again, that's coming from a person who has difficulty meditating if she's not burning calories.) The commentary is mine. (I got sick of the brackets, so I thought I'd just fly with my own descriptions of each suggestion.)
1. Get out of the situation!
For example, leave your kids with your husband and walk out of Toys-R-Us before you throw Elmo and his whistling buddies across the store. Or if a conversation about global warming, consumerism, or the trash crisis in the US is overwhelming you, simply walk away from it. My great aunt, Gigi, mastered this point. She knew her triggers, and if a conversation or setting was anywhere near her trigger point, she simply put one foot in front of another, and went bye-bye.
2. Close your eyes to shut out some of the stimulation.
Ever since my mom came down with a neurological tick of the eyelid called blepharospasm, I've become aware of how important shutting our eyes is to the nervous system. Her only option to keep her eyes open was to have an operation that would do just that...but then she wouldn't be able to shut them, and that would be even more detrimental to her well-being and ability to function. My mom's disorder is very much like an extreme arousal of the nervous system, and she often has to retreat somewhere to close her eyes. Only then can she retain her balance and her proper focus.
The only time I recommend not using this technique is on the road (if you're driving). (My mom and I argue about that all the time.)
3. Take frequent breaks.
This can be challenging if you are at work, or at home with kids as creative and energetic as mine (I can't pee without someone getting whacked in my absence). But HSPs need breaks to let the nervous system regenerate.

I must have known I was a HSP back in college, because three out of my four years, I opted for a tiny single room (a nun's closet, quite literally), rather than going in on a killer room if I roomed with three other people.

"Nope," I said to my prospective roomies. "Can't do it. Need my alone time, or else none of you would want to be around me. Trust me."

I would go to the extent of pasting black cardboard on my window, so that no one could tell if I was there, and I'd get my hours of solitude that I needed (of course I was also depressed).

Be creative. Take your break. Any way you can. Even it involves black construction paper.
4. Go outdoors.
This is a true saver for me. I need to be outside for at least an hour every day to get my sanity fix. Granted, I'm extremely lucky to be able to do so as a stay-at-home mom. But I think I would somehow shove it into my schedule even if I had to commute into DC everyday. Or maybe I would quit my DC job, because the commute was making me into a monster.

Even if I'm not walking or running or biking or swimming, being outside calms me in a way that the right pharmaceuticals do. With an hour with nature, I go from being a very bossy, opinionated, angry, cynical, uptight person into a bossy, opinionated, cynical relaxed person. And that makes the difference between having friends and a husband to have dinner with and a world that tells me to go eat a frozen dinner by myself because they don't want to catch whatever grumpy bug I have.
5. Use water to take the stress away.
While watching Disney's "Pocahantas" the other day with Katherine, I realized I must be part Native American. The sheer joy that Indian woman of healthy proportions (thank you, Disney, for not releasing another animated anorexic princess) shows upon paddling down the river, singing about how she is one with the water, makes me realize how universal the mood effect of water is, and especially to a HSP.

On the rainy or snowy days that I can't walk the double jogger over to Spa Creek or Back Creek, I do something the global-warming guys say not to, and take a long shower, imagining that I am in the middle of a beautiful Hawaii rain forest. I've always needed to chill out on the side of a lake, pond, creek, or bay--even the dirty St. Joseph's river in South Bend, Indiana, or Caesar Creek State Park (the closest thing to nature) near Dayton, Ohio.

"Water helps in many ways," writes Aron. "When overaroused, keep drinking it--a big glass of it once an hour. Walk beside some water, look at it, listen to it. Get into some if you can, for a bath or a swim. Hot tubs and hot springs are popular for good reasons."
6. Take a walk and calm your breathing.
A method that combines both of those things is walking meditation, a form of mindfulness meditation that involves focusing on the details of your movement and breath at the same time. Sayadaw U. Silananda, the Buddhist monk and scholar, compares the practice of mindfulness meditation to boiling water in his article "The Benefits of Walking Meditation":
If one wants to boil water, one puts the water in a kettle, puts the kettle on a stove, and then turns the heat on. But if the heat is turned off, even for an instant, the water will not boil, even though the heat is turned on again later. If one continues to turn the heat on and off again, the water will never boil. In the same way, if there are gaps between the moments of mindfulness, one cannot gain momentum, and so one cannot attain concentration. That is why yogis at our retreats are instructed to practice mindfulness all the time that they are awake, from the moment they wake up in the morning until they fall asleep at night. Consequently, walking meditation is integral to the continuous development of mindfulness.

Friday, June 8

New Nashville Times

The New York Times' Frugal Traveler popped into the library last week. I talked with him for a split second.

He put the library on his blog. Here is the video

Wednesday, June 6

Buddhist Thought of the Day

In learning this path, it is only important to walk on the real ground, to act on the basis of reality. The slightest phoniness, and you fall into the realm of demons.

Sunday, June 3

International Sewanee

During Taylor's brutal rule, US watched, waited. Now, specialists can only wonder if the United States could have forced Taylor from power sooner.
"There could have been a much more robust role before we got to 2003", said Elwood Dunn, a political science professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., who is writing a book about relations between the United States and his native Liberia.
Dr. Dunn was always nice to me. He is a gentle giant kind of guy and a genius from what I understand. I never took any classes from him but he was always supportive of me.

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Buddhist Thought of the Day

He who knows that all things are his mind,
That all with which he meets are friendly,
Is ever joyful.
Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa

Most of the time I have been posting these thoughts of the day I figured they spoke for me but today I realized that maybe they don't, maybe some of them need clarification.

I have consciously struggled over the last 6 or 7 years with depression and, to a lesser degree, low self-esteem. I now recognize that, more than likely, I have been struggling with these issues a lot longer and I just didn't know what to call it. For years I have lived a solitary, loner-esque life. I took refugee in music especially live music but almost without fail I tried to isolate myself from my surroundings, even in the middle of something as large as New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. I would take pictures or record shows silently or I would zone in so intently on the music that noone around me mattered...except the pretty girls. The pretty girls always matter. Most relationships I developed were half-hearted, on my part. I let then wax & wane and just let the wind carry me...or so I thought.

At some point after college I read "The Tao of Pooh" which attempts to explain zen via Thich Nhat Hanh and self evaluation I recogonize that I think I know the way the world works too well. A long time ago I stopped going church (St. Ann's Episcopal Church) b/c I academicized the liturgy which made it impossible to participate. I spent too much energy anaylyzizing why our society does religion the way we do it. Skip foward to meeting Tara and participating, albeit sporadically, in her church's activities (Edgehill United Methodist Church). They are a community of tremendous warmth, giving and, date I say, love. They are highly active in the community as well as refreshingly and strongly progressive on social issues. I cannot bring myself to join her on a regular basis b/c I say their liturgy makes me uncomfortable. Be that as it may, my mother-in-law has issues with some of this yet she is extemely active. I have decided that I am too proud, too desirous of my way, to suck it up and participate. I know, even though she says she doesn't care, it would make Tara very happy and it would make way too many of her church members happy. Why do I say this is my pride? Because I cannot bring myself to commit to a sangha either. As much as I have been reading, studying, using Buddhist theory and principals; as much as I try to be "dharma powered" I can't break down that wall of indepndence, I can't "Let go and let God".

I keep posting these things in an effort for my own breakthrough. That moment when I can say I want to be directly connected to the world around me.

Friday, June 1

Beautiful Women Day

Don't know if it's the weather or "that time of month" or the date or the fact that I am reading Lolita but today my world has been filled with some of the sexiest and most beautiful women. I see pretty women everyday...I wake of next to one but today has been extraordinary. I'm talking all ethnicities, shapes, sizes, ages.

What a wonderful and crazy day!

Buddhist Thought of the Day

Do not follow the ideas of others, but learn to listen to the voice within yourself. Your body and mind will become clear and you will realize the unity of all things.

The Buddha meditated for six years, Bodhidharma for nine. The practice of meditation is not a method for the attainment of realization it is enlightenment itself.
Zen Master Dogen, "The Practice of Meditation"

John Edwards

I haven't made up my mind who I will "endorse" for President but I do like John Edwards. It's based on intangibles nothing more. I actually haven't looked at any candidate that seriously yet.

Here is a link to an article discussing "mainstream" media's take on Edwards. There seems to be a big hubbub about him accepting a fee and the event also charged attendees, usually no problem, right? Well, this was a speech on poverty which is causing everybody to cry foul. Yes, it's ironic but come on, from what I can figure this is how he makes a living. If he is working to do good, live honorably and equitably, which I believe he probably is, then more power to him for being able to make that kind of money.

This is just bullshit. You have people making lots more and doing lots less with that money.