Archive for October, 2009

Nothing “out there” is the reason!

Posted on October 29, 2009. Filed under: EFT, Health, HowTo, Philosophy, Science |

I must have uttered this phrase four or five times during the last group session I facilitated. There were so many things our clients wanted to “blame”! Well, we worked on those things, and then I went home, and confronted myself. I would never ask someone to take a position I wouldn’t embrace. If I don’t “practice what I preach”, I have no integrity. I do think it’s OK to not act integrally, it’s just not where I currently want to be.

So, back to confronting myself about my own stuff: What does this post title mean, anyway? It’s a philosophical position, for one thing, but also a principle of theoretical physics. I don’t know that science defines philosophy or behavior, but, the more I study these things, the more I can’t tell them apart; truly.

Here’s a quote to get us going:

We know now in physics, since *Heisenberg, that the classical ideal of scientific objectivity can no longer be maintained. Scientific research involves the observer as a participator and this involves the consciousness of the human observer. Hence, there are no objective properties of nature, independent of the human observer. …scientists are now not only intellectually responsible for their research but also morally responsible. —Fritjof Capra

So, if there is something not optimum in our lives, here is whose fault it’s not:

The Government; Our Parents; Lack of Education; Too much Education; Our Gender, Race, Sexual Orientation; Our Physical Disability; Our Neighbor with the Barking Dog; Our Unpleasant Teacher in the Third Grade. You get the idea.

The objection I most often hear to this position goes something like this:  “But, that sounds like you are blaming the victim! That’s not fair! No one asks to get cancer, or be mugged, or get into a car crash! This is a mean, elitist, pompous philosophy, with no compassion for people’s real problems!!!”

At one point in my conscious eruption, I felt the need to “explain” when people said things like this. I’d say, “No one is saying anyone ‘asks’ for things that cause them pain. The illness or condition arises out of years of hypnotic programming by a society that thinks matter is causal, rather than consciousness. There is no blame involved, only acknowledgement of the amazing journey ones path has been, so far, and the realization that one can change it once one learns one can, and has the right tools.”

I went on like this for quite a while, because I believed that a questioner had a right to a logical explanation. Also, there was a part of me hoping to convince them my position was the right one—an emotional need which does not honor my actual belief.

Now, I realize that the person addressing me may simply be on a different journey. There is no need for them to embrace my particular truth, as helpful as it has been for me. The fact that they are there, in my life in some capacity, questioning my reality, does say that the questioning is part of the process for them and for me. We both have something to learn from the interaction.

Of course, this restriction doesn’t apply in the groups I facilitate. :) Those attending know perfectly well the principles on which the group operates; they can choose to attend, or not, and if they do attend, they are most likely willing to at least explore the possibilities of shifting their realities in  directions they like better. Given the phone calls and reports we receive, participants lives are getting better—or they think they are, and either way, it’s OK with me!

I read an exercise which illustrates this, and which I’ve done, now. It asks us to list one or two or three things that have happened in our lives which were very difficult at the time. These could involve health issues, loss of relationship, or physical or emotional hardship. It then directs us to find at least three positive outcomes from those issues, and list them. It suggests that we would not be the person we are today, if those things had not happened.

Sometimes we have an ongoing issue, like a chronic illness, which seems to have outgrown its usefulness. Our bodies are dense—in both senses of the word—and often take a considerable time to “catch up” to where we are mentally, or, more accurately, in consciousness. In this case, energy techniques like EFT can help tremendously. We need something to shift the energy out of old patterns of behaviour and expectation.

Mirror-Frame-W-031A- So, arriving home after facilitating just such a session of energy techniques (and benefitting myself, quite a lot, as well!) I find myself wanting to be very careful to put the “blame” for any condition I continue to experience, positively or negatively, squarely where it belongs: on that splendid person looking back at me from the mirror!

*Werner Heisenberg, theoretical physicist, proposed a “field of potential” in developing the Uncertainty Principle in modern physics.
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Disclosures

Posted on October 21, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, Philosophy, Spirituality |

Disclosure:   1. The act or process of revealing or uncovering.  2. Something uncovered; a revelation.

I title this post somewhat ambiguously, as several events have transpired to inspire it. I’m acknowledging a couple of awards I received recently; the first from blog friend and spiritual theorist Julian, the UU Deist. He has bestowed upon me the following:

The Honest Scrap Award

The Honest Scrap Award

I am deserving of this, he says, because I …*don’t hold back much on what I think…and I make Julian want to scratch his brain!*… Wow! I *honestly* am honored. I feel a bit weird accepting the award because, there are many things about myself I have *not* disclosed…but Julian really gets that I do share my deepest truths, here. What I generally don’t talk about are surface superficialities, anyway.

So, thank you Julian—I think! Along with the award comes a task. I am charged with this:  “When you get the Honest Scrap award, you are meant to grace your readers with 10 honest things about yourself, and then pass on the award to other blog friends who write honestly and truly about themselves and events in their lives.”  I tend to see this as an instruction to confess ten secrets I had previously told to very few people, and not at all on my blog. This in turn makes me think the “things” are either very “bad” or embarrassing, or else I would have disclosed them already, right?

Not necessarily. If I have to pull out 10 things I don’t generally discuss from my strange and wonderful life, I would think most are of the “deep dark secret” kind, but I hope to sprinkle in a few goodies, too. So, here they are, in no particular order:

1. I think that one or more of my great uncles may have been a N a z i. The American immigrants from my father’s side of the family came from Germany during the years leading up to WWII. Of the nine siblings, two brothers stayed in Germany, two children had died, and the other five brothers and sisters settled in and around San Francisco. Two brothers served in the American Army, and their sisters did war work. None of my uncles and aunts would talk about the war, to their children or anyone else. I’ve concluded, from looking into it, that the brothers who stayed in Germany very likely were conscripted into the German Army. I don’t really want to pursue it much further than that because, although I was born well after the war, of course, I was sometimes called “The N a z i” by the mean kids at school, when they learned of my German heritage. I wonder why kids are like this? I’m glad I didn’t know I was possibly related to real N a z is then. The German brothers came for a visit to America after the war, but I never met them. My family has a picture of all the surviving brothers and sisters taken on that occasion; I think sometime in the 50s. It’s terribly emotionally evocative to look at. The German brothers look so much like their American brothers. I don’t know what their politics were, or what they may have felt forced to do, in order to protect themselves and their families. I may never know. *see note about The Shadow Effect, below.

2. Disclosure item #1 went on much longer than I thought it would. I have a deep fear that I ramble too much; that no one wants to read my long blog posts, even me; and that you all secretly don’t like me. There. I’ve said it.

3. I like to write late at night. I like to have a half-glass of red wine (whine?) while I write. This probably accounts for the strangeness of some of my posts.

4. When I was in Kindergarten (5 years old) I hated the kind of underwear my mother made me wear. It was heavy cotton sort of “transition-big-kid” underwear. I wanted something lighter like the real big kids wore. One day, during lunchtime, I went into the restroom and took off my underwear. I balled them up in my fist, and went to deposit them in the trash can outside, but I missed! Several kids saw my underpants land on the ground, and they teased me and poked me in the behind the rest of the day.

5. Which leads me to this: I used to sort of be a nudist! When I lived in Hawaii, it was so humid (and I’d usually gotten rained on sometime during the day) that when I got home, I immediately stripped off every last stitch, and spent the rest of the evening that way. If I was alone, I mean. Well, you know, most of the time. I did at least close the blinds before I put on the light so I would not torment enchant my neighbors!

6. When I was very young, I was taken to see the movie Mary Poppins by my babysitter. Although I’d already had a lot of social conditioning by age 6, the film presented things like being able to levitate, and to jump into a chalk sidewalk painting so matter-of-factly, that I accepted the reality of them. My babysitter did not tell me such things “weren’t really real” as my parents would have done, so for nearly a year after saw Mary Poppins do it, I practiced levitation in my room at night. I would focus on a corner of the room, and project my consciousness there. It felt to me as if I were flying, just as did Ed Wynn and the children in the movie. To this day, I don’t know if I “really” flew, or if I had an out-of-body experience, or if I flew in my imagination. All I know is that it was absolutely real. Honest.

7. Another issue *The Shadow Effect brought up for me: In my public life I am very neat, precise; perhaps even anal-retentive. At home I am, well, not as much. I am afraid you will think less of me when I tell you this. I will say that because of the contemplative week I’m having, I took a good look around, and put away all my clothes and things before I started writing this. Still need a system to deal with paperwork, though.

8. When I was four years old, I had learned a lot of German folks songs from my father. I spoke very good German then (hardly a word, now) :( I used to swing on my swingset and sing songs at the top of my lungs. The neighbors would come out on their porches to listen. I was completely unaffected; unashamed; unassuming. This was the start of my “stellar” music career, although I’ve never sung with such freedom and abandon since.

9. I am among people a lot. I facilitate and/or am a member of several groups, and although I work at home a great deal, I see many people in the groups where I also provide leadership. Still, I am often lonely. Individual friendships come harder to me. It’s one of the reasons I like blogging. I can say what I like here, at any time of the day or night.

10. Most important: When I am feeling lonely, or any of the other unwanted emotions I’ve expressed above, I do have techniques I can use to help me to become centered and balanced again. Yoga, Meditation, Emotional Freedom Techniques and my Journal all help me connect with the greater Truth of me. When I am there; all is well. And that is the truth.

I pass this prestigious honor on to:

The Oriel, because the truth of her soul shines through;

Joan Harvest, because she pulls no punches;

Apar, because she never denies who she is no matter what.

~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~   ~

Remember I said early on that I had recently been the recipient of TWO awards? What a nice month this has been. This award was given me by the wonderful book blogger, nylusmilk, over at The Literary Pursuit. She believes that I write  “beautifully on subject matters that make you sit back and think for a bit.”  —Wow! I’m so pleased to be thought of this way; thank you nylusmilk. There are a lot of rules attached to this award:

1

  • Each Superior Scribbler must in turn pass The Award on to 5 most-deserving Bloggy Friends.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must link to the author & the name of the blog from whom he/she has received The Award.
  • Each Superior Scribbler must display The Award on his/her blog, and link to This Post, which explains The Award.
  • Each Blogger who wins The Superior Scribbler Award must visit this post and add his/her name to the Mr. Linky List. That way, we’ll be able to keep up-to-date on everyone who receives This Prestigious Honor!
  • Each Superior Scribbler must post these rules on his/her blog.

Bloggers are writers by definition, and my thought is that anyone who persists in writing for a fair amount of time must deserve a Superior Scribbler Award. Therefore, it is difficult to choose among the very fine blogs I read.

I will pass this on to several of those I consider “real” writers; and I’ll let you choose what I mean by that.

TheBeadDen – I am inspired by her passion.

cjwriter – He writes his truth beautifully, and with great craft.

DeirdraKiai – Social Issues; Intelligence; Wit…and Game Design! Need I say more?

ThePrincedom – A personal journey unfolding differently each day.

WillRhodes – Informed political opinion; not the other kind.

I would include ella, but she’s just moved, so I’ll let her unpack. Besides, she doesn’t much like memes!

Thank you for participating…or not, as you choose. I respect all choices.

* I saw this film over the weekend. There were segments on the children of N a z i s, and also on those who live differently behind closed doors. It’s a powerful and strange film…
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“Climate Change” is B.A.D. (?)

Posted on October 15, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, Musings, Philosophy, Science |

“B.A.D.” stands for “Blog Action Day”, an interesting acronym, considering…

Is there a global crisis? Or just a global point of interest?

I’ve been blogging now for two and one-fourth years, and in that time I’ve had the opportunity and joy to participate in two previous Blog Action Days. The event takes place on October 15th each year. My 2007 post, on “Environment” is here, with a follow-up here; and the 2008 post, which was supposed to be on “Poverty”, but I changed to “Plenty” can be found here, and its own follow-up here.

I fully realize that these “action” days are meant to focus on “activism”. I’m happy to participate with other bloggers writing about the same topic on the same day. There’s something inspiring about that! I salute those who are seeing a way to bring good into the world, and are sharing that with the rest of us.

I just feel, this year, more than previously, that there is a built-in bias in the position taken on “Climate Change” by the organizers and sponsors, namely, that “Climate Change” (at least they’re not using the term “Global Warming”) is human-caused; we are not-nice people for causing this, and that it will naturally spell disaster for our lovely blue planet, unless we act, now!

This is backwards thinking, to me. I would much rather imagine the planet as whole, and functional. I would rather do all I can, as an individual, to live gently on our beautiful home, but trust her to take care of herself. There may be what many perceive to be a crisis, but often in human history, a crisis brings out new and innovative technology and philosophy. I believe that’s entirely possible now.

As a person who likes to look for the best in any situation, I have been accused of putting my head in the sand. This is not necessarily a “bad” thing. I believe it does no good to run around saying “Oh, my! This is terrible! We’re all going to die!!!” For one thing, we are, actually, all going to die. I’ve heard of very few exceptions to that, and those have not been personally verified by me. So, it’s not a question of the fact of our deaths, but WHEN and HOW. If we do our best to live our truths, and to act as examples to others, there is no need to accuse others of “ruining” the planet. We’ll just naturally do what is right.

I’m not in denial about the changing conditions on the world. The polar ice caps do indeed seem to be melting. There is concern about many issues related to this. I’m not, though, entirely convinced that this is a result of human intervention primarily, or that this may not actually be a natural cycle that, in the end, will do the word some good.

Here is one alternative point of view:

GLOBAL WARMING: A Boon to Humans and Other Animals

Now, please believe that I don’t “buy” this article any more than I do the “doom and gloom” conclusions. I am not an environmental scientist; I have not studied this extensively. I do think the article makes some excellent points, and is an interesting read.

We don’t actually KNOW what Climate Change will bring. It may be time for the human species to undergo a change. We tend to resist change, yet change is constant. I find it an exciting prospect to imagine what kinds of innovations will result from our interaction with our earthly reality.

Climate Change *may* be GOOD news. We’ll just have to see. May the world, and all her inhabitants, be blessed today.

flaglobe

***More good news about the environment can be found here.

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My thoughts on “Age”

Posted on October 13, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Philosophy |

In the first of (maybe) a series of quizzie posts, I’m looking at the issue of  Age. I took a Blogthings Quiz called “What age do you act?”. Interesting question, because one of the reasons I blog (which I’ve repeated ad nauseum here, so forgive me if you’ve read this before) is that this is a place where I can just express “me” as “ME”, without reference to such qualifiers as relationship status, occupation, sexual preference, gender, race, political leanings, height, weight, and a host of others, including, of course…age! I have been told, repeatedly, over the course of my life, to “act my age”, but I don’t think I really have…

Here are my quiz results:

You Act Like You Are 32 Years Old

“You are a thirty-something at heart. You’ve had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

“You’re responsible, wise, and have enough experience to understand a lot of the world.

“You’re at the point in your life where you understand yourself pretty well.
You are figuring out what you want… and how to get it!”

I’ve taken many quizzes from this site before. Some are fairly lightweight and silly, while others offer…if not definitive answers…provocative discussion material. This one, I think, was well-structured. It did contain some pertinent evaluative questions.

I’m not, actually, 32 years old. However I have been or will be, and I find this evaluation of my “age” quite acceptable. I have a friend who says: “My age is none of your business. In fact, it’s none of MY business.” I get what he means, here. Society places a set of expectations upon certain age groups; in my culture it starts early with the phrase “the terrible twos”. This implies that as soon as your infant reaches two years old, she will be a terror! For a whole year! I have had some young relatives and friends who’ve entered and left that year while remaining relatively charming the whole time. It most definitely is NOT inherent, or necessary, that an age expectation become an age reality!

I have another friend who, after meeting someone new, will ask me “How old do you think s/he is?” Actually, now that I think about it, she doesn’t ask me that much anymore, because I don’t “play nice” in this game. I’ll say “I dunno. 38? 62?”—I really don’t have a clue, a lot of the time. You must have noticed that most people over the age of 25-30 or so, vary widely in how much they “look their age”. I’ve heard, countless times from people (including myself, hehe), when made aware of a colleague’s age for the first time: “I can’t believe they’re only XX! They look at least YY!!!”, or the other way around.

To me, the age one “seems” has a few components:

1. Your face. Your face is the most personal part of you, and tells a story. The story includes things like how much solar radiation you have been exposed to, whether you have smoked tobacco a lot in your life, your general state of health, perhaps plastic surgery if that applies, and, the most important: how much stress you’ve had and/or been able to eliminate in life, AND how much joy and pleasure you’ve experienced. Most of these things are modifiable, to some extent.

2. Your body. Basically, if you are actively pursuing the three aspects of physical well-being (strength, flexibility, and aerobic capacity) to the extent you are able, you will do much to feel comfortable in your body and the world. I realize that many people have physical issues, and I’m not trying to give advice, here. What I am doing, however, is agreeing with some writers that in my western culture we have become a civilization of muscle-atrophy, rather than muscle maintenance. Our bodies are meant to be used! (by ourselves, not others—that’s another topic!), and most people with disabilities or results from injuries can do something to help their situation with exercise, even if it requires help from physical therapists.

There was a fascinating study regarding people in their 90s, all residents of a retirement center. They had been “put out to pasture” by society, for all intents and purposes. A team came in and taught them how to lift weights safely, starting slowly and gently. After a period of time, some residents who had been in wheelchairs (not because of illness or injury, just because it was “easier” for them and their caretakers) began to walk. Those that could walk began to dance. Almost all reported an increased level of well-being; and no wonder!

3. Many advisers counsel good nutrition as an important component of remaining young-feeling. I’m not convinced that any one eating method is the best, but will say that eating nutritious food, most of the time, just feels better, along with supporting the immune system and regulating weight. But it does have to feel good to the person involved, and, without a junk-food binge once in a while, many of us would feel deprived!

4. Which brings me to the most important item: How one feels emotionally! This single point of attention overrides all the others. In fact, one can be completely physically disabled, yet still feel fulfilled, excited and looking forward to each day. There are times when I’m decidedly NOT feeling that way, and my first order of business has to be to get as close to that feeling as I can, as soon as I can. All else stems from that. Sometimes I do this by complaining about my circumstances. I do allow myself a small amount of time to do that, but choose to be careful that it doesn’t become addicting. Other ways to deal are some old new age tools (is that contradictory?) like making a list of ten things I appreciate, or sitting quietly and breathing consciously for 20 minutes or so. Anyone reading this surely has their own ways to feel better. It’s probably best if those don’t involve excessive food, drugs, or alcohol; but who am I to say? ;)

Here is a fun (?) “Virtual Age” calculator that takes some of the above items into account. While I don’t agree on the importance of ALL the factors they are measuring there, it does provide some indications. According to this calculator, I have a life expectancy of 94! (Hmm, wonder if I’m going to be blogging all that time. Better start listing some more topics.) :D

One of the gazillion things I like about blogging is that I meet people here of many different ages, some of whom I might not encounter if met in “Real Life”, because they are X number of years older or younger than I. I’ve noticed for a long time that some “adults” don’t really want to talk to or take seriously people who are 10 or 20 years younger than themselves; in the blogworld I tend to meet the person first, and find out their age later, if at all. This suits me; I get to find out about them right away without—even unconsciously—categorizing them first. People of any age have valuable things to say, and I’m pleased I can learn from those who are quite young. :)

Lest this post get too long (oh, well, too late) I’ll just close with a few comments on the old adage that “age is a state of mind”. I truly believe this, not in an abstract, “let’s affirm it” sort of way, but literally. Sometimes days go by when I don’t think about my age, as a number, at all, and when someone asks me to tell them (and I choose to) I might have to think for a moment or two to remember what it is. (Or, is that just early senility setting in?) ;) Quite honestly, I don’t CARE how old other people are, and, for the most part, how old I am. People are just people, and the more I can let go of the need to classify them in one way or another, the happier I am.

So, thanks for reading, from a happy 32-year-old. If the Intertubes say it, it must be true, right?

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Cat, Twitter, and the alternate ME

Posted on October 9, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Games, Musings |

I’ve been on a long(ish), strange journey for the past couple of months: It all started with a Tweet (a short text message using the social networking provider “Twitter“) back in mid-August from Carocat, who (and I may actually forgive her for this; haven’t decided yet) posted a link to a music video. “Nice”, I thought, “I like Cat’s taste in many things. So, I clicked. I watched. And listened. I was enthralled. I was a little embarrassed. Why?

In addition to being a great music vid with a catchy tune and good production values, it poked fun at online gamers. Until recently (more about that in a minute) I hadn’t played ANY online role playing games, although I was, and am, an avid adventure gamer. I knew about these people, though: They spend hours of every day forming alliances, protecting their virtual land, and virtual virtue (not!), and engaging in battle and/or skills tests and/or wheeling and dealing. And hooking up! This didn’t SOUND like something I’d be interested in.

Still, the music video was hilarious, sexy, and, unlike a lot of game related items, did not gratify the male gamers at the expense of the female. Although the star (and lyricist) of the video is a woman, I felt that both genders were equally exploited. (That was a joke. Although it’s true. The video is a spoof, after all.) (I’m being awfully parenthetical in this particular post. These things write themselves, you know. Oh, wait, I’m supposed to say “These things don’t write themselves.” Except, they sort of do.)

The video is Do You Wanna Date My Avatar?. Since the day Cat foisted it on me made me aware of it, I must have watched it 20 times. I began to be curious about the people behind it. Heading on over to YouTube, I found the video featured the cast of a web series, The Guild. I feel I may have been among the last of the gamers to know of The Guild. They were already producing Season 3! This video series, if you don’t know, which you do, because I’m the only one who didn’t, is about a “guild” of six players of a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (that’s a real term, with its own acronym: MMORPG), and their lives on- and offline. It’s full of cliché and wit; disturbing distortions, and utter truth. The characters are engaging, and while I hadn’t been an MMORPG’er, I could relate to many of the situations. The game appears to be the central focus of their lives. Oh my.

Back on YouTube, I watched the entire series from episode one. I watched about three or four episodes a day (they’re between 5 and 9 minutes in length) until I was all caught up and as restless for Season 3 to begin as were those viewers who’d been there from the beginning. What to do? There were still ten days until the new series!

A new fan waiting for the next fix, I started hanging around the fora on The Guild‘s website (WatchTheGuild.com), and, while there, I came across a spoof/tribute video called I’m Too Busy To Date Your Avatar. This was all in graphic images, was very well done, and very strange, I thought. The Avatar Star, I was told, is a prominent events organizer in a thing called Second Life. Vague stirrings of memory fluttered at my brain. I’d known of this…game? virtual world? alternate reality? for a while, and had mostly heard two things about it: People build stuff there!, and, It’s ALL about cyber-s e x!!!

Quite honestly, up until that moment, the idea of Second Life kind of frightened me. I wasn’t sure I would know how to “be” in a place like that. The Guild resonated with me on many levels, although I don’t like to play games involving a lot of weapons and shooting things, and “hooking up”. Hopping over to Second Life‘s website, I found that, while one can do all those things there, there’s so much else to do as well. It’s not a “game” in the traditional sense. There are no outcomes; no particular goals; no winners. One wanders around, and learns how to design and render virtual buildings, or clothing, or other useful objects. Sounds kind of dull, actually. It is kind of dull, actually…but…

After snooping for a bit, I finally signed up for a free account. It really is free, but there is an in-world economy one can participate in if one chooses. I won’t go on about what Second Life is or is not; there are plenty of reviews which point out the joys and foibles of the place, and SL’s own website gives a great overview.

I will say I was positively influenced by the fact that, some time before I joined, they moved all “adult” or X-rated content into a protected area. While the whole site is for age 18+ (they have another version for teens), a player (or “resident”) must prove their age in order to enter the “adult” areas. These are pretty wild, (so I hear) ;) and fully deserve the reputations they have earned. I’m fine with them being there, I just appreciate the ability to choose.

It’s very much fun to “tweak” the appearance of my Avatar. I have a lot more to learn. I have this sort of…well, you’ll have to go see if you want to know what my Avatar looks like. It resembles the “real” me quite a lot, actually, but, I’m even more attractive in person! (You’ll have to take my word for that.) Of course, I have the ability to completely change my Avatar at any moment, so the next time you see me I might be a Gargoyle, or something.

MusE Starsmith, Second Life resident

This is the first time I’ve had a game Avatar! I’ve only played first person (where one doesn’t see ones body) and third person (where one plays as the in-game main character) adventure games, so this is quite new to me. I run all over the place in this self-modified body! I can also jump, turn somersaults, fly, and teleport! Whee! I’m a person who believes we could do all those things in real life, too, if we only believed we could. One of the things I’m doing in that “other” world is using my experiences to examine consciousness! Really! It’s a fascinating psychological and social study.

For social networking fans, there are text chat, voice chat, and group discussions. I’ve already met some really thoughtful and intelligent people—almost as nice as the ones that read my blog! ;) My very favorite features are these: I can explore many types of environments from ancient ruins to futuristic spaceports (check out the Star Trek Museum, and the detailed representation of Stonehenge). There are groups of like-minded souls who wish to discuss science and consciousness; my favorite things. I appreciate all the nice beaches, as I’m generally in the desert, miles from water.

So, far, I’m finding the experience exhilarating, disturbing, strange, compelling, potentially addicting, unnerving, awe-inspiring, and fascinating. Sounds like a good fit for my personality. :) I’m taking a class from MIT! That’s another thing: There are quite a few universities and businesses that have a Second Life “presence”. Virtual classrooms abound. Any subject matter; almost any place or fantasy you can imagine can be found in Second Life. It is a guilty pleasure, but since my belief system doesn’t put much stock in guilt, I don’t mind! I like that the whole world in SL is user-generated content. I don’t know if I’ll participate in starting a business or building a home, but, you never know. One can spend a lot of money in there, but it’s not necessary in order to have a fully immersive experience.

So, if I’ve been a little preoccupied, this is (one of the reasons) why. If you’re already a Second Lifer, and hadn’t told me (!) come on over and say “Hi”. If you haven’t taken the plunge, yet, one of the fun things to learn is how to find people and say ‘Hi”. Considering how much I *don’t* care for networks like Facebook (sorry, FBookies), that’s how much I DO like this virtual world, where I can do or be anything I can imagine. Much like…life!

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Me and the Tao: coming along.

Posted on October 2, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

yin_yang One of the things I’ve always appreciated about both Taoism and Buddhism is that each of them can be practiced as a religion, or studied as a philosophy. I’m sure that’s true of all spiritual writings, really, but there is no onus in the writings of the Tao on practicing a particular ritual. It’s not required, or commanded, or even encouraged particularly. There are those who do practice it as a religion, who would probably tell you it must be ritualised a certain way, but, I just choose not to mind them. I’m not much for religious ritual, but do like discussing philosophy. In addition, when a philosophical principle catches my fancy, I enjoy adding it to my spiritual practice, just not in a specific, ritualistic way. So, Taoism suits me, but I don’t consider myself a Taoist.

I’ve known of the Tao te Ching (or “The Way”) for many years. I’ve read the entire text of 81 verses, in several translations, and have discussed them, mostly in the context of “Comparative Religion” classes and seminars. I’m not sure I’m fond of the “Comparative Religion” model any more. The seminars I’ve taken have a series of questions about “each of the major religions in the world”. Those go something like this:

  • How does the religion see God?
  • What is its view of an afterlife?
  • What are its essential practices?
  • What is the human’s role in the scheme of things?
  • Is there a scheme of things, and what is it? How do we know that?
  • etc., etc., —you get the idea.

After we’ve “thoughtfully considered” each of theses questions for each of the teachings we’re studying, we then make lists of the comparisons and contrasts. I always got the feeling that the instructor was about to shout “May the best religion win!”

I just don’t find this kind of thing useful now. Study–or not. Learn because it’s exciting and fulfilling to you—or not. So, I shall be clear from the beginning that I did not sign up for a discussion group focused on the Tao te Ching in order to increase my cultural understanding of the people who practice it, or in order to “compare” it to other teachings more familiar to me. I was drawn to The Way by the simplicity of it, which in turn becomes practical if we really listen to and implement the words.

One does not have to agree with every word in order to benefit from learning Taoism; in fact Lao Tsu (or Lao Tse, in some transliterations), the originator of the 81 verses, would probably laugh at someone “trying” to do so. The phrases are there to contemplate, and in doing so lead us towards the river of life. Once there, we can float blissfully down stream, as long as we don’t need to fight with the seeming ease of it. Where many of us run into discomfort, myself included, is when we try to either “figure stuff out”, or power our way through a situation. In most cases, letting things be until it is clear how to act allows us a focused, more peaceful state of mind, and in the end gets more accomplished with less effort.

This is my favorite saying. This is just how I want to feel most days, if possible:

Let your community be small, with only a few people;
Keep tools in abundance, but do not depend upon them;

Appreciate your life and be content with your home;
Sail boats and ride horses, but don’t go too far;
Keep weapons and armour, but do not employ them;
Let everyone read and write,
Eat well and make beautiful things.

Live peacefully and delight in your own society;
Dwell within cock-crow of your neighbours,
But maintain your independence from them.

I found it fascinating that several of the group members were uncomfortable with the above quote; one extremely so. He said it sounded as if one must stay close to home and never travel, to have some tools (like computers!), but not use them. I told him I thought he took the phrases much more literally than I did. Even literally, though, the verse had positive associations for me. If it’s used as a guide, a metaphor if you will, I believe we can still travel, and learn, and follow The Way, and we can have tools (the verse says even in abundance)—but I like the advice not to depend on them.  yin yang computer

It’s been very hard, since the dawn of electricity, and even more so since the era of the Internet, for humans to imagine being disconnected from their tools. {Nonono, don’t take my computer! And my refrigerator!—other things I might be able to live without.} A splendid exercise, and one I haven’t done for a long time, is to go camping in the wilderness for a period of time. I’ve never done it for more than 10 days in a row, but one does get a sense of expansiveness in that length of time. Of course, I had a machine-made sleeping bag and tent, and brought along pre-packaged camping food. There were also certain chemicals (biodegradable, honest!) which enabled one to dig a toilet area and have it be tolerable. Without those manufactured items to start with, I don’t know if my experience would have been as delightful. :)

When I did this, I awoke much earlier than I do at home; with the sunrise. There was running water: a swiftly flowing stream. I washed in the chilly water, and cooked my breakfast over a campfire. I spent the days hiking, reading (I did bring books!), chatting with my companions, and appreciating the vastness of the universe. We didn’t go to bed at sundown, but sat cosily around the campfire for a while, singing songs and telling stories. It sounds cliched, but we really did that. No electricity; no plumbing; no…computer! It was  wonderful. The sky was so big without buildings to obscure it. The air was fresh; the stars brighter than in any city.

The thing is, we tend to romanticize these moments, as I have just done here. It was lovely, but I wouldn’t want to spend lots and lots of time this way. It is of some comfort to know that I can. But, my belief is also that humans created technology to be used, and there is so much to learn with its aid.

Therefore, the Wisdom of the Tao speaks to me of balance. In daily life I spend many hours per day perched in front of this machine I’m typing upon. Some hours involve work; others communicating, as in this blog, and still others divided among exploration and play. It’s important to me though, that I get out of the house every day and walk, and look at the mountains, and stretch my body to get it un-kinked from spending way too much time in a desk chair. It’s important I find time for meditation, and real-book reading. There’s something about holding an actual book, with real pages, that can’t be matched by a “kindle” or computer.

It’s important that I sing, and dance, and draw, and even cook (not high on my list!) in order to interact with the physical plane and the world inside my brain.

And it’s important to remember the Tao when I’m feeling overwhelmed and out-of-sorts (who, me?). ;) Then, I bring into play my second favorite saying I’ve learned so far:

Do you have the patience to wait till your mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving till the right action arises by itself?

I deliberately—sometimes almost force myself to—sit and wait ’til my mud settles. I find I have less mud as time goes on, but with that, it also takes longer to settle. So I wait. If I do, I will know when the waiting is over. Then, I inevitably see the situation that was bothering me in a new light. Sometimes the problem has resolved itself; while at other times I just don’t care anymore. In any case I have a fresh perspective, and in this world of seeming chaos, that is the greatest blessing.

yin yang lotus May The Way be with you.

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