Frittering life away?

I get a lot of ideas for blog posts while I’m doing yoga. Some would say it is because my brain relaxes and stops talking. Others might guess that I’m lucky enough to have uncommonly profound yoga instructors. Normally I’d go with both of the above, but not today. This post comes from my mind’s refusing to agree to do what it is told.

detailI am instructed to be totally present in the now. This is a common prompt in a yoga class, but problems begin when we are asked to reflect on what keeps us from being so. “I know, I know” the eager student in my head clamors.  She likes getting answers right. “I replay scenes from the past, and I concentrate on tasks and I worry about the future.” But another voice in my head speaks up, and it is less anxious to please.

“Just how effective a human being do you think you would be if you didn’t focus on getting something done?” it asks. “Performing tasks that enhance your chances of survival, and even add to your comfort, is what buys you the freedom to sit around and chant om and do this other shit.”

This particular voice has a bit of a hard edge, but I think it makes a good point. I spend a lot of my day performing tasks that range from spraying stain remover on my laundry to interpreting seismic signals on a computer screen to keeping my car on the road. It is true, this focus on the minutiae of everyday life occupies a lot my thoughts, and as I focus on successfully performing a task, it takes me out of the here and now. Yet, it puts food on my table, keeps me safe, and enables me to wear clean clothes. In short, it makes me a functional human.

But do I want that to be a bulk of my existence? Henry David Thoreau said “Our life is frittered away by detail.”  Am I frittering away too much of mine? I’m ready to hold a robust internal discussion on the subject when my inner mind intervenes, hushing the talk and putting my focus back on my breath.

I’ve been doing yoga now in some form since college, and a few years ago I added qi gong to my daily routine. Yet it was the research for c3 that taught me the most about meditation. I had to learn quite a bit before I could write a scene like this.

Jampa walked up to his favorite rock to meditate. No, it wasn’t his favorite rock. He wasn’t supposed to have a favorite rock. All rocks were fine. If this rock were occupied, he did not want to risk disappointment and worse yet irritation with its occupant. He chose this rock today because it was an effective place for his meditation, and as a young monk in training, Jampa knew that meditation was important.

As he slowed his breathing and concentrated on the Eight-Fold Path, he felt himself slipping into the deep trance for which he was known. Those far older than he marveled at the discipline with which Jampa could let go of the chatter in his mind and the speed with which he could move into the intense contemplation that was the realm of the dedicated Buddhist monk. The truth was, no one had ever taught him the technique. He had been doing it for as long as he could remember.

Jampa had little memory of living with the traveling caravan that had dumped him at the monastery door, but he thanked them every day for the mercy that they had shown him. He was told that he was six or seven years old at the time, and had been purchased by the caravan months earlier to fetch water and do chores.

The men complained to the monks that once they started their journey westward they discovered that the little boy was often useless because he would unexpectedly go into these deep trances. They wished to make a gift of him to the monastery.

The monks had, of course, accepted the gift and made the little boy one of their own. Thus, Jampa had received his name, and had become a devout Buddhist and a citizen of Bhutan before he was eight. For over five years now he had successfully hid the real secret behind his meditative abilities from the men who taught him, and who luckily thought that his going into such a deep trance was a powerful religious thing.

lennon1So I channel my character Jampa as my breath slows and softens, as my muscles relax, and as all my internal arguments cease, at least for the next hour. One last bit of analysis flickers from a deep corner of my mind. Perhaps this temporary peace is useful too? Yes, I answer softly. I think that it is.

(As for what my monkey mind had to say about focusing on the past — see my post Bring back the good old days? on my z2 blog. For thoughts about focusing on the future, see Prepare for the Worst? on my d4 blog. And find out what my yoga instructor thought the problem was at Are you performing, or performing? on my y1 blog.)

Women Warriors for Peace

Think Real 2Tomorrow is the thirty-third International Day of Peace. What’s that? you might ask, and why have I never heard of it before?

Well, it’s a twenty-four hour period during which the United Nations invites everyone to honor a cessation of hostilities. It doesn’t get a lot of press, at least not here in Texas, and it doesn’t always work out so well on the battlefields of the world either, as you might guess. Yet it is a noble thought.

Today it’s got me thinking of the role many women play as peacemakers. We are encouraged, possibly by nature, certainly by society, to communicate, soothe and nurture more than our brethren. So while the world does have females quite adept with the sword, so to speak, and a good number of just plain bitchy women not all that adept at anything, we women do turn out to play a frequent role in the fight for justice and empathy on the world stage.

Meet some of my favorite women warriors for a better world, and consider checking out the stories behind them.

nuns on busSister Simone Campbell organized a “Nuns on the Bus” tour to challenge extreme budget cuts that threatened the well-being of the very poor, whom she believes her religion calls on her to care for. In the process she ending up earning the ire of the former pope and much of the catholic patriarchy, and got to appear on The Colbert Report. Her book is “A Nun on the Bus

nuns ruleIf you enjoy reading about feisty nuns fighting for justice, also check out “If Nuns Ruled the World.” where you will not only learn more about Siister Simone, but will also meet Sister Megan Rice, who is fighting to eliminate nuclear weapons; and Sister Jeannine Gramick, who is leading the charge for the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Catholic Church.

lost innocenceI first learned of Somaly Mam from my daughter, who was taking a social work class concerning human trafficking. Somaly is a Cambodian survivor of sexual slavery who has grown into an activist fighting the corruption and injustice that allows the lives of so many young girls to be destroyed. Her book is The Road of Lost Innocence and it is well worth reading. As an aside, both this book and my daughter’s class played heavily in the development of the story line for c3, and I count all the many survivors as heroes in their own right, along with the social workers, police officers, and counselors who work compassionately with them.

mountainI’ve recently become a fan of Shannon Galpin, a cross-country cyclist and adventurer who has founded a group called Mountain2Mountain to work for peace and rights for women Afghanistan, the country named the absolute worst place to be a female. Sharon tries to get women out on bicycles as a symbol of their basic rights. Her book is called Mountain to Mountain and I look forward to reading it soon.

I became aware of Shannon and her book through Cathryn Wellner’s website “This Gives Me Hope“. I’ve mentioned Wellner before on my blogs because I find that her daily posts almost always inspire me. She also joins the list of my favorite women warriors as she fights to shine a spotlight on what is inspirational in this world.

malalaOne of my favorite fighters of all is a Pakistani girl known the world over as Malala.In 2011, she received Pakistan’s first National Youth Peace Prize and she was subsequently attacked by a gunman for her efforts to support education for girls. I believe in her cause so strongly that ten percent of my proceeds from c3 are being donated to the Malala Fund at malalafund.org. This is an organization dedicated to providing a formal education for the more than 600 million adolescent girls in the developing world who struggle for this basic right. I can think of nothing more likely to make a peaceful world than to have 600 million open minded and educated young women available to help lead the next generation.

half skyFinally, I owe a thank you to Sheryl Wudunn and Nicholas Kristof , wife and husband authors of Half the Sky. Their inspirational book first introduced me to Malala’s full story, along with tales of many other women and men fighting to bring peace to this world. These tales also inspired me to take the c3 story line down the unconventional path I choose, as I tried in my own small way to shine light into corners that have remained dark for far to long.

What is world peace about? Yes, of course it is about people not shooting at each other, or bombing each other either. But if we’ve proved nothing else with modern society, we have demonstrated how horribly difficult that is to accomplish.

I’d like to celebrate World Peace Day by suggesting that this is really about there being enough justice and fairness and freedom in the world. If we fight for those things, instead of fighting for more land, or more control over others behavior, then perhaps over time we will finally loose the desire to hurl objects at each other. Wouldn’t that be nice.