Monday, December 31, 2007

Christmas Rose at New Years

Christmas Rose at New Years
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
Out with the Old and in with the New.

What I love most about my photography (aside from the fact that this image is a scan) - is being surprised by what I've captured.

So, there I was putting away the groceries this afternoon, when I noticed the first of my Christmas roses was going. And it was leaving in a stunning manner... all these leathery wrinkles.

So, I plucked it out and took it to my studio and tried to take some pictures. Haven't looked at them just yet. ... perhaps I will be surprised again, but it didn't seem to be going all that well.

Trying a different approach, I laid the rose on the scanner. That went OK. And then I happened to zoom in.

Wonderful surprise!

The rose has these Maurice Chevalier lips...
kissing the old year good bye.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Tikkun Olam

He sees you
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
This Sunday morning, 7 a.m., found me in my usual place,
on my yoga mat, in front of my altar,
doing a combination of asanas, back exercises, calisthenics
and wrestling with Bennie.

On the radio, Christa Tippett was speaking with Dr. Rachael Naomi Remen, in a program entitled Listening Generously.

DR. REMEN: [My grandfather] was a flaming mystic, and he was also a magnificent storyteller.

MS. TIPPETT: What do you mean when you say he was a flaming mystic?

DR. REMEN: …it means many different things. It can mean a scholarly thing, like the study of a school of mysticism like Kabbalah, but it's also a way of seeing the world.
My grandfather felt that the world was in constant communication with him,
that there was a spirit in the world,
a God in the world that could be spoken to and could respond at all times,
that there was a presence in the world that was holy and sacred and that he was in constant dialogue with this as he went through the events of his day.

I think mysticism can be defined in many different ways.
I didn't know that my grandfather was a mystic.
… I just knew that the world that he lived in was the world I wanted to live in, too.

MS. TIPPETT: You recount this idea of the Kabbalah,… that at the beginning of the creation, the holy was broken up…

DR. REMEN: …this was my fourth birthday present, this story.

In the beginning there was only the holy darkness, the Ein Sof, the source of life. And then, in the course of history, at a moment in time, this world, the world of a thousand thousand things, emerged from the heart of the holy darkness as a great ray of light.
And then, perhaps because this is a Jewish story, there was an accident, and the vessels containing the light of the world, the wholeness of the world, broke.
And the wholeness of the world, the light of the world was scattered into a thousand thousand fragments of light, and they fell into all events and all people, where they remain deeply hidden until this very day.

Now, according to my grandfather, the whole human race is a response to this accident. We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people, to lift it up and make it visible once again and thereby to restore the innate wholeness of the world.
It's a very important story for our times.
And this task is called tikkun olam in Hebrew.
It's the restoration of the world.

…And this is, of course, a collective task.
It involves all people who have ever been born, all people presently alive, all people yet to be born.
We are all healers of the world.
And that story opens a sense of possibility.
It's not about healing the world by making a huge difference.
It's about healing the world that touches you, that's around you….

It's a very old story, comes from the 14th century, and it's a different way of looking at our power… I'm not a person who is a political person in the usual sense of that word,
but I think that we all feel that we're not enough to make a difference,
that we need to be more somehow,
either wealthier or more educated or somehow or other different than the people we are.

And according to this story, we are exactly what's needed.
And to just wonder about that a little,
what if we were exactly what's needed?
What then?
How would I live if I was exactly what's needed to heal the world?

Friday, December 28, 2007

Becoming Human

cliché in winter
Originally uploaded by LunaSol
I have spent this cold and rainy day alone.
Though a friend did call as she drove to Asheville. She wanted to discuss her ability to receive and to be open.
And I listened on the radio for updates on the death of Benazir Bhutto, an event that has saddened me to tears.
And I did email here and there and received replies.
I felt like I was chatting.
I was also trying to “be productive” and managed to take a couple pictures that I liked enough to post to Flickr.

But by late afternoon, the rain, the cold, the seeing no one in person was sinking in.
I went to bed quite early, feeling physically kind of crummy.
Dozed right off and then awoke.
Sitting up in the bed, I had finally come to simply sitting in the night,
taking in the angle of the shadows on the wall,
and the oh so pregnant Silence.

I was alone, but not lonely.
In such Silence that is impossible.
I had finally settled down through the loneliness that had vaguely haunted me throughout the day.

So, I wanted to share with you the writing of Jean Vanier.
His book, Becoming Human, begins with a reflection upon loneliness.

This book is about the liberation of the human heart from the tentacles of chaos and loneliness, and from those fears that provoke us to exclude and reject others. It is a liberation that opens us up and leads us to the discovery of our common humanity… it is the discovery that ultimately finds its fulfillment in forgiveness and in loving those who are our enemies. It is the process of becoming truly human….

A sense of loneliness can be covered up by the things we do as we seek recognition and success. This is surely what I did as a young adult. It is what we all do. We all have this drive to do things that will be seen by others as valuable, things that make us feel good about ourselves and give us a sense of being alive. We only become aware of loneliness at times when we cannot perform or when imagination seems to fail us.

Loneliness can appear as a faint dis-ease, an inner dis-satisfaction, a restlessness of the heart… Loneliness can feel like death…

Loneliness is part of being human, because there is nothing in existence that can completely fulfill the needs of the human heart.

Loneliness in one form is, in fact, essential to our humanity. Loneliness can become a source of creative energy, the energy that drives us down new paths to create new things or to seek more truth and justice in the world…

Loneliness is the fundamental force that urges mystics to a deeper union with God…It pushes them towards the absolute. An experience of God quenches this thirst for the absolute but at the same time, paradoxically, whets it, because this is an experience that can never be total; by necessity, the knowledge of God is always partial. So loneliness opens up mystics to a desire to love each and every human being as God loves them.

And I think that that will do for this rainy night in Georgia.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas with Jean Vanier

My Sunday morning routine of asanas accompanied by classical music changed when our local Public Broadcasting radio station changed its schedule.

Now, rather than music, I am more likely to be listening to Christa Tippett’s program, “Speaking of Faith.” That’s OK. After all, it is Sunday.

The Sunday before Christmas brought up what I thought was a “repeat.” I’d already heard one show on Jean Vanier and the L’Arche community. So, there was a bit of internal grumbling as I stretched into the next asana.

But if this was a repetition, I hadn’t really listened before.
Or more likely, I wasn’t ready to hear before.
But, I stopped my yoga mid-posture when I heard these word:

You see, the big thing for me is to love reality and not live in the imagination, not live in what could have been or what should have been or what can be, and somewhere, to love reality and then discover that God is present.
Jean Vanier

I would like to do this too.

And I would like to share some snippets of transcript (edited a bit for a smoother read) as my belated Christmas message.

MS. TIPPETT: … in 1963, Jean Vanier was a professor of philosophy at St. Michael's College in Toronto. At Christmas time that year, he went to visit a friend in France who was working as a chaplain for men with mental handicaps. Vanier found himself drawn to these human beings shut away from society. He was especially moved by a vast asylum south of Paris in which all day, 80 adult men did nothing but walk around in circles and take a two-hour compulsory nap. He bought a small house nearby and invited two men from that asylum to share life with him…
MR. VANIER: …I come back to the reality of pleasure and to the reality of what is my deepest desire and what is your deepest desire.
And … the deepest desire for us all is to be appreciated, to be loved, to be seen as somebody of value.
But not just seen —
Aristotle makes a difference between being admired and being loved. When you admire people, you put them on pedestals. When you love people, you want to be together.
So really, the first meeting I had with people with disabilities, what touched me was their cry for relationship.
Some of them had been in a psychiatric hospital.
All of them had lived pain and the pain of rejection.
One of the words of Jesus to Peter — and you find this at the end of the gospel of Saint John — "Do you love me?"

MS. TIPPETT: All kinds of pain and weakness are difficult for us as human beings. Why is that so excruciating? Why do we do such a bad job with it?
MR. VANIER: … First of all, we don't know what to do with our own pain, so what to do with the pain of others?
We don't know what to do with our own weakness except hide it or pretend it doesn't exist.
So how can we welcome fully the weakness of another if we haven't welcomed our own weakness?
There are very strong words of Martin Luther King. His question was always, how is it that one group — the white group — can despise another group, which is the black group? And will it always be like this? Will we always be having an elite condemning or pushing down others that they consider not worthy?
And he says something, which is quite, what I find extremely beautiful and strong…
we will continue to despise people until we have recognized, loved, and accepted what is despicable in ourselves.
So then we go down, what is it that is despicable in ourselves?
And there are some elements despicable in ourselves, which we don't want to look at,
but which are part of our natures, that we are mortal… [and too]

We are very fragile in front of the future.
Accidents and sicknesses is the reality.
We are born in extreme weakness and our life will end in extreme weakness.
So this, people don't want to hold on to that.
They want to prove something. They want security. They want to have big bank accounts and all that sort of stuff.
So then also, a whole lots of fear is within us.

MS. TIPPETT: I know you've written that, from the point of view of faith, those who are marginalized and considered failures can restore balance to our world. …
MR. VANIER: The balance of our world frequently is seen as a question of power.
That if I have more power and more knowledge, more capacity, then I can do more.
…and when you have power, we can very quickly push people down.
I'm the one that knows and you don't know,
and I'm strong and I'm powerful, I have the knowledge.
And this is the history of humanity.

"As we share our lives with the powerless, we are obliged to leave behind our theories about the world, our dreams and our beautiful thoughts about God, to become grounded in a reality that can be quite harsh." Jean Vanier

MS. TIPPETT: …So I asked Jean Vanier how does he think about the nature of God and of Jesus as he approaches his 80s.
MR. VANIER: My experience today is much more the discovery of how vulnerable God is.
You see, God is so respectful of our freedom.
And if, as the Epistle of John says, God is love, anyone who has loved in their life knows they've become vulnerable.
Where are you and the other person and do you love me back?
So if God is love, it means that God is terribly vulnerable.
And [too] God doesn't want to enter into a relationship where He's obliging or She is obliging us to do something.
The beautiful text in the Apocalypse, the Book of Revelations: "I stand at the door and I knock. If somebody hears me and opens the door, then I will enter."
What touches me there is God knocking at the door, not kicking the door down, but waiting.
Do you, will you open?
Do you hear me?
Because we're in a world where there's so much going on in our heads and our hearts and anxiety and projects that we don't hear God knocking at the door of our hearts.
So I'd say that what touches me the deepest, maybe because I'm becoming myself more vulnerable, is the discovery of the vulnerability of God, who doesn't oblige.

MS. TIPPETT: And, of course, one implication of the vulnerable God, of honor in human freedom is precisely this dark side that we've been talking about,
that human beings cause each other pain, dominate, and destroy.
And so, I'm kind of coming back at you with the question of still, if God is God, is that enough to honor our freedom?
MR. VANIER: …there are so many things we don't know.
And, I just have to honor what I don't know.
— there are so many things I cannot explain, because explanation is something about headiness.
You won't have it in the head.
But the whole question is not to understand,
it's to be attracted to the place of pain in order to give support to those who are suffering. … if we try to know too much, it might cut us away from being present.

It's a very moving thing with St. Francis of Assisi.
St. Francis said he couldn't stand lepers.
And one can understand a disfigured leper with no nose or no ear or parts of gaping, you know?
And in the Middle Ages …20,000 leprosiums, filled with these people that smelt bad and he said, "I hated it. I couldn't stand it."
And then he said that one day, the Lord brought me into the lepers.
“And when I left, there was a new gentleness in my body and in my spirit.”

This was, what struck me, when he said, “a new gentleness in my body and in my spirit.” And it says, “From there, I really left to serve to Lord.” …
from the fear and despisal of what appeared the most dirty…
he discovered there was a presence of God.

Full program information on “The Wisdom of Tenderness” can be found here.

And PS – I had a hard time choosing a picture for this entry.
I wanted to post something uplifting, joyful, something that went with the Season.
I didn’t want a leper.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas

Originally uploaded by akiruna
and Happy Holidays. May the day find you with those you love or enjoying the Silence.

Or a real Christmas miracle - enjoying both.

... my Christmas message will arrive a bit late.
It's flight was delayed.

My love to you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Turns Out...

Originally uploaded by hvhe1

turns out the first MRI was wrong.
The MRA done Saturday was normal.

Looks like I got to open my presents early this year.

And I didn't get an aneurysm.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

So, I Talked with the Doctor

Sandy and me, 1951
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

The neurologist finally called on Wednesday.
The MRI didn’t find a “tumor of the CNS.”
It came up with a small aneurysm in the left carotid artery instead.

I guess that’s in my brain
as that’s where the MRI was aimed
and he then ordered an MRA, this too, of my brain
to have a second look-see.

I had that done last Saturday. Now, I wait for the results.

“Then we’ll sit and decide what we want to do.”

I called my big sister, Sandy, that first night.
She’s a doctor in Wisconsin
I’ve heard her on the phone with patients
and she is wonderful.

Once on a visit here I asked her about this lump I had in my neck.
She palpated.
“Oh, babe! You got a goiter. Better get it checked.”
Then she stepped behind me and reached around
showing me, explaining in way more detail than I needed,
the proper way to feel
Someone’s thyroid.

So, I was updating her
RE: this aneurysm.
And she didn’t hesitate a moment,
“I’ll come down if you have surgery. If you want.”

The immediacy of her offer didn’t fully register
until after I was off the phone.
Just like that. She would be there.

Then, she came out with one of those bedside statements
reserved for family:
Be sure, whatever you do
to keep your blood pressure under control.
Cause... That... Sucker... Will Blow!

After I got off the phone I took my BP.
180 over 95. (And they've got me on two different meds.)
But, lying in bed, slipping off to sleep
I was chuckling. I love Sandy so much!

I don’t think doctors are suppose to say things like,
“That sucker will blow.”

I waited a few days before I called my Mom.
I didn’t want to worry her.
But, after a while it felt dishonest not to.
God has kept her with us
and so why should I pre-empt her participation in
her daughter's life.
I figured I’d just have to adjust to her fussing mother hen stuff.
But, it turns out she fooled me:

"Mom, they found a brain aneurysm."

"And what is that?"
Well, I was pretty sure she knew.
I think she was whom I first heard the term from
when I was a kid.
But, I explained it to her.
And we talked some of interventions
And what we didn’t know
And what we were waiting for
And immediate next steps.

She didn’t seem at all thrown off by developments.
Instead, her advice was simply "not to loose your sense of humor."
And then we talked some more of recent research on "clipping" and "coiling" techniques.

At which point she interrupted,
“Do you know where most strokes occur?"

Well, this went right to the point, I thought, of anatomical considerations
which greatly affect outcome probabilities.
And I didn’t know.
I hadn’t come across the data. - "No, I don't."

Most strokes occur on the toilet!
Promise me, promise me, you will not strain!

There you go.
That’s my family. Never more than 15 minutes removed from working bowel function into a conversation.

So, I Talked with the Doctor: Part Four

half bath inverted
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao

So, I’m lying in bed.
Not feeling all that great.
All the migraine meds shoot my bp up, so I’m largely undrugged now.

I’m just lying there staring at the wall…
the towel hanging in the half bath,
when there is a click in my head
quick as fingers snapping, everything is changed.
A wave of “transparency” washes through my vision.

I am incredibly awake, my body filled with energy.

The wall becomes incredible… in some way…
built of both Silence and Light, with and without substance.
The Purity is almost too much.
Then Silence like thick water permeates my body.
It feels delicious, so relaxing, so peaceful.
I pull a pillow close and no longer care to move.

Leaking aneurysms can make you drowsy and confused and mimic migraines.
They’re called “sentinel headaches” and are not to be ignored.
When I lay down I had told myself that if I got any worse
I would go to the Emergency Room.

My internist's nurse had given me a lecture the day before about going to the ER. "We can't afford to assume the aneurysm is stable." Not with headache and chest pains and high BP. But I never went. Staying home in bed was my compromise.

But, this development was no simple headache. Nor was it like any migraine I have ever had.
Was it a shift in consciousness?
Witnessing writ Large?
Or was my aneurysm bleeding slowly into my brain?

I can see how one could die in bed.
I was wrapped in peace, happiness, and beauty.
Everything was perfect
simply as it was.

One step further into this Neverland and I’d need to go to the ER.
I seemed to think just fine, but then there were these bursts of complete
One inch more and I’d have to move.
But, I doubted that I’d have the self-discipline that that would require. It would take enormous effort to get out of this bed.

I looked out the window instead.
The magnolia leaves blowing in the sunshine…
were Incredible. Why?
Was it the way Silence moved with them? The Play of Light they embodied?
I could feel the Silence, feel the Light.
The Ocean we were in was warm.

Then, I so wanted to speak with Her.
And I knew it wouldn’t happen.

I could not recall Her name.
Even as I reached out
I could no longer recall Her form. I tried. But
there was simply the seeking,
this vector from me to Her was all there was and it held all the unspoken details of the life we'd shared. Not a single moment had been lost, it was simply just no longer expressed.
What remained was vector. Me to Her. Consciousness as almost substance,
a bridge
connecting our existence beyond all worldly forms.

And I knew that was how souls recognize each other
with the immediacy of love at first sight, or love beyond good reason.
And I knew that as memory goes
and bodies fade
the connections that our hearts have made
exist beyond this earth
exist beyond all names and forms and labels.

I understood how it is we never loose anyone who “dies.”
I understood a bit of what awaits us all.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas Buddha

Christmas Buddha
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
I am very behind on my Christmas prep this year.
I am not even going to worry about it either.

Thailand has a national treasure, a large jade buddha.
He is garbed in a robe of gold thread during the cold season.
And so there came to be a Winter Buddha.

And I have one on my altar in my winter meditation room.
This is his reflection in an old, old mirror.

A Christmas card to one and all.
If you go to Flickr you can download him
and print him on the best paper you can find.


Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas is Coming

I am totally blown over by the thought of Christmas prep.
Can’t do it.
No ideas.
No brain.

Then I came across “The God Interviews
by Natalie d'Arbeloff.

I read the forward and the first little squib
And ended with an
“Ohhh!” and some tears.
(tears are good!)

This might make a great present!

Or here is sample of Chapter 6, (scroll down some to find it)
In which God agrees to give a “Day in the Life of God,”

Uh - Oh, and now I see ...
It’s carried by UK …
Have I found a present that you have to buy
From Europe?

Where’s that square I had?
Here: Square One.
Day: ? Oh. Two weeks left.

Please send ideas!
You know my ways.


October, 1954
Originally uploaded by Seeking Tao
Here are Mom, Andy, and Me in 1954.
I am in the middle, FYI.

I called Andy after my MRI to give him an update.
Told him the neurologist thinks it will be negative
since my neurological exam (a rather quick go-over, I thought)
where-in complaining of vision problems
(and memory)

(and cognition- stare at the car radio as long as you want,
the car does not back out of the driveway
until it occurs to you to use the gear shift)

I forgot to tell the doc that once I went blind from a concussion.
That seemed perhaps germaine to me
but, Oh well.

I did mention memory.
And the leg that's atrophied from nerve damage
became self evident as I sat there in my gown.
I'd forgotten that too.

So, the neurologist doesn't expect to find anything
on the MRI.

I was updating Andy.
Saying the doctors don't even want to see me for at least six weeks.
Then it's just to check blood pressure.
The neurologist doesn't expect to do a thing more.

It must be chemical
no lesions.

And Andy,
still to me the little boy in this picture,

"Don't worry, Pat. We'll figure it out."

I cannot tell you
how much
that blows my heart
wide open.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Just for Fun

"Just for Fun" - not really.
I am trying to edit this on the Monday after posting as the JPG Magazine link seemed screwy to me.
Buy, editing is beyond me just now... so I deleted instead.
And kept this...

I had my MRI yesterday.
It's amazing the pressure that builds when you're told, "Now don't move."

I asked if I'd get ear plugs and was told that was possible, but "Most people like the headphones."

So, I got music piped in between my ears as my head was locked into this cage. And the panic bulb was placed into my right hand, with the explanation they wouldn't hear a scream, so squeeze the bulb.

I tried to relax and listen to the music and ignore the rest.
Turns out
That's Hard.

It was much easier to attend to the MRI sounds,
be with them - that jack hammer to the brain
and the music trickled in.

I've no idea how the people trying to ignore the Main Event
ever make it through.

Thursday, December 06, 2007


I only do this until I get dizzy & then I lay down on my back & watch the clouds, she said. It sounds simple but you won't believe how many people forget the second part.


Another StoryPeople that I like,
I can’t explain it exactly. But you know
Liking is enough.

I’ve had to cut way back on my blogging of late.
November was a tough month.

Today I saw a neurologist,
And tomorrow I have an MRI.
He doesn’t seem to think they will find too much

Not too much brain. (That’s good)
They have managed to remove most of the pain.
Day Six pain free…
I’d really like to be able to use my eyes normally again.

And think – thinking normally again would be sooo nice.

In lieu of that,
In lieu of that…

Just saying, Hello.

And I can also offer these snippets
collected before November became “impossible”:

Some would suggest that the migraine aura is actually the brain apprehending its own subroutines in consciousness. The fact that there are natural equivalents to drug-induced experiences suggests the possibility that in some sense, a sufferer is observing what's going on in the brain. The drugged or migrained brain is a cranked-up biochemical computer capable of picturing the self-organizing behavior and nonlinear dynamism at play within normally staid reality.

Borourke, everything.

I believe this may be true.

Though migraine certainly doesn't explain all her visions, many experts, including Oliver Sacks, have suggested that many of the religious paintings of Hildegard von Bingen, or Saint Hildegard (1098-1179), reflect the effects of “silent migraine,” a type of migraine attack that doesn't include a headache.

I believe this may also be true.
But then, I am a geneticist and used to using mutants (pathology) to reveal normal metabolic pathways.

He had awakened with the dastardly sudden flash of light before his eyes. Then the following nausea. Then the sharp cleavage of vision and the temporary dimming of sight, and then the accursed one-sided headache...
Diodorus, writing about Aeneas, the father of St Luke