Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Brain plasticity - learning new tricks

Photograph from Hans van der Boom

I dream of Willy Wonka's Fizzy Lifting Drink while making my ponderous, gravity-captured way, feeling as though I'm wearing lead boots from an old diving suit. With the belt weights, a fast trip to the bottom.  Not all the time, not even most of it.  Often enough to know the difference between soaring and sinking.

In the movement, which I have to stop thinking of as New Age and assign a different name, perhaps consciousness, much is made about being in, of and about light.  All, they say, is about energy, about vibration, about ascending from what is old and dense into higher realms. Being stuck in fear, worry, resentment and lack feels like being tied to an anchor.  Love, trust, humor and optimism throw open the doors and windows and make room for more options.  There are specific steps one can take, not just wishing ourselves light as jellyfish, bright as glow-sticks.

This morning while searching for material on brain plasticity not yet found, I came upon a TED talk by Shawn Achor who offered a 21-day program to greater happiness by getting out of our brain ruts, creating new neuropathways (if that is the correct word.)  He suggested, for 21 days, writing down three NEW gratitudes each day, journaling about one positive experience each day, moving one's body in some form of exercise, practicing a form of meditation that removes us from the dreaded and counter-productive multi-tasking (ugh, much-loathed phrase) and focuses us on one thing in the moment, and practicing what he calls Random Acts of Kindness, an example of which is to send, first thing each day, an encouraging or complimentary email to someone.  I think snail mail would count, too.

All of this is in aid of  finally, maybe permanently, unlacing our lead boots, lifting away from the sense of discouraged plodding that can overtake us.  We are more than capable of existing as beings of light, sources of hope and affirmation for each other and ourselves.   We can learn to use our brains differently, to take action that improves our quality of life.  In a podcast yesterday, I heard a speaker, Judith Dack, tell how making small, slow, focused changes in how we move our bodies,  varying our patterns, can produce extraordinary results.  Her talk is available through midnight on Wednesday, Aug. 1, here.  Scroll down to the replay.  Her information gave me hope.

I know as well as I know anything that we are not intended to drag, mope and grouse through our days.  One of the TED talks I heard this morning referred to the very small portion of individual happiness that is affected by externals, compared with the powerful internal influence we have over our moods and even destinies.  Experiments worth trying.  What is there to lose? 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Repost from Feb. 17, 2010 - Summer rerun

Summer reruns.  CBS Sunday Morning sprinkles past segments among the new to the point we forget - almost - whether or not we've heard the story.  A rerun of my own, from February 2010.  Is it laziness or utilizing a resource?  I'll pretend it is reprinted by popular demand.  And repeated thanks to those who left comments then.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

One of a kind, but then aren't we all?

This morning I woke up and realized that no magic had squirmed through the window during the night to allow me to sit down at my keyboard and, just like that, put together sentences that you would mistake for Raymond Chandler's. Dang.

While searching for Late Bloomers, without success unless you want to count people who didn't hit it BIG until they were 30, I thought Chandler might fit into the category.    Alas, he saw "The Big Sleep" hit the bookstores when he was 51, by which time he had been writing for "Black Mask" magazine, on the heels of younger efforts in what his biography described as, "...book reviews and bad poetry."

The Chandler fansite has a changing collection of quotes from his work, each rich and vivid and real enough to remind me why he and his characters endure. From his novel, "The Little Sister," they featured this sentence: She smelled the way the Taj Mahal looks by moonlight. Reading his words makes me smile and I wish life hadn't brought him depression, alcoholism and disenchantment. Even with such plagues, his thoughts and means of expressing them remain true and timeless and cause other writers moments of grief and envy.

If there is a point to this, it is the reminder to keep hold of your vision.   Other than Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses, I wasn't able to construct the hoped-for list of notables for whom success arrived after their hair had gone fully gray. But then we need to discuss what success means. In her novel, "Charms for the Easy Life," Kaye Gibbons has a character tell us of man who survived hanging and, I think, several other unpleasant encounters, yet who had the titled charms in his possession. Observing that the charms seemed not to have helped him, we are told that it all, "...depends on your definition of easy."

Success in achieving peace of mind, in releasing feelings of ill will, of finding good in situations from which it seems to have fled, of remaining open-hearted when word from all sides might call that foolish - where will we find the list of our fellows who achieved that at any age? While we work on the outside, vigorously crossing out unsatisfactory sentences for their inability to hold up from one generation to the next, we can work on the inside. My trickling, emerging awareness tells me that a quiet mind, trust in a good outcome and knowing the difference between who I am and who I am not will carry me in the appropriate direction.

As I try to edge closer to Mr. Chandler, wishing I could offer to carry his briefcase or run to the store for a new bottle of ink or fresh typewriter ribbon, I know it matters that we water and talk to our dreams, encouraging the sprouts, praising the blossom that becomes the peach. It matters that we remember none of this is a contest; to become conscious is neither a team activity nor a competitive sport. It is a process whose language is spoken in words such as emerge, develop, evolve, expand. If we remain steadfast to those as goals, how can we be anything other than successful? Please excuse my ignorance, but I think it is the Shakers who say, "Hands to work, hearts to God." Allowing for varying definitions of God - and success - and the simple joy of a delete button and not all that clumpy White-Out, we can craft tales and art and music that will grow our hearts and pull our aspirations within reach. Those who doubt their ability to lasso the moon only need more time to practice with the rope.


Donna B said...
Excellent post my friend!!! You are an inspiration to me...
Erin in Morro Bay said...
The computer beckoned, and she responded - her words fell on the ear like a million bucks in nickels and dimes. This dame knew her stuff and how to put it across.

Great post!
Donna B said...
Hi Marylinn, please stop by my blog, I have something for you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Music appreciation 101

Those who make music - sing, play, compose, arrange, teach - are among the magicians of this world.  Music is a catapult that delivers us across the high, jagged fences of our darker moments into the flowered and open meadows, into the light.  It is a soft landing.

A friend announced she would be spending this weekend with WUMB (University of Massachusetts Boston) radio and the Newport Folk Festival, incommunicado.  (Visit their site and discover programming that is not available in many markets.  A brief lament for the folk shows that Los Angeles radio used to offer.)  After viewing the line-up for this year's event, I saw NPR has archived past festivals, which led to a quick YouTube search for 2011 and introduced me to the PS22 Chorus.  Here is some background.

In their classroom on the other side of the world, the Gosnells Primary School Recorder Ensemble in West Australia performs. My brother is their teacher. The quenda of the title,  also known as the southern brown bandicoot, lives in my brother's garden. Rather than run in true fool fashion in ever-widening circles of vaguely connected passions for instruments, pieces of songs, musicians, record stores and a Rock-Ola jukebox, I will calm down. PS22, the Gosnells Ensemble and all students of music are eloquent without my help.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

BoBo Babushka interprets Wes Anderson

I planned a post for today, jumping off with the Criterion Collection edition of Wes Anderson's DARJEELING LIMITED.  Searching for a colorful image on Google, I found Irene of BoBo Babushka and her sets of (among others)  Wes Anderson nesting dolls and I think I've forgotten my name.  I know I've forgotten anything else that was on my mind this morning.  This is serious art love.

Just the beginning.  Find the Darjeeling boys here.

Then, on her BoBo Babushka Facebook page (please go and LIKE or leave a message, appreciation makes us all, artists in particular, happy ) I found Team Zissou from Anderson's THE LIFE AQUATIC.

I think I was going to recommend the Criterion edition - for their attention to detail in the transfer, the extras, their knowing what fanboys and fangirls want most from their favorite movies.  Then I turned a corner or my attention was diverted and I found myself in alternate reality, the best part being it IS/they ARE real, I am not dreaming and with bountiful discretionary funds, I could order these wonders from Irene's etsy shop, link found on her blog.  For those of you who get out to the picture show, she also has characters from Anderson's newest, MOONRISE KINGDOM.

I was also going to mention that right now, for how much longer I don't know, the Barnes and Noble website has Criterion titles on special.

For reasons now grown dim, I somehow connected the Darjeeling brothers with a phrase jabbing at me - inventory.  Not the "searching and fearless moral inventory" of the 12-step programs, just inventory, the naming of what is.  I believe it was going to be a list of assets and not deficiencies, though that was naturally my first thought but since we have stacks of those on file here, going back as far as recorded time, it seemed redundant, counter-productive.

Some mornings, just because I'm me and no Beagle Boy has tiptoed in to abscond with any of my baggage during the night , I start out, if not gloomy, at least a bit flat.  This, for no reason I can name, was such a morning.  Right away, I wished for some inner oomph to turn it around.  Instead, outer oomph arrived in note form from a long-time friend.  Then there were reminders about living a remarkable life in a conventional world and then I found the dolls, specific down to the smiling skull and crossbones on the cobra's box, the bandages and the deceased father's sunglasses perched atop a head.

My inventory will keep; I trust none of us is holding any breath waiting for it to appear.  I'd much rather bask in serendipity, remembering I live in a world that some may call conventional but I see, when my head is not someplace it doesn't belong, as magical.   Thank you, Irene. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Writing class at the home school

Maybe it is too much Pablo Neruda, too much wondering how the writer slips out of his own skin and becomes the water, the leaf mold, a Chilean winter.  Maybe it is too many years of interviews, press releases, weddings with peau de soie and stephanotis.  Too much telling, too little being.

Reporting trains us in useful skills:  paying attention, taking really fast, legible notes, writing under pressure and in chaos, presenting information.  It does not train merging.  It is not preparation for shape shifting.

What I think I am beginning to understand about poetry is the need to inhabit.  The Method Acting of writing.  In it, one has a single task, to be.  To be the loneliness, the anticipation, the fire, the furniture.

This truth has been stalking me.  It jostles me roughly on crowded rail platforms, cuts me off in traffic shouting expletives.  I believe it is how one lifts out of dead places with hollow sounds and ascends to music.  Now all that remains is the doing of it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Making friends

Sundance: I wasn’t cheating.
Macon: You can die. For that matter, you both can die.
Sundance: If he invites us to stay, then we’ll go.
Butch: We gotta leave anyway.
Sundance: He’s got to invite us to stick around.
Butch: I’m over the hill, but it can happen to you.
Sundance: That’s just what I want to hear.
Butch: Every day you get older, now that’s a law.
Butch approaches Macon.
Butch: What would you think about maybe asking us to stick around?
Macon: What?
Butch: You don’t have to mean it or anything, just ask us to stick around, I promise you–
Macon shoves Butch aside. Butch turns to Sundance.
Butch: I can’t help you, Sundance.
Macon freezes. Sundance stands up.
Macon: I didn’t know you were the Sundance Kid when I said you were cheating. If I draw on you, you’ll kill me.
Sundance: There’s that possibility.
Butch: No, you’d be killing yourself. Why don’t you just invite us to stick around? You can do it. And easy. C’mon.
Macon: Why dontcha stick around?
Butch: Thanks, but we gotta get going.
– Sundance (Robert Redford), Butch (Paul Newman), Macon (Donnelly Rhodes), Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969), written by William Goldman

(with thanks to Scott Myers)

Recently and repeatedly I've encountered messages advising me to be on more agreeable terms with what vexes (torments) me.  In my daily emailed Note from the Universe, the question was, "Want to move a mountain?  Befriend it."  Yesterday the suggestion was longer.  

"If you can fall in love with just one thing about him, her, them, it, or you, Marylinn, just once a day, and speak it aloud, you'll be surprised at how quickly this will transform your entire life.

I love that look on your face when the coin drops -
    The Universe"

****(Okay, I have to report that I cannot get the fonts to change and match nor can I have this text in a stand-out color and no amount of love is going to make me happy about it, but there it is.)****
Over the past three days, I have tuned in to podcasts that share the application of such principles.  It reminded me of the scene from Butch Cassidy and how, maybe, we can make something leave by asking it to stick around.

To speak love, acceptance and welcome over aches, pains, tremors, unsure footing, life-long depression, fear, anxiety and every other presumed defect of body or character is unknown country.  I am not familiar with the customs here.  What I assume, though, is trying something so radically different cannot possibly make any of it worse.  To feel that I am no longer swimming against my own tide or that of the wider world would be so peaceful.  My arms are tired.  I find - I have found - it difficult to believe that our brief time here does not include larger portions of contentment, quiet mind, joy.  Having seen myself - and I know I am not alone in this, many of us have this in common - as a nearly-impossible fixer-upper into whom most of my energy needs to be poured to keep the roof from caving in or a portal to hell opening in the living room floor, has half-consumed and wearied me for years.  More than two decades.

The series of programs this week, about which I received notices that I chose to ignore, featured Panache Desai whose own descriptions of his history and work tell the story better than I can.   That the series was free made me less wary and that it was suggested by a friend whom I know to be much more fluent in this sort of transformation, who knows, too, what I seek, told me just to go ahead.

I am not sharing this because I have experienced the shift from an old, estranged self to the whole, radiant, authentic being the teachings assure is possible.  Instead I am sharing this part of the process, perhaps a new willingness simply to allow all that is me without my own ever-present stink eye given when I fall short of some artificial ideal.  I cannot even pretend that I know how to fall in love with my arthritis, with my fatigue, my too-often indifferent ways.  So I am going to walk around the table and come at all of this from a different direction.  "I'd really like you to stay around," I say, making new friends from old afflictions.  In unison, they answer, "Thanks, but we gotta get going."  I hope with hot and spangled passion there will be more to report. xo

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Go. Go now and make something.

Vintage collage from the Rubbermoon archives
On their Facebook page, Rubbermoon owner Debra Valoff has shared the collage, inviting friends/fans/everyone to print it and MAKE SOMETHING. Be sure you return there and post your creation.


What messages do I take from seeing this piece again?  I assume it did not pop up yesterday devoid of meaning.  It reminds me that order may be over-rated, that color is king (or queen), more may be just the right amount, the hand often knows more than the mind, matching anything is not required and no piece of good can ever be considered too small to be of value.

 AND, because I am having great fun today with red letters, this is my 400th published blog post.  Who knew?  Thank you all for being here.  xo

Monday, July 9, 2012

Seeking a lighter touch

The TARDIS, Rose and The Doctor
In an attempt to feel less earth-bound, to rediscover - or just discover - a lighter touch in writing, to find themes more air-filled, as opposed to leaden, "imaginary maps" arrived as a topic.  Down Google's sometimes Byzantine paths I arrived here, which led me here and here to views of the sky through the ages.

But other planetary - earth-bound - curiosities lurked on this page.

This exhibition explores the Victorian fascination with polar and glacial ice in the period from 1818 to 1860. In 1818, the British Navy began to send out expeditions in search of a Northwest Passage, broadening the search around 1840 to include Antarctica. Also around 1840, the glacial theory was proposed and debated, and the ice at the poles became the key to envisioning the ice ages of the past.

And also,

Napoleon and the Scientific Expedition to Egypt
The French expeditionary force that occupied Egypt under Napoleon's command from July 1798 until 1801 included some of France's leading scientists. Their work was published as the Description de l'Égypte, which is featured in this exhibition, along with other rare books that document the story of the French scientific expedition to Egypt.

Right now, feeling the effects of gravity seems less a failure of the poetic, the imaginative, and more a simple part of being an inhabitant of this planet.   Today I lack the wits and the energy to explore the romance of ice or Napoleon as scientist, but wanted to remind us all that voyages through space and time, as Dr. Who will attest, never quite take you where you think they will.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Poetry and dream

Water Dreaming 072 by Walangari Kamtawarra, on-line gallery here
"Poetry is not only dream and vision; it is the skeleton architecture of our lives. It lays the foundations for a future of change, a bridge across our fears of what has never been before."
Audre Lorde


When one is not a poet, the only choice left is to get as close as possible. The apprenticeship is forever and worth each agonizing, deleted, reconsidered word that moves one forward.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

We hope for easier

I think I disabled Word Verification - putting an end to one thing (or as I first typed it, thang) that makes you worry about visual degeneration.  I hope commenting becomes easier.