You Are Loved

I think it’s fair to say my mother June was loved. With adoring children, grandchildren, nephews, nieces, friends, lovers, and colleagues, it only took her 80 years to realize it. She started to pick up on others’ love only after my brother Daniel persuaded the whole family to tell her, “I love you” every chance we got. Even then it took years.

June at 87

June at 87

There’s nothing unusual about June’s slow uptake. If you’re like most people, you have no idea how much you are loved. But you are, and I can prove it.

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Life, Jazz, and Basketball

Aisha and I were at Yerba Buena Gardens listening to the Dafnis Prieto sextet, a fabulous Cuban jazz group. The concert was on the lawn; the day was sunny and cool, my favorite weather. The band featured a trumpet, sax and trombone along with keyboard, bass, and Prieto on a huge drum and percussion set. They make a lot of sound, polyrhythmic and soaring.

dafnis prietoDafnis Prieto

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Come Home to Your Body

“I feel lost,” Margaret told us. “My family acts like they don’t want to be bothered with me. It’s like I’m alone.” Her grief poured out in an increasing wave. She had started talking softly about her brother’s recent death, then others who had died. She looked at the floor; she talked faster and started to cry.

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First Inn by the Healing Path Book Available Now

The first Inn by the Healing Path book is now available from all major e-book retailers including Smashwords and Kindle.

The Inn by the Healing Path: Stories on the Road to Wellness Book 1: Never Alone is short but powerful, with six healing stories plus discussion and self-help questions. Please sample the first 30% for free, buy ($2.99,) write a review, tell your friends, share on FaceBook and other media. See my author profile. Like my FB page for inspirational and challenging messages once or twice a week.

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Not Really Yours

“Don’t cling to things. Consider your property something that the universe (whatever you conceive that to be) has bestowed on you temporarily. Keep in mind that it can recoup this (and more) in the blink of an eye.” Rolf Dobelli, The Art of Thinking Clearly

Dobelli was writing about an economic quirk called the Endowment Effect. We tend to value things more highly when we own them. We don’t want to part with them, which can lead to bad investment decisions. His saying also reflects a spiritual truth. The Sufis say, “You have many endowments which are yours only in trust. When you understand this, you can give them to the rightful owners.”

Learning this wisdom can change people’s lives, as it did for Bishop William Greg Valentine of San Francisco. Valentine is Senior Pastor of St. Paul’s Tabernacle Baptist Church in the Bayview District. Last month, a group of us from Jewish Voice for Peace joined the community in repairing the church after an attack by vandals, who had destroyed pews and carpets and spray painted walls with racist graffiti. While the work went on, Pastor Valentine told us a story.

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What’s Fabulous About the Human Race

Alan is a Lutheran minister who goes to a meditation class with me in San Francisco. He’s about 60 years old but looks 40, tall and straight with sandy hair and a relaxed way with sweaters. He started meditating four years ago and spends over an hour a day sitting. He has a Blog on Blogger, which is mostly about religious and spiritual questions.

At one class, Alan looked tired. “I haven’t been sleeping well,’ he said when I asked him. “For two nights I’ve had a vivid dream. In the dream, I’ve been called to testify on behalf of the human race before a committee in space. They are like an intergalactic nonprofit that goes around saving planets in trouble. Apparently, there are a lot of needy planets, so you have to show them your people are worthy.”

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Because It Can’t Last

“Do not confuse value with permanence.” – Irvin Yalom

Charlie Jane Anders hosts the Writers with Drinks literary events every month at San Francisco’s Make Out Room. The dimly lit club drips with streamers, glitter, a jumble of art work and animal imagery, like Christmas on an acid trip.

Five or six writers perform at each event, but most people don’t come to hear them. They’re there for Charlie Jane. Her introductions of each segment and of each writer careen wildly through time, space, and dimensions unnamed. She’s funny; she’s bizarre; she awakens thoughts and emotions in listeners even though we can’t understand what she’s talking about much of the time.

I thought her intros would make great written pieces or video. Longtime Writers with Drinks fans assure me, though, that they wouldn’t work in those forms.  They’re not meant for stasis or posterity; they are of a specific time, place, and mood.  Part of their power is their immediacy, and part of it is Charlie Jane’s presence. Without those, the words themselves wouldn’t mean much to a listener. An animatronic figure of Charlie Jane performing one of her monologues might be exhibited for 10,000 years in an extraterrestrial museum, but few would go to see it. It would just be a curiosity, whereas for one night, the real Charlie Jane is spectacular.

Charlie Jane Anders

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Success and Failure: Partners in Crime

Success is not a place at which one arrives, but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” – Alex Noble

At age 30, Martin Ramirez left his wife and two children in Mexico to earn money on the railroads of California. After five years, the Great Depression threw him out of work and he wound up homeless.  Living on the street, he became mentally ill and was institutionalized with catatonic schizophrenia.  He spent the rest of his life in mental hospitals and died in DeWitt State Hospital in Auburn,  California in 1963.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to call Ramirez a failure. His life was sad, hard, and lonely, but he had one thing. While institutionalized, he started creating large art works with available materials, including brown paper bags, scraps of examining-table paper, and book pages glued together with a paste he made by chewing potatoes until they were soggy. You can see some of his works here.

Martin Ramirez Horse

Martin Ramirez Tunnel

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5 Ways of Looking at Yourself

These five meditations will help you step outside your mind. You can see things differently out there.  I suggest trying one at a time over a series of days to see which you like. Some may not be right for you, and all at once would be too much.  As with any meditation, you will be distracted; your mind will wander. Just keep bringing your attention back to the theme as best you can. We’re not grading you. Find a quiet place and at least ten minutes and go for it.

Outside / Inside
See yourself from the outside. Imagine you are in the room watching yourself, or watching through a camera on the ceiling or the wall. Notice how you move, how you interact with the environment, how you feel. Are you comfortable? Are you present?

See yourself from the inside, from your body’s point of view – your breathing, your muscles, your organs. Feel as much as you can. Realize you are a physical body. And you are the one watching that body.  Your thoughts take up most of your time, but thoughts are only a small part of who you are. 

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The Music of Life

Last month I was at a clinic getting my blood drawn. The Jamaican lab tech was singing the whole time. Her voice cheered me up and relaxed me. I asked her why she sang, and she said, “I just like the way it feels.”

What a lovely person she was, but not unusual in her attitude to music. Unless you’re one of the few people who hate it, music has been a source of pleasure, energy, comfort and various emotions for you since babyhood. It can make you cry with its beauty or the memories it stirs. It can energize you or calm you.

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