I thought it was high time for a little "lightness" and Patches, my crazy calico cat, is really excellent at humor. You can watch her as she is riveted to the screen for her video debut in "Kittens in the Cushions" -- a highly entertaining romp with my two cats, Patches and Samantha, jumping in and out of the sofa cushions and having a blast!
Did you know it takes 21 days of repetition to form a new habit? Not 19. Not 25. I don’t know precisely how the experts arrived at the magic number of 21, but I’ll go with it. Personally, I think if you build momentum and are very determined, you could form a new habit in 19 and a half days. But I could be wrong.
Anyway, I’ve decided to form the new habit of contemplating my navel. Why, you say? Let me count the reasons:
1. There is nothing good on TV. I’ve checked. Surfed the whole 423 channels. Twice. Nada. So, that’s the first reason. Contemplating my navel offers a new horizon in entertainment (sort of).
2. The navel is an often ignored part of your anatomy. Think about it. When’s the last time you paid it any attention? You cleaned the lint out of it in 1992, and since then…poor, lonely navel. And, it is in a good place for contemplation, being located in the middle of your abdomen. Also, it doesn’t move around much. Other than the basic in and out when you breathe. Which is actually conducive to contemplation. Try it. You’ll see what I mean.
3. According to all the wise persons (well, they are not all men) and mystical traditions, contemplation and meditation are good for the soul (see my post about meditation, “Monkey Mind and the Conscious Consumption of Craisins“). If that is true, then learning the new skill of contemplating your navel would, it logically follows, also be good for soul development. Hence my enthusiasm for learning this highly beneficial new skill.
4. It’s trendy and makes one appear positively guru-ish. Assume the cross legged position on your cushion on the floor, or sit Indian style if you can’t make your legs into the pretzel shaped meditation position. You can add music that’s weird and other-worldly, like the sounds of migrating whales and digeridoo (I have no idea how to spell that word, but it‘s the Australian Aboriginal instrument that sounds like a cross between a harmonica and a kazoo). Candles and incense can further add to the mystique. Of course, if you’re over 50, this could be hazardous to your health and well-being, not to mention your knees (just sitting on the floor in this position can be!). The cushion can always be in a chair, so you avoid that whole sitting-on-the-floor thing. But you lose trendy points. Just saying.
5. You are positively Facebooked, Twittered, Texted, and emailed out. Your tired eyes, fingers, and thumbs need a rest, not to mention your brain. Contemplating your navel is an excellent restorative exercise, requiring one to desist from all of the above and renew and refresh your being. Kind of like rebooting in tech talk. So, turn your cell phone off. Go ahead. You can do it! Unplug your computer and hide your tablet under the bed. There. You are ready to begin navel contemplation, bigtime. Go for it!
6. It’s cheaper than drugs, legal, doesn’t leave you with a hangover, is restful, and helps to induce a sense of peace in an otherwise really crazy world. What’s not to like? So, here goes. Day one of the 21-day habit-forming path to the new habit of navel contemplation and nirvana. Are we there yet???
Karma (kar' ma) n. 1.Sanskrit word meaning action, work or deed. Refers to the principle of causality where intent and actions of an individual influence the future of that individual. Good intent and good deeds create good results, bad intent and bad actions bring about the opposite. 2.the cosmic principle of rewards and punishments for acts performed. 3.the good or bad emanations felt to be generated by someone or something.
Author's Note: This post really made me laugh, so I decided to update and repost it. I think the world really needs some laughter right about now, and the start of a new year in a new place, (with no most-annoying-dog-on-earth or squawking, screeching birds) seems like a wonderful thing to celebrate!!
Several years ago, I had the great good fortune to be at a gathering of girlfriends (old and new) to celebrate our creative courage to change our lives and to say 'so long' to those who are parting ways for the summer. It was magic! There were hugs and heartfelt sharing, fabulous food, fine spirits (all meanings of that word) and as the group dwindled down to a core of five, uproarious laughter ensued (the laugh-until-you-cry-and-almost-pee kind!) And it just felt soooooo good. It also made me realize just how much I have been sucked into seriousness lately and I want out! My inspiration from this experience is that laughter is not only the best medicine - it is also as necessary as air for survival in an increasingly insane world. My soul sure felt lighter as I left the party, so I decided that this kind of en-light-en-ment deserves to be shared.
As author of this blog, since I have ultimate control over what appears here, I hereby declare a new direction toward karmic (comic) relief through stories that cause enlightenment & laughter. Here is the first of the karmic relief stories for your humorous pleasure. (No worries, girls, I'll only share my own stories so you will remain anonymous, if not innocent :)
Karmic relief and the Parrot
Many years ago, in a universe far away, there was a neighborhood noise issue. (OK, it wasn't a universe far away. It was a neighborhood now far, far away.) The neighbors got a small dog whom I shall call the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth. It was a Jack Russell Terrier, also known as a spring-loaded jumping manic barking machine. It performed in this crazy-hyper fashion whenever I walked into my backyard. Luckily for me, it was separated by a chain link fence, so the murderous intent of the dog (and later, um, me!) was deflected in part. The barking and springing were annoying beyond belief and completely spoiled the peace and quiet to which I had grown accustomed when watering my garden, sitting on my lanai, contemplating my navel, etc.
The-most-annoying-dog-on-earth also had the habit of silently sneaking up on me when I took the trash or recycling out after dark. He would then launch himself repeatedly against the fence, just a few feet from me, barking and snarling maniacally and scaring the bejeebers out of me. If a dog could laugh, I swear he did. Suffice it to say I did not like this dog. A first for me!
Life went on, and despite my very polite complaints to the neighbors, the problem persisted. Then, it got worse. MUCH worse. They got birds. Really BIG birds in cages on their back lanai. I think there were one or two African Gray Parrots and oh, about 17 other kinds of smaller birds - a whole menagerie of birds which added incredibly loud squawking and screeching and twittering to the barking and snarling. Arrrghhhhhh!! It sounded like the jungles of the Amazon and when the whole lot got going with the barking and springing and squawking and screeching it was total bedlam!
Now, I'm normally a quite patient person. Well, mostly a patient person. OK, sometimes I'm NOT! But this noise was way over the top and was making me and the rest of the neighbors nuts! Then a minor miracle happened. After much discussion, letters, petitions, prayers, threats, gnashing of teeth, they got rid of the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth!! Yup, he was gone to chase buffalos in Montana or something. And there was quiet again in the neighborhood, well except for the screeching and squawking and twittering. So, as I am sitting on the lanai, enjoying the well-deserve peace and relative quiet, I hear the-most-annoying-dog-on-earth -- barking! What?????? Softer, but it's definitely him. How is he haunting me from afar? I peer over into the neighbor's yard, but there's no sign of the dog. I listen intently. Minutes of barking pass. Then, I realize the awful truth. It's the parrot barking!
After I recovered from the shock of the barking bird (it eventually wore off after a year or so), I will allow that the parrot sort of redeemed itself with its other entertaining emanations. For instance, I called my cats to breakfast every morning with the traditional "Heeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" call, adding my own trademark rising inflection at the end. As I wait for the usual feline stampede, I hear a faint echo of my "heeeeeeeeeeeeeere kitty, kitty, kitty, kitty" refrain, complete with my rhythm and inflection. Yup, it's the parrot. Now that really cracks me up! I wondered what the cats made of it, but I secretly hoped the parrot would get what he was asking for - in a nice sort of way. Or, perhaps in a karmic sort of way. Wish I could have gotten that on video for all posterity and maybe America's Funniest Home Videos. A parrot calling a cat would have probably been worth some money as well as some laughs.
This talented parrot, who I began to call the-loudest-parrot-on-earth continued to add to his repertoire in the most interesting ways: he did a loud and very credible wolf whistle; he "yelled" at the successor most-annoying-dog-on-earth (named Dakota), but not usually when he was actually barking; and his major feat was to "learn" the dialogue from a rather loud, nasty and highly personal argument that his owners, a married couple, had in Spanish--yelled at the top of their voices, with LOTS of emotion. He repeated this fight for months, much to the chagrin of the owners, and despite their attempts to drown him out with a radio, this was a regular feature of our little neighborhood. Though I don't understand Spanish curse words (some of the neighbors did!), I am pretty sure there were many included. See? This is what karma is all about. :)
I am coming to realize, more and more, that nothing in life is as important as deep inner peace. Everything in our lives is seen through the filter of our state of mind, and if fear, the antithesis to peace and love, has been allowed to creep in (or bulldoze its way in!), then it crowds out the positive emotions, stunting them and crushing their growth. It is easy to blame this mental/emotional phenomenon on outer circumstances. Many people are facing huge challenges at present -- yet the outer fear-inducing specters cannot and do not define who we are -- unless we allow them to do so. It seems to me that keeping your inner peace and serenity is only gained by taking your power back from fear (a helpful acronym to defuse the power of fear - False Evidence Appearing Real) and consciously making a choice as to how you react to the outer circumstance.
I am reminded of a wonderful lesson taught by the beloved minister and founder of Unity of Naples Church, Jack D. Kern, in which there was a series of events befalling a man and each one, as presented, seemed to be "bad", yet when the next event happened, it reversed the preceding one, thus turning into a "good" thing, and vice versa. I cannot recall all the details of the story, but to give you an idea it went something like this: A man was out tending his farm when a neighbor came by to exchange news and, asking after the farmer's family, he was told that his son had gotten a beautiful, wild stallion. The neighbor said, "Oh, that's good". The farmer then replied, "No, that's bad, because my son broke his leg when thrown from the horse while trying to tame it". The neighbor exclaimed, "Oh, that's bad"! To which the farmer said, "No, that was actually good, because my son was exempted from going to war because of the broken leg". The story continues in this fashion, and you get the gist...
The moral of the story is that things are not what they appear, and the only thing we can truly control is how we "judge" what happens and react to it.
One of the very best tools to train our minds to access inner peace and to slow down the perception of time rushing by at a frantic pace, is meditation. I have explored various kinds of meditation techniques over the years and I find benefit in each of them. The key is finding one that you can and will actually do, daily. There has been a great deal of research done over the years on the multiple benefits of meditation -- not only are there proven and documented health benefits (stress reduction, lowering of blood pressure, faster healing time), but also there are great mental and emotional benefits (emotional centering, prevention or improvement of depression -- often out-performing pharmaceuticals and with no side effects). Perhaps the greatest benefit of learning to meditate is that it gives you a sense of your own power, lets you take a step back from knee-jerk, habitual reactions and actively choose your way of responding to life's adventures and challenges. It allows you to be less "judgmental" and more in the moment, so you can experience more of life's richness and beauty more directly and deeply.
If you are curious about meditation and have never tried it, you might be daunted by all the various techniques and mystique about it, but it is really very simple. As Rev. Jack Kern used to teach in his short course in meditation, "Sit down and shut up" -- is all you need to know -- the basics. Add to that just observing your breath for five minutes, and there you are -- meditating!
If you want to try out a more structured, time-tested, well researched approach, I recommend the books and CDs of Jon Kabat-Zinn, PhD. (see reference in Wikipedia) founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He is the creator of the eight-week course called Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR), taught since 1979, it is the most well-known and studied clinical meditation program in the world. His books and meditation practices on CD are available at his website (click his name above) or at the usual outlets online such as Amazon (link below).
Our world is so sorely in need of peace, both inner and outer, and it would indeed alleviate so much suffering, our own and others', if we find and use practices that foster inner peace & serenity. Happy exploring of your own inner space!
Your perpetual smile and brightly intelligent eyes draw something eternal, primal from deep within my soul. Watching you blow bubble rings and swim through them so playful and free inspires me down to my toes – which I sometimes secretly wish were flukes or a powerful dolphin tail.
I am awed by your life of sliding serenely and majestically through the water, leaping for the sheer joy of it! I feel envious of the freedom, the bliss of being with a community which behaves just as nature dictates.
Riding bow waves of passing boats, chasing a bit of seaweed, caring for your newborn baby – your true nature is fun-loving and so very smart.
You can be heroic, when necessary, acting to rescue a swimmer in trouble or fight off a shark.
Fluid and flowing, the water slipping over your smooth gray skin – you are a wonder of science and sea.
Echolocating with clicks, you can literally see “into” me (into me see = intimacy). It is impossible to hide or be false with you because you can see all of me, inside and out. In that skill, you remind me of my mother’s gift of looking into my eyes to “read” the truth there.
You are an amazing miracle of the sea!
**Author’s note: This love letter is a tribute to dolphins, with whom I have had a long love affair. One of my best memories of interacting with dolphins was at the Dolphin Research Center in the Florida Keys. I had the great privilege of swimming in a small, controlled group, with dolphins in natural saltwater pens. Many dolphins were being rehabilitated from stress of performing at theme parks and aquariums. There were studies of the dolphins’ behavior with children with autism, people with PTSD, and a host of other research topics, showing astounding positive results from human/dolphin interaction.
One woman in our group was singled out by a couple of the dolphins who excitedly clicked at her midsection. The staff member leading the tour spoke quietly into the woman’s ear, and with her permission, announced that the dolphins were able to “see” her pregnancy with their echolocation clicks and were happy for her!
These intelligent and beautiful, graceful marine mammals are being severely damaged by our human polluting activities: plastics and microplastics, oil spills, habitat loss, dwindling food supply, toxic blue green algae, and red tide – all are having an extremely negative impact on these and all marine life, especially the endangered manatee. These are warm-blooded, air-breathing mammals, like us, and the devastating loss of them diminishes us tremendously.
©Karen Bonnell, 2022
"To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight, and never stop fighting.” ~ e.e. cummings
It’s taken me many years to accept that being “myself” is both weird and wonderful – sometimes alternately, sometimes simultaneously. I have led a richly varied life, mostly following my heart and with gratitude, doing what I love to do – with passion and purpose. I see that as an incredibly precious gift!
My life path has lurched from incredible “peak” highs to seemingly bottomless lows, like a drunken manic depressive sailor – and with occasional accompanying colorful language to match.
For today’s example of pandemic weirdness, I awoke convinced that it was Sunday. I went about my morning tasks, thinking about setting up a zoom session to “go” to church, when my husband pointed out that he would attend tomorrow, when it actually was Sunday. Or will be. Pandemic time warp strikes again! I think this is the single most disorienting thing about the pandemic: the feeling of time warp, almost being “separate” from and outside of time. It’s become very elastic – and fluid, changing day to day and moment to moment as to how I experience it. Sometimes it is fleeting and flying, others it’s like dragging around a giant boulder – heavy and slow. Anyone else finding this to be true?
I am trying my best to use this unprecedented time of pandemic confinement as a gift to explore my inner self: to meditate, read, write, take tours of memory lane through photos albums, scrapbooks, re-reading journals, recalling just who I have been and hopefully informing who I will be going forward on life’s evolving journey.
I recently rekindled a love affair with the work of author Julia Cameron (The Artist’s Way) in her book, The Vein of Gold. It calls for using tools such as Morning Pages (three pages of long hand, stream-of-consciousness writing to dump out all the mental minutia and clear the brain), Artist Dates (priming the creative pump with art, beauty, nature, by oneself), daily walks in nature and also creative play via arts and crafts to reconnect with and heal the inner child and strengthen our Divine spiritual lifeline. My inner child likes to play and I am finding it so enjoyable to regain this part of my life!
Remembering past achievements, experiences, joys and sorrows has been very heart-opening for me – particularly through photos and my journals. I have found many life stories that I need to share with whoever can enjoy/benefit – but mainly because my inner writer is clamoring to break out. If not now, when?? This prolonged self-isolation with very little distraction is a perfect opportunity for this kind of introspection, integration, healing and creativity. Now, if I could just remember what day of the week it is without resorting to buying the cute childhood solution of days-of-the-week underwear! OK, the adult solution is checking my cell phone or computer. But, therein lies a dangerous distraction. Before I can form my own thoughts about the day, I am bombarded with news, politics, tips, opinions, pandemic updates…well, you get the idea. I have had to limit my exposure to news media (a really difficult task in the age of being electronically tethered 24/7/365)!
I have spent some time updating social media profiles, posting pictures of places I’ve lived, and doing a nostalgic post honoring my Dad. So now I am taking on the estimable task of taming monkey mind, which is usually swinging from branch to branch in my brain each time I try to meditate. Sometimes, the best I can accomplish is to slow the monkey down a bit.
I often feel things too deeply, acutely aware of the pain so many thousands or perhaps millions of people are enduring. My nerves feel scrubbed raw (like my hands are in actuality, thanks to almost obsessive washing and sanitizing -- of me and my home.) So, how to deal with the incredible angst, uncertainty and unprecedented nuttiness of this time? My answer is multi-faceted: Music (listening and singing), heart-to-heart conversations with friends, photography, yoga with meditation and deep breathing, being bathed in my cat's soothing purring and warm cuddly presence, reading, praying, spending time outside in nature, writing, sunbathing.
Do I manage to achieve deep peace and calm every day? Well, refer to the sailor-like language mentioned above. Sometimes I am not myself. As if someone else took up residence in this skin while I was sleeping. No, not loony-tunes, just being human and feeling what I'm feeling.
I would love to hear how you are coping. What helps without hurting (some escapism is self-sabotage in reality). I know this from direct experience! What are your experiences of this pandemic time?
My two feline companions, Samantha and Patches, pictured below:
As the year and the decade draw to a close, I thought some deep wisdom (and humor) might be in order. So, here are a few true insights from my beautiful feline friend, Misty, who is now happily frisking around in heaven after spending 20 years blessing us with her sweet self. I would love to hear your feedback on Misty's marvelous advice, and perhaps you can contribute your own tips on how to live a better life, based on your experiences with our four-footed friends. Dogs may also apply :)
I watched this video clip from the Hubble Space telescope and found it so deeply affected me. It is images of ultra deep space and there are no words to really describe how incredible it is! Please watch, comment, share.
Hello friends! I haven't posted in quite a while. Too much insanity going on in life. But, today I decided that I have to find fun, a sense of balance and some joy in life wherever it may be. The song from the musical Sound of Music which recounts favorite things as a way of distraction from fear seems an appropriate theme. So, I'm sharing some of my favorite things in a pictorial gallery. Enjoy!
These are some of my favorite things. Now, I invite you to share yours!
"Security is mostly a superstition. Avoiding danger is not safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing." – Helen Keller
Life feels dangerous. It feels exposed and vulnerable. And even knowing that security and, for that matter, control over life events is mostly an illusion -- something we humans make up to make us feel better -- the daring adventure of life often seems more like a carnival ride gone completely haywire. How do you cope when the adventure gets a little too daring? Stop the world, I want to get off!!
The bizarre juxtaposition between outrageous, unbelievably tasteless, crass and scary political antics on the US Presidential campaign trail and devastating, horrific terrorist attacks and refugee suffering leaves the mind spinning wildly, trying to find some sense in it. There isn't any to be found. It's easy to let the tide of negativity engulf and take us under. And yet, and yet...every morning there is a sunrise and every evening a stunning, unique sunset like the one I photographed above that soothe the soul and feed the spirit. Nature always does that for me. Just when I start to completely lose my way in the crush of the craziness, God paints another incredible sunset or rainbow on the sky, and I feel reassured, comforted.
This Earth Day, I am reaffirming my commitment to protect our beautiful planet. I've been doing so since I was a teenager, reading Thoreau's Walden and Rachel Carson's Silent Spring. I'm letting go of the things I can't change and concentrating on having the biggest impact possible on those things which I can influence. Fighting some of the same battles to protect dolphins and whales, manatees (and panthers and elephants and turtles and wolves and wild horses) that were being fought 30 years ago. Meeting head-on the challenges of global climate change, striving to keep fossil fuels in the ground and create a safe, economically sound alternative clean energy grid. Working against the multinational corporate greed that's plundering our precious natural resources of food and water with no accountability. Promoting organic, sustainable agriculture. Educating, blogging, speaking, doing, changing -- one step at a time. Watching more sunsets to inspire hope and knowing at the heart level, the Earth is worth every ounce of protection we can offer. After all, good planets are hard to find. This is our only home. She needs our help as never before.
I am a singer, a writer, a craftswoman, a student of life and of Spirit, a wife, a friend, an inquisitive adventurer on the learning path. Seeking, sensing, sifting and now connecting! Please join the fun by leaving a comment or passing on a favorite post via your social network. As you can tell from the category list, my interests are varied and somewhat eclectic. I am seeking all that brings joy & excitement to life, purpose & passion to our daily round. I am curious about pretty much everything.