Sunday, December 21, 2008

Oh The Weather Outside Is Frightful

And since the weather has a mind of it's own, not easily influenced by me...let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

We had a juicy ice storm last week, and here in New England there are still thousands without power. We usually get hammered with these storms but this time we lucked out and were just outside "the swath." It was particularly fortunate since our sump pump has been engaging several times an hour for the last nine days. Yes, I am glad that we bought a generator four years ago; it gives us a bit of peace of mind during these storms. We didn't need it this time, but some friends were grateful that I set it up for them and pumped out their basement.

They were a bit red faced since they were so pleased with themselves that they had planned ahead and had a backup pump to their primary sump pump. They hadn't anticipated a total power failure to their home. I learned from their experience.

This has given me an opportunity to think about a few things which I have come to consider as part of my shoveling-out process and storm preparedness strategy. Here are a few of them; consider them both as a way of making things easier and also as "insurance" for the unexpected.

1. Do yourself a really big favor and go out and buy one of those shovels that has a crooked handle. They look foolish but my, oh my, are they kind on the back. They also have a long handle which is great for just leaning on for when it's time to take it even slower and listen and feel the silence and the snow and the breeze.

2. For apparel, make sure that you have a heavy coat which goes 1/2 way down to your knees. The outside of the coat must have something that blocks the wind and doesn't let the water in, nylon is fine. Most of the time you don't need this type of jacket but when you do, it is indispensible. As always, remember it's the wind not the temperature that will usually do you in.

3. There is no big rush with snow shoveling. Take it easy. Usually everyone thinks you do that to not overtax your heart and/or to not be as stiff the next day. But there is a further reason for pacing yourself, and that is to not build up a sweat. The exercise helps to heat, but the excess will lead to sweat and that in turn will lead to a chill. If it is really challenging outside and you have to be out there for some time, having a chill is not a good idea. Remember also, no cotton next to your skin.

4. Find your closest fire hydrant and shovel a path into it so the fire fighters will have easy access in a dire situation. It's everybodies job to do that, so you can be certain that no one will do it if you don't.

5. Buy a pair of cleats or grippers that can slide over your boots. My driveway is fairly steep and there have been times when I wouldn't have been able to get to my car if I didn't have cleats on. That goes also for getting to the woodpile during an ice storm. Our comfy home is kept comfy by the wood stove. Stove needs to be fed dry wood. You get the picture. Think worst conditions and you get the idea.

6. Have a pot of soup and some artisinal bread waiting for when you come back in from the outside if you really want to make it an event. Oh yes, worst conditions, go out and buy several cans of sterno. They store for years and can easily heat up soup, etc.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Addendum: Obviously the 7th suggestion is to have a portable generator. And in the spirit of "insurance" and "making things better" buy a pair of over-the-ear noise reducers. They are much more helpful than the small plug into your ear gizmos and offer better protection to the hearing apparatus. Remember, you only get one hearing system per lifetime - use it wisely.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Necessary Listening

I've heard that there has been some turbulence in the world economy recently...giggle, giggle.

Do yourself a really big favor and listen to this interview of Nassim Taleb by Charlie Rose, recorded on December 3.

Once you hear his discussion of the economy and "the turkey" and probability statements, you will irrevocably understand how we are fooled by the stock market over and again.

His real contribution is, however, more general than "the economy;" it is that improbable events play a significant role with massive consequences in all of our lives, individually and collectively. We are fooled by our tendency / need to focus on pattern recognition to give us the semblance of stability. The "trick," I think, is to widen the pattern on which we are making our predictions. As he says, it is unwise for a pilot to not expect storms.

It's all part of the process.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Shouldn't Life Be Easier?

That was the question, asked rhetorically, by a man who was reflecting while on a ledge slightly below the precipice above the valley of depression. He had recently found himself on that ledge and was surprised that he was there, but more so, he was freightened. Freightened that he might move un-voluntarily into that valley where he had been once before.

What would you offer in response if you were there?

When he was receptive here's some of what I said.

I don't know if it should be easier or not; maybe yes, maybe no. But I do know that when you are in the midst of "a depression" that you lose (easy) access to recollection of the easier times. Because of that it sometimes makes it feel that everything has always been hard, tough. It has a way of also discarding positive recollection in a variety of ways. For example, it can discount the reality of what happened. And knowing that, it can help to recollect some times when it was easier. That can help; that can help a lot. Remember that it is a skill that has to be developed while in the valley.

It also plays the other way. By that I mean that when things are going well and ideally when you are in the "flow," that recollection of the depressed state seems foreign and distant. It's not exactly like that, but it's like that.

Maybe it's a little bit like a bow tie. You have this connection in the middle which connects the two bows. One bow wants to just do it's own thing and to perpetuate itself. Guess what, the other side also wants to do the exact same mirror image thing.

Addendum: A voice with some experience with both the depression thing and the flow thing, thinks, however, that the "bad" bow is sometimes, maybe almost always, more heavily weighted.

My input is that anyone who has ever been in the throes of a significant depression will line up with that comment. But across time balance is of the essence. Just as the universe seems to wobble and at times seems to be favoring one end of the spectrum or the other, if you look at it across time, things find their balance. There tend to be as many sunrises as sunsets but personal habits and acquired tendencies may lead us to favor one over the other.

Nature always gets the last word in.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Some Building Blocks

Purpose may be with us all the time but, if it is, it has proven to be, for me, frustratingly elusive.

But I have been able to assemble a few basic building blocks to help along the way.

1. Mindfulness and the frequent application of it throughout the day has to go into the foundation. It may actually be the mortar which helps the individual blocks to connect and "stiffen up" the process.

2. In the sitting practise I do in the morning I have been watching my thoughts come and go, meander, quicken, drop off, etc. I also watch how they make me feel, what moods they stir, what memories and associations cluster around them.

3. But more recently, I have been engaging in talking to myself. Yes, talking out loud. It shifts with time and recently I have called it a conversation. A conversation with myself. But to have a conversation there has to be another. So I have invited to these conversation others; other parts of myself - perhaps we could call them other selves.

At one point I invited my Guardian Angel to these conversations. The Guardian Angel in this sense (at least) is the representative / representation of that energy which acts as go-between between the visible world and the energetic world. The conduit, or the facilitator, or the bearer of messages between this packet of energy (moi) and the energy which moves through the universe, and through me. Perhaps the Guardian Angel is that which acts as the invisible hands which has guided me at pivotal points in my life by presenting options which weren't there previously.

It's like I create this space in which I'm just sitting there, aware, and carrying on a one way conversation. Maybe that's a kind of narrative in the making. I'll make a statement, a comment, or ask a question, or a series of questions. Emotion gets added to the process. And I sit back and watch what comes, what is presented.

I could call it a conversation with the other, the best friend. Interestingly it's with one at a time, not the "whole gang."

4. Over a period of time I have noticed that I have to go through a kind of developmental progression each time - and since I do my sitting practise in the morning - this has become a way of kickstarting my day.

After I get up, I'll have a cup of coffee and a small bite of something and then start "sitting." First comes just waking up. That's tricky because I feel awake already. The words get in the way. But there is a definite sense of "entering my body and entering the space around me." The sense of energy builds when this happens. Till then it's like I'm in a virtual world but then it transitions into a more real world beyond my body and my thoughts.

5. Sometimes the conversation follows. And I use "the conversation" to bring together what I have learned, what my values are, what I'm working on, what I want to learn and to express.

6. After that I have noticed that I have begun to listen for the first piece of information, the first nugget of the day, the first choice morsel of spirit. That then becomes a partial theme for the day. I ask questions about it. I wonder how "it plays." etc. I may share that with people during the day.

7. At the end of the day I do some reviewing and wonder if my day has amounted to something or if it was for naught. This review has become a benign whip which helps to motivate me to reenter my next day.

8. I suspect that "purpose" will be the focal point for my further activities during the day. I hope that it isn't a limiting belief in the sense that if I don't "find" it that there will be many more "for naught" days. When purpose clarifies then I will have a daily choice of whether to enter that sphere and act from within it.

The problem with "waiting for purpose" is that it can foster a habit of drifting, of not doing what can be done. I am now thinking that a better strategy is to act on what I/we know now and if we have knowledge which is important that it wrong to hold it back.

9. The expression from within and the connecting to without will be for the purpose of healing that which is within me and around me.

10. It comes back to me how this process of stepping into the world, engaging it, came about for me. Several months ago, during a particularly intense conversation, I was reminded of how when I was about 12 years old, I was complaining to my parents as we were driving somewhere not to my liking that "I didn't ask to be born!" and "this isn't living, it's just existing (as in killling time)." I think I was being a real prick, but I was also a screaming over how what was happening in me around me wasn't anywhere close to an authentic expression of who I was or wanted to be.

And in recalling that, I offered a prayer of thanksgiving to the universe for this existence and for this life and that I am choosing life and living and wanting to enter my space, the space around me and to make a difference. Voila - purpose.