the original kStyle blog.

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment: Thursday Edition

Too Much of a Good Thing

I recently discovered that, although the local library does not have nearly all the titles I would like, it is part of a vast library network that does. I went gangbusters. On Sunday, via the miraculous Internet (thanks, Al Gore!), I requested three books on the Native American tribes in the Acadia region of Maine and a book on shiatsu. It was great---the instant gratification of a bookstore coupled with the free books policy of a library! Who has time to run all over Massachusetts to its various libraries, tracking down books?

But you see, I thought it would take a week or two for them to acquire my greedy stash of nonfiction. My library has to contact the other library, and the other library has to pull the book from its stacks, and I'm sure there's paperwork to be completed or codes to key into the database, and then they have to send it over to my library somehow. Perhaps they mail it, or maybe they send it with the next librarian who's headed to my library for a meeting, and who knows when that could be. Some of the libraries are hours away by car. All this must be done in leftover snatches of time between children's story hour and organizing the Bette Davis film festival.

Apparently Mass libraries are more efficient than I suspected.

I'm already reading my copy of Awakening the Buddha Within (Lama Surya Das) and a library copy of I'm a Stranger Here Myself (Bill Bryson). Yesterday an email notified me that Women of the Dawn (Bunny McBride) had arrived. I picked it up, and began to feel a trifle overwhelmed by my stack of reading with due dates. This morning brought another email: Growing up Native American (Patricia Riley) and The Macrobiotic Way of Zen Shiatsu (David Sergel) are ready for me! All I need is for the last, the largest, book to arrive, and then I might screech like a frightened swine.

Good thing it's a long weekend. I feel that slightly sick desperation I recall from undergraduate days, staring up the mountain of reading. Have you experienced Too Much of Good Thing lately?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Hijacking kStyle's blog for a little Wed. writing (I hope this one hasn't been asked before, but if it has, well, maybe your answer has changed since then):

Everybody's passionate about something. At least, everybody's interested in something. And I love listening to other people talk about what they love and why they love it. So what's one of your passions or most essential interests--the one you can't live without, or the one that comes and goes, or the one you've always taken for granted, or the one that you don't talk about much, or a brand-new one?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Bye Bye

Tomorrow morning, I'm headed off to the northern woods to partake in the health-giving benefits of fresh air and life-affirming vistas. I'll be canoeing, hiking, and morning-tai-ch'i-ing for a good week, away from the tangled Internet wires of civilization. Have fun without me, and do check back, as there are other bloggers here on float who might find it in their kindred hearts to share a few words.

Affectionately yours,

PS I'm reading E. M. Forster right now, and it may or may not be affecting my prose style a little.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Some people "get Jesus" and try to bring you to the Lord. Some people lose 500 pounds on Atkins and then yak about it to anything with ears. Some people have found the way to get rich...others preach about organic food co-ops...plastic surgery...an aerobics regimen. In any case, it seems an essential human--or just American?--trait to catch the fire of some idea, movement, or way of life, and to have to share.

Usually the rest of us, at best, roll our eyes at the evangelist. But maybe something has lit you up recently or in the past. Go ahead and gush about it. No judgment.

Oh yeah, it's Wednesday

I've been too crazy-busy to devise a WWA. I invite anyone else to come up with one.


Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Yogic Paths

In our discussion about bodhisattvas, Emma's comment for some reason got me thinking about the yogic paths. A beauty of Hinduism, according to some book I once read, is that it recognizes many approaches to spirituality. It even neatly divides these paths into several types. Here's what I remember about three of the paths, and here's a great link to more detail.

Bhakti yoga. The deity is envisioned a separate being outside of yourself to whom you send love and adoration and the ego is subjugated as one approaches the divine. This is the path of devotion. Christianity is an example of bhakti yoga.

Jnana yoga. One reaches the divine through a more intellectual, gnostic understanding. It is not a path of devotion, but rather a seeking to divine within, or unity with the all-present divine. If Hinduism recognized Buddhism as valid, it would probably place Buddhism in this category.

Karma yoga. The practice of selfless good deeds.

I'm getting sleepy, so I'll get to the point. When Christianity stopped working so well for me, I began exploring other religions, philosophies, and spiritualities. I read a passage describing the different yogas, and I immediately understood that the problem was I was better suited to a jnana path, and maybe a karmic path, but trying to follow a bhakti one.

The end.

P.S. I just remembered the connection with the bodhisattva story. The Green Tara practice is essentially a bhakti one, which is why I felt uncomfortable with it.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Occasionally, my own emotional reactions surprise me. My Monday night class this week was one such occasion. We enjoyed a very intelligent guest lecturer on classical Chinese medical literature. She explained why she chose to learn classical Chinese, the problems inherent in translation, and led us through a small demo of how one would even begin reading Chinese. (I'd never thought of this, but how do you look up a Chinese character in the dictionary? Hmm?...Now I know. It's complicated.)

As some of my dear readers know, I majored in Greek civilization for my BA, and spent a whole lot of time reading Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, and Homer in ancient Greek. I drank in lectures on the snares of translation and what was really meant in Line 62 of Book 4 of such-and-such a drama. And although it's not quite memorizing 217 classical radicals by heart, I mastered a different alphabet and some crazy grammatical structures in the process.

And so, at this week's lecture, conflicting emotions welled up in me; there were, after all, many parallels to my universe of four years. At the same time, I thought, "God, I miss this stuff. I remember what it was like," and, "Whoa--thought I'd left this shit behind!" The former thought made me want to enroll in a classical Chinese course right now, even while the latter made me want to bolt from the room. The most touching moment occured near the end of class, when our guest teacher read aloud from a translation she'd done years ago. She began weeping, apologized, and started over. The text moved her deeply, especially because she hadn't read it for years. (No doubt she was having a similar memory rush to mine.) I thought, I know, I know just how that is. That's Hektor and Andromache on the walls of Troy for me.

The assignment, then, has two questions folded in. Tell us either about a time you were surprised by your own emotional reaction, or about a time a flood of memories washed conflicting emotions over you. Bonus points if you work in both.

Two lists

Reasons Why I'm in a Good Mood:

1. I've been cooking more and exercising more lately.
2. I'm going to Borders this evening.
3. Tonight is the season premiere of "Blow Out," one of the best shows on television.

Reasons Why I'm in a Bad Mood:

1. The weather turned very hot and humid in Connecticut this weekend, and will likely be that way all week long.
2. I have way too much to do in the office.
3. I can't seem to get the poem I've been working on for almost two months to be where I want it.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

A Story of Bodhisattvas

Autumn to late summer of 2000 through 2001, I worked as a homeless shelter intern. It was an intense experience, often ugly, sometimes beautiful. Here's one of the beautiful pieces.

It's natural to befriend some of the homeless people who bunk down a while in the dorms. John S. was a kind man. He studied Buddhism and Christianity deeply, and saw it as his duty to walk the earth and teach others about both. He wasn't a crazed proselytizer; he spoke gently.

One day I was sitting in the front office "Indian style" on a chair. Then I released my right leg and let it dangle off the chair in front of me, keeping my left leg tucked beneath myself. John entered the room and noticed that I was sitting in the position of the bodhisattvas.

The evening before I was to leave the shelter, and that piece of the U.S., many of the shelter guests wished me well. John gave me a special blessing. He caught up with me sitting on the bench outside the shelter and told me he was sure he would die soon. He wanted to transmit to me the Buddhist knowledge that was passed to him. He gave me a picture of Green Tara, a great bodhisattva, and his copy of the Guide to Dakini Land. He taught me to chant to Tara every day and to visualize her in meditation, then to visualize myself as her. He said that then I would be elevated to a higher plane in the next incarnation. He'd been practicing himself, for years, and hoped it would be true.

He wished that he could drag me before his master to meet him, but it was too late, and so we agreed we would try to do that next lifetime around. I'd been looking rather abashedly at the ground throughout this, but then John asked me to look at him. I looked him straight in the eyes. Making a whooshing sound with his breath, he placed his hand on my forehead, and I felt--I swear I felt--a tremendous surge of chi enter through my third eye and spread everywhere.

Then my fellow interns started coming downstairs to take me out for a celebration. I hugged John goodbye.

I tried meditating on Tara, and chanting to her, I really did; but the lovely green enlightened woman gave me nightmares. I accept, humbly and gratefully, the knowledge transmitted directly through John's palm into my forehead, and I hope that someday I will activate it and understand.

I still have the book, though I haven't opened it.

Linky Linky Linky

With the help of my computer genius I've made some links below. Go look.

An observation

A friend of mine, upon visiting me in my new apartment, commended, "You need to get a bigger TV."

I ask you: could any piece of advice be more likely unsound than You need to get a bigger TV?

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ethical Question: Intention vs. Results

Yesterday I found myself too eager to help someone in a way that went beyond the call of duty. Why was I so eager to help her advertise her business? I had already offered to post fliers in a few places and had done so. I hardly know her and she hadn't asked for my help.

I realized, then, that I wanted to help for myself. I wanted to be the one who helped her find the right person to rent her space, since I have connections in the world she's advertising to. It was an ego trip.

Which brings to mind the question: Is it better to do something good with impure intentions, or not do something good because you would do it for the wrong reasons?


Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Important Questions in Life

If you were an animal (other than homo sapiens) what kind would you be and why? If we all agree to play, pick someone else who frequents this site. What animal would s/he be and why?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Wednesday Writing Assignment

Eric here, sitting in for our exhausted kStyle on the Wednesday beat. The other day I had to confront someone--I won't say whom, so as to protect the guilty--for her treatment of me of late. I didn't used to be very good at confronting people, at saying to someone, personally or professionally, "You have done me wrong." But I've gotten better at it.

Tell me about a time you had to confront someone, redress a grievance, call attention to an unfairness. Was it effective? Or, alternately, write about a time you wish you'd done so, but shied away. Have you played out the scene in your head ever since?