Archive for March, 2010

Out like a Lion

March 31, 2010

Maybe it was some sort of dyslexia; maybe it was the tendency for late snowstorms to hit Chicago well after you thought winter was over, maybe it was the nature of the Windy City itself, but I always thought that March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion.

I think the actual folk wisdom is the other way around, but by now I’ve attached to March having a leonine finish and so I’m sticking with the roar of the Easter Bunny.

I suppose things starting fiercely and finishing gently is reassuring (out like a lamb), but when it comes to developing basic trust in the world, a gentle and kind attunement at the beginning sets the stage for brave venturing later on.

Given that kids are at that point of fatigue that comes from all the work they’ve done during the school year, loaded on top of the uncertainty of admissions and acceptances that circle around this time of year for college-bound hopefuls (and private school aspirants from kindergarten on up), it makes sense that Spring Break is a time that kids often cut loose in a more Dionysian manner than at either winter or summer breaks.

Maybe we too need to blow off a little steam, shake off our hibernating natures and make a little noise—whether it’s in the driving snow, the howling wind, the gentle rain or the spring light falling softly on the emerging flowers.

So, on this last day of March (at least for 2010) my vote is for us not to go gently into that cruelest of months ahead, but to roar, be alive, finish strong and sing our songs with more than a little verve and vigor—not to frighten, but to inspire our collective children, helping them witness being grown-up as a fun and empowered thing to do (at least some of the time), so that perhaps they will not overly idealize staying kids forever, but rather relish being kids for now and roll their terrible eyes and show their terrible teeth and join us in the wild rumpus that ends March.

Namaste, Bruce


Chicken Soup for our Broken Society

March 30, 2010

An Op-Ed piece in the New York Times by David Brooks, “The Broken Society,” caught my attention, primarily because I tend to agree that our society is broken (as for why I think so, see Myth-Maker, Myth-Maker make me a myth).

Brooks outlines the brokenness and then turns to Brit Phillip Blond who “lays out three big areas of reform:  remoralize the market, relocalize the economy and recapitalize the poor.”

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March 29, 2010

While literal slavery is an abomination against the sanctity of the human spirit, not to mention an ego inflation that strives to elevate certain humans in a place of dominion not just over others but over nature itself (as if we can master life and death by bossing others around), we can also be all sorts of metaphorical slaves:  slaves to fashion, slaves to money, slaves to attention, slaves to children… slaves to all manner of fears (of not being loved) and desire (to be loved).

For Jews around the world today marks Passover, a celebration of freedom from slavery—literally, but also, at least potentially, at the mystical, metaphoric and consciousness levels.  For Christians, Easter is just around the corner and it may be worth keeping in mind that the Last Supper was a Passover Seder (“Seder” means “order,” since ritual and symbolic foods are eaten in a specific order to remember oppression and maintain gratitude for freedom).

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A Broken Bone

March 28, 2010

A broken bone unlocks energy   Near drowning is near waking       Deep cuts pierce the veil                   Of our skin          And we find that inside and       Outside co-exist          Until the doctor sews us up     And leaves us struggling to get out       Again

The beetle tried to signal me

Like a little man guiding

A big airplane

The bird tried to explain it

Repeating her all-important


Over and over

Even if I still don’t get it

The fish didn’t really ask me to

Let it go—a brookie sparkling in dappled


But what else could I do, it being

so small, and patient

but especially so beautiful

-Namaste, Bruce

Kar Kulture

March 27, 2010

Every morning I pass Jay Leno, going opposite directions each on our respective ways to work—he in a different car every day, me in the same car every day.

LA is a car town.  But I’m not a car guy.  I stopped dreaming of getting a sports car when my best friend died just as I turned fourteen, although it wasn’t in a sports car, it was on a bike.  Still, my Porsche Turbo Carrera fantasy was alive and well when I was eleven and twelve, and it included this Chicago boy driving up the California coast with the rear vent thing coolly hovering up because you’re going so fast—of course my best friend had one just like it, and that was part of what made it fun, at least in my fantasy.

Sometimes in LA I wonder, when I’m on a five or six lane freeway and traffic is moving well in both directions, “Where are all of us going?”  And if there are an equal number of people going each way, couldn’t we somehow all stay where we were and be just as happy?  When it’s twelve lanes at a standstill in both directions the question seems even more relevant.

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Fate and Freewill

March 26, 2010

Lindsey at A Design so Vast ended an excellent and provocative post on finding our paths and letting go of order with a quote by E.L. Doctorow, which is where I wanted to start today:

“You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

Lindsey concludes, “Maybe now my job is to stop squinting past the headlights. It’s only causing me panic that I can’t see, hurting my eyes, and taking my attention away from what is right in front of me.”

Her post is really worth reading, as are the comments that respond.  I wanted to take it up, in a brief manner, to add my two cents, but also to affirm that even though I am older, and male, I completely resonate to her theme as well.

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Can thinking deeply make us happy?

March 25, 2010

A recent, much emailed, piece in the New York Times by Roni Caryn Rabin, Talk Deeply, Be Happy? draws from a psychological study that found that people who talked more about substantive things in comparison to those who favored small talk, were actually happier than their surface-dwelling peers.

The researchers write, “Together, the present findings demonstrate that the happy life is social rather than solitary, and conversationally deep rather than superficial.”  They conclude, “our findings suggest that people find their lives more worth living when examined―at least when examined together.”

The researchers acknowledge that the results are correlational and not causal, but I think it’s good enough to suggest that those of us who keep it real in our blogging either do so because we’re happier to start with, or end up happier as the result of risking being real—especially when we find others who connect and share back with us at the deeper levels of discourse.

When I think about what’s “deep,” sometimes I think about the cosmic dream we all co-create and which I strive to dream lucidly, trying to just roll with it… and when I do I am happy; but sometimes I think about old Saturday Night Live shows and Jack Handy (e.g. “To me, it’s always a good idea to always carry two sacks of something when you walk around. That way, if anybody says, ‘Hey, can you give me a hand?,’ you can say, ‘Sorry, got these sacks.'”)

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Maybe old age IS the New Age

March 24, 2010

A few years back I attended a mindfulness conference at UCLA that featured the likes of Daniel Siegel, Jack Kornfeld and Thich Nhat Hanh.  Yet one of the presenters that has stayed most in my mind was a researcher from Harvard named Sara Lazar.  Her work looking into how the brain changes with yoga and other forms of mindfulness meditation strongly affirmed my intuitive sense that this stuff really helps.

Obviously people have been doing things like praying and engaging in other forms of meditative practice for millennia—and probably since we developed pre-frontal cortices and broke away from Neanderthal into our Homo Sapiens could-be glory.  Yet never has there been so many of us spread around the planet able to talk freely to each other via the web, our newly emerging community which is really a newly emerging way of thinking, connecting and being.

The gist of Sarah’s findings were that the more hours spent in mindfulness practice, the more a layer of brain cells build up that reassuringly buffers the worry brain from the connecting brain.  This fireproof curtain has been dubbed “the insula” by brain-studiers, but whatever we call it, the nature of its development goes against prior brain research that believed that we did nothing but lose brain cells as we age.

The results of mindfulness practice on insula development are cumulative and do not atrophy with non-mediation (it’s a you build it, you get to keep it model), with any gains made serving a person through to the end of their lives.  It also turns out that mindfulness meditation preserves a youthful layer of thickness at the outer layers of the brain, retaining memory—thus yogis and meditators have in some ways the brains of much younger people, further inducement to be quiet and breathe deeply whenever we find a spare moment, as in the market check-out line.

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When did we stop being us?

March 23, 2010

I love this picture of Andy.  To me it’s just adorable, but it’s also very real—a kid just being a kid, being her true Self.

Andy and I were talking about how we’re just starting to feel like ourselves again, those Selves that we were when we were five or so… after all these years of trying to be whatever it was we thought we were supposed to be, compensating for whatever we thought was wrong with us and not good enough about us.  She’s fifty-one and I’ll be fifty this year, and so it seems that moving fully off the radar of what our society is interested in is rather freeing.

Sadly, Andy tells me that soon after this picture, as she became closer to eight, she started to think she was ugly.  She wanted to have straight blonde hair and blue eyes—she wanted to be a different person.  She came to hate her curly hair, her tallness and particularly her shyness.  Andy thinks that her self-esteem dropped away because her mom was displeased with her, with her shyness in particular.  That pervasive negative view made her not like herself and eroded her confidence and her joy.

She was musing on how this picture, taken in one of those old photo booths, is a situation where what you look at is yourself.  Thus this is a picture of a little girl cracking herself up, goofing around with her angry face, her sweet face and enjoying her Baskin Robbins milkshake.  This is the way we look at ourselves before we learn to look with judgment, with the critical eye, with the need to look like other people wish we looked.

For me, the silver lining might be best summed up in the Leonard Cohen Lyric from “Chelsea Hotel”—“You told me again you preferred handsome men but for me you would make an exception.”

So, let’s dedicate today to striving to recapture the Selves we were before we were five, and to using those to see the beauty in the natural and unselfconscious being that we can find, if we gaze softly enough, in all our collective children (and in each other and in that wary stranger in the mirror—myself included).

Namaste, Bruce

Zombie Love: Relinquishing Fear… one horror movie at a time

March 22, 2010

In my quest to be my best Self as a parent, and pursue my own happiness in the process, readers of this blog may be aware that I hate horror films… and have seen a number of them this year with my younger son… who loves them.

Will and I set out to see The Crazies on Sunday morning, but were stopped by the LA Marathon, which ran a Berlin Wall of sorts through the middle of LA, leaving us on the wrong side of the movie tracks.  I thought, maybe this one just wasn’t meant to be, but unfortunately it was also at one other theater in a reachable location and so by afternoon, I was breathing deeply and reminding myself that, “it’s just a movie.”

It’s funny what scares us.  When Will was just born he had the smile of the Buddha and I will never forget that smile.  And if a central tenet of Buddhism is to relinquish, or see through, fear and desire, it seems plausible that Will’s movie-going predilections may also dovetail with my own need to work through my fears.

The Crazies, it turns out, is both terrifying and intelligent… which makes it all the more terrifying.  We open with a country western gloss on the final song in Dr. Strangelove (“we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when…”) a quote most young people would not recognize, but which cues us into the ironic and cynical nature of the filmmakers, or at least their take on this story.

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