28 Jul 2014, 10:01am
General Ponderings

Seasons of Shifting Gears

P6290021 P6290016
Suppose I could make an animated gif but I’m not gonna.

Life is much about choosing your focus, changing your focus. What is real may be the thing or an image of a thing. Even an image of a thing is enough to chase. See a cat chasing shadow of fly on the wall. Frog trying to eat fly on the iphone, seems more frustratingly out of reach. For mental exercise and challenge, needs can be as much met with simulacrum as the real.

Is a to-do list complete without the level of do-dadding-diddle, for what? and that for what benefit? And why is that good and useful?

As monk Thomas Merton considered The Way of Chuang Tzu, he at one point concluded about the pitfalls of making an effort to improve, “The more “the good” is objectively analyzed, the more it is treated as something to be attained by special virtuous techniques, the less real it becomes. As it becomes less real it recede further into the distance of abstraction, futurity, unattainability [...] a devotion to the systemic usefulness of practicing means that lead no where. This is, in fact, nothing but organized despair.”

Improvement: doing it wrong.

It’s easy to overcomplicate and mistake good route for the goal. Best practice might be to print one manuscript on blue paper and manuscript B on pink so I can find them in a sea of white papers. But it’s not necessary. The system isn’t the thing. The doing is the thing. Do it efficient, or do it chaotically, throw in emotional weight or do it and not care about outcomes. The action is the thing.

One can figure out rules and patterns that should optimize. It is easy to forget why and that they are not the ends in themselves. For what, for what, leads me towards less pain for others and for self, an eased path in the long and short term.

What are good practices? If we were confined to best practice we’d spend most of our time deadlocked. Doing and not straining is a good practice. Use your muscles for something other than clenching; to keep them and heart and ends of the blood system pumping properly. Stay hydrated. Eat nutritionally varied and nutritionally dense food. Do things that improve the world around you meaningfully. Cultivate peace and beauty without hiding from or denying ugly and neutral. Exercise your compassion and your critical thinking. Sleep enough. Work enough to sleep well. Spend time in communication with like-minded and different-minded. Happiness techniques. Balance the spheres of your life.

There are times when one sphere rightly rules and displaces other things, just as there are seasons when fruit comes in season and the grains are set aside. Sometimes are not for full sleep or proper diet or listening.

It’s good to prop open the mind so new possibilities can come but not so uncritically that any fool thing is given equal weight as the sound and tested things.

It’s impossible to be in all the right place & all the right times. There’s now. There’s the now chipping and slipping away. It would be easy to pursue the disappearing moon. Or let it go and wait to see what is now.

You’re never going to run out of motivation. You’re never going to stop driving yourself and find you become a null. The body rests and like inhale follows exhale, something else to chase rises.

If you treat yourself like driftwood and decide that whatever happens is to the learning and to the good, you can have a state of rubberstamping good. This can take more energy than calling a downside and moving on.

If the mandala of the world is that all things are to the good, all bad contains good outcome, that’s going to take a lot of legwork mentally to justify. Work to see the benefit and overriding logic in the random which gives a sense of large picture purpose and path but there’s a tradeoff in the delusion and the crunch comes when you try to make sense of something out of reach.

You may feel you personally failed, spiral into self-blame but all the patterns were fanciful structures as substantial as cotton candy.

20 Jun 2014, 3:17pm
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How to be Kind

How to build positive moments so you are around people you like and can enjoy those people. How many times have I walked away after a tea and thought of things I wanted to know about the person but I was so anxious being out, still caught up in being lost trying to find the place, carried by the river of their outpouring or carried by the river of their patter of questions…how to hold one’s own?

How to be attentive? Pile all the phones on the centre of the table at meals and no reading at the table will only take people so far. Being present and mindful instead of letting mind fret across to-do lists. Conversations can take the form of instrumental lists of what just happened or what’s about to happen. How to get deeper?

Conversations can be waiting for some chance to understand some point of reference so you can register and get into part of the monologue. How to get an informed question out? How to talk? It’s so hard.

A pile up of traded kvetches leads to a downward competitive spiral. Jokes alone and people are told to suck it up while being amused.

Masters of Love is an article in The Atlantic by Emily Esfahani Smith. It is one of the more worthwhile things I’ve read in a long while.

Throughout the day, partners would make requests for connection, what Gottman calls “bids.” For example, say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, “Look at that beautiful bird outside!” He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife—a sign of interest or support—hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.

The wife now has a choice. She can respond by either “turning toward” or “turning away” [...]

The couples who were still together after six years had “turn-toward bids” 87 percent of the time. Nine times out of ten, they were meeting their partner’s emotional needs.

Are we turning towards or signalling person and subject as unwanted with inattention?

Part of publishing and the crits of literary reviews is that people grandstand for themselves instead of engage with the book at hand. Part of that is active listening. It is turning towards the book instead of saying you dialogue with it but actually never get past yourself to what the intentions are.

Kindness makes each partner feel cared for, understood, and validated—feel loved. [...] One way to practice kindness is by being generous about your partner’s intentions. [...] Imagine her joining him for dinner, excited to deliver her gift, only to realize that he’s in a sour mood because he misinterpreted what was motivating her [late] behavior. The ability to interpret your partner’s actions and intentions charitably can soften the sharp edge of conflict.

How to talk? Talk back. How? If the person is happy, don’t be a stick in the mud. Empathy and compassion has some echo to it. What is support? Agreeing to common ground. Letting the other person have the floor.

All of this would be at home with buddhist lecture on practicing lovingkindness. or a Christian lecture on way to be loving in the world. She goes into exact details which for me are far more illuminating than guidelines. She backs it up with various studies which pleases my brain-side.

What makes people want to be around each other? No contempt towards each other, looking in the same direction, being an open friend instead of indifferent. Part of that is caring in the moment.

Another powerful kindness strategy revolves around shared joy. [...]

We’ve all heard that partners should be there for each other when the going gets rough. But research shows that being there for each other when things go right is actually more important for relationship quality.

Contempt and kindness are muscles. What does kindness look like? I saw my mom’s friend interact with her and how to put a finger on how she expressed that she liked mom? There’s an attitude of acceptance in tone. There’s a proximity, a bodily trust that doesn’t presume the other will flinch. There’s no meanness or contempt, o presumption that whatever comes out of mom’s mouth should be questioned as wrong, unlike say, when she interacts with her sibling who are default disrespectful by my standard and by default override and make speech acts of control or joke. You can divorce your family. Many do.

The principles of kindness work in any context. The retailer assumes I’m a jam-jar shoplifter or glances and assumes I can’t afford her clothes. Maybe they’re punchy from other people or from Having-A-Bad-day/life-phase. If someone is omnidirectional mistrustful it’s about what they fight inside themselves. Not about me, or this moment. It’s not productive to debate or engage. It is productive to disarm myself rather than bristle to signal they are safe to do so as well.

Back to that article, here’s a nugget:

in general, couples responded to each other’s good news in four different ways that they called: passive destructive, active destructive, passive constructive, and active constructive.

Let’s say that one partner had recently received the excellent news that she got into medical school. She would say something like “I got into my top choice med school!”

If her partner responded in a passive destructive manner, he would ignore the event. For example, he might say something like: “You wouldn’t believe the great news I got yesterday! I won a free t-shirt!”

If her partner responded in a passive constructive way, he would acknowledge the good news, but in a half-hearted, understated way. A typical passive constructive response is saying “That’s great, babe” as he texts his buddy on his phone.

In the third kind of response, active destructive, the partner would diminish the good news his partner just got: “Are you sure you can handle all the studying? And what about the cost? Med school is so expensive!”

Finally, there’s active constructive responding. If her partner responded in this way, he stopped what he was doing and engaged wholeheartedly with her: “That’s great! Congratulations! When did you find out? Did they call you? What classes will you take first semester?”

Among the four response styles, active constructive responding is the kindest. While the other response styles are joy-killers, active constructive responding allows the partner to savor her joy and gives the couple an opportunity to bond over the good news. In the parlance of the Gottmans, active constructive responding is a way of “turning toward” your partners bid (sharing the good news) rather than “turning away” from it.

Sometimes I don’t know what to say, or how to elaborate in that direction, don’t know what to ask so fearful of silence, zip back on autopilot to me, some safe verbiage. It’s a common strategy. Brainfreeze. But if the silence goes on too long it signals leavetaking. Conversation isn’t rife with patience.

Shifting topics sidelines whatever the other was saying. “Tell me more” works sometimes. Sometimes it is too open-ended and exasperates. The time to react is now. What reaction was just cued. Why is the person happy? What was the happy part? What reaction is in order?

Sometimes people tamp down their feelings. Unlike say a toddler who is cartoon joy or terror or overwhelmed. We can be more mixed as adults instead of a total displacement. The intent is to connect, or else we would be somewhere else Not with people, or that person.

Why would you not celebrate with someone’s excitement if you know that’s what to do. Or enter someone’s grief. We don’t need to have our intellect see if we would agree with the source feeling and say someone’s feelings are fine for them but we would be inappropriate by our morals to support. If someone has a rare steak dinner in front of me, I don’t want to share their steak, but I do want to enter their pleasure of it. If someone is sad because someone who mistreated them finally went away, that is a stage of loss to honour. Telling someone that it’s for the best doesn’t help the speaker or the unconsoled.

Sometimes it feels too risky to feel anything. Some people cycle fast. If someone is hangry and exhausted, and determined to be chipper, I can’t shift moods that readily. But I can acknowledge and look towards instead of shutting out. That’s not just human but what any mammal does in a natural response to another animal.

Except the occasional cat. Like Suzie of circa 1987. She was incredible perceptive and would come out of the woodwork if I was in distress, but as a time-limited offer. As if, Hey, I nuzzled you. You won’t take comfort. Fine Not dealing with this right now. Got toms to see.

7 Apr 2014, 12:27pm
General Ponderings
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Words Added to the World

please don't sit
All along the perfect bum height wall it was stencilled over and over. I wonder what the problem was with people sitting there.

It would make life easier.

Or, on second thought, maybe harder.

What is stupid? Reactivity? Aggressive pugilist or passive blithe wallflower. I suppose both are ways of being shut-down, a one-solution dumb-down strategy because of threat of the past carried into the present. It’s not about intelligence so much as unadaptive reactions.

Intelligence is a hard thing to measure. My cousin who was institutionalized as being “developmentally delayed” when the institution shut down, she got herself a house, went on to date a guy who turned out to be a binge-violence person. Unlike some “normal intelligence” women in the same situation, whether she justified or strained over what to weigh against what, she drew the line fast and hard, changed the locks on her doors and he was not going to let him live with her anymore. There’s more that goes into understanding fairness and boundary issues than “intelligence” with letters or numbers.

Walking through streets of signs in Chinese, even the notice over the water fountain in Chinese, I felt partly stranded and partly freed. In the bookstore I could do the gestures of browsing, see the sections, see biography, cooking, art books, novels, magazines. Could look through particular books and know the arrows and pull out boxes were giving details on how to sketch a portrait of the face but words themselves were out of reach.

I get insular in my normal. Being among a Cantonese senior crowd I was tall and blazingly white. It does something to my brain to set me at ease. I grew up being told I was an other, joked about being so strange perhaps switched at the hospital, surely not from those people. Strange ideas and habits. Home, perhaps, I speculate, means being unlike those around me.

I grew up not being able to see, which was noticed in grade 4 when I was assigned to alphabetical seating to the back of the room. The fuzzy letters were instead vague direction of blackboard. My grades dropped.

Someone noticed and I got glasses. Also because the school intervened and ordered a dental visit, before kindergarden registration and at some points later, I went to the dentist 3 times before high school getting many teeth filled. If I were not funnelled through that hostile atheist school environment, being bullied from grades 3-13, what all would have shifted?

I pooh-pooh essential self. Events set up chains of events. If the path forked differently, or in one instant, decided intolerable instead of tolerable, where would I be now? If I were clear-headed and pulled up from the waves more than I did, instead of befuddled, would I have gone to Queens?

I got accepted to Ryerson journalism but in the final admittance essay argued myself out of it and never sent it. I got accepted to Canadore college journalism but couldn’t find housing as term came closer so backed out there. I accepted going to Baptist Bible College but as I mentioned before it didn’t seem religious enough.

So I ended up at Carleton doing an arts degree that I switched to linguistics, setting aside switching streams to journalism later. There I met future hubby who treated me more levelly and more kindly than almost any human I’d met.

Would any path have led to analogous people and poetry eventually? Some people get waylaid.

Ah, case in point. To think this was to be a photo post.

a real sign of love
A real sign of love added to the back of a construction sign.

These were all graffiti and around Toronto.

In other subjects, Professor Richard Chess and UNC Asheville student Brian Hart interview award-winning poet and Oulipo expert Lee Ann Brown in November 2010. 40 interesting minutes.

13 Ponderings

13 randomalia for Thursday 13 from the recesses of my mind,

  1. At some point, anything you are is your own work. I mean, zeitgeist and compromises to meet people halfway civilly, aside.
  2. Still, I wonder how much I impede my mandates. For poverty Baptists “momentum” is that urge to cut yourself off at the knees to keep you in the station god first put you in.
  3. Fatalism was consumed at a dangerous age. But perhaps the mind unless cultivated otherwise starts fatalistic, overextending the rules in the act of perceiving patterns.
  4. I suppose we’re all in our circles Venn diagrams with our own pasts, presents, others.
  5. Someone with a reliably poor sense of judgement, don’t you find, is as useful as someone with reliably excellent taste? So long as there’s constant bars, you don’t have to go thru all the thick data all the time. An energy-saver right there, provided you know when the pattern changes, and get the pattern right.
  6. Wavelength is an odd things. I think it can be learned. It can be widened by respectful curiosity and cultivating a lack of threat. Still, the spine-zing yes, does it widen or is it just the clench of no that slacks off?
  7. Stronger than protestant work ethic is protestant guilt ethic. It’s in there just trying to hijack the intellect to find an excuse to articulate what the vague omnidirectional sense of guilt is about and then contain it one room so it’s not such a pest.
  8. Basically it plays the same game as depression, grief, desire, mischief, happiness or any other energy.  It vies to be The Argument of the Mandala of the Universe. Each is redirectible, deflectable, modifiable but largely irrepressible as a force of wind or rain.
  9. The Buddhist tip of acknowledge and dismiss instead of stoically ignore works better, at least at this stage. It’s probably like spam and ups its counter-game eventually.
  10. A ponder loop: is that them, or is that really about me? Or, could that be right? For example, You sure are skilled at shutting people out. [Ahhh, family time.]
  11. Thanks for the affirmations. [Seems I get that a lot. Does active listening or echo and extend shut out dialogue or only for those who have a model of conflict and thrash or commiseration and anything but is paternalistic?]
  12. You see things from a totally different perspective… wonder is that a language barrier or if you’re playing devil’s advocate. [Is my angle that unique? As Richard Greene put it "Originality is your own little part of the weird".]
  13. Life is giving you the time to do it. Are you?

Noteable Quotable: “I don’t have much admiration for people who say they have no regrets. They must be afraid, or incapable, of considering the things left undone. You can’t walk every path; you can’t even walk two paths. You can only walk one. And that leaves ten thousand wells undrawn, ten thousand shafts unmined, an infinity of wealth and wisdom unattained, no matter how much you manage to know in this narrow life. Deploring your human limits is a form of gratitude.” Robin at Rusty Ring

11 Dec 2013, 1:16pm
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There’s no Dull in Doldrums

I guess we all have to do time being the people we don’t want to be. Wait out the irritation.

Good things come.

And what would also happen invariably adds splinters.

For example, my knuckle is now purpling around where I pinched it in the slide bolt lock. It doesn’t hurt but looks miserable.

I would be a pacifist down to the relevant level of heart — but then aren’t we all good at heart and patient so long as untested — were it not for the Christmas tune mandate punching into every public space. Pop music is bad enough but the rotation rate of carols is worse.

Oy. Reading Henry James is ruining my sentence structure.

What to do. Colleen pointed out lessons from Conscious Loving: From Co-dependency to Co-commitment

- By holding the peripheral muscles of the body in a state of chronic tightness, we block the flow of information that we could be getting from deeper inside us.

- You will be surprised that when you allow yourself to feel a given feeling, it usually does not last that long. Repress it or interrupt yourself in the middle of it, and it will usually last much longer.

Admitting things can become a risk of story-making, self-making, distorting identity and future acts, a form of cling presuming past thoughts have constancy or relevancy instead of a thing to just drop and keep moving. I know I’m in a distortion field. Cling-nature wants to keep it. Life-force wants to sigh and ignore the grump in the corner. Grump sez,

I have such dread at busses because of the rodeo drivers who make sudden braking and starting off as if startled each time as my hips, knees and back are yanked about as if under the enthusiastic but incompetent hands of I-read-wipipedia-about-this-masseuse.

1 driver was smooth out of 6 this week. I could walk. Have. I’d rather not walk where cars may veer into me, or at intersections watch only for other cars and bump forward not noticing me standing right in front of fender going at a walk signal. Seeing a human as road kill in his own blood pool. The twisted form did not help my sense of safety as pedestrian. I watched for him in the news. He never appeared that I saw. I appreciate rides but I’d rather not be in a car either.

I could go on. Like the whine as music of the spheres, the base note of the cosmos as melancholy.

But then, who would that list be good for? What is worse than someone writing about disinterest, disgust, boredom or trivial things, except possibly to read about it.

I thought of making a list of things that don’t matter and see how long I could write under the frame of dismissing my own perceptions as trivial under the grand scheme.

I could work up a sweat of enthusiasm if I persisted in a subject. Maybe add to the pile-on of paying attention to Mandela with that mayfly attention span of current events?

Behind the digital curtain I start posts, in my head or text, then decide they aren’t worth saying.

As Lesley Strutt said in last night work shop is we use the perspective of removing what is unnecessary — rather than the one of appreciating what works and why and assume it is for knowledgeable purpose — soon all would be deleted.

Is it the line that matters, or the procedure?

As Rosemary said,

I do my ‘small stone’ dutifully each day, mindfully looking outside myself. It works up to a point, to take me out of myself

Here is something that matters. I don’t know what to do with it, but *point*. An Irish setter does as much. (Which is aspiration to be as good as a dog, not a lowering of people.)


When full of sugar and chocolate I’m crisp and clear, life is easy and amusing. All things are manageable under the security blanket of sweet. Or when I’m with favourite people, fully exercised, well-nutiented, hydrated and doing something useful.

Until I go all nervous. From sugar or from over-stimulus. My body runs thru its resources too fast. I’m irritable then wingy and blurred.

Then I crash. Sleep. Except that eludes. Involuntary leg jerking though the night. C’mon body, work with me.

And who is that all good for?

Much I could do and say. How to get the log out of my own eye to do so? Moderation. Where’d I file that? Did the cat knock it off the desk with the books and headphones?

Wait for the good is to cramp chances. Watch for the neutral, the possible. To oblige oneself to be upbeat is an out of time racket. Let be. Stop shoving. To oblige oneself to align with the negative might propel neutral-ward. Or not. So be it.

Linky-Links: Got a sweater that has worn thin in the elbows? Make it into slipper boots.

From the same folks, for the new year, consider balance and compassion and where its not. Time to cut off toxic friendships or let it meh away?

While I was thinking about it someone was already invented bedding with a trough for the breasts.

The Santa Brand Guidelines

From elsewhere, art is not your tools, but your vision.

Quote: “The main thing is to write for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust that imagines its haven like your hands at night, dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast. You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous. Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest.” – Seamus Heaney

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