Sunday, February 27, 2011

On Adventurous Vacations

Recently i published an article on sailing the high seas on a tall ship.  It was certainly one of the the most memorable adventures in my life and i highly suggest, if you have a yearning to try something different on your next vacation, to try this!  Below is the link to the article...

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tibetan Sand Mandala

One of the most mesmerizing works of art that i have seen are the Tibetan sand mandalas. These incredible works are so fine and intricate you can easily lose yourself in them. I had the great fortune to watch the Gaden Shartse Monastery monks create a mandala dedicated to Green Tara – one of the bodhisattvas. I spent some time watching as they painstakingly laid one grain of sand down after another and found myself drawn into the painting, as if i physically was being pulled down into the art. There’s something very seductive about losing yourself to something, which is not very Buddhist. The point is to be here now. Not lost. But it was very powerful and i was thankful that i had my camera with me to keep reminding me of the “here and now.”

The sand mandala is more than a piece of art though. It is a blessing and a prayer. The whole process is done with respect, sincerity, reverence, and awareness – from the first grain of sand laid to the final blessing and release of sand into flowing waters – this art is layered in spirit. The Gaden Shartse monks who created this spirited masterpiece are on a tour around the World to bring harmony and healing peace to Earth and her peoples. When i looked at their website, one of the first things i noticed were the words, “Sacred Earth Healing Arts.” And that’s exactly what it felt like witnessing this extraordinary event – sacred healing.

What i find so inspiring is here are a people who have been tortured, imprisoned, outlawed, and exiled – and they are giving us, the iPod nation who has every comfort in the World, healing blessings and good will. That is compassion. Yet i think it’s much needed because somehow, having a lot of material stuff makes you empty inside. The monks, conversely, are quite full with a rich spiritual life. What would it be like, to live a life so devoted and focused? I am drawn, like the sand mandala, into that question.

I thought of all this as i watched the mandala destroyed. Here was a lesson on impermanence. Do not cling, not even to beauty, for everything changes and nothing is still. The sand had been blessed and was now swept up into a small container to be released into a creek, releasing the blessings of healing into the World – for all of us and for the Earth.


This links to a page with a time-lapse video of the creation of a mandala.


Monday, February 14, 2011

When Two Cultures Meet

The old clich├ęs, “the clash of two cultures” or “when two cultures collide,” are unfortunately not old, as in past history, but a part of our modern world. And so it often is when two very different cultures from opposite points of the World meet face to face; there is animosity, distrust, and sometimes – violence. We are plagued with the inability to accept people different than ourselves. Or are we?

It’s a wonderful thing to have an event in your life bolsters that hope, that belief, that humans can rise above pettiness, cynicism, and hate. I like to think of it as that moment when you realize, though you are sitting in the midst of a bleak grey winter’s day, there are thick buds on the trees and the yellow heads of the tall green daffodils are ready to burst open. So it came as a great joy to witness a very unusual multicultural event – the meeting of the Maidu, the Native Americans of the Sacramento area of California, and the Buddhist monks of Tibet.

From casual observation, there seems to be nothing in common between the two. Long hair, jeans and t-shirts vs. shaved heads and uniform robes. The casual observer misses much. Both the Maidu and Tibetan monks are survivors of long years of oppression and violent abuse. Both have struggled with the effects of genocide and subjugation. And they both have struggled against the complete loss of culture, language, and religion. They are perfect examples of the negative effects when cultures collide – the Native peoples with the whites, and the Tibetans with the Chinese.

Yet despite the brutality of the world, the similarities between the Maidu and monks run much deeper than any scar could touch. They have connection. Connection to the World and Universe that permeates the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual, in ways that cannot be broken or marred by violence or propaganda. I was humbled as i watched these two great peoples meet and exchange blessings one to the other. And listened as they shared stories of spirit and good energy. They sang, they danced, they exchanged gifts and laughter. They shared healing and the belief that humans can make a better World. It all sounds very “new-agey” on paper. It is extremely difficult to describe that which cannot be proven by some scientific measurement. However, there were none there who witnessed this exchanged who were not touched by the immeasurable power that flowed through them. So despite the outwardly differences, the souls of the two groups were united in a brotherhood that reached far beyond their cultural upbringing and place of birth – they recognized their inter-dependence and inner-connection to all things – not just to humans but to rock, river, and sky.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Weird Men Magnet

I was in an office lobby the other day, minding my own business just like the other forty or so people there, when suddenly this dirty, old-man-face pops in front of my vision. I had no idea where he came from – it wasn’t like i had made eye contact earlier. Yet here this Face was only a foot away and the Face was asking me, “Do you wanna listen to our band? Some rock? Well more like country? You like country? I’m a drummer. I’ve been a drummer for thirty years…” This was all said in one long sentence with not a breath in between. Somewhere in the midst of this verbal run-on i quietly said, “What makes you think i like music?” But he was already off to some other grammatical error. My mind wasn’t really getting this. It was still processing that the Face had encroached upon my face’s territory. What? Sometimes the brain is too slow and other time too fast. Right now i needed it to speed up to warp factor 10. The Face continued to talk, oblivious to my look of glazed amazement as if this was happening to someone else and not me. Verbal comprehension was the last thing on my brain’s mind. It was more along the lines of running a grocery list, one – you’re in my space. Two – that’s some seriously bad breath you’re working on there. Three – where the hell did you come from and why on Earth did you pick me? I was reading a magazine. There had been no warning – it was as if he popped out of thin air in front of me. When my brain finally caught up with his words, he was saying, “… playing in San Francisco Thursday night, you wanna come? It’s beautiful.” At this point he mumbled something i didn’t understand and reached into his pocket and pulled out a nasty looking piece of paper. “Here’s the band’s web site,” he scribbled, “and my number.” As he handed the paper to me, his eye caught the tattoo on my arm. “What’s that?” He poked my tattoo with the butt-end of his pen and ran it down my arm. “Are you a karate master? Did you chop your husband’s head off?” What?!?!?! “Now you call me. Call me and come see the show.” And then he disappeared. I still haven’t gotten over the weirdness.

I seem to be a magnet for this sort of behavior. Ninety-nine ½ times it’s men. I can’t actually recall ever having a woman act strange towards me, but i don’t like to say words like “never” or “always.” They tend to bite you in the butt. Over the years i’ve gathered a scary collection of random men weirdness. Well, maybe not all that weird. Just sad, pathetic, desperate, grossly horny, and clueless men who want to dump their loneliness at my doorstep. And for some reason, at least for me, they tend to be predominately Hispanic. I have no idea why.

Most women have had their share of run-ins with these types. The obsessive guys who either want your phone number or insist you have theirs. Or the ones who compulsively ask you out no matter how many times you say no. My girlfriend’s and i have all had them. At the clubs, the bookstores, the coffee shops, the mall. There are two things consistent about these guys, persistence and the ability to appear from nowhere. They aren’t the men you make eye contact with, accidently run into, ask for a light, or make zany weather comments to – oh no. One minute there’s empty space in front of you and the next – there’s a Face mere inches away from yours asking if you want to come home with them and have their babies. I think the FBI or CIA should check these guys out. I mean – that’s super espionage stuff they’re doing. Maybe it’s some kind of vampire thing, you know, like in Interview with a Vampire where Brad Pitt’s character, Louie, moves faster than the human eye can follow.

But the best though – if you can say that – was one year, while flying on a commuter plane home, i had the weirdest of Weird Men encounters. I had just boarded and settled into the window seat. No one was sitting next to me, which i was happy about as i was tired and wanted a nap. The flight attendant’s were preparing to close the door, when in strolled this tall, bushy-haired guy. He waved at someone in the front and several voices called out to him and there was a general round of laughter. It seemed people up front knew him. But he didn’t stop there. No. He came and sat down – next to me. I have no idea if that was his actual ticketed seat. There were other seats available. He didn’t waste any time but introduced himself right away then proceeded to talk about all the cool things he does, stuff about race cars and his buddies and that he knew some famous race car driver and was good friends of the family and did i want to join him on race night, blah, blah, blah. I admit. I was at first, pleasant and considerate. I wasn’t interested in what he was talking about but i was taught to be polite and saw no reason to be rude. But 15 minutes into the flight and no sign of him stopping or changing the subject, i tried to get a little space and stopped responding to his chat. Intellectually i understand guys aren’t good at reading subtle body language and clues. But i am a woman. And that’s how i respond. Subtly. When he didn’t get a clue, i amped it up one notch. And again. And again. The flight was a little over an hour. He continued to talk about himself the whole way. By the time we were preparing to land i was on the verge of exploding with frustrated anger. Because now not only was he babbling on incessantly about his feats of manhood but he was getting aggressively insistent that i join him on race night, “down in the pit.” He tried from every angle. Could he pick me up? Would i meet him there? Could he get my number? Here was his. Why didn’t i bring a girlfriend? After many “no’s” i went from angry to just complete bafflement. I didn’t know any other way to say – no. And how many times did i need to say it so that it was understood? I was almost on the brink of laughter. How could anyone possibly be so stupid? After the last round of “no’s,” the plane was, thankfully, on the ground and we were getting ready to disembark. I was saying a silent prayer of thanks that this ride would soon be over while still verbally saying no to all his continuing persistence when things suddenly took an ugly turn. Everyone had stood in the isles as we waited to leave. The guy was standing behind me. I had turned my back on him thinking that at least this is one signal he should get. Then he did something that my poor brain just didn’t want to compute. He slowly ran his fingers through my long hair.

I told a good male friend of mine this story recently. He hung his head and moaned, “i have to apologize for us men, that’s just, that’s just…” And he didn’t have words for it either. It just boggles the mind with the wrongness of it all. What – seriously – are these guys thinking? Do they think we’re playing hard-to-get? I understand that not all men are like this – in fact most men are not like this – thank you God! But why oh why do i seem to find all the weird ones? Disproportionately i say. I’ve had enough bad apples. I want a few good ones. Please and thank you!