Loss Aversion

Posted Tuesday, March 8th, 2016 @ 10:00 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Spirit

I have reached an ambivalent state in my weight loss process. I am so accustomed to 16 years of heaviness. It’s interesting to note that I didn’t gain all this weight until I met Hub and life improved in many ways — materially and psychologically. Until this morning I haven’t understood what happens, why I give up and regain.

It’s this: if I follow this discipline, lose weight, become strong, healthy, active, I connect with Life so big and powerful coming through me that scares me. I have historically protected myself from the heartbreak of loss by making my life harder and smaller. And maybe this is what’s going on. Being overweight reduces my life, so that when I someday get ill and die, I won’t be as heartbroken to go. AND… all this weight is protection to “balance out” how my life has improved. Since meeting Hub, life became so much richer, so I’ve protected myself from fear of loss (what if it all goes away?) by gaining weight. Yes, it’s illogical, and it’s what is true for me.

Early in life, my father had the power to take away what I wanted. As an adult on my own, struggling with underemployment, circumstances had the power to take away what I wanted. I learned to protect myself. And, in spite of the impulse to protect myself, I also forged ahead with goals. I experienced hardships, I persevered, and life has generally improved for me in the past 20 years. But that pattern remains. I notice it regarding intimacy in my marriage (avoid), in how I manage friendships (retreat and end them when I feel vulnerable or dynamics change), career (avoid positions of risk and responsibility), and this morning, realizing how it affects my health.

Pondering the Soul

Posted Thursday, March 3rd, 2016 @ 9:23 am by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Meditation, Quotes, Spirit

Do souls exist before they are incarnated? What is a soul? I perceive soul as energy. When it is embodied, it expresses through the filter of a personality. Personality is shaped by genetics, temperament, and experiences. Does a soul retain the particular “flavor” of personality after the body dies? I would like to think so. I would like to believe that the infinite universe can hold the essences of all the soul-personalities that ever existed. Although I have no empirical evidence, the mystic in me is intuitively open to this possibility.

Where does Love exist? We exist in Love. We forget this, so we create suffering for ourselves and others. Love is the mystery of the universe; it exists in all forms as well as that which is formless. A body that dies loses its form. Yet the soul-personality remains with us in Love.

As to what these soul-personalities do, whether there is reward or punishment, I do not know. I do not believe there is a ruling God who decides on an eternal afterlife for each soul. I sense that when we leave our bodies and lives on earth, whatever that has separated us from complete union with Love is removed, and this is healing and redemption.

“Love is our liberation. There is no other place to go.” – Karen Maezen Miller

seeing into the heart of the matter - art every day month 05 - day 30

Mostly Nothing Much

Posted Monday, February 22nd, 2016 @ 10:34 am by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Quotes

“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments — which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.”

-Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

Learning to Be an Includer

Posted Thursday, February 4th, 2016 @ 9:39 am by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Education, Journal, Motherhood, Quotes, Social Science

Experiencing bullying at school is traumatic. When a child comes from a loving, stable family with empathetic parents, it is still hard on a child. When a child comes from a family system that is authoritarian or neglectful, the distress is even worse; often there is bullying ongoing in the home as well, and the people from whom a child would get support don’t provide it.

As a parent, when my child encounters “mean girl” (or “mean kid”) behaviors, I struggle often with my own wounds from childhood. I did not have an empathetic, supportive family, because bullying also occurred within our home. All the parts of myself that I call “young stuff” — that didn’t get needed support — burst to the surface. Sometimes I parent from a state of panic and urgency. I’m working on this.

This article, Raising Girls Who Are Includers Instead of Mean Girls, felt timely and wise. I related to the author’s experiences in childhood and enjoyed reading how those experiences created in her a desire to become an “includer.”

She wrote a list of stories she hopes our daughters will someday say as they reflect on how we supported them during their struggles. I’m sharing here so I can return to it, to read and remind myself of my aspirations.

I hope all our girls will someday share stories like:

~ “My mom would listen to me as she stroked my hair, as she lingered with me and I shared what was happening and how I felt.”

~ “My mom wouldn’t jump in and try to fix it. She wouldn’t freak out and panic out of her own fears and hurts and unconscious stuff she was holding. She would sit with me and ask me for my ideas and what I needed. She would wait and listen – listen to what’s said and unsaid, creating safe space for me to navigate the inner landscape of my own feelings and heart so that the right actions for me to take would arise from within me.”

~ “My parents would advocate for and alongside me in situations that required adult intervention. They wouldn’t act out of fear or anger. They would wait and discern and pray and watch.”

~ “My mom wasn’t about ‘sweeping me up and saving me.’ She was about empowering me. She knew when to step in front of me and be the mama bear, protecting me. And she knew when to sit behind me or alongside me, abiding with me.”

~ “I learned to say, “THAT’S NOT OK!” and “Stop” and “I am walking away now.”

~ “I learned how to see clearly. I learned to not think there was something wrong with ME. I learned to not turn on myself but rather have regard for myself.”

~ “I learned to name with compassion – for myself and others – what is happening. I learned to name it, state it, and own my response.”

~ “I learned ways of working through difficulties with other girls and women in ways that honor and regard each girl and woman’s body, feelings, experiences and needs.”

~ “I learned to find my tribe of women. I learned to ask for help. I learned to be with others who uplift and honor each other.”

~ “I learned to speak up. I learned to speak up for myself and for others in the face of injustice – on the playground, in the hallways between classes in middle school, or in international peace negotiations.”

~ “I learned to be an includer. I learned to mindfully abide with whatever I am experiencing within my own inner landscape. And from such a place of inclusion, I learned to include and walk beside others.”

-Lisa McCrohan

One of Those Days

Posted Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 @ 9:40 am by Kathryn
Categories: Buddhism, Journal, Nature, Science, Spirit

I’m having one of those days — I am so grateful to be alive.

The act of walking, the taste of coffee, the coziness of a blanket.

The emotion stirred by music, the brain food from books, the hugs from my child.

Greeting the parent who shows up every school morning to be crossing guard.

My breath with its precious oxygen that feeds my blood which my heart pumps reliably and perpetually through my body according to instructions from my nervous system and brain.

That any of it IS remains a mystery and a miracle.

How God Remembers That Which is Least

Posted Friday, January 22nd, 2016 @ 10:01 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes, Spirit

Yesterday I walked home from dropping my daughter at school, and I passed by a wounded mourning dove on the sidewalk. It was camouflaged and nearly undetectable. In a matter of seconds my eye saw it, my heart said, Oh! Poor creature, and my legs kept walking. I thought — actually, I felt a physical pressure in my torso — the prompt of compassion to move it off the sidewalk, and this was immediately chased away by the thought, Remember, avian flu, don’t want to get something like that.

I kept walking, but a debate occurred between my mind and that felt part of me. I hesitate to call it my heart, because it filled my torso. It was an interesting experience, since another part of me was detached enough to witness the event. This is what unfolded:

Feet are walking.

Head: Keep going. It could have disease.

Heart: You can wash your hands as soon as you get home. It’s vulnerable. At least move it off the sidewalk.

Head: It’s probably going to die.

Feet keep walking.

Heart: Just move it! Even if it dies, let it be somewhere safer.

Head: No, it’s silly. It’s just a bird. Not a big deal. Besides, I’m several houses past it.

Heart: Go back. Go back, pick it up, and put it under a bush.

Feet move more slowly.

Head: You’re kidding, right? Feet, keep walking. It’s no big deal.

Feet continue to move, even more slowly.

Heart: You must go back. Turn around, walk back, and move the bird. It’s a living creature.

Feet stop.

Head: Really?

Heart: Really.

My body turned around, my feet walked half a block back to the bird. I leaned down and gently cupped my hands around it. I lifted the bird and saw that it was dead. Its eyes remained open, but there was not even the slightest movement of a feather. I tucked it under a bush. I wasn’t thinking. The act itself felt like a prayer. I took out my phone and snapped a picture. It was just a bird, but it had been living and now it wasn’t. It seemed right to memorialize it in a photo. Then I stood up and began walking home.

Peace coursed through my body. It was an act of compassion, however small.

Heart: Thank you.

Head: Okay, just be sure to wash your hands really well when you get home.

Today, a scripture from my childhood came to mind, Luke 12:6: “Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.”

We are God’s eyes. We are called to remember. That is how God moves in the world.

mourning dove

Step by Step

Posted Friday, January 22nd, 2016 @ 9:06 am by Kathryn
Categories: Education, Humanities, Quotes, Social Science

We need to remember that an appreciation for challenge, and a belief that we can find a way to change, learn and grow, can’t itself be fixed in place. Instead, we all struggle with fear and discouragement at times. Sometimes we run toward new experiences. Sometimes we have to find a way to learn something we really did not want to learn. Sometimes, some part of us is always on the floor, sobbing: “I can’t. I’m bad at this. I’ll never get it.”

So how do you raise a child with a growth mind-set, along with a nice healthy appreciation for where it came from and the will to keep it strong? By applying the encouraging messages of the growth mind-set to yourself. I’ll borrow, out of context, another phrase from Dr. Dweck: “The point isn’t to get it all right away. The point is to grow your understanding step by step. What can you try next?”

-K.J. Dell’antonia, ‘Nice Try!’ is Not Enough

Posted Monday, January 18th, 2016 @ 1:16 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Quotes, Spirit

My mother was puzzling over this poem by Hafiz. Like much poetry, the best way to access the meaning is to sidle up to it and look at it from the corner of one’s eye.

The Salmon Run

I wonder how God ever gets any work done
when he could just be gazing at Himself
in awe all day? What discipline he shows.

I am talking about a real problem that will
challenge you someday, though you may
know nothing about that yet:

splendor taking over the place and rising
from your body like a sunrise–gods sitting
on a hill needing to bask in you. For it is true,
we help sustain existence.

All types of fishermen, merchants and seekers
will gather around you when you reach your goal.

They will be wanting to cast their nets into
the brilliant salmon run you become,

leaping into the sky, offering to take any near
along.

-Hafiz

First impressions: The fact this universe exists at all is marvelous. That life exists in all its forms — how can we not just sit around gazing in awe? It is a Mystery that anything is at all. We are part of it now in this form, we are gods sitting on a hill basking in it. We will also die, after which we become splendor taking over the place. We return to earth, participate in sustaining life. We are the fisherman, merchants and seekers casting our nets into life. The earth sustains us. And, if we are lucky enough to wake up — to realize we are one with everything — we can enjoy the Mystery all the more. There is no need to fear.

The Incident on the Bus

Posted Saturday, January 16th, 2016 @ 2:54 pm by Kathryn
Categories: Community, Journal, Social Science
reflection

Reflections of Long Ago

I am not a fan of public transportation. In most places I have lived, it is an inefficient means of getting around. For instance, if I had to commute from my home to Mountain View (25 miles away), a one-way trip would take two and a half hours via light rail and bus. Public transportation also poses other challenges. One memory came up today.

One winter evening when I was 21 and my brother was 13, I took him to a play at a local theater. I lived downtown without a car. I probably cooked him dinner beforehand. After 5 p.m., the buses ran only once every hour; they lined up along a major intersection downtown. We boarded our bus and moved toward a seat in the back. I selected a seat that faced toward the front of the bus and sat by the window; my brother was next to me.

Behind me, perpendicular to my seat, sat a bunch of young men. Directly behind me, a man sat with his elbow jutting over the edge of my seat, preventing me from sitting back. I tried a nonverbal approach at first by simply pushing myself back, hoping he would get the hint and move his arm. He resisted; his arm didn’t budge. I pushed slightly again, and the elbow shoved back. The guys were talking among themselves. I turned around and politely said, “Would you move your arm, please, so I can sit?”

He replied, “NO. And if you ask me again, bitch, I’ll hit you.” I turned around, fuming. I could have decided to move us to a different seat. I decided instead to assert myself. What followed occurred so quickly.

I pushed back, and he didn’t move. I turned back and said, “Really, please –” BAM! He backhanded me in the face and my glasses flew off. I gasped and grabbed my glasses from my lap. I was stunned, and reality felt like slow-motion. I told my brother to get up and move. The other men taunted him, asking if he was going to protect his girlfriend. The buses were about to depart.

My heart pounded, my arms and legs shook. I strode to the front of the bus and told the driver what happened. Behind me, I heard murmurs of discontent and complaint. I was holding up the bus. The driver said, “I can’t do anything about that.” He called the dispatcher, who arrived a moment later and said, “I can call the police if you want. Nothing else to do.” I could feel the annoyance from other passengers on the bus. I declined to pursue that option.

T and I sat right behind the driver, perpendicular to him. I was very scared, shocked, and outraged. I felt helpless and alone. I fought tears, not wanting to weep in public. I was flooded with shame. I stared at nothing, shaking, my mind reeling. A couple blocks onward I glanced toward the back of the bus. The man who’d hit me saw, rose, and walked to the front. He stood in front of me and said, “You want to start something, bitch? Huh?” At this point I was frozen in terror. I stared straight ahead and didn’t respond. He turned around and went back to his seat. We got off at the next stop, several stops early, and trudged the rest of the way through snow and slush to the theater.

All this time, my brother hadn’t spoken. Neither had I. We arrived at the theater, I put on the happy big sister persona (or tried to) and said, “Let’s forget that and enjoy the play.” I spent the rest of the evening feeling removed from the experience. I have no memory of the play, or of how we got home.

Do demographics matter? It was 1984. I was an angry 20-something white woman who identified as lesbian. My attacker was an angry late teen/early 20s black man probably part of a gang. Of course he hit and threatened me. I was only a woman, an uppity white woman. I wasn’t even a woman; I was a bitch. I felt completely unsupported in the situation. Lonely. I had asserted myself, was attacked for it, and NOBODY helped me. I appealed to authority; they didn’t care. Not only did no one help, people complained about being delayed. I was responsible for my brother’s safety. I felt utterly powerless. I felt waves of shame, fear, anger, and sorrow.

For years after that, I never sat further back than the middle of the bus. I avoided eye contact with black men. And to this day, my brother and I have never discussed it.

Spring

Posted Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 @ 11:48 am by Kathryn
Categories: Journal, Nature, Quotes
wyoming sky

Wyoming Sky

A quote, shared by my mother in a comment (thank you, Mom!), for those in the deep of winter. Go outside. Even in winter. Mother is waiting to embrace you.

I said in my heart, “I am sick of four walls and a
ceiling.
I have need of the sky.
I have business with the grass.
I will up and get me away where the hawk is wheeling,
Lone and high,
And the slow clouds go by.
I will get me away to the waters that glass
The clouds as they pass,
To the waters that lie
Like the heart of a maiden aware of a doom drawing
nigh
And dumb for sorcery of impending joy.
I will get me away to the woods.

–Richard Hovey, excerpt from Spring