Rozhdestvo

I discovered this lovely Russian animation on the Christmas story this morning. Wishing you and your loved ones a peaceful and joyous holiday.~

George, India, 1974

I play a little guitar, write a few tunes, 
make a few movies, but none of that’s really me. 
The real me is something else.

~ George Harrison

Neil Young

My mind was active last night. It’s been active a lot lately. I was dreaming that I was interviewing Neil Young. There he was with his acoustic guitar playing beautifully for me. (We were at the bookstore I used to work at and knee-deep in flood water, but it was so natural and real!) ;) 

I have this connection with Neil Young. I’ve always appreciated him on some level, I guess. He’s a Canadian legend. He’s cool. But this past winter I would say that I became intimate with his music. I must have listened to Decade disc 2 a zillion times. It was a lifeline to me. I wonder if artists of this calibre ever know how much their contributions are appreciated/needed?

Last month I saw Neil in concert. It was a strange experience. I went with all of this imagery in my mind and the reality was such a contrast. (A mostly pot-filled haze thanks to the guy sitting directly behind me who kept billowing smoke and spontaneously shouting, “Yeah, Neil!”)  Neil has aged. He’s not a young man any more. I felt a tremendous sense of compassion for him as he energetically performed. The songs on the album Psychedelic Pill conjure up the same emotion for me. The lyrics are revealing in their simplicity. I respect that Neil has remained true to his art form. He hasn’t compromised himself; rather, as all amazing artists do, he continues to be extremely vulnerable in his work. Bless him!

His autobiography Waging Heavy Peace was published in September, which I hope to acquire soon. I was leafing through a copy at the Superstore and was surprised to learn that his life situation has been anything but easy. On top of only just recently quitting his excessive alcohol and marijuana use, his son Ben was born with cerebral palsy. The song “For the Love of Man” has deeper meaning when you know this about Neil’s son: “Who could understand what goes on. / What is right and what is wrong. / Why the angels cry and the heavens sigh / when a child is born to live, / but not like you or I?” (By the way, Ben is doing amazing and has his own organic free-range chicken farm in California.)

I’m still getting acquainted with Psychedelic Pill, which is a good thing. Winter is coming (it’s snowing like crazy as I type this) and who knows how dark it will get. Thanks Neil Young for everything. You have no idea how much my poetic heart needs you. (♥)

Aloha Coconut Chocolate Chip Muffins

Make these mini muffins on the weekend for a wonderful mid-morning or afternoon snack during the week. Little hands will love them! This makes approximately 80 mini muffins that store well in the freezer. Simply remove muffins (from freezer) 15 minutes prior to eating.


3 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups of rice milk
1 cup pure maple syrup
½ cup canola oil

½ cup dark chocolate chips (71% cacao or greater)
½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut


Mix flours, cream of tartar, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk rice milk, maple syrup, and oil. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix well. Using a spice grinder or food processor, pulse chocolate chips and coconut until coarsely chopped. Fold into batter. Pour into prepared muffin pans and bake at 375 °F for 15–20 minutes.

Home

There is a beautiful space inside of me where I dwell. When it is open, I feel as though I am nestled among the stars. Other times, I can hardly stand to be in my own skin. When I take a bath, I often put my head beneath the water and listen to my heartbeat. There it is, thumping away in perfect rhythm. Thump thump. Thump thump.
 
My mother was once my home. I lay protected in her womb. Safe from sounds that startle and words that sting. I listened to her heartbeat. I heard her every breath. Her thoughts ran through my umbilical cord and I knew her every wish. Being born is being wrenched away from comfort and what we know. We are thrust into the unknown.

I listened to my baby’s heart before she was born. It was a strong heartbeat. When I pressed my MP3 to the phone, my mother remarked excitedly, “It sounds like a washing machine!” But my baby’s heart could not sustain her on its own. When I learned this news a cold wind blew through my soul. And, for many months, I suffered in silence. She’s three now. After her bath, she likes to run around naked and is blissfully unaware of the fine white line on her chest. I pray that she will always know just how lovely, beautiful, and amazing she is.

We are a circle, my mother, my daughter, and me. Our hearts tie us together. Like ocean waves crashing on the shore, my mother’s heartbeat fills my ears until her time here is done. My daughter’s amazing heart will beat in her chest for many years to come. And my heart... how long will it go on? How many more days will I lie in my watery bath and hear its steady drum? My beautiful heartmy earthly home?

I gave this as a gift to my mother for her birthday a few years back along with a glass heart. I’m not sure she appreciated the energy of the piece; but, I like it. It’s intimate and gives voice to some of the pain I’ve experienced surrounding my daughter’s heart surgery. Something I haven’t been able to write much about.

I'm in Love


At 7:44 a.m., I awoke to another breathtakingly beautiful foggy morning. Alone, at the reservoir, I could see water droplets drifting through the soft morning light. It was magical! I love these moments. I’m not at all lonely when I’m with my camera. I can totally lose track of time. My thoughts slow down. I am calm and completely at peace. Nothing brings me greater joy at the moment except playing my ukulele.

Incidentally, I have a new Kala tenor uke in my closet. It’s a Christmas gift for Hope from her grandpa. When she’s at school, I take it out and play. Pure bliss! So much easier to play than my baritone, which has metal strings. (I have to press fairly hard when playing certain chords so that it doesn’t buzz.) I think I might be in love...

Thinking


The primary cause of unhappiness is never 
the situation but your thoughts about it.

~ Eckhart Tolle

Lotta Love Almond Cookies

Natures Emporium (our local health food store) makes cookies that are similar to this. It took us a while to figure out the ingredient proportions, but I think weve finally got it!


• 2 cups sliced almonds
• ½ cup whole almonds
• 2 cups almond meal/flour
• Zest of 2 lemons, finely chopped
• 1 cup pure maple syrup
  

Place sliced and whole almonds on a cookie sheet and toast at 350ºF for 15 minutes or until browned. Watch them carefullythey burn easily.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Separate the whole almonds from the sliced almonds and set aside. Grind sliced almonds in a spice grinder or food processor.

In a medium bowl, add ground almonds, almond meal/flour, lemon zest, and maple syrup and mix until blended well.

Using two spoons (dough is too sticky to work with hands), form small balls and place them about 2” apart on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Press a toasted whole almond into the centre of each ball and bake at 350ºF for 15 to 20 minutes. Cookies are done when the edges are just starting to turn brown. Remove from oven and let rest on the cookie sheet before removing them to a wire rack to cool completely.

Makes about three dozen cookies.

OM! Granola

Maybe you’re wondering, “What does food have to do with my spiritual practice?” Well everything, really. What we eat affects our body chemistry and state of mind. Our bodies are most efficient and harmonious when we eat wholesome foods mindfully. This homemade granola is an excellent and delicious way to start your day. Add fresh blueberries or raspberries (both are packed with antioxidants) and serve with rice milk or organic kefir.



2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
⅓ cup slivered almonds 
handful of chopped macadamia nuts
¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
3 T candied ginger, rinsed
2 T pumpkin seeds
4 T cold-pressed virgin coconut oil, melted 
3 T unpasteurized honey
1 tsp pure vanilla extract


Preheat oven to 300ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the first six ingredients (oats through pumpkin seeds) into a medium sized bowl and mix. Melt the coconut oil and stir in the honey and vanilla. Whisk to combine. Stir the oil/honey/vanilla mixture into the oat mixture and combine. Pour the granola mixture onto the baking sheet and spread into a fairly thin layer on the pan. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until golden, stirring every so often.

Thanks to Liv Life for this recipe. We usually multiply it by six to make enough granola to last two weeks. OM!

The Perfect Stillness


Love is
the perfect stillness
and the greatest excitement, and most profound act,
and the word almost as complete
as His name.

~ Rabia

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

I picked up a film a few days ago called The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. A true story of a man who has a massive stroke in his early 40s leaving him devoid of even the smallest pleasurelike swallowing food or hugging his children. Although his brain is functioning perfectly, he is “locked-in” his body. His only form of communication is to blink his left eye. He ends up “dictating” a book about his incredible experience, which is the inspiration for the film. I’m reading the book now that is equally, if not more, touching than the movie.

My heart is flooded with emotion from what this story has resurrected in my mind. A sense of urgency to live life fullywithout regret. In truth, I live my life fairly intensely. I love without reserve. I give my full attention to whoever shows up. But I still do my fair share of resisting my life situation. Often feeling a sense of impatience and sadness with how things are unfolding.

Jean-Dominique Bauby’s story reminds me how much we take for granted and just how amazing the human form is. We don’t need to add anything to ourselves. We are perfect just the way we are. Bauby was forced into a state of surrender. There was no way for him to remove himself from his situation. He had to adapt to endure his suffering. The remarkable thing is he does just that! He composes this beautiful story. He bares his soul. On one hand there is his loneliness, despair, and frustration for his predicament and on the other his ability to experience heart-swelling gratitude for the kindness of medical staff and loved ones. Here’s an excerpt that had me in tears last night. [Sandrine is his speech therapist]:

Sometimes the phone interrupts our work, and I take advantage of Sandrine’s presence to be in touch with loved ones, to intercept and catch passing fragments of life, the way you catch a butterfly. My daughter Céleste tells me of her adventures with her pony. In five months she will be nine. My father tells me how hard it is to stay on his feet. He is fighting undaunted through his ninety-third year. These two are outer links of the chain of love which surrounds and protects me. I often wonder about the effect of these one-way conversations on those at the other end of the line. I am overwhelmed by them. How dearly I would love to be able to respond with something other than silence to these tender calls. I know that some of them find it unbearable. Sweet Florence refuses to speak to me unless I first breathe noisily into the receiver which Sandrine holds glued to my ear. ‘Are you there, Jean-Do?’ she asks anxiously over the air.
And I have to admit that at times I do not know anymore.

The human body has its limitations and in a way we are all locked-in. Perhaps this is why this story is so powerful. It stirs a memory in our souls of the agony of being in human form. At the same time, our bodies and minds, that are so complex and extraordinary, have the capacity to experience beauty, grace, and the deepest emotion. There is much to delight in. There is much to be grateful for.

Two years ago in late summer, I was speeding down the highway to attend a wedding that I was late for. Butterflies were migrating and gathering nectar from the wildflowers that line the 401. Every now and again, a butterfly would fly into traffic. I watched their delicate bodies tossed about by the rush and heat of the cars and transport trucks. It seemed hopeless to me! How would they ever survive in these conditions? Yet some must and do because butterflies still grace my garden and delight me on my walks in the warm weather. We are not so different from these fragile beauties. What a world it would be if we treated each other, and all things, with reverence and tenderness. If I have any ambition in life, it is to do just that.

Note: In the film, Bauby’s “wife” (the mother of his children) is depicted in the most flattering lightvisiting and caring for him in hospital. According to an article published in the Guardian though, it was his lover Florence Ben Sadoun who remained lovingly by his side and even held his hand when he died. Apparently, she has also written a book entitled La Fausse Veuve. If I can find an English translation, I intend to read that as well.

Untitled


I speak these words to the trees and crows, 
“I just miss him.” 
Tears fall down my cheeks 
and drip on my hands and these pages. 
I miss him so much. 

The sun warms me. 
The same sun that warms his skin 
perhaps, exactly, at this moment. 
Maybe we are both sitting in the sun 
thinking of each other... 

I can’t know for certain, 
but I think he might be 
missing 
me 
too.

Animation Art

Here are some beautiful animated music videos that I’ve come across in the last while. I dig this sort of thing. Maybe you can see why...

 

The Labyrinth


Listen to your being. 
It is continuously giving you hints; 
it is a still, small voice. 
It does not shout at you, that is true. 
And if you are a little silent 
you will start feeling your way. 

Be the person you are. 
Never try to be another, 
and you will become mature. 
Maturity is accepting the responsibility 
of being oneself, 
whatsoever the cost. 

Risking all to be oneself, 
that’s what maturity is all about.

~ Osho


“Time Has Told Me” by Nick Drake, Five Leaves Left, 1969.

Time has told me
You’re a rare, rare find
A troubled cure
For a troubled mind

And time has told me
Not to ask for more
For someday our ocean
Will find its shore

(partial lyrics)
"And Now We Rise"

"Silver Morning"

"Still Be There"

Alan Watts

Alan Watts was a spiritual teacher in the sixties and early seventies (he died in his sleep in 1973). I honestly don’t know how to describe him. I want to say that he was so cool (because he was!), but that sounds trite and childish. I heard about him early last year through some talks that I was transposing for a former Buddhist monk. My local library has a copy of Om: Creative Meditationsa superbly edited compilation of some of his lecturesand I was blown away by this little masterpiece. It was the beginning of my Watts fascination. Audio collections of his lectures are available for purchase on the Alan Watts website, which is managed by his son Mark Watts; however, you can listen to hours upon hours of Watts’ lectures for free on YouTube. His famous book, The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing WhoYou Are is also available to download for free online. I’m looking forward to obtaining and reading The Way of Zen. I’ve heard it’s very good...

There has been a resurgence of interest and popularity in Watts’ work. I would say Watts is similar to spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle; although, I prefer Watts because of his bohemian lifestyle, sense of humour, and organic nature. (Tolle has become too commercial in my opinion.) Listening to Watts’ lectures will transform, entertain, and enlighten you. I’ve always been fairly open-minded, but Watts has helped me to clear away false beliefs that I was holding on to and wasn’t even aware of. It’s amazing how much damage our spiritual upbringing can have. How much needs to be unlearned to even catch a glimpse of what is truth and find the freedom that we are seeking. Watts has done this for me and I am eternally grateful. Whenever I need a shift in thinking, I turn to his lectures. He has become a part of my consciousness in an intimate and crucial way.


There is dew
on these poems in the morning,
and at night a cool breeze may rise from them.

In the winter they are blankets, in the summer a place to swim.

I like talking to you like this. Have you moved
a step closer?

Soon we may be
kissing.

~ Kabir

Heart's Desire


Every moment of your life is infinitely creative 
and the universe is endlessly bountiful. 
Just put forth a clear enough request, 
and everything your heart desires must come to you.

~ Shakti Gawain

The Gift


Beauty Hones

So many tears behind these words.
Love hones like that
perfects and
purifies
the
gift.

St. Thomas Aquinas

“Tell me about your heart,” my every word says.
Speak to me as if we both lay wounded
in a field and are gazing
in wonder

as our spirits
rise.

~ St. Francis of Assisi

Becoming Water

Photo: Toni Frissell

Now then, if one must try to say something about what Zen is, and I want to do this by way of introduction, I must make it emphatic that Zen, in its essence, is not a doctrine. There’s nothing you’re supposed to believe in. It’s not a philosophy in our sense, that is to say a set of ideas, an intellectual net in which one tries to catch the fish of reality. Actually, the fish of reality is more like waterit always slips through the net. And in water you know when you get into it there’s nothing to hang on to. All this universe is like water; it is fluid, it is transient, it is changing. And when you’re thrown into the water after being accustomed to living on the dry land, you’re not used to the idea of swimming. You try to stand on the water, you try to catch hold of it, and as a result you drown. 

The only way to survive in the water, and this refers particularly to the waters of modern philosophical confusion, where God is dead, metaphysical propositions are meaningless, and there’s really nothing to hang on to, because we’re all just falling apart. And the only thing to do under those circumstances is to learn how to swim. And to swim, you relax, you let go, you give yourself to the water, and you have to know how to breathe in the right way. And then you find that the water holds you up; indeed, in a certain way you become the water.


Alan Watts

It’s time we start smiling
What else should we do?
With only this short time
I’m gonna be here with you

~ George Harrison
"Monet for Mom" by Hope Arden, acrylic on canvas
They can be like a sun, words.

They can do for the heart
what light can
for a field.

~ St. John of the Cross

What Is Real?

Only Love is real.

Everything 
else 
is 

I
L
L
U
S
I
O
N
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