Beginner's Heart

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Even before I did a graduate paper on the Quaker preacher Elizabeth Ashbridge, I’ve been fascinated by Quakerism. The idea that the Divine is knowable to each individual, w/out the mediation of text or preacher or church, is a deeply attractive belief. One I hold firmly: you don’t need a preacher or a holy (wo)man to show you the Divine within.

I also love the silent worship — so like meditation, but meditation done in a group. Something else that draws me in. I still mourn the demise of a small meditation group I was in once. There’s something very different about being in a group, each of you turned inward and yet seating in amicable silence.

And I’m also very fond of the Ylvis song, “What does the fox say?” Partly because foxes are one of the most magical animals I know (slipping through the high grass by the creek, standing as still as stone, only his eyes moving). And face it: the music is fun.

So this parody, by Quaker Ben Guaraldi, was bound to be a favourite for me. Whimsical, profound (read the quotes — they’ll move you deeply), and beautiful. How beginner’s heart is that? And if you’d like more on Quakerism (and the real Fox), I’d point you to Friends Journal. A lovely, well-written journal that is as full of necessary surprises as Guaraldi’s video.

A note: there are more similarities between Buddhism & Quakerism than might, at first glance, appear. But go look for yourself. And as the song says, let yourself be open to peace. And integrity. We need more of both.

imageOkay — so it’s politics and soapbox time (you can tune out now, if engaged Buddhism doesn’t fit your needs today — I really get it).

Sunday, NO ONE spent time on the disastrous West Virginia chemical spill. 300,000 American citizens fighting over potable bottled water so fiercely that WalMart has to call police, and the big news is weather & Chris Christie pulling Mafioso-type politics?

I don’t get it. Why is the environment not newsworthy? What is it about the future of our planet that we don’t care to talk about it? We are STILL doing these insane things! Fracking, Pipelines that will certainly break at some point. And precipitate similar disasters. Not ‘if,’ but WHEN. Accidents happen, and we have no fall-back plans.

The Gulf states are still  dealing with (well, trying to deal with) the fallout from the BP spill. Most — if not all — small family industries & businesses dependent on the Gulf ecology are down the tubes. I could go on in detail, but this information is readily available from impeccable sources: National Geographic, Smithsonian, Discover, Wired. If you’re a research-based journal, the facts are there. The accompanying photo is from the Christian Science Monitor, a reputably neutral source.

"Tar balls lie mixed with shells on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala., in this June 11 file photo. Three years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the petroleum giant and the Coast Guard say extraordinary cleanup operations in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are done. Louisiana officials want the effort to continue." Dave Martin/AP/File

“Tar balls lie mixed with shells on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala., in this June 11 file photo. Three years after the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the petroleum giant and the Coast Guard say extraordinary cleanup operations in Alabama, Florida, and Mississippi are done. Louisiana officials want the effort to continue.”
Dave Martin/AP/File

So I’ve come once again, and this is an ongoing challenge for me, to the conclusion that America hates science. Truly dislikes it. Loves the technology scientific research produces, and the medical advances. The PRODUCTS — which can be commercialised — we’re great with. But the process? I have NO evidence that ordinary people give a rat’s patootie, as my Aunt Alene used to say.

We don’t ‘believe’ in so many accepted scientific facts that it’s frightening. Many Americans (22 million!) still believe the moon landings were faked! Not to mention how many don’t believe in climate change, don’t believe in evolution, and generally don’t believe in science.

Still…. You’d think folks would believe that 300,000 American men, women, & children deserve clean water. And that the rest of us do too. Somehow, I thought that was an inalienable right. Guess Chris Christie is more interesting.




breakthroughAfter whining so piteously yesterday about New Year’s resolutions, and laying new habits in place, I had one of those days when the bad habits were sooo much easier to forget. I know the sneaky devils will be back, but yesterday? All was good.

I added 15% to my distance — w/out changing my time! Whoohoo! For someone who STILL misses running (and I was NO good at it, y’all), that was huge. A recumbent bike — even when you KNOW you have few other options, medically speaking — is NOT ‘sexy.’  NO ONE says — oh! you cycle indoors on an old person’s recumbent? wow! Trust me on this.

But for me? It’s wonderful. I’ve been battling inertia since a major operation 6 years ago. Comeback was heavily complicated by a misdiagnosed broken foot, and then a joint replacement. A YEAR in a creepy orthopædic boot! YUK! And nooo exercise…orthopedic boot

So it kind of snowballed from there… Add to that the normal hectic nature of 21st century American life, and we arrive at too many pounds later. Not to mention all the wonderful side benefits of being healthier: energy, flexibility, even temper, even! 🙂

So yesterday was a great day. I biked faster, felt better all day, and generally vanquished my private demons. For at least one day. And that’s a lot. Sufficient unto the day, right?

This day, folks — it’s all we have. And one when I add distance? AWESOME!

good habitsSo: why is it soooo hard to form good habits, and so EASY to lapse into bad ones?? Doesn’t it seem that good intention ought to count for something??


I’ve been back on the recumbent bike since New Year’s. And each day remains a bit of a struggle to figure out just when I’m going to cycle. Not as bad as it was the first days, but still not like brushing my teeth. I want exercise to be like brushing my teeth! Something I just DO.

And that is NOT what it’s like. It’s more like… Remembering you need a check-up this month. Or, changing the smoke alarm battery (which, since my alarms are connected to the electrical system, I don’t even have to do!).habits

I like this image, where habits are like Legos. Well, I don’t really like it; I just think it’s more accurate. Especially if you factor in the time it takes. Good habits are verrry hard Lego projects (like the StarWars glider we bought my adult son for Christmas… :)), that take FOREVER. Bad ones? Duplos. BIG blocks that are easily manipulated into huge edifices.

I wish meditation was a Duplo project. Instead of the curling post-it note on my desk drawer, reminding me I have NOT meditated today. Sigh… I wish it built quickly and easily, meditation. Note to self: buy meditation Duplos…

habits 2And yes, I know all about cue/ routine/ reward. It’s the whole ‘routine’ thing that eludes me…

Beginner’s heart is hard, you know? It’s not like we don’t know what works. It’s the doing. So here’s to all of us and our New Year’s resolutions. Hoping we find that routine.


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