Tuesday, September 30, 2008

EcoBliss: You're Trashier than You Think

Ash.

Listening to: This should wake you up!

Bliss: Signs of Halloween are popping up all over. The mums are blooming. Time to get out the spooky tree candle holder, I think!

My name is Blisschick and I am a piler. Yes, I pile things. I pile paper things in particular. Piles of books. Piles of folders. Piles of pieces of paper -- and I mean pieces. Pieces ripped from here and there and everywhere. Piles of ideas. Piles of thoughts. Piles. Piles. Piles.

Ask my partner about my piling. Poor thing. She is not a natural piler and my piling is a source of distress for her.

Years ago, when we redecorated the living room, my goal was to get rid of piles, including the inevitable piles of knick knacks and candle holders. I wanted clear surfaces. That lasted about a month.

Now I am an altar builder, which you can read as "formal piles."

So, if our external worlds are a reflection of our internal worlds, what the heck does this say about me?

I know what it says. My brain is in a constant state of whirling and twirling and restacking and dumping and building all sorts of piles. Piles of memories. Piles of information. Piles of dreams and goals and to-do's and shoulds and coulds and woulds. It's hard to get anything done in there, as you can imagine.

The desk I am sitting at is covered in small piles -- books and DVDs, catalogs, papers, pictures. My keyboard is on the top of a pile, essentially.

But I look outside or I think of most people's homes or offices or I think about the trash bags put to the curb every week on my one small block in this one small city and I know that this is not my problem alone.

We recycle, of course we do, but that is not enough. We are always skipping the most important part of that phrase: recycle, reuse, reduce.

Reduce.

For just one example, what happened to the computer making a paperless office? From my experience, the computer has increased paper. People are constantly printing out new versions of the same thing. Change one word? Print it all out again.

We want everything to look so tidy and pristine that we've made an utter mess of it.

Here's something to do: Sit and breathe and get really quiet. Get as quiet inside as you can. What happens after a few moments of this? Typically, it gets very loud and messy in there. Now, open your eyes and look around. What is your world reflecting back to you?

I think of all the people in the United States especially who are obese or who are being treated for depression.

Both of these "diseases" can be said to be about trash. We put too much trash into our bodies and get fat, and we put too much trash into our minds and become overwhelmed and apathetic.

So that's really where we have to start with cleaning this planet -- we have to clean out our minds. Get to the source.

Why are we over-consuming and thus so very trashy? Only until we figure that out will we ever be able to have clear surfaces in our living space.

Tomorrow: I'll be posting an interview with a writer from England who has written this wonderful guide to rubbish.

Monday, September 29, 2008

InnerBliss: How Bright is Your Radiance?

A beautiful, old tree in our park.

Listening to: Something new enough that my partner had not heard it. (High fiving myself -- she normally is ahead of me on the music learning curve...by miles and miles.)

Bliss: Getting out cold weather clothing and finding some tops that didn't fit last winter but are fitting now! Rediscovering sweaters. By the end of winter, I can barely stand the sight of sweaters, but at this time of year, I adore them. That's the fun part of seasons, I suppose.

At the Chautauqua Institute in New York, there are these awesome trees. A cluster of them down near the lake. Frog and I love to take a blanket and sit in the middle of them. No one else is ever there, which always amazes us, because these trees just feel powerful, and they are so soothing. We always take books and journals and sketch pads and then we always just end up sitting.

And of course, the edges of Lake Erie feel like this to me, too. I take books and things to do whenever I visit her, but I just end up sitting and staring and listening.

Those trees and our lake emanate energy that is calm and makes me feel centered and serene.

Like some people.

Then there are people who make me feel instantly scattered or sad or negative.

It's all the energy.

We, the trees and the lake and people and animals, we, all of us, are bundles of energy. And that energy is not contained in some sealed package that doesn't leak. This is not some new age chatter. At the cellular level, we are vibrating and emanating and leaving trails everywhere. Things that look solid are not. Physicists have proven this already.

So to think that the aura, or the 8th Chakra according to Kundalini yoga, is a figment of our imaginations is false. Speaking of the energy signature of a human as an aura is simply a language choice.

Everybody is a candle, true. But everybody is not lit. --Yogi Bhajan

And to speak of different auras is not the babbling lunacy of a carnival freak. We all know it's true, through direct experience, that different people have different energy levels for a wide variety of reasons.

What is yours?

What kind of energy are you putting out? Are you a dimly lit, fading bulb or are you the star that you are capable of being?

The 8th Chakra is your radiance. Is it cloudy? Do you need a good cleansing?

Through our 8th Chakra, we project ourselves to the world and we protect ourselves from it when necessary. It is another sense; it is how we give and receive information with our surroundings without ever speaking. It is the "sixth sense," the one that kept us alive in the wilds when being eating was a possibility every day.

The aura is also believed to hold our karmic residue and so through working with it, we can release old patterns that are holding us back; we can come to know our true natures; we can come to understand universal love and our part in it.

So some questions to consider:

Are you overly sensitive to the emotional weather of other people?

Do you feel drained when you are around negative people?

Are there parts of your past that you are unable to let go of?

Do you keep repeating patterns and not learning from them?

Do you have a constant supply of positive and productive energy?

Do you find passion in your life on a daily basis?

Do you see life as a hardship or as an adventure?

Are your interactions with other people not only good for you but also for them?

Do you feel dissociated from your life?

Do you feel emotionally numb?

One basic way to work on your aura is to sit and meditate on it. Breathe deeply and relax your mind. Then picture yourself and your aura. What do you see? Is it gray and cloudy? If so, concentrate on "glowing" yourself.

Also, when you are in a difficult situation, focus on visualizing yourself in a globe of light. See the negativity of people hitting the globe and bouncing off. Or see the negativity dissolve in your light.

Be careful: taking on other people's junk is not your responsibility. Being the most radiant you is your main job. That alone will help everyone around you.

If you are having an extra hard time with this, before you leave the house, a prayer of sorts can be helpful. Here's one of my favorite from the writer Caitlin Matthews in her book Celtic Devotional (and there are tons of these gems in this little book):

I weave the cincture of protection
from the nine powers of nine trees,
strength of oak,
straightness of ash,
purity of birch,
absorbency of alder,
brightness of beech,
elegance of elm,
healing of willow,
power of holly,
everlastingness of yew.
Nine trees to circle me,
nine powers to guard me,
as the Autumn song resounds.

When your energy is waning or when it has been drained by another, what do you do to brighten your radiance?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

MysticBliss: Rilke Makes Me Gasp, Yet Again

A rare and handsome Scottie flower.

Listening to: What was with the androgyny in the 80's?! (And yes, I loved this music.)

Bliss: Finally ordering some of this for one of the rooms to see how we like it. Remembering, just in time (HOW did I forget?), to order lily bulbs. We'll plant them in early November. Oh, how I have learned that I have such a love for lilies.

Do you ever read something that makes you stop breathing? That feels so instantly familiar and at the same time, brand new? That makes your heart beat faster? When you come to the end, does it make you gasp or quietly say "oh, my..." out loud on your front stoop, sitting in the fall sun?

That just happened to me when I came across this Rilke quote, from this delightful little book:

You have to live life to the limit, not according to each day but according to its depth. One does not have to do what comes next if one finds a greater affinity with that which happens later, at a remove, even in a remote distance. One may dream while others are saviors if these dreams are more real to oneself than reality and more necessary than bread. In a word: one ought to turn the most extreme possibility inside oneself into the measure for one's life, for our life is vast and can accommodate as much future as we are able to carry.

Phew!

I LOVE THIS!

My partner is always telling me that it doesn't have to "take time," this healing, this growing, this knowing, this awakening. No, it can happen in this moment, in this instance.

She is right.

And I love the idea of being true to our biggest, most amazing, most vast selves.

Stop being small versions of ourselves. Right now.

Stop not painting, not writing, not dancing, not singing. Right now.

Stop denying your dreams, holding your breath, waiting for the magic pill, the magic cure, the magic person. Right now.

What mountain, what ocean, what sky is in you, waiting to be born?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

BardBliss: Jewel Tones

The last grasshopper but I couldn't resist this --
it looks like his senior portrait!

Listening to: Another song I love, love, loved in high school.

Bliss: Our apple finally has a red blush to it! We've had good luck with our newer trees and vines this year. The kiwis are dee-licious. And the apple tree will only produce more and more over time. The almond tree has made it through the summer without losing any of its new growth so we might see flowers next spring for the first time. Next year: back to more vegetable production; I actually missed it (unexpected!).

Jewel Tones

Rubies and diamonds and peridot
and pearl and topaz and moonstone
cascade from my lips.

Rather then collecting them
and throwing them at you
like rocks, I am

determined to string them
together with wisps of silver,
weave them into

fine strands of silk,
paste them to my forehead
and into my belly button,

hang them in my sun filled
windows, and pour them out,
through my pen,

until they spiral and tumble
and swim and make mandalas
into which I can

dive heart first,
until it is time to be
poured into the sea.

--christine c. reed

Friday, September 26, 2008

BlissQuest: Who are Your Helping Witnesses?

Even with the damage, this tree grows strong
in the park a half block from our house
(which happens to be in the middle of the street).

Listening to: Someone a bit older than me (cough) recently said that 80's music sucked. Such generalizations! So here's something early 80's that simply didn't.

Bliss: Yesterday morning, Marcy and I fed a very large grasshopper a dandelion. Very cool. Then we went out back and were sitting around when high in the sky -- a hawk? A heron? What? It turned out to be a BALD EAGLE. Oh my! About two years ago, we had the first nesting pair in these parts in many, many years -- on the Peninsula -- and they've returned each year since then and now we saw one over our house. Awesome.

When I was about 15 years old, my Great-Aunt Ardelle passed away. My sister and I always thought the adults around us were calling her "Our Delle," which made sense to us. Everyone who knew her wanted her to be theirs and theirs alone. She was the most nurturing human being I had ever met, and I was aware of this even when I was young.

Delle was always ready for you when you came for a visit. And she would be ready for you in very specific ways. For one, she would stock up on your favorite foods. One of my fondest memories is going upstairs to her kitchen -- her second kitchen since they lived in a flat but they lived on both floors -- opening her big, fat, old refrigerator that was set back into the wall -- and finding those little aluminum cans of Swiss Miss chocolate pudding. My favorite. (And they never tasted the same once they put it in plastic.)

She always encouraged me to eat a second one when we were alone. She knew I loved them, and she knew it was not looked upon with favor at my house -- this eating for the joy of eating, this eating with relish, with abandon.

She would put out big dishes of M&M's and laugh if you tried to resist.

I would spend nights there when I was very small, and as I lay on the davenport (the special word that I thought only Delle used for "couch"), I would watch the lights of the cars from down below as they washed over the ceiling of the room.

Every single thing about her house was special to me: the big claw footed tub; the lack of focus on a TV; the very large stereo cabinet on which she would play old records; the china cabinets -- two giant ones -- filled to the brim with all her dishes and glasses and trays; the gardens outside; the begonias along the side of the house; the way we could walk to stores only blocks away.

But all of this was special, because she was: the way she laughed so hard and so loud; the way she sat, so unladylike, not caring about anything but comfort; the way she talked to me like I was a real person.

And that was the main thing: the way she talked to me, the way she saw me.

Dell saw me.

The real me. When I would sing a song that I made up on the spot, she would tell me to sing some more. When I told a story, she asked questions that showed how much she really listened. When I drew, she didn't just say "that's nice," but she really looked and then talked to me about why I did what I did.

Shortly before she passed away, I was visiting her with my family. We were sitting in the very formal front room on the second floor. A room I still think of when I think about what it is to have style.

She asked me out of the blue what I thought I wanted to be some day, and with my parents there, my throat closed; I didn't like lying to Dell, but how could I expose my heart to my mother and father? I told her I didn't know.

She blinked and said, "Oh, I just thought you'd be a singer."

This memory still has the capacity to make me almost cry. (A big deal for this non-crying soul.)

Dell saw me.

Many years later, as I tried to be the me that she saw, the real me that she so clearly identified, so easily loved, years later as I worked through all the crap, I figured out that she was a large part of the reason that I was okay.

In psychology, they call My Delle a "helping witness." Amidst all the fear and sadness that was my life at that time, Delle was a light, a beacon, a guide. She showed me that there was another way to be in this world.

Most importantly, Delle taught me -- through words and actions -- that I was a real person.

The role of helping witness, psychologists say, is the differentiating factor between someone who doesn't make it and someone who does. The helping witness reinforces the capacity for resilience. So to say that Dell saved me is not an overstatement.

Who was your helping witness? I assume if you are reading this, if you are at this blog, that you are looking, searching, seeking...and all those things tell me you are one of the resilient ones.

So who taught you that about yourself? Do some digging. But I bet you think of it pretty quickly.

There's often more than one. But sometimes not. Luckily, all it takes is one.

Whether that helping witness is still in your life or not, is there something you can do to honor them? Some sort of shrine or memorial you could create?

Every year, I plant begonias for Dell -- her favorite flower. But I think, maybe, I need to do more...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

RandomBliss: Things (&Blogs) I Love Thursday


Things (&Blogs) I Love Thursday

Listening to: Classic pretty 80's punk. I prefer him/them live as opposed to canned videos.

Bliss: The generosity of other bloggers continues to surprise me (by now, it shouldn't). So today my bliss is to share some things I love that other people are busily and happily creating!

As someone turning 40 in November this year, I've been thinking a lot about "success" and where I am and where I want to be...typical stuff.

Gala over at Icing has a two part post about what she thinks are the causes of quarter and mid-life crises. (Quarter crises being a new thing...) She is spot on about the causes and the solutions. And she gave me lots to think about.

Emma over at Treehouse Jukebox wrote a wonderful, concise piece about ... peace. About fighting. About politics. About the need for refuge.

Christine Kane writes about the financial "crisis" and how much power we have to choose not to participate. I always think about 1929 and how most of that was really fueled by massive fear responses that swept through large groups of people. We must not do that again.

Rebecca at The Difference a Year Makes was sweet enough to post a video at the bottom of this piece that was just for me -- and boy oh boy, did my partner and I get the giggles!

Kimberly, that Hip Tranquil Chick, created a simple list of simple things we can do to make a difference.

Diane writes The Everything Yoga Blog and it is everything worth reading.

Connie at Dirty Footprints reminded me that dancing is not only good for our bodies but essential to this soul!

Lisa at Nerdy Renegade News takes some photos of the sky that are breathtaking and then her batteries give out -- which is when the real lesson starts.

Jennifer at Pink Heels is starting a really wonderful, amazing thing -- a small business blog e-circle. If you have a small business, participation is free!

For anyone who is new here, some things I've said in the past that I think bear repeating:

Regarding the elections that are coming up, I think we all need to remember that it's not about "them," but rather, it's about our own everyday actions.

Fear was on my mind back in May.

And we all need a little personal revolution, I think!

And because art is a path to happiness and joy, here are a few of my most recent Etsy finds:

Caroline of The Zen in You has opened a really lovely photo store.

Julia of The Red Otter makes gorgeous handmade journals.

I am totally captivated by these tiny creations of JooJoo.

LilyMoon seems to conjure entire worlds on flat sheets of paper, one image at a time.

I hope out of all this reading and viewing you find something or someone who changes your perspective, who makes you see something old in a new way, who roses up those glasses so that the world is a wee bit prettier in pink than when you arrived.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

SharedBliss: Interview with Urban Shaman & Author, Donna Henes

Mystical, Magical, Moon Goddess Donna Henes

Listening to: The visuals in this are great, but I adore this music; I, too, am someone who loves to listen to the same thing over and over, all day long. (See the interview.)

Bliss: Posting an interview with an author whose book you have cherished!

I have always been a sky watcher. At the age of 11, I saved up for and bought my first telescope. Yet, still, my favorite way to view the sky is with the naked eye. And my favorite thing to keep track of is the moon.

A few years ago, as I delved deeper and deeper into the idea of feminine divinity, my interest in the moon reached a new level. I sought out as much information as I could find. I started keeping track of the day of each moon in my journal -- rather than writing the date by the solar calendar, an awkward invention, really.

Then I started dreaming of a book filled with all sorts of bits and stories and facts and myths about the moon. I started collecting notes, thinking I might write it. Then I found it already written, happily for I was beginning to write a novel and did not want to stop for anything.

What I had found was Donna Henes' book, which I have quoted from in this blog, The Moon Watcher's Companion.

And now here I am, interviewing her! Life is a splendid thing, indeed.

Donna is an Urban Shaman (that is a link to a wonderful short video of her speaking at the Hayden Planetarium, where she mentions light pollution!), a writer, and a speaker and counselor. (You can sign up for her wonderful e-mail newsletter here.)

How did you come to know that this was your PrimaryBliss?

From the earliest age, my deepest soul just knew. I was guided by some innate inner source of wisdom, obtained through many lifetimes as a seeker. I was compelled to follow my spiritual path, despite the limiting circumstances of my life.

What types of choices and sacrifices did you make to be able to craft this bliss-filled life?

I have always said that unless you are an heiress, which I am most definitely not, you need to choose between time and money. For me, the choice was simple. Time wins, every time!

When people ask me whether I support myself as a shaman, I have a pat answer. I always say, “I support myself in the means to which I have become accustomed.” That is, ice skating on the edge of a razor blade.

How does your PrimaryBliss radiate out into the rest of your life?

My PrimaryBliss is my life. It allows me to radiate an energy of affirmation, of enthusiasm, of empowerment, of optimism.

What are some other activities that also give you this sense of bliss? Things that make you lose track of time?

Sitting in solitude and absolute quiet, writing, drumming, chanting, gardening, dog cuddling, walking, swimming, dreaming, making love, making art, making sense.

What is your daily or weekly spiritual practice?

I bless my self every day, at every opportunity. This is the core of my spiritual practice. The more you bless yourself, the more you believe it. The more you believe it, the more you project it. The more you project it, the more you invite it in. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy of contentment and bliss.

What music is your bliss?

I love sacred music from around the world, especially drumming and chanting. My favorite thing is to listen to one side of an album or a single track of a CD all day. It defines the rhythm of the day and provides an emotional theme.

Name books or authors/poets or people who are your bliss, who influenced your bliss.

Annie Dillard, Diane Ackerman, Barbara Kingsolver, May Sarton

What advice would you give to someone who feels they have not yet discovered their PrimaryBliss?

Live each minute, each second of each day. Pay attention. Notice signs and symbols and omens. Look for miracles. Seek and ye shall find. Your PrimaryBliss will manifest itself and you will know it.

Do you have a favorite quote you would like to share?

“Follow your bliss.”
-Joseph Campbell

Donna picked the defining quote for this site!

Lately, the air filled with feuding and political nit-picking, it seems that so many people have lost sight of the beauty and bounty of life; it seems the "practical" and the material have been given royal status, whereas compassion and the spiritual aspects of life are being downgraded to "unnecessary" or something we don't have time for or silly fancies in light of the "real, serious" stuff.

But the real, serious stuff is the stuff of people like Donna -- her work as an Urban Shaman, reminding us city dwellers to look up every night and take a breath, to look around every day and take a break, to be aware of and open to miracles, every day, every moment.

We need to remember who we are and we are not simply and only consumers! We are creators and we are here to be filled with and to share awe.

To quote from Donna's Moon Watcher's Companion:

Even today, the most dapper, jaded urban dweller will take an instant, astonished notice of the full moon as if seeing it for the very first time. In so doing, they celebrate a simple celestial observance which connects them with the cosmos if even for a single mystical moment.

May we all be more aware of our inherent mystical natures. May we all take the time to bless ourselves so that we might bless others. May we all stop bludgeoning one another with agendas and start simply doing and being for one another with utter abandonment and joy.

The moon is eternal; our current problems are not.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

EcoBliss: No More Noise

A visitor on our garage door.
Has anyone else noticed an unusual
number of grasshoppers this year?

Listening to: What I had in my head when I named this post.

Bliss: Mid-70's and sunny for days and it is forecast to continue for many more...heaven. Eating kiwis off our front vines. Mini, hardy kiwis and they are amazing. Waiting, waiting, waiting for that one little apple to ripen. Dreaming of local apple cider any time now.

At the age of six, I somehow got an excruciatingly painful ear infection. It got worse than it had to, because I was afraid to tell my parents that I was sick. I had already learned, in my house of (at the time) two nurses, that sickness was weakness and was not tolerated. So I kept it to myself that my ear was exploding with pain and then dripping growing amounts of liquid.

Eventually, it was apparent to anyone who looked at me that there was something horribly wrong, and I was taken to the hospital where a doctor informed my parents that one more day of that and I would have been deaf.

I am not deaf. Alas, there are days when I do not think that would be a completely bad thing.
There are days when I feel I might drown in all the leaf blowers and screaming children; there are days when car alarms and motorcycles feel like ice picks on my brain.

Then I remember music. Sweet music. Kitten voices. My partner's voice. The sound of a quiet, bird filled morning. The lake lapping. An espresso cup clinking on the saucer. A tennis ball hitting the sweet spot on a racket. The cicadas in late summer. The crunch of snow. Real, not recorded, church bells.

And I am grateful that I got to a doctor in time; I am grateful that somehow out of all that sickness, I ended up with superhero hearing. Do not speak a whisper anywhere near me unless you want me to hear it.

Yes, I am grateful, but oh how I wish for more quiet, more serenity in my soundscape.

A memory from my childhood that sparkles (and these are rare): We went to Maine for a vacation and ended up at a friend's cottage for a couple of days on a small lake that did not allow any motor boats of any kind. There are many lakes like this in Maine, and I dream of living on one (though I also dream of living in Paris, so go figure). I dream of waking to silence and falling asleep to crickets. I dream of swimming in water that is not churned by motors and coming up for air not to hear or smell those same motors. I dream of the loudest noise being my own splashing or the sound of an oar skimming across the top of the lake.

I daydream of Mackinac island where no cars are allowed. I dream of downtown Freiburg, Germany -- also a car free zone (and where my ancestors came from). Imagine that places still exist on this planet where the primary means of transportation involve sounds like feet hitting pavement and bike bells singing no more offensively than birds or perhaps the clunk of tiny wheels on the bottoms of baskets filled with the day's purchases as people pull them over sidewalk cracks. Instead of horns and mufflers and stereos and revving, you could hear laughter and the sounds of people interacting directly with other people.

Alas, the reality of our modern lives (or what we assume they have to be) makes my ears ache just thinking about it. I sit in a library two days a week to work, and even there, a sanctuary of silence in the past, the noise level is typically more like that of a shopping mall. People assume they can be, should be as loud as they want wherever they want. People assume, I guess, that everything about them is worthy of other people's attention -- why else do they have personal conversations at full volume in public, whether the other person is there or on the other end of the phone?

Sitting at my desk, I play music. Quietly. But I can barely hear it above the din that my computer tower is always making. Always. When I turn it off at night, it leaves a vacuum of silence. (A side note: at home, we only have Apple computers, which do not hum or grind or make any sort of noise whatsoever. Another reason to love Apple.)

I play music at home, too, of course. And there are times when I play it quite loud. There is something in human physiology that adores well ordered sound -- i.e. not noise. But I walk outside and make sure you can not hear it from the sidewalk. I do not want to add to the general, perpetual din. My taste is not yours.

Din. Modern life is comprised of din. Televisions. Radios. Phones. Computers. Video games. Cars. Trains. Trucks. Motorcycles. Planes. Lawn Mowers. Leaf blowers. Hedge trimmers. Edge trimmers. Hair trimmers. Vacuums. Air conditioners hanging out multiple windows. Fans. Light bulbs that use less electricity but hum. Electric can openers. Electric mixers. Electric tooth brushes. Anything you can put a motor on and more...

Does anyone use a broom or a pair of clippers any more?

Not only are we wasteful with resources, not only do we pollute to create more and more electricity, but we are creating forever daylight and forever noise.

No wonder so many of us are angry and confused and tired. We are, twenty four seven, assaulting ourselves.

In cities, birds have been proven to be increasing the volume of their songs. Birds need to be heard by other birds to establish territory, to mate. Crows meet every night and talk about where they found good food that day and where they are all going to sleep that night. (That's not a joke; crows are super, super smart birds.) What will happen if the girl Cardinal can't hear the boy's song? And this is just birds, what is the noise doing to other wild life?

What is the noise doing to us?

People exposed to extreme noise, of course, are losing their hearing. But it seems to me that I know more and more people who suffer from hearing loss and they didn't work in big factories or go to huge concerts.

How many of our headaches are caused by noise?

How much poor sleep is caused by noise over night? Even if noise does not wake you, according to recent studies, it still triggers stress responses while you sleep. You are sleeping and your body is filling with adrenaline.

But now you can just buy a white noise machine to cover up all the other noise -- much of which is likely coming from our own home. What the!?!

We know for a fact that people who do not sleep well over a long period of time develop depression and even more severe forms of mental illness.

So now you can get stressed while you rest. And if you're awake, you also experience the stress response in your body even if the noise is not making you feel outright angry. Stress then raises your blood pressure and decreases your immunity.

Low frequency noise can cause nausea and heart palpitations.

I wonder, in generations to come, how much they will tie noise to all sorts of disease?

For now, it seems to me that we all need to work on our library voices.

For more information, go here, here, and here.

(This post brought to you by PissedChick.)

Monday, September 22, 2008

InnerBliss: How Connected Are You?

What do you see in this beautiful sky?

Listening to: Oh, this is really pretty (and totally relaxing)!

Bliss: Happy Autumnal Equinox! This came just in time for me to wear it to work today. Pure happiness -- I got the red, which has a lot more color variation (yum) than the photo could ever show.

(The first six chakra posts: one, two, three, four, five, six.)

A couple of years ago, I painted myself into a very dark corner. I had over-intellectualized my human experience to the point that I decided, quite logically, that not only was there no God at all but that any need of him/it/her was a sign of weakness and lack of intelligence.

I decided that there was no reason for a higher being, that being a good person and living an ethical life in no way depended upon anything outside of myself.

True.

But...I am, at my core, an optimistic person, and this stance on life felt like anything but optimistic.

Also, I finally figured out that there is no way to "prove" either side of this argument. And the lack of proof for something is not equal to proof against that same thing. That's a basic rule governing good debate.

Besides, my craving for, my deep need of a higher being, a higher state, a larger picture...none of it every went away; I was simply using energy to deny it.

This from someone who had a near death experience at the age of seven. This from someone who has always sought out a relationship to the divine. This from someone who has continued, throughout her life, to have mystical like experiences beyond the one at age seven.

Gifts. I was blatantly turning my back on all of these gifts. But no more. And I am happier for this change. Blisschick came out of this change. Because of this change, I lived through a couple of deaths that before felt like they might kill me or send me into despair from which I would never return.

I am back to feeling more like myself. I am on my path and on purpose.

The seventh chakra, or the crown, or the thousand petal lotus, is located at the top of your head. Some call this the seat of your soul or the tenth gate. You could think of it as a sky light through which you see and experience the big mind of the universe. It is the channel through which you receive and send messages to the divine within and without. It is the opening of your creative conduit.

In religious icons, it is the location of the halo, the shining light of infinity, where your soul enters and then exits your body.

Here are some guiding questions to work on regarding this chakra:

Do you frequently feel your own boundlessness? Are you aware of your big mind?

Have you gotten past old, worn out ideas of anthropomorphizing divinity? Does the infinite frighten or excite you?

Are you able to take a leap of faith? Are you trapped in your intellectual mind?

Do you frequently feel non-duality? How often do you think of yourself and "other" as separate?

How large a part do devotion and inspiration play in your life?

Are you able to see the larger picture or do you get mired in the details of everyday life?

Are you overly sensitive to outside stimulation, like light and noise?

Are you plagued by doubt? Have you lost a sense of meaning? Do you suffer from a lack of purpose?

How well do you know your own mind?

Does the word "faith" make you cringe?

Do you feel smarter than other people who are tied to a particular tradition? Do you see religions as a crutch?

Do you have a persistent fear of death? If so, here's a great book.

Gem stones that are said to be helpful when working with this chakra include amber, diamonds, and moldavite. Flower essences include lotus and angelica.

The best "exercises" you can do for this chakra are prayer and meditation.

Also, to more fully explore the idea of our minds being the seat of our souls and the power inherent in this idea, I suggest watching this a few times. Or this. Or this. Or even this.

Faith. Hope. Devotion.

What kind of new world could you help to make with words like these?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

MysticBliss: Magic is in the Air

The light in the cemetery is so...ethereal.

Listening to: Oh, how I loved her when I was 14, but what is with that head band?

Bliss: Is a new, proper, fully back supporting chair for my writing space. And finding one that didn't cost a small fortune is even better.

From Phyllis Curott's Book of Shadows (quite an excellent read):

Magic is not just something you do or make. It is something the universe does with you. It is our relationship to the divine...Magic is the art of living a creative life that is graced with divine presence...when you discover the universe is full of magic, you fall in love with the world.

From Starhawk's Spiral Dance:

The Goddess is immanent but she needs human help to realize her fullest beauty. The harmonious balance of plant/animal/human/divine awareness is not automatic; it must constantly be renewed, and this is the true function of craft rituals.

Tomorrow is the Fall Equinox. Do you feel the magic in the air?

What will you be doing to play your part in the harmonious balance? To awaken the divine presence at this time of year that is a doorway into hibernation?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

BardBliss: Fire Walker

Erie Cemetery, Yesterday.

Listening to: Yesterday, after a long walk to take pictures, we finally stopped in a used record shop that Frog has wanted to check out for a long time. We found the 12 inch extended play of this (which could very well be the copy I sold to the same store many years ago) and some wonderful imports on vinyl. So now it's time for a record player. From vinyl to digital and back again.

Bliss: Birds! Yesterday, Frog and I were both inside working and heard a ruckus in the yard next door. We make our way outside to discover a domestic bird rescue in progress. Eventually, they had to enter our yard, so we got to help. They finally got Miss Frankie on a twig and were placing her in a cage when she decided to make a fly for it, at which point I got to catch her! So soft. Moments later, we were sitting on a blanket in the yard and I saw an emerald green bird fly over. Who knows!? And in a few moments more, we were visited by a Red Tail Hawk, who flew high over us, circling and doing that "standing still" in midair thing.

Fire Walker

Sometimes -- during rare
and lucky moments --
I can feel the energy
of me
spiraling down from
my thighs through
my calves and out
the bottoms of
my feet.
An invisible thread
lengthens
and shortens
as I lift and
place
each step;
it gently tugs
down through
the grass or bricks
or cement, through
the layers of dirt, through
rock and mineral,
plates of earth,
untapped water and oil,
until it disappears,
burned up in
the molten lava,
and I and my feet
remain unaware
that every day
we walk on fire.

--christine c. reed

Do you ever take meditation walks? What do you notice when you really pay attention? When you aren't walking to "get somewhere" or exercise but simply to walk?

Friday, September 19, 2008

BlissQuest: Weeding out Political Prejudices

The eyes on that tree trunk!

Listening to: A girl in braces certainly couldn't resist this song.

Bliss: A crisp, cool, sunny day, and we are going to ride our bikes and take photos. Bird migration is in full swing, so who knows what we'll see. OH! And last night, sitting in this window, I heard the crows freaking out and looked out just in time to see them chase a hawk right over the front of the house -- I was on their level, being on the second floor (but it was all too fast for me to ID the hawk -- from his butt!). SO COOL.

Politically speaking, I am a liberal, tree hugging, save the world, feed the poor kind of girl. I'm sure this comes as no surprise to anyone who has visited here for more than three seconds.

And yet, personally I am quite conservative, which actually does surprise people, because they have ideas about lesbians, and the word "conservative" never fits into those ideas in any way whatsoever.

As you can imagine, most of our friends are quite liberal. And lately, I have been noticing some disturbing trends among the liberal crowd. The most disturbing thing I notice is their closed minds.

Yes, I said that -- "closed minds."

I also have some fairly conservative (as in "fiscal republican") friends. Talking to both of these groups is a very different experience. And not in the way you (or I) would expect.

In my experiences, the fiscally conservative group is more willing to listen to the other side, more willing to concede that there are other ways of looking at things, much quicker to admit that their way might not be right for everyone.

My liberal friends are angry. And they have reason to be. We all have reason to be. But not every republican is George Bush; not every republican is a cold hearted power monger. Some republicans even have some good ideas. (Gasp!)

Most important of all, though, it seems to me that my liberal friends assume that they and their kind always work from good intentions and the other side always works from bad intentions.

And this is very dangerous territory indeed -- this assuming that you could ever have any idea about what is in another human's heart.

It is assumptions like this that only polarize us more; it is assumptions like this that eventually lead to violence -- on a personal and then global scale.

And one thing we certainly don't need more of is violence.

Intentions are a tricky thing. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions." How true. The point being that everyone is capable of deluding themselves into believing that they have good intentions regarding any action.

People don't normally do bad things for bad reasons. It may appear that way on the outside but that is certainly not the conversation they are having on the inside. Perhaps if they are seriously mentally ill, yes, but I think that is much more rare than we like to believe.

Over the past few years, I have had some serious eye opening experiences regarding intentions. And some of the most serious has come through literature, specifically the books of Mary Doria Russell and most specifically, Thread of Grace, a book about Italy during WWII.

The Italians saved more of their Jewish population than any other country. And they did it town by town, person by person, average people putting their own lives on the line -- with good intentions.

But Russell (a Jew herself) gives us this rare glimpse into the hearts and minds of the people we have deemed "evil." In particular, you get to know a Nazi doctor and through the course of the book you learn that he has "good" intentions. (Read it; I can't begin to cover the complexities of it here.)

You also learn some things about Hitler that even this blisschick did not know -- and I've been seriously and deeply studying the holocaust since my teens and continued to do so through graduate school.

You see, Hitler was not the spawn of the devil -- he was a human being.

Like Bush. Like Cheney. Like McCain. Like Obama. Like Clinton. Like you. Like me.

All just trying to do our best and some of us being given the power to do what we think is best for others.

None of us can see the larger picture; none of us has all the facts (what we think we know today is more often than not found laughable in a generation or two).

But we can try harder to see each other for the fragile, beautiful, damaged, imperfect humans that each of us surely is. We can try harder to be aware of our own prejudices, our own slanted views, our own assumptions about our own intentions.

A bit of Thomas Merton from Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander (and we are all guilty bystanders in one way or another):

The tactic of nonviolence is a tactic of love that seeks the salvation and redemption of the opponent, not [our opponent's] castigation, humiliation, and defeat. A pretended nonviolence that seeks to defeat and humiliate the adversary by spiritual instead of physical attack is little more than a confession of weakness. True nonviolence is totally different from this, and much more difficult. It strives to operate without hatred, without hostility, and without resentment. It works without aggression, taking the side of the good that it is able to find already present in the adversary. This may be easy to talk about in theory. It is not easy in practice, especially when the adversary is aroused to a bitter and violent defense of an injustice which [the adversary] believes to be just. We must therefore be careful how we talk about our opponents, and still more careful how we regulate our differences with our collaborators. It is possible for the bitterest arguments, the most virulent hatreds, to arise among those who are supposed to be working together for the noblest of causes.