Saturday, October 09, 2010

My homesickness

Janice Erlbaum, in her blog, has been writing about NYC and memories.  As the title of this post she wrote suggests, she has several so don't stop at this one but read more.

Her posts have me thinking about my own wild child days.

But at this time of year I always ease into a feeling of homesickness because I love Manhattan at Christmas.  Nowhere else compares.  Not that I've spent many holidays in other places but I've spent enough elsewhere to know that no matter where I am or how I'm spending it, a part of me is thinking about the windows of Lord & Taylor's and FAO Schwartz (which is no longer there . . . *sigh*) and seeing the show at Radio City Music Hall or The Nutcracker Suite at Lincoln Center.  Nowhere do they do this ballet so beautifully or with as much awe inspiring magic as they do at the ABT.

The lights along Park Avenue.
The way the air smells of roasting chestnuts.  (Do the hotdog vendors still do this?  Maybe I don't want to know if they don't.)
The trees everywhere.  The origami one at the Museum of Natural History and the brilliant nativity one at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Don't get me wrong.  I am not romanticizing things at all.  I haven't forgotten the harsh reality of slush seeping into the sole of my worn away boots or then Thanksgiving I had nowhere to go so I walked from uptown all the way downtown and back again, to keep warm, to keep moving, to keep safe.

And reading Janice's blog posts have caused me to experience not the usual gradual homesickness that becomes firmly entrenched by Christmas to become a more immediate, in-my-face now, experience.

This year Bibi will dress up like a witch for Halloween and my mother would dress me as a witch every year, probably because it was cheap to have me wear a black or brown turtleneck sweater and a pair of dark colored pants (over tights to add a layer of warmth) and then use black crepe paper to create a witchy skirt and a black cape. I always felt I looked amazing, with a black bat "tattood" on my forehead with liquid eyeliner and carrying a broom.  And how could I not be dazzled by the sequin ball earrings dangling from my earlobes by the screw clamps my mother needed because back then her ears were not pierced?

There are photos in an album somewhere.

Anyway, feeling homesick earlier this year than ever before.  I wonder if it will pass away only to return as usual later in the season or if it will build as usual only more so because it has an early start . . .

Friday, October 08, 2010

You & Me

When I first heard this song I thought about Rob, naturally.  But I also thought about another couple:  Erin and Joe.  And it always amazes me how long it takes me to remember that there is a youtube out there just waiting for me to share songs I like.


iBreastCheck - the iPhone app by Breakthrough

iBreastCheck - the iPhone app by Breakthrough
My mother is a breast cancer survivor so I share this to all of those reading this who have iPhones.
There really is an app for anything, isn't there?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

National Novel Writing Month

National Novel Writing Month
I nearly forgot about this but it's that time again. October means fall really hits the air and people have birthdays and insane writers start signing up for NaNoWriMo.
I've participated in the past. I haven't participated in two or more years. I forget. Anyway, my non-participation is probably to blame for why I nearly forgot to mention it here, in my blog.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Wicab Awarded $3.2M for Research and Development with the BrainPort� Vision Device

Wicab Awarded $3.2M for Research and Development with the BrainPort� Vision Device

This is the company that makes the BrainPort device already approved in Canada that can help those living with chronic vertigo to regain their balance. (How bored are you because I could blabber on about how it helps to rewire the brain and such?)

If you want to know more about this device, you can read the first chapter of The Brain That Changes Itself. As you can see from this article, Wicab Inc. is still trying to get FDA clearance for this device. In the meantime, the only way to get it is to go to Canada for three days of training and then you can take home the device for a trial period or buy it outright for $10,000.

The story in the book shares how the prototype was developed.  The size has been reduced significantly and it is already being used successfully in Canada.  In other words, people who have vertigo can be cured if they have access to these things.

But here, in the US, we wait.  We wait for the FDA to recognize the benefits and approve something that could be making live more bearable for many people.

We wait.

Managing Stress with Qigong by Gordon Faulkner

Managing Stress with Qigong by Gordon Faulkner is a simple to follow book that offers two series of exercises, one for stress relief and the other for stress prevention.  Each practice is further broken down into a standing and seated practice.

Practically everyone has heard that sitting in silent meditation is an excellent way to relieve stress; however many people find it difficult to sit still.  Qigong’s very slow movements allow the person to experience a moving meditation and the particular sequence of these moves is designed to specifically work with the qi within the body.  Some of the information about specific acupuncture points may be a bit beyond the average reader but for those who work with these points the details are all the more helpful.  However, you won’t need to know these details to reap the benefits promised in these practices.

The first chapter discusses how qigong can help relieve stress and even prevent future stress through practice.  The author goes on to explain who qigong has evolved and specifically how the practices shared in the book were developed.

In chapter two, the author detail some of the specifics of how to hold the hands, move the feet, and breathe with illustrations to help the reader visualize the information more easily.

Chapters three and four introduce the actual practices, first the standing stress relief routine followed by the seated stress relief.  Again, there are illustrations with step-by-step instructions on how to do the practice.  The next two chapters, five and six, focus on the stress prevention practices.  Like the previous two chapters, there is first a standing practice, then a seated one, both fully illustrated and explained clearly.

The final section explains the effects of the practice, going into great detail about each move, the acupuncture points being stimulated, the different organs being either stimulated or calmed throughout.  Faulkner’s choosing to share this information at the end is a wise one; most readers, I think it’s safe to say, will not need to know every jot and tittle. However, as the benefits are experienced first-hand, it is likely that all readers will want to better understand the reason behind each part of the practice and the information at the end of the book is a treasure, for this reason.  For the reader familiar with qigong and/or acupuncture, the insight offered in this last section will be interesting and affirming.

There are also three detailed appendices and a glossary.  All of which add up to a truly wonderful resource.

I think that Faulkner’s decision to offer both a standing and a seated practice is wonderful.  I can’t say how many times I’ve heard people say what they cannot do.  When I first worked through the book, I was having a difficult day and chose to explore the seated practices.  I was not yet familiar with the sequence so I focused on the upper body which reinforced my perception that even a person in a wheelchair should be able to do these exercises.  (Of course, I realize that a quadriplegic will not be able to do so.)

The truth is, at the time I tried the book, my knee was bothering me and there are certain parts of the standing practices that I would have found unbearable.  These same deep bending moves would probably compromise my balance on anything but my very best days.  Again, Faulkner was wise to offer the reader an option.  As usual, I think that it would be easier if there were a dvd to go along with the book or even a cd that would allow the person to follow along without constantly referring to the book.  Still, they exercises are not so lengthy or varied that one couldn’t learn the entire sequence in a couple of weeks if committed to doing so.

It is easy to say what can’t or won’t work but not so easy to step back and try something for yourself, to explore the possibilities before measuring the merits. I think that anyone who tries qigong will quickly see how effective it really is and I am confident that anyone who has struggled with sitting in silent meditation will find the slow movements just the thing they need to focus.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne is a reiteration of New Thought, popularized in the 19th century and repackaged in a dvd and pretty book.  The way the book begins should set off alarms to any reader because whenever anyone says others “know this to be true” and then name names odds are that later in the book you will not come across any actual quotes from these “others” who are named or, if you do, they will not be cited in such a way that you can read for yourself the context within which the quotes are made.  So when Byrne immediately mentions Shakespeare and Einstein and Plato and Beethoven as “believers” my red flags were immediately raised.

But to be honest, anyone who knows me knows I am not a fan of New Thought.  I learned too early in my spiritual life about “magical thinking” and dismissed such books as this one off-hand without actually reading them for myself.  I had, actually, watched the dvd which I thought was silly and poorly organized.  It certainly didn’t make an argument that I thought was defendable and, in a healthy debate, anyone with any intelligence would rip massive holes through the concepts presented.

Unfortunately, I am the type to not be too easy on my self and chose to read this book because it seemed unfair for me to roll my eyes at teachings I had not actually explored myself.  Rather like my reading the qur’an knowing I had no interest in converting to Islam.  I could still read the text and find beauty therein.

I guess I found beauty but really what I found was superficial beauty.  What I read sounded like watered down truths taught by Buddhism, Christianity, etc. I was reminded of St Paul’s statement about feeding the Corinthians on milk rather than meat because they were not ready for solid foods (I Corinthians 3:2–see?  That is called a citation so you can go look it up and make sure the contextual relevance of this statement is true both here and there and that I am not taking something out of context and twisting it to my own purpose.)

The thing is, perhaps this is what some people need.  Spiritually, some people may need to believe that the only sure sign of being truly connected with God is affluence and prosperity, in fulfilling relationships and healthy bodies.  I can honor that and I have the conviction that those who truly need these things to grow will receive them.

However, Paul did not continue feeding the Corinthians milk and spiritually we are to grow so when Byrne presumes to say that Jesus and Moses were millionaires, I was tempted to throw the book across the room.  Are you serious?  What’s worse, are readers taking this seriously?

Don’t get me wrong, I realize that Moses was very wealthy when he was a Prince of Egypt but the real beauty in his story lies in his forsaking all of this in favor of living as a slave.  When he led the Israelites out of Egypt, they took with them a lot of things–including gold enough to make an idol–but these did not belong to Moses.  In fact, and let’s be honest here, the idea of possessions among this community of wanderers was probably more like a socialistic state than one with a clear leader.

But this book is not about politics.  It’s about New Thought spirituality.

To suggest that Jesus was a millionaire is anathema not only to his life but his teachings.  If it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a wealthy man to enter heaven, then how does this align itself with Byrne’s insistence that everyone should be wealthy?  (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25—oooh . . . two citations this time!)  That Jesus was welcomed into people’s homes where he was fed and often lavished upon is not a sign of his personal wealth nor even of his spiritual power but of a community that was told to welcome strangers and even had stories in their history suggesting that angels walk among us.  (Genesis 18 et al.  Read the Old Testament for more examples and also for the many teachings on how travelers should be treated.)

(In fact, it is still considered a great mitzva to be generous to the poor but I digress again.)

Then again, how many people really read or have read the Bible.  So can I blame Byrne’s readers for their ignorance?  Of course, not.  I put the blame where it belongs: on her shoulders.  Nevertheless, she is not the first to be guilty of misleading others with teachings taken out of context.

She goes on to talk about how sacrifice is unspiritual (118) suggesting that you cannot feel good if you are sacrificing yourself.  Really?  Tell that to Gandhi, to Mother Teresa, to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, to a myriad of other men and women whose spirituality deeply grew through self-sacrifice and who felt very good about their choices.

And therein lies the problem.  As I said before, the book takes deep spiritual truths and waters them down until they aren’t even milky but plain as water.  Is the implication then that we, as a society, have become so superficial that we cannot even tolerate milk but need something wishy-washy to feed our souls?


Here is my hope: I hope that anyone who has been blessed by reading this book and found their lives prospering as a result will continue to prosper.  I hope those who experienced a blessing before but have since experienced some suffering or change in their circumstances will open themselves to the lessons possible and not assume that they are at fault, vibrating on some lower emotional level and inviting these things into their lives.

For those who, like me, find this book does not align with their personal experience, I hope you will find those texts and experiences that will feed your soul.  I hope that, after reading this book, you will not close yourself to the ideas of giving from poverty or showing compassion in your suffering, because my experience, and the experience of every spiritual master and mystic I have read, affirms that prosperity is not limited to money or relationships or things but can be experienced in all situations.

Unfortunately, Byrne takes a shallow spiritual path and makes it seem very pretty.  Superficial things often are and it is not until you go beneath the surface that relevance really emerges.

I hope for everyone that they define their own lives by their own practice and find fulfillment where they are now.

I would very much like to know the source for this quote Byrne credits as being made by Carl Jung:  What you resist persists.

Edit (made 26 May 2012)
Here is a link to a video that reflects how my feelings regarding this teaching has evolved since I read this book:

Monday, October 04, 2010

What I'm Listening To

I've decided to listen to every cd in my music collection.  Mostly to see if I can or should get rid of any music I've outgrown.  And maybe I can let go of some cds that someone else gave to me but isn't really my cup of tea.  Who knows?  Anyway, the project has officially begun and will probably take ages and ages to finish but I thought it'd be fun to share the randomness of my tastes without comment.  Let you decide which of these are keepers, were given to me, will be removed from my collection, etc.  (Bonus if you can guess which of these was given to me by Rob, my ex, and a friend.  Three of these cds were definitely gifts.)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Breast cancer can trigger rare disorders, new worries | | Asbury Park Press

Breast cancer can trigger rare disorders, new worries | | Asbury Park Press:
"At first, Karen Ratushny, 53, of the Bayville section of Berkeley, thought she had an inner-ear infection. She was suffering from vertigo. She felt nauseous. Around the same time, she found a lump. She went for a biopsy, returned to her job as an elementary school art teacher, and waited for her test results."
In my ongoing research about vertigo, this is the strangest thing I've heard because I was unaware that vertigo could be a symptom of cancer.
Then again ,it is a symptom of so many things, why not cancer too?

Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott

Crooked Little Heart by Anne Lamott picks up several years after her novel Rosie.  Elizabeth and James are making it work even though “it” isn’t always easy.  Their friends Rae and Lank continue to search for love in all the wrong places.  And Rosie has struggles of her own: her best-friend and tennis partner is a flake, she’s being stalked by some guy who loves tennis or little girls, and she’s still trying to make sense of things that happened in the first novel including her father’s death.

I love Lamott’s humor and, as I pointed out before, her humor is lacking in these novels.  I wonder if she’s trying so hard to avoid creating characters that are too much drawn from her own life that she ends up taking out the best (her humor) and leaving the rest.  Obviously some of what she is writing in these novels is taken from her immediate experience.  Changing the details doesn’t change the truth and truth is best served with a solid side of laughter.

I dislike Elizabeth over all.  I just don’t like her.  I wouldn’t want to be her friend and I only might want to be her neighbor because I would like to think the aroma of her roses would occasionally blow in my direction.

I dislike James who seems to me a good mate for Elizabeth mostly because his narcissism matches her own.  He seems more bumbling than engaging.  Rae comes closest to being an interesting character but even she falls tediously flat for me and then Lank is there to balance things out, I suppose. I don’t know.  The adults all bore me.

But Rosie . . . what a character!  Not likeable, necessarily, but she’s an honest character.  She’s interesting because she is both vulnerable and prickly.  You want to get close to her but you don’t dare reach out to hold her.  You feel her pain but never presume to know how to ease it for her.  Maybe because, even though she’s only 13 in this novel, you know she can deal with it and will deal with it.  And even when she’s making really stupid choices, you still sympathize (which is more than I can say for how I ever felt for any of the grown-ups in these novels).

I hope that in the third book (which I currently have “on request” at my library, Rosie will grow up and into Anne Lamott’s humor.  I want Lamott’s humor, dammit! Or maybe like Rae and Lank, I’m looking in the wrong places–Lamott’s novels–and need to start looking where I know I will find it–her essays.

With all of that said, I liked this novel slightly more than Rosie but so slightly that I won’t be giving it more stars or a solid recommendation.  However, the third book may have me revise my opinion of the whole series of Rosie novels.  Given what I know of her already, I have a feeling that I’ll be nudging her into a four star and very recommended category.  To be honest, I’d be surprised if she disappointed me because I think I trust Lamott enough to carry through.  We shall see.