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The BP oil spill in the Gulf is truly a disaster. The impact to the environment, wildlife, and economy in the area will be felt for years to come. I believe BP should be held accountable for cleaning up it’s mess, they were smart to go along with Obama’s $20 million+ request – its the responsible thing to do, and good PR which they certainly want and need. I understand, in fact I’m in full agreement, with the horror, frustration, and anger that is felt as we watch billions of gallons of oil turn a beautiful body of water into a tar pit.

What I can’t agree with is the emotional knee-jerk reaction leading to the “Boycott BP” and “Bankrupt BP” sentiments. When people hurt, no matter if its physical, emotional, in sympathy with another’s pain, or whatever… often the immediate feeling is to hurt back. However, as I’ve mentioned in other posts, when we are emotional our capacity for making clear choices is destroyed. Its a function of our lizard brains – filled with instincts that served our ancestors so well when fight or flight was a matter of life or death. Nowadays, matching hurt with hurt is a useless, vicious cycle that does nothing but add more suffering to a bad situation.

Boycotting BP stations  is emotionally fulfilling on a personal level, but does nothing to hurt Corporate BP. Corporate would shrug off the failure of a few individual BP stations like an elephant swats at flies with his tail, just a minor annoyance. Boycotting individual stations does hurt the station’s owner, however. This guy has invested thousands of dollars into his franchise, and paid top dollar for the right to put BP’s logo on his pumps. In fact, I’d bet he’s got a contract that says he’s pretty much stuck with BP for a certain number of years and breaking that contract would bring the wrath of  BP’s legal department, ending in bankruptcy. The station owner pays his taxes and plays his part in our economic recovery – we don’t need more small businesses failing right now. All the station owner wants to do is pay his mortgage and feed his family like anyone else. He didn’t know this disaster would happen, and it really doesn’t matter which oil company he went with because they all play the same games – it just happened that BP was the unlucky schmuck to get shot playing Russian Roulette.

Oh, so that leaves us with somehow bankrupting Corporate BP, you say? Again, while emotionally fulfilling this would also bring it’s own flavor of disaster. Besides the fact that BP is a huge part of Britian’s economy – which is tightly knitted to ours (and the world’s), BP is one of the blue-chip, supposedly stable giant corporations that pension funds and IRA managers love. When our economy’s near-failure shook the globe, we rattled the economy of every other country on the planet. They don’t need economic instability any more than we do. I’m no expert, but BP might be one of those companies that is too big to fail – or at least would cause one hell of a huge ripple if it did.

So what to do with the anger? Well, I don’t know. I’d love to travel down to the gulf to help wash pelicans but my own economic recovery requires me to work my 9 to 5 every day. And since I haven’t seen requests for lay people to come down and help, I suppose you’d need a certain level of training to be qualified to bathe wildlife. Maybe less for scooping up tarballs? I suppose the best thing we can do – as lame and emotionally unfulfilling as it feels, is to make a hell of a lot of noise demanding Congress put some regulations with teeth in place and clean up the bureaucracies that were supposed to be watching these companies.

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As I walked out of work the other day, my senses lit up. I felt the warmth on my skin, looked ahead to bright green trees against beautiful blue skies, heard dozens of birds chattering in a tree, and I took a deep, warming breath into my lungs.

It occurred to me… is it easier to be happy (or content!) in the warm months, as compared to colder months?

Speaking solely for myself, I like warm months better. It seems there is so much more to experience: more colors, more sounds, more smells. I feel surrounded by positive energy and aliveness (yes, I make up my own words- deal with it). Ironically, I really don’t like heat; I can’t stand that sticky humidity feeling.

Not to disparage the cold half of the year! Winter is interesting… I like to examine the structures of the trees, or how the world becomes monochromatic during a snowstorm. A bracing inhale of frosty air can be invigorating! But the cold makes my shoulders feel like they are trying to curl into my chest, my skin dries out, and getting around town in the slush and wet quickly drains my energy.

How about you? Do you enjoy feeling the sun’s embrace? Or does a cold shiver up your spine wake you up?

You never know what you’ll run into when you’re browsing the blogosphere. Sometimes a post will jump out at you and force you to re-evaluate the way you think about something.

Melissa at Sugar Filled Emotions wrote about what her daughter has or will eventually inherit from her. And it made me stop and think because while I see certain physical, emotional, and personality traits in my son, I’ve never thought of them as an inheritance. I suppose I fall prey to the societal definition of an inheritance having to do with material things. I really do like the concept of looking at an inheritance from a different angle. I suggest you read Melissa’s post, you can follow this link.

Since he was very small, people have commented that my son is a pretty even blend of both mine and my husband’s physical characteristics. He has my nonexistent chin and full lips, and his father’s blue eyes and straight nose. People still comment to this day about his beautiful, long eyelashes. He didn’t get those from either of his parents, so perhaps he’s a little piece of someone else’s legacy, too.

While my husband and I can equally claim our son’s sense of humor, compassion, and artistic talents, he gets all his musical ability from his Dad and I’m very grateful that particular gene made it to his chromosomes. Some of the not-so-great tendencies he’s gotten from me include stubbornness, shyness, and the ability to scream louder than a jet engine. As I work on these things in myself, I try to show him what I’ve learned in the hopes that he’ll internalize the lessons at an earlier age than me.

In fact, teaching our kids how to handle life’s ups and downs is the most important thing we can leave with them. I hope that as he grows to adulthood, my son creates a strong support network of friends and mentors, an inquisitiveness that will lead him down interesting paths, moral and ethical fortitude, and a desire to selflessly serve whenever need be. That would be a fine legacy.

Remember those “Happiness is” cartoons with the two naked kids? They were happy every single day (maybe they were exhibitionists?). For the rest of us, happiness is a funny thing. It kinda comes and goes. We do or buy something that we think will make us happy – and it does, for a while. But then it gets used up or the novelty wears off and we’re not so happy any more. We have to chase the next thing that we think will finally make us happy. All the ups, downs, and chasing is exhausting.

Emotions go up, and emotions go down. Happiness is an emotion – as great you feel, you’ll sink that low when it wears off. Here’s the secret: you don’t want to be happy. You want to be content.

Happiness is an emotion. Contentment is a state of being. When you’re content, you’re peaceful. You’re not riding a high, you’re not chasing the next thing, you just are. And if we could get out of the desire-chase-happy-desire cycle, there would be much more contentment and much less suffering.

In the spirit of our happy naked cartoon kids, I’ve been noting some of the things that make me feel content – and maybe even happy!

Contentment is being home and barefoot
Contentment is hot pink toenails
Contentment is two Oreos and ice-cold milk
Contentment is a fluffy friend napping on my lap
Contentment is perfect pool water and a new floaty chair
Contentment is relaxing while reading the entire Sunday paper
Contentment is waking up to birdsong

When do you feel content? Does happiness feel different?

Where the elves play

This is alongside a road I take to work everyday. I usually see it for half a second as I drive by, and I long to walk in there and sit in the mossy silence. Doesn’t it look like a place where woodland elves would come to play?

I saw this in a Tricycle Daily Dharma email today, and thought it provided a good example of the feeling you get when your buttons are pushed. I particularly like the word “charge”, because it makes me think of that odd ionic smell and static-y feeling when lightning is close by – and you’d better run because you don’t want to be where the lightning goes.

When you start to recognize this feeling in yourself, you’re halfway to being able to control it. Because once you recognize it, then you can practice throwing that stop sign up in your mind’s eye and catch yourself before you react – before you let loose that bolt of lightning. Eventually it becomes a choice instead of a knee-jerk reaction.

“In Tibetan there is a word that points to the root cause of aggression, the root cause also of craving. It points to a familiar experience that is at the root of all conflict, all cruelty, oppression, and greed. This word is shenpa. The usual translation is “attachment,” but this doesn’t adequately express the full meaning. I think of shenpa as “getting hooked.” Another definition, used by Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche, is the “charge”—the charge behind our thoughts and words and actions, the charge behind “like” and “don’t like.” Here’s an everyday example: Someone criticizes you. She criticizes your work or your appearance or your child. In moments like that, what is it you feel? It has a familiar taste, a familiar smell. Once you begin to notice it, you feel like this experience has been happening forever. That sticky feeling is shenpa. And it comes along with a very seductive urge to do something. Somebody says a harsh word and immediately you can feel a shift. There’s a tightening that rapidly spirals into mentally blaming this person, or wanting revenge, or blaming yourself. Then you speak or act. The charge behind the tightening, behind the urge, behind the story line or action is shenpa.”

– Pema Chödrön, “Don’t Bite the Hook” (Summer 2009)

So many things gone bad have come to light in the past couple of years. Things where money and profit was valued over morals, ethics, safety, and even human life. Predatory lending, banking and wall street deregulation, CEO and executive salaries and bonuses, and now the oil spill in the Gulf. When will people learn that money isn’t everything?

In a related note… as heartbreaking as it is to see the damage done to the wildlife and economy in the Gulf area, there has been no news coverage of the poor 11 people who died in the blast. That’s something that is nagging at me.

I decided in January to push the crap about exercise out of my head and get on with it. Exercising isn’t my favorite thing in the world, in fact it rates somewhere between having my teeth drilled and scrubbing the tub. However, I know it’s good for me, I’m not getting any younger, yadda, yadda, yadda.

I’ve been going to Jazzercise class regularly since January. I’m giving it my all… sweating, breathing, managing to not pass out. I’ve even been doing a pretty good job of watching what I eat. But I have to admit, I’ve been more and more disappointed.  Because as much as I know I’m doing it for my overall health, I’ve been really bummed that the scale has barely moved. Yeah, I’m feeling less jiggly, but there is something about a bathroom scale that validates our efforts. And my bathroom scale is a stubborn jerk.

Yesterday I went to the cardiologist for my 6-month checkup (I take two medications for my cholesterol, plus he’s monitoring another issue). Lo and behold! My good lipids went up, my bad lipids are down! Right where they ought to be!  Still triglyceride problems, but those are so diet-sensitive and while I’ve been good, I’m not that good.  Blood pressure, liver function, and sugar are all perfect. The only difference since my last checkup is the exercise. Well, I’ll be damned, sneaky exercise is working on the inside! And all the while, my mental modification of looking on the outside has been creeping back. Ugh, it takes sooo looong to get rid of the crap!

Needless to say, I was much more motivated to get to class yesterday. I’ll still check my weight periodically. However, now I can tell myself that even if I’m not different from a gravitational point of view, I have clinical proof that my body is happier and healthier. Hey, every little bit of motivation helps!

Thank you, Universe, for yet another lesson.