Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Tuesday Ten (belated) - Recurring Ideas

10 ideas that keep popping up for me . . .

(1) Respecting my capacity: This one comes from Havi Brooks. I'm feeling a need to acknowledge that there are limits to my energy, my ability to absorb information, my ability to focus. And when I reach those limits: Stop. Rest. Breathe. At least in theory. :)

(2) Noticing how tension saps my energy: Holding my muscles tightly or squinting my eyes in concentration in time makes me more tired. When I notice myself doing this, I remind myself to release. I am hoping this will give me more energy.

(3) Noticing how making housecleaning a "reward" for doing something I don't want to do even more, makes it fun and look forward-able. This is true for many tasks. This is a basic mind-training sort of technique. I'm just amazed that making something a reward that I don't intrinsically think is a "reward" makes it fun (this is not a novel concept, of course). I want to call it "treatifying."

(4) Noticing how much time I spend imagining how other people might attack my work or critique how I spend my time (particularly true at work). More wasted energy. Imagine what I could do if I could consistently approach these time-suckers with loving attention and redirection!

(5) Somehow, I always have "enough" time to get everything done at work, even when I am sure I will not have enough time to complete everything I've decided to do. So why worry about it, I ask myself? More energy-suckage.

(6) Reading as a meditation exercise: I find that reading is so easy for me now that I can read without thinking. My inner-voice is quieted as it listens to another voice. I don't have to "think" about what I read - I can just experience it. This is particularly true with fiction. It's kind of how you can lost in a movie. I'm not sure how such a verbal, cerebral activity can calm my monkey mind, but it does.

(7) I don't really believe in "non-self": I read a fair amount of Buddhist writing and I find myself fighting with this idea of "non-self." If there is no self, why worry about suffering? Why try to end it?

(8) When anxiety hits, talking to it doesn't work: I noticed this one morning as I was lying in bed, breathing, waiting for the alarm to go off. I thought for half a second "did I leave my keys attached to the cart at Harmon's?" and felt an instant tightness in my chest. And I walked through my memories and distinctly recalled opening the car for the children, then driving the car home, with my keys. My mind was calm, but my heart was still racing, my chest was still tight. All I could do to ease the anxiety/pain was to keep breathing. Equilibrium eventually returned. Then it happened again. I had some anxious thought, instant tightening and pain above my heart. Resolved the matter in my head but my body wasn't done yet. I'm trying to think of ways I can notice my body's reactions to anxiety/stress when I'm in the midst of daily life, instead of just when lying in bed, relatively still.

(9) How is that I can let my body rest while my mind flies? I have had this "problem" since childhood-my body is exhausted and needs to sleep, but my brain is wide awake. I learned as a child to let my body go dormant, essentially asleep, while my mind flew about where it would. Eventually my brain would drift off, but I got the benefit of more sleep than I "actually" got. My brain has slowed down as an adult but I still have those nights occasionally. I'm grateful that the "totally body rest while mind flies" technique still works for me.

(10) How stressful it is for me when things don't happen the way I think they will. When I'm expecting something to happen a particular way and it doesn't I get this pang of anxiety (as described in 8). I don't think I can stop the anxiety, it just hits. And I don't think I can stop expecting things. I am slowly releasing my attachment to my ideas of how "things" are "supposed" to be, but what to do with the anxiety in the meantime? Just keep breathing, I suppose.

What thoughts have you, my beloved readers, been tossing about in your heads?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thursday Thank You - Sugarhouse Instacare Edition - OS warning

OS=Over-share. Wev=Whatever.

So, I visited the Sugarhouse Instacare Monday evening, due to a week-long gastro-intestinal complaint. I also have some congestion due to a sinus infection and the irritation in my throat related to that makes me cough. Which means I have to wear a mask. Wev. Anyway, my thank you goes out to the Instacare doctors. Even though they can't seem to figure out that having a hysterectomy means your last period was long ago, they are kind and efficient. And they look at me, with my over 30 BMI body, and say, "So, you're generally pretty healthy, right?"  YAY!! Yes, as a matter of fact, I am generally healthy, thank you. Thank you for not assuming that fat=unhealthy. Thank you for listening to what I say about my own symptoms and believing me. Thank you for ordering a stool sample when I tell you I've had diarrhea for a week (I know, OS). Thank you for taking care of my beloved body.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Tuesday Ten: Some Favorite Spiritual Books

This is a beginning list, selected from my personal library in the past few weeks. Please understand that this is just the barest beginning of a list of favorite spiritual books. I am sure to add to the list in later posts.

(1) The Celtic Spirit: Daily Meditations for the Turning Year
Caitlin Matthews, Harper San Francisco 1998
These daily meditations sustained me through some dark times - they were different enough from the spirituality of my childhood, yet resonant enough with my cultural heritage, to assist me in finding new connections with the divine.

(2) Truth or Dare: Encounters with Power, Authority, and Mystery
Starhawk, Harper San Francisco 1987
Starhawk is by far my favorite feminist pagan author. This book assisted me in seeing how our relationships with one another in community impacts our spirituality. It further clarified the meaning of unrighteous dominion and gave me powerful ideas of how to resist such uncalled for authority.

(3) Cries of the Spirit: A Celebration of Women’s Spirituality
ed. by Marilyn Sewell,Beacon Press 1991
This is a lovely book that can be dipped into over and over again at your leisure. Haunting wonderful poems, stirring quotations. Another book that sustained my heart during times of crisis.

(4) The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festivals
Marcia Falk, Beacon Press 1996
I never understood the power of multiple daily ritual prayers until I read this. The book is also beautifully designed.

(5) Buffalo Woman Comes Singing
The Last Ghost Dance: A Guide for Earth Mages
Brooke Medicine Eagle, Wellspring/Ballantine 1991 & 2000
A powerful, personal account and an amazing journey into semi-new-age Native American spirituality. The two books should be read together, in my never-to-be-confused-for-humble opinion.

(6) Why the Church is as True as the Gospel
Eugene England, Bookcraft 1986
This is the first book by Brother England that I read. The titular essay kept me from leaving the Church in high school and calls me to repentance still.

(7) Dialogues with Myself: Personal Essays on Mormon Experience
Eugene England, Orion Books 1984
This is the 2nd book by Brother England that I read. Brother England is the reason I went to BYU (seriously, THE reason). I miss his voice, his compassion, his wisdom. I have truly never met anyone else like him.

(8) To Heal a Fractured World: The Ethics of Responsibility
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, Shocken Books 2005
This book was my introduction to Rabbi Sacks. This is an eloquent and impassioned call to service. Rabbi Sacks is gifted at bringing ancient texts to bear upon modern dilemmas and reminds me of the deepest meaning of personal accountability and integrity. 

(9) Bonds that Make Us Free: Healing Our Relationships, Coming to Ourselves
C Terry Warner, Shadow Mountain 2001
This book challenges me every time I return to it. I first read the book online, then purchased the hardcover. Dr Warner challenges everyone to see beyond the box of self-delusions and self-justification, and see with eyes unclouded (to quote Princess Mononoke).  The most Buddhist Mormon text I know.

(10) Earthborn, volume 5 of the science fiction series Homecoming
Orson Scott Card, Tor, 1995
Technically not a "spiritual" book, but tackles spiritual issues nevertheless.  The series is a retelling of the core ideas and stories in the first few books of the Book of Mormon. Card describes the influence of the Spirit like no other author I know of. Perhaps the sense of "realness" I get from reading the book is the deep "Mormoness" of the book and I don't know how accessible it is to people who are unfamiliar with LDS culture. But I find myself returning to key passages every year or so, just to revisit the feeling that someone I've only met at book-signings somehow understands my deepest spiritual moments.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thursday Thank You, belated once again

My thank you is going out to Facebook, for helping me reconnect with dear friends and letting me grow to know and love my family more.  My sister wrote about something similar in January on her blog. I am glad that Facebook lets me stay in touch easily with the people that I love.

I'm trying to do these thank yous on Thursdays because Thursdays are sort of a "wrap up" day for me. It's the last day of my four ten work schedule and I tend to write many decisions from the week prior, then prepare for my class the next day. I'm usually tired and ornery, so thinking about what I am thankful for is a good exercise on such days. However, I don't always have enough energy when I get home to actually post my thank you. So, these will likely always be belated.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Tuesday Ten: Things that made me smile recently

1) Watching Eli's feet wriggle as he sounds out words in his head. Both Eli and Michael read with their whole bodies and Eli clearly thinks with his feet.

2) Shane telling Michael he was going to open a restaurant and call his enchiladas "better than a barrette enchiladas" because Michael was chewing on a barrette rather than eating his dinner. You might have had to have been there.

3) Nellie McKay singing Mother of Pearl with the best hook ever:  Feminists Don't Have a Sense of Humor, also here

4) Sayonara, Zetsubou-Sensei (Goodbye, Mr Despair!): The Power of Negative Thinking, English manga version

5) Our new electric sweeper that actually cleans our rugs better than the vacuum.

6) Jennika and Vic's bridal/groomal pictures. Cuuuute!

7) Pink clouds in the morning, glowing autumn sunlight in the evening.

8) Eggnog coffee.

9) Baby elephant trays from Ikea.

10) Thick grey alpaca socks from the farmer's market - from local alpaca and local knitters! Local First!

Sunday, October 4, 2009


So, one of the coolest findings in my palm reading with MR was this star kinda halfway between the outside of my palm and my life line. MR pointed it out on my left hand but I can see one on my right hand, too. MR called it a "blending" star, because it was situated between spirit and body and she suggested it may be part of my life's work since stars symbolize a point of intense energy and light. I've been thinking about that idea quite a bit since the reading. Here are some of my thoughts:

Perhaps one manifestation of the blending star is my simultaneous fascination with the physical aspects of mind/body (like the actual physical workings of the brain and those pesky molecules of emotion) and with the transcendent/spiritual knowing that seems to come from both outside and within you at the same time. I love to learn how emotions have a physical root and also think emotions are clues to a wider reality (like intuition, precognition, etc). It's taken me a long time to realize that emotions are embodies - not just charged thoughts. Actually feeling emotion in my body has been a revelation to me.

Perhaps the star is an indication of how my intuitive knowing often manifests as a physical knowing. For example, I often feel pulled to a particular place, like there's a compass in my body pointing in a particular direction. If I am giving someone a massage, my hands feel pulled toward tender spots. I have often felt a pull to go down a particular aisle at the store, where I have found something I needed but had not put on the list (this happened just tonight actually). I have felt a pull to go down a particular road, then months later realized my familiarity with that particular road was crucial. My eyes are drawn to correct answers on tests and my hands feel a pull toward the right answer. My hands feel the tarot card I want to look at in readings. My innate sense of direction is very tied to this physical manifestation of intuition.

I'm not sure if anything is non-physical, that is, outside the realm of molecules and atoms. I believe that there is a knower, a choser, that is me, that is an actual thing and that thing has been me since there was anything. I am profoundly influenced by the LDS idea that each of us is, at base, an "intelligence," something that has always existed and will always exist. Orson Scott Card named the "intelligence" an "aiua" in the later Ender books. When I read this little bit from Xenocide, it connected to me in a deep way:
 I think that we are free, and I don't think it's just an illusion that we believe in because it has survival value. And I think we're free because we aren't just this body, acting out a genetic script. And we aren't some soul that God created out of nothing. We're free because we always existed. Right back from the beginning of time, only there was no beginning of time so we existed all along. Nothing ever caused us. Nothing ever made us. We simply are, and we always were. p. 386, 1991 paperback.
Yet, even if we have always existed, our aiuas/intelligences/spirits are powerfully influenced by our bodily experience. How we know things fundamentally changes depending on the particular chemical/hormonal balance in our bodies in any given moment as well as how our childhood experiences shaped the unique neural nets of our brains. Our experiences and worlds shift in meaning and experience with each subtle body change - for example, my skin color, gender, and size have all profoundly shaped my understanding of the world around me. And at a simpler, most basic level, I know that, for myself, my choices are profoundly influenced by things as simple as hunger, thirst, tiredness. I think better, act better, make better/kinder/more loving choices when I am well fed, well rested. I'm a nicer person when my body feels good.

So, I believe on a deep level that "I" am something different than the body "I" live in. Yet my body is also me and I feel on the same deep level that this is the body "I" chose. Blended and blending.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Thursday Thank You (belated . . .)

So, still running with this idea of habitual posting. Again, we'll see if I actually write something like this again next week.

What I am most thankful for this week (and pretty much every week) is my beloved Shane. I must share just one example of how much my dear one takes care of me. I came home from work an hour early yesterday because I was feeling sick. The off-and-on headache and coughing had been popping up all week, but all of a sudden yesterday afternoon I felt very shaky and cold - which for me means fever. When I get a fever my core and head get hot and the rest of my body (basically my extremities) get very cold. Add that to normal fever chills and you get a trembly Amanda.

ANYWAY . . . I noticed when I went to get cash to pay the wonderful woman who watched our boys yesterday that we had less in our checking account than I expected, so instead of jumping straight in the bath when I got home, as I wanted to do, I came up to the computer nook and took a look at our online banking (sorry about the rhyming thing - I get it from my older son). Shane came up and offered me several possibilities for dinner, I chose chicken soup. He brought it up with buttered toast without asking because he just knew that I would want buttered toast with my soup (he was right).  Then he brought me more buttered toast. And also offered me the last of the orange juice.

After I was done with the banking stuff, I put myself in that bath. I was still shaking and trembling but baths are very good at normalizing my temperature and the water did its work. While I was in the bath, I heard the unmistakable sound of the heater turning on. Now, mind you, Shane is a frugal man. Last year our heating system did not turn on until late November and the thermostat rarely went above 67 degrees. But he was worried about me so he turned it on anyway without saying anything to me about it.

AND when I finally went to bed, I saw that he had also turned on my heating pad and tucked it under the covers, so the bed would not be cold when I got in. He had already fallen asleep, but he left the light on, in case I wanted to keep reading when I finally came to bed.

The thing that amazes me is that Shane thinks nothing of this kind of stuff. When we first started dating and he kept doing all these kinds of nice things for me, I asked him if he treated all his sweethearts this way. He said yes, but that I was the only one who always said thank you and never expected him to do anything for her or got angry when he did not have the energy to do the caretaker thing. I thought it was weird that his other loves had not thanked him. Actually, I still think it's weird, but after over 10 years of being taken care of like this, I admit to starting to get used to it.

I hope to never take The Amazing Shane for granted or stop appreciating all the ways that he makes my life better. And I also hope that he knows that it is not his caretaking of me that makes me love him so (though I obviously appreciate it). What I love about Shane is his bright & generous soul and his compassionate practicality. I have never met anyone who is more deep-down good, than my beloved. Here's to you, Dear!