Friday, 31 May 2013

We are stardust. We are golden. And we've got to get ourselves back to the garden. Joni Mitchell

Teachers and teachings come everyday . When open we  learn in unexpected ways from those nearest to us as  Michael  Branch's beautiful  story reveals.

                        Ladder to the Pleiades

MY DAUGHTER, Hannah Virginia, who recently turned three years old, is teaching me about the stars. Far from being a liability to her, my own profound astronomical ignorance has turned out to be her boon and, through her, a boon to me as well. The most important thing the kid has taught me is the brilliant, open secret that if you don’t go outside and look up, you won’t see anything. Every night before bedtime she takes my hand and insists that I get my bedraggled ass up and take her outside to look at the stars. If this sounds easy, ask yourself if you can match her record of going out every single night to observe the sky—something she has done without fail for more than a year now. That she has somehow brought her celestially illiterate father along is more amazing still

.Following the inexorable logic that makes a kid’s universe so astonishing, Hannah insists on looking for stars no matter the weather. At first I attempted the rational, grown-up answer: “It just isn’t clear enough to see anything tonight, honey.” But her response, which is always the same, is so emphatic and ingenuous that it is irresistible: “Dad, we can always check.” And so we check. And it is when we check that the rewards of lifting my head up and out of another long day come into focus. One cold and windy night we stepped out and discovered, through a momentary break in an impossibly thick mat of clouds, a stunning view of Sirius blazing low in the southeast. Another evening we stood in an unusual late-winter fog and saw nothing—but then we heard the courtship hooting of a nearby great horned owl, followed immediately by the distant yelping of coyotes up in the hills. We even stand out in snowstorms to stargaze, and while we’ve never seen any stars on those white nights, we’ve seen and felt and smelled the crisp shimmering that arrives only on the wings of a big January storm. Snow or no snow, Hannah knows those stars are up there, so she does easily what is somehow difficult for many of us grown-ups: she looks for them. And whether she sees stars or not, in seeking them every evening she has forged an unbreakable relation with the world-within-a-world that is night.

Questions are the waypoints along which Hannah’s orbit around things can be plotted, and she has asked so many questions about stars for so many nights in a row that at last I’ve been compelled to learn enough to answer some of them. In doing so I’ve stumbled into placing myself, my family, my home, on the cosmic map whose points of reference wheel across the sky. We’ve learned a surprising number of stars and constellations together. Now that we’re in our second year of performing our nightly ritual, we’re also having the gratifying experience of seeing our favorite summer stars, long gone in the high-desert winter, come round again on the year’s towering, dark clock.

The other evening after supper, my wife asked Hannah to make a wish. Without hesitating she replied, “I wish I could have a ladder tall enough to reach the stars.” As usual, I didn’t know what to say. It is impossible to dismiss a three-year-old kid when she articulates hopes that are at once so perfectly reasonable and so beautifully impossible.

Before she goes to sleep, Hannah and I look at the six-dollar cardboard star wheel I bought to help us identify constellations. Too tired to make much of it, I toss the disk down on her bed in mild frustration. She picks it up, holds it upright in front of her in both hands, stares earnestly out beyond the walls of her room, and begins to turn it left and right as if it were a steering wheel.

“Where’re you going?” I ask.

“Pleiades,” she says. “You want to come?”

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Thoughts on teachers and teachings.

                           Susan Shor Fehmi and Dr Fehmi

I have been thinking a lot about teachers in the last few weeks . It is such an honour for me to be invited as a guest by one of my most inspiring teachers that it has brought up a lot of thoughts and feelings about teachers and especially what I learned and am still learning from Dr Fehmi's teachings.
I can't imagine my life without the sense of space and effortlessness  that Open Focus training brought into my life. I have been trying to imagine how I would be without it , without that big space of allowing all feelings and emotions to arise. How different my life would be if I hadn't learned to allow my own feelings to arise in open space and dissolve naturally.

 I am so grateful for the private sessions I had  with Dr Fehmi and his wife Susan where Dr Fehmi led me into Open Focus and thought me how to dissolve anxiety in my stomach.

 I remember especially the session  when he asked me,  " What are you feeling now Ann ? "  I said nervous in my stomach,  then I explained that I was so excited to actually be in Princeton with him, that  the nerves which were really JUST excitement .  ( In my mind I felt the nerves were a good sign of interest and I should add that I often had those feelings in my tummy).
  Dr Fehmi said,  " No  Ann what you are calling excitement  is actually  anxiety. Would you like to dissolve that anxiety and be free ? "
 " Yes "I said   and we proceeded to investigate space in and around those feelings of anxiety  or nerves ( that felt like butterflies in my tummy ) and they began to dissolve , by the end of the session they were barely noticeable  ( I had to actually check to see if I could still find them ).
When I came home from Princeton I kept up my daily  practice and noticed after a while that I had simply forgotten about my nervous tummy.   On the odd occasions I would feel it ,  and think , gosh  its been ages since I have felt that way,  and then I'd  welcome feelings it into open space and spend a little time  allowing  the feelings to dissolve.
This be aware of  our internal environment while still  'operating ' in the external world is a huge advantage to everyone .  To be able to self regulate on the go rather than having to wait until one is home and has free time to review one's day  is a great benefit and reward for time spent in Open focus training.

If you would like to hear more about Open Focus and experience an Open Focus exercise with Dr Fehmi join us in the June Webinar details on this link.   Dissolving Pain

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Miserable & Magical: A Graduation Speech for Paradoxical Times --by Nipun Mehta

What an inspiring speech just had to share it .

[When the student body of an elite private school in Silicon Valley was given the chance to vote on who would give their graduation address this year, they chose a man named Nipun Mehta. An unexpected choice for these teenagers, who belong to what Time magazine called the "Me Me Me Generation". Nipun's journey is the antithesis of self-serving. More than a decade ago, he walked away from a lucrative career in high-tech, to explore the connection between inner change and external impact. ServiceSpace, the nonprofit he founded, has now drawn over 450,000 members across the globe. In this electrifying address that garnered a standing ovation, he calls out the paradoxical crisis of disconnection in our hyper-connected world -- and offers up three powerful keys that hold the antidote.]

Thank you Jennifer Gargano, Chris Nikoloff and the entire faculty at Harker.  To you, the class of 2013, congratulations!  I’m delighted to be with you on your special day, and it is a particular honor since I know you chose your speaker.

So, graduation day is here and this once-in-a-lifetime milestone moment has arrived.  In the words of Taylor Swift, I can tell how you’re feeling: “happy, free, confused, and lonely, miserable and magical at the same time.”  Who would’ve thought we’d be quoting words of wisdom from Taylor Swift at your commencement. :)

Today, I’m here with some good news and bad news.  I’ll give you the good first.

You might be surprised to hear this, but you are about to step out into a world that’s in good shape -- in fact the best shape that that it’s ever been in. The average person has never been better fed than today.  Infant mortality has never been lower; on average we’re leading longer, healthier lives. Child labor, illiteracy and unsafe water have ceased to be global norms. Democracy is in, as slavery is disappearing.  People don’t have to work as hard to just survive. A bicycle in 1895 used to cost 260 working hours, today we’ve gotten that number down to 7.2.

So, things are progressing.  But I’m afraid that’s not the full story.   You’ll want to brace yourselves, because this is the bad news part.

This week, Time Magazine’s cover story labeled you guys as the “Me, Me, Me” generation; the week before, NY Times reported that the suicide rate for Gen X went up by 30% in the last decade, and 50% for the boomer generation.  We’ve just learned that atmospheric carbon levels surpassed 400 PPM for the first time in human history.  Our honeybee colonies are collapsing, thereby threatening the future of our food supply.  And all this is just the tip of the iceberg.

What we’re handing over to you is a world full of inspiring realities coupled with incredibly daunting ones. In other words: miserable and magical isn't just a pop-song lyric -- it's the paradox that you are inheriting from us.

So, what do you do with that? I’m going to be honest -- I don’t really know. :) I do know this, though:

At the core of all of today's most pressing challenges is one fundamental issue: we have become profoundly disconnected.

Rather ironic, considering that we live in an era where Facebook has spawned 150 billion “connections”, as we collectively shell out 4.5 billion likes on status updates, every single day. Yet, a growing body of science is showing what we already feel deep in our gut: we’re more isolated than ever before.  The average American adult reports having just one real friend that they can count on.  Just one.  And for the first time in 30 years, mental health disabilities such as ADHD outrank physical ones among American children.

Somehow we’ve allowed our relationship to gadgets and things to overtake our real-world ties.

We’ve forgotten how to rescue each other.

Yet, deep inside we all still have that capacity.   We know we have it because we saw it at Sandy Hook, in the brave teachers who gave up their lives to save their students. We saw it during the Boston Marathon when runners completed the race and kept running to the nearest blood bank.  We saw it just this week in Oklahoma when a waiter at a fast food chain decided to donate all his tips to the tornado relief efforts and triggered a chain of generosity.

So we know that we can tap into our inner goodness when crisis strikes. But can we do it on a run-of-the-mill Monday?

That’s the question in front of you.  Will  you, class of 2013 step up to rebuild a culture of trust, empathy and compassion?  Our crisis of disconnection needs a renaissance of authentic friendship.  We need you to upgrade us from Me-Me-Me to We-We-We.

Reflecting on my own journey, there have been three keys that helped me return to a place of connection.  I’d like to share those with you today, in the hope that perhaps it might support your journey.

The First Key Is To Give

In the movie Wall Street -- which originally came out well before you guys were born -- there’s a character named Gordon Gekko whose credo in life reads: Greed is good.  When I was about your age, Silicon Valley was in the seductive grip of the dot-com boom. It was a time when it was easy to believe that Greed was Good. But a small group of us had a different hypothesis:

*Maybe* greed is good, but Generosity is better.

We tested that hypothesis. When I started ServiceSpace, our first project was to build websites for nonprofits at no charge. We ended up building and gifting away thousands of sites, but that wasn’t our main goal. Our real purpose was to practice generosity.

In the early days, the media was pretty sure we had a hidden agenda. "We're doing this just to practice giving with no strings attached," we said. The few who actually believed us didn’t think we could sustain it. The thing is -- we did. A decade later, when our work started attracting millions of viewers, entrepreneurs told us that we'd be crazy to not slap on ads or try to monetize our services.  The thing is -- we didn't.  We probably *were* a bit crazy. And when we started Karma Kitchen, people really thought "No way!"  It was a restaurant where your check always read zero, with this note: "Your meal is paid for by someone before you, and now it’s your chance to pay it forward."  The thing is -- 25 thousand meals later, the chain continues in several cities around the globe.

People consistently underestimate generosity, but human beings are simply wired to give.

In one study at Harvard, scientists surprised a couple hundred volunteers with an unexpected monetary reward and gave them the choice of keeping it or giving it away. The only catch was that they had to  make the decision spontaneously.  Lo and behold, the majority chose --- to give away the money! Greed, it turns out, is a calculated after thought.  Our natural instinct is, and always has been -- to give.

When you take Econ 101 in college, you will learn that all of economics is rooted in the assumption that people aim to maximize self-interest.  I hope you don’t just take that for granted.  I hope you challenge it.  Consider the likes of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and Mother Teresa who have rocked the history of our planet with the exact opposite assumption, with the belief in the goodness of our human nature.

Or consider Ruby Bridges.

Six-year-old Ruby was the first African American girl to go to an all-white school on Nov 14, 1960.  All the teachers refused to teach her, except for one Mrs. Henry.  Ruby received constant death threats and on the way to class every day, people would line up to shout and throw things.  Mrs. Henry instructed Ruby to not speak to anyone, as she crossed the jeering crowds every day.  But one day, she saw Ruby saying something, so she said, “Ruby, I told you not to speak to anyone.”  “No, Mrs. Henry, I didn’t say anything to them.”  “Ruby, I saw you talking.  I saw your lips moving.”  “Oh, I was just praying.  I was praying for them,” Ruby responded.  Then she recited her  prayer, and I quote “Please, God, try to forgive these people.  Because even if they say those bad things, they don’t know what they’re doing.”

A six year old!  Wishing well for those who were wishing her harm. How generous is that? And what does it say about the power of the human heart?

Our capacity to love is a currency that never runs out.

May each of you tap into that generous ocean and discover every day, what it means to give.

The Second Key Is To Receive

When we give, we think we are helping others.  That's true, but we are also helping ourselves.  With any act of unconditional service, no matter how small, our bio-chemistry changes, our mind quiets, and we feel a sense of gratefulness.  This inner transformation fundamentally shifts the direction of our lives.

A couple summers ago, we had two 14-year-olds, Neil and Dillan, interning at ServiceSpace.  One of their projects was a 30 day kindness challenge -- they had to come up with and do a different act of kindness every day for a month. In the beginning they had to plan "kindness activities", but slowly they learned how to spontaneously turn their daily life into a canvas for giving.  Doing the dishes for mom without her asking, stopping to help a stranger with a flat tire, standing up for a bullied kid, gifting all their winnings at the arcade to a child.

Very quickly, kindness shifted from being an activity -- to a way of life.

It wasn't just about who they were helping, it was about who they themselves were becoming through the process. Last weekend, I happened to see Neil after a while, the day after Senior Prom and he had a story to share, "Last night I noticed that the dance floor was too small and a few of the special needs students just couldn't get on.  So I grabbed a bunch of my friends, and we started dancing in a little circle around them.  Everyone had a great time."  Then, he paused for a reflective moment, and asked me, "But I felt so good about doing that.  Do you think I was being selfish?"

What a profound question.  What Neil experienced was the fact that when we give, we receive many times over.

Or as the Dalai Lama once put it, "Be Selfish, Be Generous.”  It is in giving that we receive.

When we think of generosity, we typically think of it as a zero sum game.  If I give you a dollar, that’s one less dollar for me. The inner world, though, operates with an entirely different set of rules.  The boundaries aren’t so easy to decipher.  Your state of being inherently affects my state of being. This isn’t feel-good talk. It’s actual science. Research shows that, in close proximity, when people feel connected, their individual heart-beats actually start to synchronize -- even with zero physical contact.  In neuroscience, the discovery of mirror neurons has shown us that we literally do feel each other’s pain -- and joy.

And joy is *definitely* not a zero-sum game.  The law of abundance says that if I give you a smile, that's not one less smile for me.

The more I smile, the more I *do* smile.  The more I love, the more love I have to give. So, when you give externally, you receive internally.  How do the two compare?  That's a question only you can answer for yourself, and that answer will keep changing as your awareness deepens.

Yet this much is clear: if you only focus on the externals, you’ll live your life in the deadening pursuit of power and products. But if you stay in touch with your inner truth, you will come alive with joy, purpose, and gratitude. You will tap into the law of abundance.

May you discover that to be truly selfish, you must be generous.  In giving, may you fully experience what it means to receive.

The Third Key Is To Dance

Our biggest problem with giving and receiving is that we try and track it.  And when we do that, we lose the beat.

The best dancers are never singularly focused on the mechanics of their movements.  They know how to let go, tune into the rhythm and synchronize with their partners.

It’s like that with giving too.  It's a futile exercise to track who is getting what.  We just have to dance.

Take one of my friends for example, a very successful entrepreneur.

Along his journey, he realized that it’s not just enough, as the cliché goes, to find your gifts.  Gifts are actually meant to be *given*.

In his daily life, he started cultivating some beautiful practices of generosity.  For instance, every time he walked into a fancy restaurant, he told the waiter to find a couple that is most madly in love.  "Put their tab on my bill, and tell them a stranger paid for their meal, with the hope that they pay it forward somewhere somehow," he would say.  Being a fan of Batman, he took his anonymity seriously: "If anyone finds out it was me, the deal is off."

Many restaurants, and waiters, knew him for this.  And as a food connoisseur, some of his favorite places were also quite pricey -- upwards of a couple hundred bucks per person.

On one such day, he walks into a nice restaurant and does his usual drill.  The person serving him obliges.  However, this time, the waiter comes back with a counter request.  "Sir, I know you like to be anonymous, but when I told that couple about the tab being covered, the woman just started sobbing.  In fact, it’s been ten minutes and she's still tearing up.  I think it would make her feel better if you were to just introduce yourself, just this once."

Seeing this, he agree to break his own cardinal rule and walks over to introduce himself. "M'aam, I was only trying to make your day. If it has brought up something, I'm so sorry."  The woman excitedly says, "Oh no, not at all.  You’ve just made my year, maybe my life.  My husband and I, well, we work at a small nonprofit with physically challenged kids, and we have been saving up all year to have this meal here.  It is our one year marriage anniversary today.”  After a pause, she continues, “We always serve others in small ways, but to receive a kind act like this on our special day, well, it’s just an overwhelming testimonial that what goes around comes around.  It renews our faith in humanity.  Thank you.  Thank you *SO* much."

All of them were in tears.  They kept in touch, he joined their board and they are friends to this day.

Now, in that scenario, who was the giver?  Who was the receiver?  And more importantly, does it even matter? Dancing, tells us to stop keeping track.

Sometimes you're giving and sometimes you're receiving, but it doesn't really matter because the real reward of that give and take doesn’t lie in the value of what’s being exchanged.  The real reward lies in what flows between us – our connection.


So, my dear friends, there you have it.  The bad news is that we're in the middle of a crisis of disconnection, and the good news is that each and every one of you has the capacity to repair the web -- to give, to receive and to dance.

Sometime last year, I spontaneously treated a homeless woman to something she really wanted -- ice-cream.  We walked into a nearby 7-11, she got her ice-cream and I paid for it.  Along the way, though, we had a great 3-minute chat about generosity and as we’re leaving the store, she said something remarkable: "I'd like to buy you something.  Can I buy you something?" She empties her pockets and holds up a nickel. The cashier looks on, as we all  share a beautiful,  awkward, empathy-filled moment of silence.  Then, I heard my voice responding, “That’s so kind of you. I would be delighted to receive your offering.  What if we pay-it-forward by tipping this kind cashier who has just helped us?”  Her face breaks into a huge smile. “Good idea,” she says while dropping the nickel into the tip-jar.

No matter what you have, or don’t have, we can all give.  The good news is that generosity is not a luxury sport.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said it best, when he said, "Everyone can be great, because everyone can serve."  He didn't say, "You have to be smart to serve." Or "You have to be famous to serve." Or "You have to be rich to serve." No, he said, "*Everybody* can be great, because *everybody* can serve.  You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You don't need to know the second law of thermodynamics to serve.  You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love."

Harker Class of 2013, may you ALL find greatness in service to life.  May you all give, receive -- and never, *ever* stop dancing.

Monday, 27 May 2013


                                     First Light Edging Cirrus

                                     1025 molecules
                                     are enough
                                     to call woodthrush or apple.

                                    A hummingbird, fewer.
                                    A wristwatch: 1024.

                                    An alphabet's molecules,
                                    tasting of honey, iron, and salt,
                                    cannot be counted—

                                     as some strings, untouched,
                                     sound when a near one is speaking.

                                     As it was when love slipped inside us.
                                     It looked out face to face in every direction.

                                     Then it was inside the tree, the rock, the cloud.

                                                                         Jane Hirshfield

Here are some quotes I really  liked from Kim Rosen's  interview with  Jane Hirshfield on The Mystery of Existence
 " You have been a Zen practitioner for many years. How have your own spiritual path and your evolution as a poet been interwoven? Does your Zen practice teach you about writing poetry? Does your writing teach you about Zen?
They are left foot and right foot.
Zen is the taste of your own tongue in your own mouth. It’s a way to find something very simple that’s already present within you—a subtler, sharper, nondistanced, and nondistancing awareness. Everything else emerges from this intimacy with your own life, this opening into attention. We become the instruments of our lives and become part of the orchestra of the larger existences that our lives in turn are part of.
The same basic attention and permeability are the beginning of poetry writing. Whatever I’ve done in both practice and poetry is a search for ways of seeing and speaking, of feeling and understanding, that draw from the limitless well of the limitless real. I’ll add, I always feel a slight dismay if I’m called a “Zen” poet. I am not. I am a human poet, that’s all. Labels just get in the way. The fundamental wildness and mystery of existence slip every leash we try to put on them, and both meditation practice and the writing of poems are leash-slipping acts.

What do you hope your poems offer your readers and the world?

A door. One that stands outside our usual addresses and maps—or more truly, perhaps, many doors at once, that lead simultaneously outward and inward, into both the life we share with others and the privacy in which self can take stock with original eyes. I hope my poems might offer: “Here is one experience of life, of its possibilities, exhilarations, bewilderments, griefs. Enter. Now, here is another.” When we bring that spirit of openness, permeability, exploration, and courage into our lives and our hands, everything else follows: a deeper saturation and compassion, a recalibrating sense of proportion, an increase of the possible. Good poems make clarity without making simple. They do not erase darkness; if anything, they open into it. But wouldn’t the page of a day be dull and undistinguished, almost as if unsigned by existence, without its charcoal?

 You can hear Jane Hirshfield's beautiful  reading of  her poem  For What Binds Us on this link.
For What Binds Us

Sunday, 26 May 2013

T'ai Chi in Fitzgeralds Park Sunday June 2nd at 11am

Come and join us for some fun in Fitzgeralds Park next Sunday morning.

No previous experience needed , just turn up . We will be in the  Rose garden near the pond.

 We have had a few open  T'ai Chi sessions in the park over the last few years and they always prove to be great fun and really good a T'ai Chi experience .

So mark it in your calender you will be glad you did.

I had just posted the above  when I received this poem from my  'singing ' T'ai Chi friend Pat .
It seems just right for our T'ai Chi celebration.

                                         A NEW SONG

                               Sing a new song to the Lord,
                               sing through the skin of your teeth,
                               sing in the code of your blood,
                               sing with a throat full of earth,

                               sing to the quick of your nails,
                               sing from the knots of your lungs,
                               sing like a dancer on coals,
                               sing as a madman in tongues,

                              sing as if singing made sense,
                              sing in the caves of your heart,
                              sing like you want them to dance,
                              sing through the shades of your past,

                              sing what you never could say,
                              sing at the fulcrum of joy,
                              sing without need of reply.

 " I am just discovering a poet new to me, Michael Symmons Roberts.
    This is from his latest collection, Drysalter. "

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Open Focus Webinar

Earlier this week someone was asking me whether Open Focus was the same as Mindfulness ?
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn  one of the best known teachers of mindfulness. " Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way; "  Open Focus exercises are designed to enable us to attend to how we are paying attention. This may sound like semantics to some people but it quite a different approach. I have only tried a few mindfulness exercises  and even though I enjoyed them very much they did not have the appeal for me that Open Focus has.
In Open Focus attention to space is a big factor , space in , around , and through the body.  Questions like  :

"Can you imagine feeling the space around your body ?

 the space to the walls in front,of your body .  .  .  .

 to the walls at the sides of your body .  .  .  .  .

 up  to the ceiling   .  .  .  .   .

down to the floor .  .  .  .  .  .

Now can you feel the space on all  sides of your body  simultaneously  ?

Now stop for a minute and reread  those questions slowly and notice how you are feeling .
If you find yourself more relaxed and open, like me you resonate with Open Focus.
I have found this type of attention works very well with T'ai Chi where becoming sensitive to the subtle feelings of space, and energy in,  around, and permeating the body is so fundamental to the practise.

I have been invited to be the  " Special Guest " for Open Focus Webinar on June 5'th
'  The Body In Motion '  is the title for this webinar it should be really interesting for anyone who wants to find out some more about Open Focus , and T'ai Chi and it is also an opportunity to experience a live Open Focus Exercise with Dr Fehni.

Here is the link  more details on the seminar  or to register.

  Dissolving Pain

Friday, 24 May 2013

" Problems are not problems they are lessons to be learned. "

" It is only in the process that joy unfolds. In activity. In doing.   In giving yourself a task  -an assignment, if you will - and  taking on the challenge of exploring your nature to accomplish it.
That is the joy of this existence. It allows the best part of yourself to surface, and you realize the vast knowledge you possess to create the most value in this plane - in any given life. In the process you are thrown many barriers to going forward. The excitement is being able to climb the barrier and see to the other side. That is where joy lives.
There are people who rejoice when obstacles  come because they know growth is inherent in that obstacle ,
and that something new is going to be revealed to them in the process of overcoming the obstacle. "

These quotes are from  Solomon Speaks  On Reconnecting Your Life  by Eric Pearl and Frederick Ponzlov.

They make so much sense to me , I  believe that this lifetime  is just one of many, and that all I learn and accomplish here will help me evolve in this life and prepare me for my next one.

I really feel that this lifetime is an opportunity to grow and develop.
 The more I study and learn and share  the more expanded interesting my life becomes.
With each skill that I work on new connections are established within me and also beyond me. I become connected to a bigger intelligence , the more I ask for direction and help the more this ' intelligence' responds.

This  intelligence or God or whatever you want to call it , wants to know itself , we are all aspects it itself whom it wishes to know . It wants us to grow and develop and be fulfilled through that growth.
It seems to me that the reason  why it feels so good to learn and expand our knowledge and skill is because in doing so we are connecting with that higher aspect of ourselves  - connecting with ' God '.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Evening Walk

                                     We never tire of this little wood

           How lovely to listen to the singing stream in the evening .

                     The bluebells radiate a calm contented glow.

Even the fields look new in this light.

And the sky is ever changing 

A blessed walk.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Zen and haiku

                                   As dust dulls the eyes of hawks

                                   Now  the quails begin to chirp.

                                     On the great bell 
                                     Stops a butterfly

                                     And sleeps. 


                                      Today, too 

                                      The sun sinks into a world of mustard flowers.


 " Zen is less of a religion than a philosophy of living; a means of realizing the true nature of existence. It stresses the importance of fully embracing each moment of life, of reaching union with everything that is by penetrating as deeply as possible into the here and now. Zen therefore has a strong affinity with haiku Japanese verse that is traditionally composed of seventeen syllables in three lines - the shortest form of poetry in the world. Haiku seeks in a handful of words to cryasallize an instant in all its fullness, encouraging through the experience of the moment the union of the reader with all existence. The reader side -steps conventional  perception , startled into a momentary but full understanding of the poet's experience. By locking reader and poet into the same reality, haiku  helps us perceive the ultimate unity of all realities.  Haiku transforms the most mundane of moments into something special.  In Zen it is in glimpses like these, rather than the study of doctrine , that are said to lead to enlightenment - the realization of the true nature of existence. "   
 The quote above is from  one of my favourite books  Jonathan Clements  The  Moon in the Pines , Zen Haiku 

I have learned so much from that book ,  he broke with the  tradition that groups haiku by date or season to arrange them according  to the  mood of different times of the day : dawn  daylight, dusk , and moonlight. this novel arrangement made me aware of how how the passage of a day's  energy can  mirror that of the year. 
Dawn like spring is full of new growth and possibilities, at  midday like mid- summer things have reached  a peak in growth,  in autumn as in afternoon there is a slowing down,   moonlight and wintertime  are times for reflection and rest. 

I usually  walk Susie in the morning but this week we have been out a few evenings,  the energy and light at that time of day were so different to the morningtime , that I was reminded of  Jonathan Clements book and reread the Dusk haiku which had first awakened me to those changes in  mood (a few of my favourites open this post ).


Tuesday, 21 May 2013


We (  Suzie and I  ) dropped Jo to the station Sunday evening and then went for a walk by the river.

It seems clear to me that I'm not the only one who likes to look  and contemplate.

These walks are a great time to allow my mind to wander and notice what bubbles up for attention.
I am often reflecting on life and how I'm using this precious lifetime .  Consciousness seems to be the 'focus' of my work. With hindsight  I can see that to become as fully conscious as possible has been the thrust of my endeavours.
Reflecting on my experiences , writing this blog , practising Open Focus , T'ai Chi , Reconnection these all develop awareness of different states of consciousness.

                      Opening gateways to new wider levels of perception.

Writing about Seamus made me aware of how my perception of landscape has changed . Open Focus has had a huge influence on my perception of space and awakened my interest in photography. My walks with Suzie have been transformed, whereas before they were a duty and  I regarded the time spent walking as a distraction or a bit of a waste, now I see how they are a blessing , an opportunity to be in nature  and really see this amazing world.
 I love the awareness that Open Focus has brought about in the subtle body senses.  Sitting quietly and listening inside , allowing all the feelings and emotions to arise without trying to fix or change anything.  Developing this type of awareness allows access to much deeper levels  of  feeling,  so I can become more conscious of deep fears , and hurts which if remain buried just block growth, but once the light of awareness is shone on them they generally dissolve naturally.

Sometimes I wonder if I have spread  my interests too wide , there never seems to be enough time in a day to get around to all I want to do.  However , my instincts tell me to keep going , all these interests have 'arrived' in my life by following hunches and life has only become more interesting ,more fun, more alive.

What makes your day buzz ? What develops your awareness or consciousness ?

Give yourself  some time today to pursue activities to enhance your development.

Monday, 20 May 2013

            Here is my beloved U. Seamus in November 2008 just after  my  niece Margaret had brought my Neurofeedback machine from the US.
     U. Seamus loved to  'train ' on the machine. He was 92 when he  began and he practised   every week after that first session
   I would bring the machine with me each time I went to visit and we would practice together, him on the machine and me doing my Tai Chi.
   His spirits would be completely lifted after our session    " Angels sing to me while I'm on that machine Ann  " he would say.
  His  faith and devotion were deep , one time when I phoned he told  me he had had a minor stroke the previous night , he just turned over and went back to sleep. " I'm ready to die any time God calls  " he said  " so I decided not  to bother the doctor , if I'm alive in the morning I'll ring for him then.

Thank God he was still alive that. morning , but he was not as strong  and l the following year he had to move to a nursing home. Luckily it was  only a few miles from my place so I could visit often and bring the  machine.

  I knew our love was deep, we didn't need to say it very often , it was  in the air around us,  it is a blessing  to  recognise the people one  loves while  they are still here in the body

He hated being in a nursing home, he had always been so active,  he was no longer able to paint watercolours , work in  garden or  even walk around his garden as he loved to do.
  He  planted and nursed so many gardens in the numerous parishes where he had served,  I'm  sorry that I wasn't into taking photos  back then, or I would have beautiful  shots of abundant gardens.
   He had vines,  peaches , and cherries even melons in his glass houses,  and also trained along the garden walls. Not to mention the orchards, of apples and pears.

No one would ever return empty handed from a visit , there would  always be some produce from the garden , maybe some spring broccoli,  or a bowl of raspberries and strawberries, depending  on the season.

Apple tree Form Seamus blooming right now in our garden.

We ( his  friends and relations ) all have living memories of him growing in our gardens .

So much more to say about Seamus but my T'ai Chi class in Cork is calling me.

Remembering and writing about Seamus brings great love and joy to me I bet you too have loved ones who can enrich your day if you take the time to  reflect and allow those nourishing memories to arise.

Saturday, 18 May 2013


Dripsey Castle

         I took a trip to Dripsey yesterday,   my daughter Jo is home this
         weekend and we wanted to spend some time together and catch
         I have no idea what put Dripsey into my head , it's years since
         my last visit there, maybe because Jo has never been there and
         we had heard of a Beautiful Garden centre and Cafe . . . . .

                                  Water for the Woolen Mill

         So we decided Thursday night  Dripsey it was  to be for our
          day out.

         As soon as we had decided memories of previous visits began
         to flood my mind.
         Uncle Seamus took us ( usually Mammy and me ) to the woolen
         mill in Dripsey every autumn, mostly in the month November.
         I would get a half -day from school and we would head off after
         lunch.  I loved the trip. The shop was really just a converted shed.



                     The building down the hill on the left was the shop.
                     The  mill and shop closed down  in 1988.

         But the woollen materials were beautiful tweeds of natural greens
         browns , purples  and of course the traditional bainin .
         The salesman  whom  U. Seamus and Mammy knew  having
         grown up in that area always gave us a great welcome, and they
         would catch up on all the news while we chose  our purchases.
         The salesman would measure out he material with great care and
         then add another half yard free ( for good luck ).
         With this  fine tweed would my mother would make Christmas
         dresses for my sister Mary , cousin Máire and me, maybe a  winter
         skirt or two for herself a I even remember her making a winter
         coat for my younger cousin.. This was all done late at night
         when  the catering for the lodgers was finished .
         She was a gifted  seamstress and the finisher garments were
         always beautifully crafted.

                                             Road to Macroom

         With our business done in Dripsey we would head further west
         to Macroom . There we would make our November
         ( month of the holy souls ) visit to the graveyard , and pray at Dad's
         grave side  and  then tour and pray at the graves of all our other
         relatives buried there.
        Then came the social calls , my favourite was to Katie Lynch's
        place in Mullen Rú,. Katie Lynch lived in a small cottage in the
        hills beyond Macroom , I don't think she was related but an old
        family friend who lived in the place our family had been evicted
        from during the famine.
        The house had no electricity and the whole place smelt of smoke
        and soot.  The kitchen fire was always lighting and a big black
        kettle would be put on to boil.  While the water was heating
        Katie   ( who was  about 80 then  ) and I would go down to the
        parlour to get  the good china,   and a sultana cake for the
        priest  ( U. Seamus).
        She told me that she always kept a 'shop'   cake for visitors
         who might call. We would wipe the sooty cups
        clean with old newspaper  and set the kitchen table.
        Then as we drank the smoky tea  , they would  recount
         stories about my grand father Dan Corkery.
        This place  had been a " safe " house for him  ' when he was
       on the run  during the War of Independence.
        My heart would fill with pride as they spoke of his heroic deeds
        and narrow escapes from the Black and Tans.

        Talking done it was time for our ritual visit to the  '  fairy  fort '
        at the side of the cottage.  This was really a stone circle but
        U. Seamus called it a fairy fort. Here he filled me with ' other
        world ' stories of fairies  and druids and terrible tragedies  that
         befell people who  interfered with these magical places.
        U.Seamus's spirituality was always much bigger than the
        conventional , he loved the church and all it's rituals, his faith was
        deep and idealistic but this didn't prevent him believing in all
        sorts of other worlds and possibilities.
         After Daddy died U. Seamus was the one I turned to when
        I needed encouragement to try something new.
        He never lost his sense of curiosity and wonder and  loved to
       hear all my adventures.  He was a huge support when I began
       T'ai Chi and had none of my mother's anxieties about trying out
       ' foreign  ' practises .  Neurofeedback was a special favourite
         and we spent many happy times together with him on Dr Fehmi's
        feedback machine while I  ' T'ai Chied  ' in the background.
       How lucky I was to have had such a wonderful Uncle . Even
       though I still miss his physical presence I feel him with me often.
       And yesterday he was with us on that trip , in fact I feel he
       directed us to Dripsey and accompanied us on another great
       day out.


Thursday, 16 May 2013

Work in Progress

We have begun working on the T'ai Chi fight set !  Lots of work to do.
It is so good to have a challenge to watch a clip and see so many aspects that need attention.
This will keep us busy T'ai Chi wise for quite a while to come.

Here are about  8 to l0 term 2 lessons  for Tuesday 's class.

Lots to practice for  all of us.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Some more on experience

The biggest let down experience of my life happened  on my 1'st Holy Communion Day.
My mother was a devout catholic ( in my memory all my family were devout ). She had built up my expectation of meeting Jesus in the sacrament . I had all sorts of imaginings, and was full of anticipation.
Washed and polished both externally and internally ( through internal examination and confession ).
Or so I thought and felt.
The Day arrived and we were all up early , and off to the church in Uncle Seamus's car ( he had lent it for the special day so we could take a trip in the afternoon  ).

All through the Mass I was waiting I thought the time would never arrive for me to receive my 1'st Holy Body of Christ.

I approached the altar in the a line of other little girls all perfectly turned out , sparkling with youth and excitement.

Then it was finally my turn I turned my face up opened my mouth and closed my eyes. The priest placed the Hoat on my tongue. I closed my mouth and walked back to my seat , and waited,  and waited, and waited.

I felt nothing, I heard nothing , I hoped it might happen if I kept the bread on my tongue , so I waited until it dissolved and with that dissolution came my biggest disappointment.

I find it interesting that writing this is so difficult , it brings up lots of issues for me .

Am I being disloyal to my family and their love , their kindness and support.
I couldn't talk about my disappointment at the time , I was afraid of my mother's disapproval.
She had primed me so much and said I needed to be worthy, so of course I believed it was my fault I clearly must have been unworthy.

With hindsight and reflection I can understand my mother better, this all happened years before her NDE .
At that time her devotion  ( in my opinion ) was based on fear , fear she would be punished and go to hell.
She also felt that  our  ' faith ' was a reflection of her and so she did her best to convince us of her  ' truth '.

We could rarely connect on spiritual matters I wanted to experience 'God' to know through direct experience not from other peoples stories.

She told me of Thomas who believed because he put his hands in the wounds , but "  how much better were those who didn't see and yet believed ".

Well try as I might I could never let go of wanting the experience, and that is what drew me to Zen , T'ai Chi
and my other work which is all based on experience rather than belief.

Paradoxically I thank God for all the ways ' He ' reveals 'Himself' ( here evidence of my conditioning in that He still 'feels' right to me ).  Whatever name  we give this Intelligence that supports and guides our searching and longing for that experience , that personal subjective knowledge that transforms and enlightens our life.

Since that first disappointment , maybe because of it , I have always been searching . Perhaps my Mother gave me the best gift of my life in planting the seed of desire in me . Desire to know beyond the here and now , she always said  that while this life was important,  there was a more important long term journey which one needed to be mindful of.  She was so right.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teaching my blood whispers to me. - Hermann Hesse

Being a seeker I can empathise with Hesse.  For as far back as I can remember I have wanted to know and understand the  ' Big " questions . Why am I here ?  What is this life all about ?  I am still searching and each discovery brings more depth more understanding more certainty that this life has purpose. That we are all born with work to do and that if we ask and search directions will be given to us.

I haven't always recognised the instructions, sometimes it is with hindsight that the answer dawns on me .
I thank my practise's for  the insights, without reflection ,without learning to listen to ' the teachings  my blood whispers to me' I would have missed so much.

When you learn to quieten the thinking mind ( or not even completely quieten ) just not let it distract you from  
the stillness and silence that surrounds and interpenetrates your thoughts. Insights and teachings can be recognised.

There are many methods to achieve this , we live in an amazing time of opportunity so many teachings that were hidden are now available to all of us.

I really began with T'ai Chi and it is still central to my life , Open Focus added  a depth to that practice and all the other teachings I have investigated.

Open Focus  exercises are what allow me to pay attention to the whisperings of my blood in all the activities of my day. Whether I am  giving a Reconnection session , teaching T'ai Chi , or allowing my thoughts to flow to the screen here .

If  you are reading this you too are a seeker you too have 'Big ' questions and no doubt like me you have found some answers.

Just for a minute now reflect on some of the answers that you have found.

Acknowledge them , thank the eternal wisdom  that directed you to those insights.

 In doing this you will be priming yourself for more answers.

May you find insights and fulfilment of your deepest dreams and longings.

Monday, 13 May 2013


We are more than the physical body.
We all know this,  deep inside is the knowledge.
To access this knowledge is not enough ,we must experience . 
It is not meant to be taken on faith it is to be believed through experience.
So let us wake up and be attentive to the signs and experiences that reveal this truth to us.

Sunday, 12 May 2013


                            Deep in the soul, below pain,

                           below all the distractions of life,

                              is a silence vast and  grand -

                                an infinite ocean of calm

                               which nothing can disturb ;

                            nature's own  exceeding  peace ,
                            which  " passes understanding "

                                   That which we seek

                                with passionate longing ,

                                     here and there ,

                                 upward and outward ;

                          we find at last within ourselves.

                                                    R .M . Bucke


Saturday, 11 May 2013

This weeks Mini Form and Short Form Lessons and a short introduction to Open Focus Attention

 Open Focus exercises are designed to awaken our awareness to
         '    how we are paying  attention   '.
When  we pay attention in narrow focus we do not allow our
awareness to extend to peripheral elements of our experience.

For example , with narrow focus one may be in a conversation,
while blocking out  sensory information from the body.
Attending to the same conversation in Open Focus allows one
to be simultaneously aware of the feelings in and around one's body
 as one listens fully to the words of the conversation.

You may now get a sense of this by spreading attention evenly
so that various experiences can be included in simultaneous awareness.

While  reading these words allow  your attention to expand and include
current body sensations,     sounds,     tastes,     smells,    visual events
surrounding the words  and thoughts  as well as emotions , all without
interfering with reading and understanding. You may now wish to pause
in order to include these elements of experience into Open Focus attention.

Have you felt the difference it makes when you expand awareness while
reading ?
 Now continue and allow yourself to also become aware of the space
 between the letters,   space between the  words ,  the spaces between
you and the screen,  allow yourself to become aware of the space in the
 whole room all while reading and understanding these words.

Notice how your body feels now.
Widening and softening our attention relaxes the body and calms the mind.
  Remembering  to come  into Open Focus during the day will relax your
 body expand your mind  and open you to a new way of experiencing
 your 'reality'.

Open Focus exercises were developed by De Fehmi of the
 Princeton Biofeedback Centre. I trained with Dr Fehmi a few years
 ago and have found Open Focus to be an invaluable addition to my
life. The exercises woke me up to a whole new way of being present,
which spills over into everything I do from chatting with friends and
family to practicing T'ai Chi and Reconnection.

More about Open Focus over the next few weeks in preparation for
a live interview and Open Focus exercise with Dr Fehmi early in June.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Interesting Interpretations

            When I saw this fern the central stalk immediately reminded me
                of seahorses  Seahorse photos
          My mind was still on fractals and I could see the  self similarity
        as described by Damien Jones in the Fractals In Laymans Terms
           link I posted the other day.

           When I showed the photo to John he saw snail shells
                Snail Shell Photos
          I was reflecting on how we all see this world in our own unique way
           when I came across  the article below  . . . . . . .      

            Life on a Farm

"Every act of communication is an act of translation." Gregory Rabassa

I live on a farm that was once part forest, part swamp. I live with animals both domesticated and wild, with plants, with flowers, with a garden. My grandparents lived here, my parents, my siblings and I, and then my children too. I walk on the land every day and never get bored. There is always something new to see and learn. In the summer, I sit on my deck, which overlooks a pond, a field, and past that, the lake. Barn swallows nest over my head. Paper wasps build small grey cones among the swallow nests.
Once, I was sitting on my deck with a group of young people. A wasp came by to have a look. One young man looked up and exclaimed, "You have wasp nests up there." I do. My excuse to friends and family is these are nonaggressive paper wasps, not yellow jackets. But I wouldn't remove them in any case.
"All you have to do is sit still," I said. "They will come by to see who you are. After they know you, they won't bother you." This poor young man gave me a look that said, very clearly, "crazy lady." But, to his credit, he didn't move. There was so much more I wanted to tell him, but, where to start?
I wanted to tell him, "Just say hello." Some people proclaim, "The earth is alive," and while I sympathize with this statement, for me it is easier to say, "A wasp is alive." Or perhaps, "Grass is alive."
Grass is not only alive, it is responsive, and in its grass way, aware. Grass, mowed, turns into lawns, but given a chance, it will spring up and go wild in a very short time. It will cover sidewalks, parking lots, and walls. People rarely notice grass and yet they walk on grass all the time. They sit on it, lie on it. How many look down and see that the grass is alive?
Current research indicates that grass knows something. The smell of mown grass, which to the human nose seems so pleasant, is actually the smell of pheromones sent out by the grass. It is threatened, calling to pollinating insects. But we don't hear it as that because we don't know.
The grass is alive, I can say. But then I stop. What do I mean? Does the grass have consciousness, emotions, intelligence? I can't tell. How to translate the grass? The grass looks inert but it is always moving. It grows, changes, exudes pheromones, and sends out root tendrils that find cracks in the strongest concrete. If I lie on the grass, does the grass say hello back from within its grass aliveness?
I may never truly know but it doesn't matter. The realization of the aliveness of the non-human is the crack in the paradigm, a shift from understanding nature as passive, unfeeling, and mechanical, to seeing the non-human all around us as aware, a huge something in which we, as humans, participate but can never control, that we can study, become aware of, learn about and find many patterns of translation.
The assumption that plants and animals have no feelings was made by science hundreds of years ago, for convenience.
Everyday at our farm, this act of translation between human and non-human continues. A new horse lives at our farm. She is a rescue horse, a pretty red Arab mare that was neglected by her previous owner. I will never know what happened to her. When I come into the field, she turns her head away and won't look at me, unlike the other horses, who watch me, ears pricked to see if I am bringing treats, or hay, or a halter. She flinches at my touch and moves away.
So I am forcing this mare, Fannie Mae, to greet me. When I go out with her hay, I hold it until she looks at me and sniffs my hand. Then she turns her head away, lays her ears back, and won't eat unless I move off. I scratch her neck, I stand with her and breathe. Soften my own staring eyes so I lessen the predator messages my body is sending. I can interpret her behavior, but I can't really know what her experience is, or why she behaves this way. We have no shared language but I can interpret, guess, wonder, study, and learn her body language.
Eventually, I hope, she and I will figure things out on the basis of interpretation, body/sign language, and if I'm careful and aware, we can make an agreement on how to spend time together and be at peace.
My brother takes our dogs and hikes up the mountain every day. Often he follows the tracks of the female cougar who dens high on the mountains. Often he comes across a trail where she is following him. Sometimes they see each other.
She never comes down to the farm but we are glad to have her on the mountain. There are too many deer and not enough predators. We welcome her return as a sign of an ecosystem recovering itself. My brother believes she knows him and recognizes him.
Everywhere, in small ways, such translation continues. My daughter is an urban gardener. I'm a farmer. There's a difference, although we could argue all day about what it is. In her city garden, she planted her raspberries properly, out in the sun in good soil. But one plant reached up and across into the shadowed branches of her Gravenstein apple tree, and there it produced the earliest and fattest raspberries.
The realization of the aliveness of the non-human is the crack in the paradigm, a shift from understanding nature as passive, unfeeling, and mechanical, to seeing the non-human all around us as aware...
The assumption that plants and animals have no feelings was made by science, hundreds of years ago, for convenience. It's actually a cultural assumption. It has no scientific basis. This assumption makes it easier to experiment on animals, easier to exploit them, hunt them, or use them as a "resource." This kind of thinking has resulted in the snarled mix of contradictions, beliefs, sentimentality, superiority, and fear with which humans continue to regard and portray the non-human world.
But current research that examines plants and animals for 'intelligence' finds it in many new and surprising ways. Such research is finding that certain animals and plants are far more 'intelligent' than anyone had ever even guessed. However, intelligence is the wrong word. Consciousness is the wrong word. But science doesn't have the right words. We have no language because plants and animals are not like humans. Such comparisons are habitual but not useful.
Nevertheless, evidence continues to grow showing that animals are smarter than humans have ever understood them to be. Baboons can distinguish between written words and gibberish. Apes can delay instant gratification longer than a human child can. They plan ahead. They make war and peace. They perform acts that indicate caring. In fact, biologist Frans De Waal has written extensively on morality and empathy in primates and other animals.
It's not just primates that demonstrate unexpected abilities. Dolphins recognize themselves in a mirror. So do elephants. Black bears can count and so can pigeons, monkeys and ravens.
It's not just animals either.
In the words of botanist, Anthony Trewavas, plants can, "with great sensitivity compute complex aspects of their environment and change behaviour to optimize fitness within their local environment."
This means they communicate with each other through networks, warn other plants of danger, call for help, feed other plants, or put out pheromones to attract particular insects.
I can't really understand what goes on inside plants and animals. But I try to find out and to reach out, study, observe. Even still, I have to dwell in both the knowing and not-knowing, as listener and translator.
As a child, I was always fascinated by the many lives being lived on and around our farm: the domesticated animals we cared for and some of which we ate, or wild animals, some of which we made into pets. When I ranged over the mountainside above the farm, or along the lakeshore, I saw a variety of wildlife, from bears to hawks to ravens. Sometimes on hot afternoons, I would lie on the moss under giant Douglas firs, and part the bits of moss to see the small intense lives being lived underneath: tiny worms, beetles, larvae, or spiders.
But as an adult, more and more, I wonder about all these lives. I think about what it means to live somewhere and truly understand where I am living. The more I learn, the more complex it gets. I have always known that when I walked into the forest, voices, eyes, and ears announced my presence. Recent studies indicate that even the mighty fungi underground, mycelium, transmit my presence.
When I go into the forest, squirrels chitter from tree to tree to far away tree. Often a raven will ghost overhead, cock its head, and peer down. Now I am learning that scientific research has shown ravens can learn amazing skills, that a collie can learn over a thousand names, that parrots seem to understand what they are talking about, that plants can recognize and help each other, that an old growth tree acts as a mother tree to young trees, sending nutrients to their roots. How can I understand this? How do I acknowledge something so vast, so unknown?
It is bewildering to say simply, hello - to acknowledge the limits of translation, to acknowledge our own unknowing.
I have now been wandering around the same piece of land for some sixty years and now it's clear to me that the more I know about it, the farther away I am from understanding anything. That's okay by me. When I was eighteen I knew everything and now, all I know is that I don't know anything. I'd like to go back and re-read every book I ever read but I don't have time. I do have time, however, to watch and see and listen as I go for my daily walk.
On every walk now, a particular raven comes with me, appearing overhead or perching on a tree, silent, watching me. I stop to look, to recognize this presence. I don't know if it is a she or a he. Or why she or he comes on walks. But it does. Or they do. Yesterday there were a couple of ravens, clucking to each other in the dead craggy tree by the beach, combing beaks.
I am surrounded by beings whose behaviors, rightly or wrongly, I interpret. How do I find the invisible line between interpretation, anthropomorphism, and fantasy? My life is full of thorny ethical thickets. I keep domesticated animals. I even eat some of them. I ride horses. I work with dogs.
And when I watch animals, both domestic and wild, I interpret their behavior every day, trying to find the boundaries of a shared understanding. What do we share? Is it how our bodies move and communicate? Our senses? Plus we share land, we share an ecosystem, and I believe we share something else, a mutual recognition of being alive together.
I may think that animals don't understand my language but I have no full understanding of "them", what I perceive as them and no clarity about how they see me. How do I appear to them? Are they afraid of me? What language does my body exude as I wander across fields, up the mountain into the forest, in the midst of an astonishing exuberance of being, from tiny beetles to horses to cougars, from moss to giant cedar trees. Do I miss the messages and greetings coming back?
These new discoveries in science are saying look, plants and animals are different from what science previously assumed, which is different from what religions and culture have previously taught. The standard of "intelligence" or "culture" still remains a comparison with humans as ultimately superior in these areas.
Why not do research in the opposite direction? Making comparisons asks the wrong questions. Why not make the assumption that animals and plants have something; what do we call it? Aliveness? Awareness? Conscious existence? Proceed from there. Why constantly ask animals and plants, who can't speak our languages and who have no legal standing within our courts, to prove their intelligence, their consciousness, their equality with humans? After all, do animals acknowledge our superiority? Does the grass bow before us?
What kind of knowledge do they have of us? Over generations, ravens remember people who have harmed them. Do the whales remember whaling ships? Does the prairie remember our extermination of the buffalo?
The biggest, most profound and most revolutionary shift we could move to now is to live in a world where saying hello to the grass is a sign of deepest respect and an acknowledgment of our own lack of understanding and knowledge.
It is bewildering to say simply, hello - to acknowledge the limits of translation, to acknowledge our own unknowing. Our bodies also have a kind of language. Sometimes, our bodies translate for us, simply by being alive in the world, seeing, taking it in, and loving the place we have landed for now.
Yes, we are part of the world, and the world is within us as we are within an alive and enormous network of being that looks back at us. To perceive this is at once so profound and also simple. It begins with the most obvious everyday things around you. The most radical thing you can do is to look down, look around, say hello and then begin to learn what that means.

--by Luanne Armstrong

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Recharging Our Energy

          A trip to this little wood  recharges my energy .

                    Springtime carpet of wild garlic

                     Sunshine on the stream

              Some bluebells

               Some more

            Loving  these bluebells

        More colours to delight the eyes

   The promise of delights yet to come

                 Blue skies

                Tender young beech leaves

            A last look around

              Tails wagging and hearts happy we head home