L’onda

Un giorno l’onda chiese al mare: “Mi voi bene?”

Ed il mare le rispose: “ Il mio bene è cosi forte che ogni volta che t’allontani verso la terra io ti tiro indietro per riprenderti tra le mie braccia.”

Grazie a Tiziana, che me ha inviato questa citazione. Non lo so l’autore.

Sì, la spiaggia si trova in Sardegna. La foto è mia.

The Day the Bush Scolded Me

One bright spring day when I was in the third grade, I was having a conversation with the boy who lived a few houses from mine. We stood in his front yard, the only one on the street that had a basketball hoop. We—me and the neighborhood guys— would play pickup basketball in the boy’s driveway a good part of the year. However, the guys suddenly went from always wanting me on their team to not wanting me around at all. The boy with the basketball yard was defending the male opinion, and the conversation was a bit tense.

As do many people with labels such as OCD and Asperger’s Spectrum, I tend to center myself and listen, think, and feel better when doing something mindlessly repetitive with my hands. At school, I would take apart my mechanical pencils and put them back together again, over and over and over during classes. Sometimes, I would take a small piece of paper, methodically tear it into tiny bits, and make a neat pile on my desk. When I was outside, I often picked up dry leaves that had fallen to the ground, tearing them to pieces that would flutter gently back to earth.

That day, as I listened to the boy, I automatically and unconsciously searched the ground for a twig or leaf, but none were to be found: The strong March winds that rushed the white cloud puffs through the sky had carried away any desiccated foliage left from the previous autumn. 

Lacking a fallen twig, I reached for a leaf from the hedge beside us. My mind bushed aside a thought that came as my hand moved: “Don’t pick. The bush is alive.” 

My hand continued. I picked a leaf, a few leaves. The boy kept talking. I started breaking the vibrantly green, pliant leaves I had just plucked and letting the cracked pieces fall onto the ground.

WHOOSH. 

All exterior sights and sounds stopped. I felt as if I were in a vacuum. Although I could no longer hear the boy, I heard — sensed — another voice. It was clear, it was direct, and it was inside, yet it was also coming from the bush and the leaves, which came sharply back into visual focus.

“WHY DID YOU PICK US? WHY ARE YOU JUST KILLING US AND DROPPING US?”

I remained motionless. The bush continued to speak, more quietly, transmitting rather than speaking words. The bush made me understand it was alive, all plants and rocks were alive, and that I was not to forget they were living beings, with feelings, intelligence, and wisdom. Yes, plants could be picked, eaten, used with moderation for right purpose, yet humans should do so consciously, with gratitude. And rocks and earth and water were also to be respected, talked with, used judiciously, given thanks.

I listened, felt inside what the bush was communicating. I looked at the broken leaves I had dropped and bent down to caress them. Silently, I apologized to the leaves and the bush, thanked the plant, and said whatever was my version of a prayerless prayer. 

Marveling and dumbstruck by this direct yet loving communIcation, I walked away. 

The boy seemed upset — he was not done stating whatever complaint he had with me — but I had heard what was important: The bush.

Yes, bushes, trees, plants, rocks talk with us. Always. All of us. We just need to listen. 

In a culture based on competition, physical dominance, and external power, it sometimes seems easier to forget, to bury, to discount as crazy the voices, the lives, the importance of our plant and rock and nature siblings. 

I can’t. 

We can’t. 

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Appreciation

Both this article and this exercise may be “too long” for most people!

Want to appreciate someone you may have never before considered?

Take something apart.

I’m not kidding. This is an important lesson, especially if you’ve never made anything by hand.

If you have never whittled, worked with wood; sewn, worked with fabric; welded, riveted, worked with metal; or made something by hand—then take something apart. Carefully, methodically, and thoughtfully, undo all the pieces of something that a person used their hands to make.

A shirt, for instance.

Find a (discarded) well-made, long-sleeve collared dress shirt, preferably of 100% cotton. Get a seam ripper or Exacto knife, and set aside an hour or two. 

You’re NOT to destroy the shirt by shredding it to pieces — that would entirely circumvent the point of this exercise.

Study the shirt, and with the seam ripper, carefully and methodically undo each seam, each stitch, each button, and each label. As you take the shirt apart, lay each piece of the shirt on a table. You’ll probably find there are more pieces than you realized, more seams than you imagined, and wonder how in the world someone stitched all those pieces together. Or even figured out how to design and cut the pieces so they fit together perfectly.

That’s getting to the point of this exercise. 

As you take the shirt apart, consider the pieces. How were they sewn together? How were the pieces of fabric cut before they were sewn together? Look at the little edges folded under — consider the dexterity of the fingers that folded the fabric so precisely. The skill of the fingers that guided the fabric through the sewing machine, fingers next to the needle going up down fast fast fast so fast that needle-hole marks punctured too-close fingernails.

If there’s a pattern to the fabric, does the pattern match where the seams fasten together different pieces of fabric? What kind of skill did that take, to cut and to sew and to design the shirt so the patterns matched across fabric pieces?

Can you easily get the seam ripper in between the individual stitches of the collar? Can you even see the stitches? Think of the person sewing the collar — what would their eyes feel like at the end of the day, after making the shirt?

What about the buttons? The placket? Do you even know what a shirt placket is? Or the yoke?

Don’t give up. Don’t put the shirt down and forget about the exercise. 

Think about the person making the shirt. They didn’t put it down and give up on making it.

Finish taking the shirt apart. Your taking it apart was easier than their making it — and you probably never thought of who made your shirt before, or the skill, the time, the difficulty of making it.

Yes, the shirt you take apart was probably made in a factory, by several people, each sewing a particular part. But years ago, a tailor, or your mom, would have made the shirt for you, to your specific measurements, stitching each piece at their machine. Even further back in time, they would have stitched entirely by hand, without a sewing machine.

The hours, the abilities, the love of the tailor or mother for their craft: So much once went into the making of a shirt, and were valued by the shirt’s owner and wearer.

Now, the maker of the shirt is too often lost, a faceless factory-worker who has become, like the shirt itself, a commodity to be discarded. 

And you — the wearer of the shirt — feel this lack of care just as much as the anonymous maker of the shirt, but you probably don’t have words for the sensation. Blinded by labels and advertising, fashion and merchandizing, clothes-wearers pay for expensive brands, yet feel a lack of . . . something.

The “something lacking” is NOT a new fashion, not a replacement shirt, not a different brand shirt.

The “something lacking” is the spirit of the maker. 

Mass-produced items don’t have the same anima, the same spirit, as a handmade item. 

Items made with care and love bear the spirit of the maker. Mass-produced items bear the ghost of industrial production, the shell of spirit. 

We feel this, yet most can’t name what’s missing: the anima of the item and the spirit of its maker. 

We’ve discarded them. 

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Posted on Mother’s Day with much love and appreciation for my mom, a master seamstress who made, among other things, many shirts for me, and fostered my appreciation of the handmade and hand-makers.

The photo is of a handmade shirt by Angelina Pirastu of Samugheo, Sardinia, Italy. I’ll be writing more about her and the costume soon!

May Each of Us Be a Rose

Walking through the rose garden in the nearby park, admiring the beautiful buds, rejoicing in the open flowers, enjoying yet somewhat lamenting the now-fully-bloomed, petals-about-to-fall roses, and delighting in the intermingled perfumes of the diverse bushes, I also marvel and learn from our rose-siblings. 

Roses are roses, and beautiful in every way. 

Roses don’t question their spirit, their anima, their life as a rose. Even after having been cut down, roses flourish. After all, that’s what flowers do.

Rose buds don’t question whether or not they should pursue blossoming. A bud does not think, “There are enough roses of this color. I don’t need to blossom” or “Why bother? No one will see me” or “I wish grew on that side of the garden; more people would see me. It’s not worth blossoming here.” 

When the rose blossoms, individual flowers don’t compare themselves to others on the same bush or another bush. They don’t try to steal another blossom’s sunlight, block their water, or try to be better than other flowers. 

Fully-bloomed, petals-about-to-fall roses don’t lament their stage of life. I’m the one who labels them and feels a tinge of sadness at their scattered descent to the earth.

The petals fallen on the ground are beautiful, even when their edges are curled. I stop, pick them up, and offer them with a prayer to the bush, to nature, a saint, a friend, God. 

The rose did not consult any petal usage statistics and determine whether to grow, to blossom, to give happiness — to be.

Completely and fully, the rose is.

And if no one sees it, if no one collects a fallen petal and treasures it, the rose bush still grows and flourishes. It does not doubt its existence or importance in the grand scheme of life. 

May each of us be a rose. 

~KMK

Sardinian Beach Meditation

Five or six minutes at a beautiful beach in Portobello, Sardinia (Italy).

A great meditation, especially if you can watch it on a large-screen TV.

Sit close, on the floor, and imagine you are on the beach!

This video is downloadable on Vimeo for personal use only, and also posted on SardinianArts.com.

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Lokaha Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

May all beings everywhere be happy and peaceful

Possano tutti gli esseri, ovunque, essere felici e in pace

A Sanskrit prayer for universal peace and happiness. Una preghiera universale nella linga sanscrita per la pace e la felicità.

The Power of a Name: Let’s Use This Wisely

In many ancient traditions and healing methods, it’s understood that when you name something, you give it power. 

A “label” acknowledges and empowers something — anything — and gives it form, animating it in our minds and thoughts. This is true for everything, no matter if we think it “good” or “bad”. For this reason, the ancient traditions of many lands teach that we should not name, or call by name, illness and disease.

When we name something, the label solidifies and calls into form the energy behind the name. The naming empowers the physical manifestation of that which is named, a tangible demonstration of “our thoughts create our reality”.

It’s very important that we don’t call the virus circling the globe right now by name. Simply call it “the virus”.  Better yet, call it “the pandemic of 2020”.  Calling it a pandemic acknowledges that this is circling the globe, and opens the way for all to be healed. Naming the year establishes a time constraint. 

And who says we’ll even need to the end of the year? 

With prayer, healing — miracles — can occur in an instant. And the effects travel farther and longer than we imagine.

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The Little Goat

A story of self-confidence and persistence told in traditional cultures across the world.

High in the hills above the village, the goats kept an annual tradition known only to themselves. 

Each spring, on the first full-moon day after the grass sprouted, the one-year-old goats would gather at the foot of the highest mountain. At the sound of the elder goat’s signal, the goat-kids would all charge up the narrow, rocky mountain path, in full view of the herd. This was a test of their goat skills: They were to climb the mountain as an initiation into the next stage of life in the herd.

However, the herd elders knew, absolutely knew, that it was impossible to climb all the way to the top of the mountain. 

Before the event, in secret, the goat-parents conveyed this message to their goat-kids. 

“The tradition states climb the mountain, but really, no one ever reaches the top. It’s impossible. Just get as far as you can by midday, then turn around. Everyone will have seen you, and we’ll have a nice lunch waiting when you return.”

And so it was, year after year. 

Until one year.

The herd was especially large that spring, with many kids jostling one another at the starting line, all trying to gain the best starting spot — all except one, that is. One kid on the edge of the bunch seemed a bit slow at the beginning, not minding that the others charged ahead when the elder goat gave the starting call. 

After the first few frantic minutes of the course, the goat-kids spread themselves along the trail winding up the mountain. From below, the elder goats cheered the kids, urging them higher and higher. 

Several large kids ran as fast and long as they could before slowing to a trot. Most goat-kids alternated their pace, run-walk, run-walk. A few goat-kids walked together, talking the entire time. The little goat-kid who had the slow start walked alone, sure-footedly yet steadily up the mountain, still trailing the others. 

As morning stretched towards midday, the faster kids reached a prominent ledge halfway up the mountain, and felt that they had proven their ability. They had received lots of cheers, and were getting tired. They wanted lunch and a nap. Turning around, they headed back down the mountain.

As the returning kids passed those still climbing, each of the climbing kids used the encounter as a signal to go a few more steps and then turn back. They, too, were tired and hungry, and looked forward to lunch. 

Each time a goat-kid turned back, they paused briefly to look at the crowd and toss their head, reveling in the wild cheering from the adult goats below. The kids had gone far enough. No goat had ever gone to the top of the mountain; it was impossible. 

Finally, down towards the herd and lunch, laughing and playing, came the all goat-kids. 

All but one, that is. 

The goat-kid who had started slowly was still climbing up the mountain. In fact, she was now higher than the spot at which the fastest goat-kids had turned around — and she was still climbing. 

The adult-goats had turned their attention from the mountain to the lunch preparations, thinking all the kids were headed back. Surprised, they heard the elder goat calling loudly.

“Come back, come back, you can’t go any higher, what are you doing?”

The heads of all the goats at the base of the mountain turned, following the gaze of the elder goat. The lone kid was still climbing. 

“Come back, come back! You can’t go any further,” called all of the adult goats. “No one climbs that high, it’s impossible, you can’t go any higher! Come back!”

The lone goat kid continued to climb. 

“Come back, come back! It’s impossible, you can’t go that far, come back!” shouted the adult goats, milling about.

The goat kid continued to climb, more slowly than before, yet steadily. The path before her had all but disappeared, as certainly no goat in the history of the herd had ever climbed that high.

The adult goats continued to call up the hill, joined now by the kids who had finished their descent. 

“Come back, you can’t go any higher!” shouted the chorus of goat-voices. “It’s impossible! Come back!”

The little goat continued to climb. She was a tiny speck, nearly invisible even to goat-eyes. 

The other goat kids were annoyed. They wanted their lunch, which would not be served until all the kids returned. The biggest, fastest kids were also upset because the little she-kid had climbed higher than they had — and she was still climbing.  

The commotion at the bottom of the mountain continued. The little goat continued to climb. 

When she reached the top of the mountain, the little goat paused briefly and looked down. The crowd at the base of the mountain fell silent for a moment — and then roared with cries and stomps of respectful applause for the goat-kid who had reached the top. 

As the cheers subsided and the little goat headed back down the mountain, the adult goats and the kids jabbered amongst themselves, asking “How in the world did that little goat do that? Every goat knows that it’s impossible to climb to the top of the mountain.” 

One of the adult goats who had been unusually quiet during all the cheering spoke up. 

“That’s my kid. She’s deaf. She couldn’t hear your cries calling her back, and she can’t hear your applause. She thought the objective was to climb to the top, so she did.”

The photo is not mine — it was found it online and uncredited. Thanks to the unknown photographer!

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Seeing Beyond the Fear

During this time, as always, acting with common sense is essential for our health, ourselves, and our communities. And how we act, what we do, how we maintain ourselves has consequence beyond the realm of the pandemic of 2020.

Absolutely, we’re all doing our best to follow common-sense guidelines about containing the spread of the virus

We also need to follow common-sense practices for how we handle ourselves during this time. These practices are simpler to state than do, yet they are essential.

Don’t fall into fear. Don’t panic. Stay centered. Follow practices and do exercises to maintain inner equilibrium, which is essential to maintaining outer health, be it of the body or the world.

Practice whatever focusing activity centers you and clears your mind, body, and spirit, be it running, pottery, meditating, or something else (of course, these may need to be adjusted if you’re ill/under quarantine).

Have discernment and use your own mind for positive purposes. Be in the present moment. Serve others. Remember the power each one of us has within.

And again: Don’t fall into fear. 

This is essential within ourselves, and within all levels of our community. 

While the virus can be dangerous to at-risk populations, fear can mentally and physically immobilize even otherwise healthy people. And while the dangers of this virus are more than health-related, fear is ultimately more dangerous than the virus.

We understand some of the health dangers of the virus. We understand the huge economic implications of the virus, especially for countries, businesses, and individuals already financially unstable. Yet what is often unrealized, or forgotten at times of crisis, is that governments, corporations, and power-seeking individuals always leverage, for their own benefit, critical events such as the virus and the fear these events create. 

I could write at length about this, and probably will in the coming days and weeks. 

For now, I’m posting below a very few links to news stories currently buried in the media, and related references. My intent is to increase your scope of awareness and discernment, encourage you to stay centered and strong within no matter what, and to maintain and use common sense in all thoughts and actions.

U.S. sending 30,000 soldiers to Europe for military exercises for DefenderEurope 20, the largest deployment of U.S. troops in Europe in 25 years (In Italian; title only translated here).

In Russia, A new constitutional amendment would permit Putin to remain in power until 2036 (In Italian; title only translated here).

Apparently, this has passed the lower house but not yet gone to the next step of voting. Related articles mention that Putin initially sought to extend potential term limits until 2024, but then with the “opportunity” caused by the virus, he sought a longer extension, until 2036.

Trump “joking” about serving a third term; many articles including this one on Huffington Post.

Twitter discussions about the virus and power grabs

Martina Navratilova (who, like many women pro athletes, is far smarter than most people realize, not to mention she was raised in and left a communist regime— both reasons I mention her specifically) has many insightful comments on her Twitter feed about the virus, U.S. response, and politicians.

In a post on March 11, she wrote “I wouldn’t be surprised if Trump turns the COVID-19 will just magically disappear into declaring martial law instead and cancelling the election. . . if there is a path to that, he will take it…”

This echos concerns many of us have had since his election. And the virus would be the perfect entrée. 

As we know, perhaps the most effective means of assuming power and control is to do so gradually. Similarly, eroding rights and abilities is generally more effective than cutting them outright. 

America already has issues with the validity of the election processes, election results, and the judicial system. We have non-physical money, transacting instead with credit cards and apps. Big businesses and the government have detailed information about individuals, more than most people realize. People are used to being tracked for marketing purposes, for health reasons, and in general.

Politicians disparage and discredit the media. Lobbyists have long paid experts to put groomed messages on media/social media, encouraging fear and other desired attitudes in the public. This is especially easy when most of the public is isolated, and/or obtains their information through sources that are easy to control and monitor.

Now, in the cause of maintaining public health, we’re limiting individual contact between humans, further tracking people, and, in some instances, locking down movement. In China and Italy, they’ve used police/military to enforce the lockdowns.

In such an atmosphere, and with a complacent, distracted public, it’s especially easy for the media, politicians, and public relations experts to turn attention the way they want to. And yes, at a primed moment, a politician could declare martial law, or state that he’s not going to step down even if elections say otherwise.

Here are a few more links to expand your thinking.

*** ADDED 2020 03 14: The Guardian published this piece on March 14, 2020: Be Careful. Trump may exploit the coronavirus for authoritarian ends. ***

*** ADDED 2020 03 23:

Edward Louis Bernays, the father of propaganda

If you haven’t heard of Bernays, at least read the Wikipedia article above. Among other projects (some more palatable), he worked for big tobacco and quietly pushed the practice of having doctors endorse cigarettes as a way for women to remain thin, a trend he also pushed to sell cigarettes.

See Project Gutenberg and Amazon for his books.

Virus privacy concerns: Data from Sardinia sent to the U.S (In Italian; only the headline translated)

As a virus-containing step, yes, it makes sense that everyone entering Sardinia since 14 February must complete an online self-certification, noting when they arrived, address, uploading a copy of the ID Card, etc, so Sardinian/Italian health services can keep track of folks moving about on island. Similarly, now there are laws/forms that must be completed even when someone goes from one town to another, and ships and aircraft landing on the island must provide more detail to lists of passengers, baggage, and cargo.

However, the process of self-certification includes major violations to Europe’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR): The data is collected by a U.S. company and stored in the U.S., and a note on the upload site states data may be transferred to other companies and/or used for marketing purposes. 

A Sardinian attorney is investigating and challenging the privacy violations.

Race is on for health data in Eastern Europe as healthcare companies seek to increase private market

Data about individuals is especially valuable to businesses for marketing and other purposes. Health care data is no exception. Even though data is ostensibly “anonymized”, individuals can be identified by combining data. Some uses of data we may judge helpful; other uses we may not consider so beneficial to the common good. As a small exploration, see the website for the company LiveRamp, which offers “Identity Resolution products” and “HealthVerity” data tracking.

Hershey pulls ads with hugs and handshakes amid coronavirus concerns

This is just a very simple example of the extent to which advertisers consider their ads, the virus, and the message they convey.

Yes, it’s important to take common-sense measures to preserve health and limit the spread of the virus. It’s also important to not fall into fear, the False Evidences Appearing Real.

Stay centered and calm, be aware, and live and act with awareness, discernment, and love. 

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Bird on a Twig

Be like a bird on a twig.

This saying is a reminder to us: “Be like a bird on a dry twig, always ready to fly away, because the twig may break at any moment.”

We generally consider this to mean “Life and any situation can change at any time, be vigilant, be detached, be willing to let go and move on.”

Yet do we consider how the bird leaves the twig?

The moment the twig cracks, the alert, mindful bird discerns what to do, and uses her own wings to soar off.