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In my small bucolic New England town sitting at the foot of rounded tree-filled mounds of earth we call mountains, I am nestled in the valley of the Housatonic with my fellows. Humans are not necessarily the majority of inhabitants here, although they claim to be in charge.
Some of us have been here a long time and some of us have been here longer. Personally I don’t think it makes a lot of difference. My own history in this place where I live now is very brief – I just moved in a year ago. Before that I was somewhere else I hadn’t lived long in and before that the same. I have always been welcomed as a native although that is hardly the case. Before my ancestors came here, they were some place else. Who can say otherwise?
It happens that here, where I live now, there are many we call Hispanic, they have been here far longer than I. They might have moved here, as I did, recently or years ago but they are only called Hispanic because the country I call mine invaded their country and won.
For some reason, perhaps because of the might of Teddy Rooseveldt and others, I do not call myself English-German-Dutch-French-Irish American, nor do I have to fill out forms or be counted as anything much. Demographics in this country have largely confined themselves to my gender and my politics, neither of which I have to explore to any degree.
I once did live in a place – Concord, MA, with three small, quiet rivers surrounding and running through my environs. It was only when they flooded and I had to drive thirty or forty minutes to get to a destination five minutes away that I noticed their existence. Time is relative until it isn’t and now the people I work with who far outdate my contribution to this area are being threatened. If not they themselves, their relatives, friends – you know what I mean.
Living here has become very stressful, we are being raided and rounded up. I used to ask my mother, “What did you think when you heard about the pogroms? About the raids? About the trains? What did you do? How did you act? What did it feel like?”
Her reply, like many of her answers to other questions, was more than disappointing. She didn’t know – about anything. She didn’t know what to do and she didn’t ask. In fact in her life she didn’t feel safe emotionally, I know that colored her heart. And she felt she had made her mark, made her life, even though she felt vulnerable in it as a woman. In truth if she had set herself free with her opinions and desires, she would have been shunned, pushed aside. She was pushed aside anyway and she didn’t invite more. It also wasn’t happening “here.”
Now it is. When Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) is pushed out of a meeting of his peers in the House of Representatives, we are in trouble. When my friends are rounded up all over the country –including the ones I know along this corridor between CT and NY – I am afraid.
Now is the time. This is on us.
People talk of Hitler and his ilk. They only mean they ones we know – Papa Doc, Idi Amin, Pol Pot – to touch the surface. But these days, this month, has caused me to think there are many Hitlers. We are surrounded. I asked a friend who lives in VT and has gone to Canada for decades – weekends visiting friends. She says that after this election when she comes back, they hassel her, take her phone, keep her and her husband pulled over. I asked after the tone of her interaction, what was on the minds of these agents who had been quiescent for decades. How could one person’s voice give them this power, this drive? Did she think they had been waiting for the chance? She thought it was that they could. Now, it was supported, they could be kings, they had a mission. That simple.
In such a simple world, I find simplicity too.
RESIST

Boston Reviews Paula’s Dance

Paula Josa-Jones: “Of This Body” at the Dance Complex, Central Square, Cambridge, MA, June 3 and 4.

Paula Josa-Jones in a scene from "Out of This Body."  Photo: courtesy of the artist.

By Marcia B. Siegel

Paula Josa-Jones’s concert Friday night began in the street-level studio at the Dance Complex, with a surrealistic film montage of disembodied eyes, sections of antique street maps, feet making their way over stones, and some soft meditative music. For the rest of the evening, upstairs in the studio-theater, Josa-Jones performed three solos, The Traveler (terra incognita), Mammal, and Speak. Like the introductory film, the dances suggested floating identities, journeys but not destinations.

Josa-Jones led a well-regarded dance company in Boston for 15 years before decamping to Martha’s Vineyard in the 1990s. She’s now based in Connecticut. Her unusual background includes the intensive body-centered work of Laban movement analysis and Somatic movement as well as choreography and design. She’s trained horses and studied equine awareness. Her book, The Common Body: How Horses, Movement and Awareness Awaken Our Essential Humanity, was published this spring in the UK. Her concert at the Complex reflected all these influences. Without any didacticism, Josa-Jones gave us a finely crafted theater work that challenged the viewer’s imagination.

When we entered the studio, we saw what could have been a large pale rock, with two rocklike mats or quilts nearby, and a projected film of the outside of a speeding train. A kitschy tango was playing. The smallest of the mats heaved a bit, and a person began to emerge: Josa-Jones wearing layers, a loose shift over a t-shirt and black trousers, with a black clown’s cap over her head. She seemed to be some kind of creature, searching around her body with her hands, touching herself, reaching outward. Crossing the space, she seemed to be pulled off center, bending and arching her body, her arms skewing out at the joints. Though the creature’s behavior was primal, she never seemed without mind or intention.

She reached under the other mat and started pulling out some reddish cloth, then withdrew as if impelled away. Later she returned and tugged it all out, together with a bowler hat and a cane. The cloth, dyed in subtle shades of red, turned out to be a beautiful, oddly cut jacket. When she started to put it on, her thrusting arm led her into big whirling circles and the cloth swung out like that of a Dervish. Donning the hat and the jacket, she glided through the space, her movement growing more specific and detailed as she paused to try out different characters. She didn’t evoke their stories, only their appearance, their gestures. Like passengers on a train, they were only glimpsed.

The traveler passed through several more phases or spheres, with accompanying projections and music. There were bells and clouds, then a film montage of wrinkled paper or cloth. After a crash of thunder and a fall, the traveler plucked what may have been discarded newspapers from the quilt. The sound changed again: a chaotic overlay of rhythms with an accordion added into the percussion. The traveler’s gestures grew more agitated, into groping and grasping.

The sound and the screen changed again, to an expanse of flat water rippling in the sun, then more speeding trains. The woman made her way into the corner of the space, dragging the heavy quilt behind her. The dance was over but not the journey.

Mammal began with Josa-Jones crouching and nearly merging with a screen covered in amorphous shapes. She wore a long, layered dress with a sort of halter top that revealed her tattooed shoulders, upper back and arms. Late in the piece, she came close enough so the audience could see that she was wearing what might have been long gloves that came down over her fingers like claws. Despite the dance title, she didn’t literally imitate any animal, but she could have been channeling anything that walked on four legs, writhed on the ground, crouched and gazed around warily. We heard strangled screams, muted growls and screeches that could have come from a nighttime forest a long way away.

Paula Josa Jones Photo:

The sounds in this piece (unidentified works by Fred Firth [sic] and DakhaBrakha) comprised an interesting, pan-ethnic mix with hints of African, Eastern European, and pre-verbal vocalizing. The dancer walked with clutching hands, at first to a two-note accordion bass line with percussion and trumpet notes and later to some chanting in high-pitched nasal voices. She slowly rolled away, to curl up and become part of the film projection again.

The last piece, Speak, might have been an improvisation. I only say this because, searching for it on the Internet, I found at least two other versions, all slightly different. But even if the movement was spontaneous, everything she did looked deliberate, if not rehearsed. Josa-Jones says this piece was prompted by the moves of an autistic relative. I thought it could have been a gender statement, or possibly a comment on aging.

She began seated on the floor with her back to the audience. Wearing a mannish suit and a black t-shirt, she rose and gestured around her body, as if getting dressed. Or perhaps checking her outfit for rips or moth-holes. Josa-Jones’s movement is so specific you want to assign a meaning to it, even as you realize it has no specific meaning.

She sits in a chair, spreading her legs wide, adjusts the small round shades she wears, fiddles again with her hands. When she gets up she swaggers a bit, falls into nameless characters while a soft man’s voice raps to a rhythm background, urging, “Let your hair down and let yourself move.” (No telling who this was; three names are credited in the program opposite Music.) When the dancer sits again, she pulls her legs together primly, gestures close to the body with trembling hands, as if primping before an unforgiving mirror.

In spite of my frustration about the music, I was deeply involved with this performance. Josa-Jones is a unique mover, totally committed to her movement, and totally moving in every body part. This show brought her dancing together with the sympathetic collaborators Paola Styron (direction/outside eye), Katherine Freer (projection design), Susan Hamburger (lighting design) and Pam White (photography and videography).

Internationally known writer, lecturer, and teacher Marcia B. Siegel covered dance for 16 years at The Boston Phoenix. She is a contributing editor for The Hudson Review. The fourth collection of Siegel’s reviews and essays, Mirrors and Scrims—The Life and Afterlife of Ballet, won the 2010 Selma Jeanne Cohen prize from the American Society for Aesthetics. Her other books include studies of Twyla Tharp, Doris Humphrey, and American choreography. From 1983 to 1996, Siegel was a member of the resident faculty of the Department of Performance Studies, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University.

 

Stand With Me

Little Fictions, Ragged Memoirs on Indiegogo

DSC00616As someone who spends a lot of time searching for words, I am always relieved to find engagement apart from the written or spoken word. Don’t get me wrong, I love words. I’m using them now to give voice to the transformative power of dance.

And theater. I love movement with supporting visual orientation and Paula Josa-Jones is a master of the theatrical move.

But, as important as that is, it’s not why I’m writing. I’m here to tell a story. It’s about passion and commitment and collaboration. I’ve been photographing Paula since early in 1985. When I saw her in front of my lens I knew I’d been waiting for this mixture of innovative movement, comfort with the camera and an eye for detail that allowed my wild eye to flourish.

Now, when I talk about passion and commitment, I am not talking about us, Paula and me. I’m talking about Paula reaching out, asking dancers, set designers, and all those connected to production to plunge into their most authentic selves and come together to make truth in the work.

It takes courage and steadfast wildness to come to this place. And that’s where my story begins.

A few years back Paula was searching. We had moved here to the NW corner of Connecticut. Dancers were in Boston. Horses on the Vineyard where we had spent twelve years and major production of RIDE, dance theater with horses.

Now that I’m writing this, it seems simple. If you’re alone, do solo work. Duh. But then it was a revelation. Like a sword finally untethered, sharp and ready to strike. So, use it, duh.

When she asked me, I said, do a solo, you’re really good at it. But something had been hiding, Paula was shy. Who knew? Her company of beautiful dancers acted as a shield and we had chosen to live in a new place without “protection.”

She started rehearsing. Building this new solo work, Little Fictions, Ragged Memoirs.  This is a lengthy process and now – I’m not sure how many years later – performances, dance showcases, artistic residencies, 1000 hours of listening to music, collecting brilliant collaborators. looking at costumes and photographs – not all mine, check out her Pinterest site.

This is serious work. Important work. Evocative and smart work. She does her best, is doing her best. You too, please. Thank you.

Open the gate – you won’t be sorry!

Little Fictions, Ragged Memoirs on Indiegogo

The Give Away

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What we create with another Being is not ours to give away.
While looking at a photo of two people I know intimately, I was struck suddenly by what the photo did not show.
It did not, could not depict, their years together. How they met, what they feel like now – yes, what they really feel like – which may not be the smiles shown for the taker of the photo, who is also not in the photo but is very much there.
No children or other travels, houses, books, sex, honesty, lunches or breakfasts are depicted. No loving or nasty moments, no clutching or letting go.
We take them as they are this moment photographed by the person we don’t know, in their lives or not, past and future not here. Only the moment. This moment. This one important moment. And if this photo gets into an album and if the album is shared and seen by present company and future grandchildren and further on, they will think they got something. They will think they know something.
And they will. They will know this moment. And they will make of it what they will in their moment. And nothing will be given away, it will be taken.

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The What About Love

Lately I’ve been going through boxes. It seems strange to me that in many places I’ve lived, those before me have left mementos. Sometimes special rocks, flowerpots, and more than once, a box of letters. One woman even had me photograph her entire family album and then never wanted it back. Go figure.
This time a letter from a concerned aunt or friend, I don’t think the writer is the parent. Why do I think that? Because the tone is restrained and equanimity is attempted – but then generations past have had more reserve than ours.
It starts, “My Dear One,” and tells current events, the weather, how the river flows as it passes the house and the state (not good) of a tree they must both have loved. Words of love and caring, times shared, but you can tell they are in the past. The writer is not giving her full feelings.
“I know this day marks the anniversary of your marriage. Even as you may experience joy, I feel restraint and I want courage to take the lead from sentiment and self-pity. Even so, the timing and manner of your leave-taking leaves an unbridgeable chasm in my heart. While sorry not to have enjoyed your company these last two years, I wish I thought we could be honest with each other. I question what we had. What I thought, who I thought I knew.”
There is a paragraph about how her choices have affected all family and friends, teachers and ministers and all those whose trust in themselves was shaken by her actions.

Letters are carriers of affect that those around the author do not guess. In a letter I found that my father wrote – and why it was on his desk I do not know, perhaps it was a draft or he never sent it, I will not know. He writes to a friend I never heard of how grateful he was for the presence of my mother. Something he never showed when I was around. He was very dependent on her in his blindness and not all that kind.

Funny what we put out. What we choose to say. What we choose to leave unsaid. What we choose to leave behind and the crap shoot of who will find it. It’s what I love about life – what do you love? What frustrates? What do you want? Do you ask for it? Did you? Did you?
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What We Do When

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I found a short poem by Raymond Carver who is always good to read if you’re feeling a little down and don’t mind staying that way. I love him and read most of what he wrote while he was alive – he died young in 1988 while I was trying to be a writer and looking for reasons to let it go.

I did let it go then, I just couldn’t be where he was, he was so there. When he died a note to himself was found in his shirt pocket – I paraphrase what it said, “just one more day, give me another poem to write.”

It may have been an old note, he may have written that poem, but I know he wanted more, nothing so simple as one more anything would have been enough.
Here’s the poem I found:

I find myself, at last, in perfect silence.
Knowing the little there is left.
Knowing I have to love it.
Wanting to love it. For both our sake.

I looked for something from Carver because I knew I would find a reflection to mirror the particular loss I feel at finding a note my daughter wrote to herself before she left. It expressed hope for love and success and happiness. It was totally the girl I knew. She happens to be the only person who’s loved listening to hits from the fifties with me. A dog or an occasional cat has – but no human in my midst. I say this because while we were listening to those songs, it was enough.

Not having her in my midst goes way beyond the songs, but it isn’t beyond Carver. Whether loss in love, death or trust, he has the phrases and stories that express even beyond my experience of grief. Writing can express a strength that’s there or inchoate, it can be a harbinger or a swamp. I practice writing a lot and I encourage my clients to do the same. Sometimes we don’t know until we’ve written or said something out loud. Joan Didion was known to say she never understands how she feels about something until she’s written about it.

That is quite dramatic. Writers do that for us and to the extent that we feel moved, we can join in.

 

 

 

Liam Three Months Out

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You can tell me that grieving takes its own sweet time. I’ll tell you its not necessarily sweet, although its not always sad and wrenching. And that it pulses. Sometimes I feel like my food processor – lots of stuff put in and I’m supposed to turn on and find what to do with it. Find the correct blade and carry on.

As I write this my dogs have set up a howl. And I have joined them. Writing can only get you so far. Howling will do the rest. The greyhounds have a keening sound, high and deep in the throat. They sound when I’m not joining up properly. Now, as I’m writing, and even though my door is open, they know my mind is elsewhere. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find their minds filled with Liam. Images of him are rampant. Not just because he was a favorite subject for me but he was in all our faces – literally. Jules could never even start to walk out the door without Liam attached to his face in some very noisy way. He is downstairs as I write moaning and whining. He will not come up the stairs. When I “bring” him up, he might stay a minute but, unless I close a door or gate, he runs down to his bed. He is a simple, complicated dog.

Liam was straightforward, upfront, in your face. He could be subtle, I loved his tame look when he was abashed and wanted to be with me but wasn’t sure he could go – mostly he could. And, unlike most JRTs he would do what I asked even if he didn’t want to. He had another look for that. In all he was a dog of many natures, many gifts. There wasn’t a person who didn’t want his/her hands on Liam. I have many photos like the one above with everyone reaching toward him as they interacted together. He was always within reach.

I wish he was still.
Jules just came in and lay down.

What Would You Do?

I was out to lunch with a friend the other day and we overheard two women at the next table talking about the men in their lives. We got very quiet ourselves and did a lot of eye contact, but not enough to giggle or anything untoward like that.

The two women were both very well put together – probably in their forties or early fifties. I noticed after listening for a while that neither had on a wedding ring – not that that makes a whole lot of difference anymore but it carries my story along because choice is easier, you’ll see what I mean in a minute.

The one to my right was saying how wonderful her life is now that Joe (not the name I heard her say) is in it. While she was speaking the other started twisting her hair and her mouth did a funny wrinkle – as far as my peripheral vision, which is always good at the eye exam, could see.

To my right I heard about Joe. He is dedicated, fixes dinner when she comes home late. Their shared house is really special, so much nicer than when she was alone in it. He hasn’t been doing all the other things he and other lovers did before. He’s always there when she needs him, he works at home, how nice that is. He volunteers for her favorite charities – how refreshing that is, no one ever did that before, including him when they were together before.

I check in with my peripheral to see how her mouth is and the state of her hair. It’s all a bit tighter, but nothing to worry about yet. The 54 year old boyfriend is still being explored with joyful bullet points when I feel an energy pull peripherally and note the friend has stopped twisting and her mouth is set. I look at my friend and see total engrossment.

“Has he paid back the money he borrowed?” I hear from the peripheral. “How is it going with the daily expenses you mentioned to me last time we had lunch?” “What about…” I see a stammer, eyes narrow and blink to my right. More than anything I feel the wall come, the confusion, the flight of purpose. I want to create a distraction for her, I want my water to spill, the waitress to come, dogs to bark.

There is silence at both our tables and I fear my friend and I will be exposed in our reverent listening, our solemn hush. But their silence is so emphatic that when my peripheral begins to speak again, we can all listen without restraint, so intent are they on their own world.

“When I was growing up,” she said, “I heard about women who kept men. I didn’t understand, and in our age the lines are blurred. I can’t tell who is supposed to pay for what and what anything means. But I’ve been your friend for a long time and I feel like I know you and I know I love you. It’s hard for me to see you with Joe and get the crusts of love he offers you. It’s hard to see him take advantage of you and it’s hard for me to see your goodness and neediness and openness. Maybe if you were less of a person. Maybe if you were a schmuck I wouldn’t care so much. But I love you and I can’t stand to see you like this.”

By now we were not the only ones listening. The woman to my right stood up, I think she was crying and I know her face was red. She left. My peripheral, by now, friend, put her hands to her face and sobbed. She left a few minutes later.

I’ll probably never see either again but I know I got a lesson. I notice I think it’s easier to leave a relationship with marriage at its base. But I also know that a marriage is the relationship we have with our self, our needs, our visions and, yes, our illusions. The slightest of relationships is as sticky as our illusions. We cling or let go or let be as we relate to our self.

What is your lesson? Is it better not to say anything and keep your friend. Or would you risk all and speak up in the hope of being heard?

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You May Never Know What’s Eating You

It has long been both my assumption and very clear to me personally that there is no gold in mining the past for anything that will “cure” whatever distress is lingering in my daily life. That is not to say that where something disturbing me comes from cannot be useful, it’s that I don’t think it’s necessary.
In fact the more I am exposed to quantum theory and the research coming from the genetic dynamics we are heir to, the less I am inclined to lean on the past for anything but storyline.
I want to share with you this article I found recently as I think it speaks to so much clarity we could have using strategies in the moment without the concomitant muddying of waters gone still.
Reminds me of the teeshirts I have seen proliferating – Keep Calm and Carry On or variations which satisfy the makers’ intentions.

Phobias may be memories passed down in genes from ancestors

By Richard Gray, Science Correspondent   @The Telegraph

Memories can be passed down to later generations through genetic switches that allow offspring to inherit the experience of their ancestors, according to new research that may explain how phobias can develop.

Scientists have long assumed that memories and learned experiences built up during a lifetime must be passed on by teaching later generations or through personal experience.

However, new research has shown that it is possible for some information to be inherited biologically through chemical changes that occur in DNA.

Researchers at the Emory University School of Medicine, in Atlanta, found that mice can pass on learned information about traumatic or stressful experiences – in this case a fear of the smell of cherry blossom – to subsequent generations.

The results may help to explain why people suffer from seemingly irrational phobias – it may be based on the inherited experiences of their ancestors.

So a fear of spiders may in fact be an inherited defence mechanism laid down in a families genes by an ancestors’ frightening encounter with an arachnid.

Dr Brian Dias, from the department of psychiatry at Emory University, said: “We have begun to explore an underappreciated influence on adult behaviour – ancestral experience before conception.

“From a translational perspective, our results allow us to appreciate how the experiences of a parent, before even conceiving offspring, markedly influence both structure and function in the nervous system of subsequent generations.

“Such a phenomenon may contribute to the etiology and potential intergenerational transmission of risk for neuropsychiatric disorders such as phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.”

In the study, which is published in the journal of Nature Neuroscience, the researchers trained mice to fear the smell of cherry blossom using electric shocks before allowing them to breed.

The offspring produced showed fearful responses to the odour of cherry blossom compared to a neutral odour, despite never having encountered them before.

The following generation also showed the same behaviour. This effect continued even if the mice had been fathered through artificial insemination.

The researchers found the brains of the trained mice and their offspring showed structural changes in areas used to detect the odour.

The DNA of the animals also carried chemical changes, known as epigenetic methylation, on the gene responsible for detecting the odour.

This suggests that experiences are somehow transferred from the brain into the genome, allowing them to be passed on to later generations.

The researchers now hope to carry out further work to understand how the information comes to be stored on the DNA in the first place.

They also want to explore whether similar effects can be seen in the genes of humans.

Professor Marcus Pembrey, a paediatric geneticist at University College London, said the work provided “compelling evidence” for the biological transmission of memory.

He added: “It addresses constitutional fearfulness that is highly relevant to phobias, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders, plus the controversial subject of transmission of the ‘memory’ of ancestral experience down the generations.

“It is high time public health researchers took human transgenerational responses seriously.

“I suspect we will not understand the rise in neuropsychiatric disorders or obesity, diabetes and metabolic disruptions generally without taking a multigenerational approach.”

Professor Wolf Reik, head of epigenetics at the Babraham Institute in Cambridge, said, however, further work was needed before such results could be applied to humans.

He said: “These types of results are encouraging as they suggest that transgenerational inheritance exists and is mediated by epigenetics, but more careful mechanistic study of animal models is needed before extrapolating such findings to humans.”

It comes as another study in mice has shown that their ability to remember can be effected by the presence of immune system factors in their mother’s milk

Dr Miklos Toth, from Weill Cornell Medical College, found that chemokines carried in a mother’s milk caused changes in the brains of their offspring, affecting their memory in later life.

Everyday Choices

“When you are more aware you can make better choices.”

Deepak Chopra said that in his book, What Are You Hungry For? But anyone can say that, has said it. Your mother or father probably told you that. They may have substituted other words – older, more one thing or another – but basically it’s a simple thing to say and very true.

Not simple to do. It’s one of those moments in my practice – or with myself – when I say something really obvious and they say or I say, “Oh I know that!”

Yes, but what can you do about it? That’s the question, and the follow through pretty much determines how you feel about your life.

What is “awareness?” We all talk about it a lot but defining it in the moment is another thing. The nasty word “discipline” comes to mind. We all think we are disciplined until we really look, then, if we are lucky, we can see the cracks of where we could be better, where life can teach us something maybe without hitting us over the head.

Start with joy, love, fear, a feeling of peace. Their presence or absence and how much and how often. You can go a long way just watching your life according to those feelings.

Emotions cloud the feelings sometimes with justifications, sometimes with resentments or envy. Those pretty much take the equation to a much lower level and as long as we dwell in “I’m better than or worse than,” the fear we live in will be masked by jealousy and hubris and all their relatives and cousins and the truth of who we are will elude our grasp.

In the moments of willingness to take a risk, to take time off, not check something, take a breath, we let in what’s real for us – or it knocks at our door and to the extent we are comfortable or not, we make excuses or see a thing as what it is.

Our lives are changing all the time – our thoughts wiggle around like the microscope slide of pond water. We are never still, even as we are completely still in our human viewpoint, our bodies are oceans of activity. Our thoughts send neuropeptides all over our bodies. Our hearts have more receptors for emotions than our brains, every organ we recognize (and those we don’t) is listening to us, eavesdropping on our every micro moment. Even thoughts we don’t recognize ourselves as thinking are heard in our body in their fullest voice. What passes through the conscious mind is picked up by the unconscious with full comprehension.

The reason meditation is so impressive an avenue for change and positive growth is that it is channeling the unconscious, the part of us not so involved in our outside world of fame and misfortune. The unconscious has, from our sentient inception, been aware of our every thought and move, has received all the input that our cortex was not mature enough to take in and is processing it as I write. The more it can be counted in any decision-making process we embark on, the smarter we can be.

Finding well-being doesn’t happen by itself. It isn’t lying in wait for you ready to pounce. You must receive it. Your motion of looking, seeking, opening – the door, the box, the mind – is a way of saying you’re ready, you are not too full or empty to take more in. Awareness isn’t like food of which you can have enough, it’s a quantum field, expanding as you fill in and inhabit its spaces.

There is a story about what’s important. There is a jar, water, big rocks, small rocks and sand. Maybe you’ve heard this, bear with me. The jar is your everyday life, the choices you make in every minute, and the big rocks represent what’s the most important to you, the smaller rocks, yes, you get it – and the sand, the sand is all the phone calls to return, facebook posts, emails and so on.

Many of us put the sand in first on an everyday basis. We say something like, “oh, they’ll (our loved ones, family, friends) be there, they always are.” Or, “nobody cares anyway so what difference does it…..”  You get where I’m going.

So with the jar full of sand, there’s no room for the rocks, or you have to choose really carefully. What to do? When I have the visual, it’s perfectly clear that you’re going to get nowhere with the sand first, it just doesn’t work. So I take it out – because if I start my day with things like emails, I’ll have a lot of sand in the jar and a few little rocks and maybe a big one on a good day.

When I put the big rocks in first (I’ve chosen ones that fit), and then I place the smaller ones, maybe shake the jar a bit, then I put the sand in. It all fits! And I can add the water, which will make everything happier and more workable.

In practical terms what that all means is I put my oxygen mask on myself (big rock), I take care of what is important to me every day – more likely than not it’s just an attitude (very big rock), not something you’ll see me grinding away at. Keeping the long view (big rock), looking at the nitty (what I have to do to get where I want to be – part big & little rocks, sometimes involves sand) of life not so much as gritty but as supporting the long view. If there’s something I’m doing I find frustrating or painful, hopefully it will be in support of a brighter, more aware future me. If it isn’t, I hope I can let it go. Just as I let this lily be the next thing it’s going toward.

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