Sunday, December 27, 2009

Movie: Memoirs of a Geisha

I recently watched Memoirs of a Geisha, based on the novel by Arthur Golden. Having read the book some years ago, I was looking forward to the film, but only now got around to viewing it. I remember that this was one of the few books that held me. I read from morning until night, devouring the beautiful prose. And that Golden wrote convincingly as the women in this story is impressive.

A line that stood out for me in the movie is in the following clip where Mameha tells Chiyo that “ the very word Geisha means artist and to be a Geisha means to be judged as a moving work of art.” I find this line to be so beautiful and the movie is itself just that.

One more very short clip that shows two dance sequences is this one:

The movie is also very sad at times. I won't say too much more, just in case. I don't know if the movie is accurate in its portrayal of the Geisha, but it is definitely a work of art that makes me realize the many perfected arts and beauty that seem to be a part of the Japanese culture.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Two Short Videos ~ On Language

Here are Two videos by Red Room author, Mylene Dressler. I thought you might find them interesting, if you haven’t already seen them. In the second short video clip, she speaks a bit about language half-way through.

Dance with Language

Flood Makers and Why I Write

I think I successfully added a link. Thank you Vincent!

Ice Skating Bliss

Being “present” in the moment is not always an easy task for me. Even when I am out walking, as I breathe in the crisp air, my mind wanders, thinking, turning ideas or worries around, until I realize that I’m passing by the pretty flowers and blue skies. They at least pull me back to the moment for a time, and I try to watch my breathing, in, out, but then it happens again, I’m zipped away into my thoughts.

The first time in along time that I have experienced being fully present was when I went for my first ice skating coaching session last week. I mustered up the courage to meet with a coach for a lesson. I explained to her on the phone that I had previously skated long ago, and that I was interested in taking adult skating classes, but first wanted to see where I was. We set the date and I woke up early that morning, left the house at 6:45 a.m. It felt good to be out of the house early for something other than work.

I arrived early, rented skates, laced up, and sat and watched until it was time for my session. I felt like my mother, as I watched the young skaters out there. I observed that of the handful of girls on the ice, all of them were Asian, except for one Caucasian girl. They were clearly at different levels, some were quite graceful. One girl seemed a little bit heavier than I normally see, short, and her arms were not out straight. She was trying an advanced turn, but she didn’t strike me as graceful, and her coach didn’t seem to correct her flailing arms. I felt so odd, sitting, and in some way critiquing. Who was I to judge? I couldn’t help it, but it would also make me aware of my own body movements.

8:00 a.m. came and I met the coach, we exchanged pleasantries. I got onto the ice and skated along and she watched and we went to the other half of the rink in a corner away from the other skaters. We started back to basics, with the most elementary of strokes. Still quite wobbly, I returned to the starting position until I had at least completed a move without completely losing my balance. She kept encouraging me, “good job, that’s it.” And she said that I was picking it up quickly. As I pushed off, I had to learn to allow my body to wait, and let my shoulders do the turning. And then when I would turn and the coach saw me lose my balance, she kept reminding me, “bring your tummy in, watch that front arm.” Ah, is that why I was so slender in childhood, all this tummy tightening. It was amazing, though, how I had forgotten how important my center is, something I take for granted. So I had to be mindful of my center being pulled in, my shoulders back, which is a chore for me, since I actually have developed somewhat bad posture over the years.

At small points throughout the session, I let go, the movements became familiar, my strokes were smooth, I was one with the ice, the skates, my body. I only realized this later when I drove away, realizing that I was truly in the present, no thoughts tried to intrude my mind while I was on the ice, instead focus was on every little thing the coach said, correcting, redoing, learning, skating. It was bliss.

My mind was completely focused on learning these rudimentary moves—moves that I do not even recall learning as a child. It was so long ago, that my body remembered most of it and began picking it up quite quickly, but my mind had no recollection of any of it. My mind only remembered a small fragment of my past ice skating experience, while my body seemed to remember all that I needed to know. At the end of the session, the coach said that she didn’t think the adult class would be good for me, not challenging enough. She thought I did quite well and that if I wanted to continue, I could test and move on, but I would need to get my own skates because the rentals are so horrible and never the same, and of course I would need to practice.

I asked if many adults skate and she said yes. She even had a 50 year old man she coached who started from scratch and had been practicing and taking lessons for two years. Wow! to learn to skate at 50—that is incredible. It gave me the little extra hope that I needed to hear. She recommended someone for me to get fitted for skates, so I made the trek and did that and am now eagerly awaiting the moment I put on my very own skates and take another coaching session and start practicing on my own. Going back to basics has been both rewarding, revealing, and quite humbling.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Images from Today – Drive to Ice Land

Globe opens, spills light into
shatters, fine splinters blow in the horn,
deep resonance felt in
every membrane.

Today I decided to take myself to go ice skating. Well, actually, when I was flipping through the TV, I happened upon ice skating and got lured in. Memories, I suppose, of when I used to skate and compete as a young one. The irony is that I sometimes dreaded it: Getting up early morning, tired, and my coaches. One in particular; a man, somewhat grouchy, pushed me—pushed and pushed the fun right out of it, and I didn’t get a thrill out of performing in front of so many strangers and my mother. The irony is that now this deep part of me wants to do it again, wants to compete, wants the coach to push me hard, and wants to perform in front of strangers—as for my mom, she will be there in her own way. The irony is I don’t think I really liked ice skating then, but now I have this odd desire to return. I must say, the desire has been there on and off, but now it seems to be tugging stronger. But in reality, it could only be for fun, for I am way past prime in the world of ice skating.

This is only the second time I’ve taken myself ice skating since I first did so about two years ago. The funny thing is it’s not exactly like learning to ride a bicycle. With so much time having lapsed in between, at least 27 years, the body memory is there, but it’s awkward, wobbly, not immediate. There’s also a certain fear of falling or looking foolish. This time I was less wobbly, but I couldn’t just glide right out there or I’d lose my balance.

I feel a giddiness as I tie up my laces and walk with the heavy skates on my feet. I hold the rail as I walk onto the ice. Then I push off slowly, get the feel for my skates on the ice. I begin to pick up speed, but then I have to slow down because there are so many people on the rink, but at least my body can remember how to stop without falling. As I circle the rink several times, I get more confidence and turn to skate backward ever so briefly, and then I try one simple jump—I can’t even remember the name. It feels good and, I wish I had the rink all to myself, so I could push myself and try all that I remember, and just skate and skate and skate.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

When I think of Peace

When I think of Peace, I think of inner harmony. I think of how one effects the many. How thoughts, words, art—are all powerful.

I try to imagine a peaceful world. What would it be like to live in peace, without war, without violence, without hate? What would the world look like if conflicts and differences could be sorted out, talked out, rather than escalating to—? I think that in a way we need the other side of peace in order to know and get closer to peace.

I agree that peace starts with us, but I respect that each individual will find and come to know peace on their own terms. I suppose though that in order for peace to be a reality for some individuals, basic needs need to be met first, families need to be cohesive. If people live in survival mode, unable to put food on their tables, clothes on their backs, how can we spread peace around to EVERYONE?

It seems to come back to me doing what I can to cultivate my own inner peace and also doing what I can in my own little quiet ways. And knowing that there are many individuals and groups and people in power or who have the means to make a larger impact.


Why not?
By Rebbecca Hill

History’s shadow lies hidden from
the owl’s eyes, swept into the weeds, only to grow back stronger,
tangled, thorny.

What if humankind was like a bamboo reed aiming high,
adapting to the stormy curves of the wind,
standing firm, knowing when to bend. And what if
man was also like a great oak: rugged skin, judicious
branches extending upward; no ideology to cling to, nor
only one to proclaim.

Why not a world of acceptance, respect of all views, with
no need to uncap destruction in the forest, no limbs unnecessarily
exploding into crimson ground.

Couldn’t we have a world with a spectrum of colors, ideas, warmth,
shelter, food, home, love, that everyone could fit into their pockets and

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Death Visits

Before I wrote this, I took pens, pencils, and paper and just let go. Here is what came out.

We are left behind to invent a life no longer with us.
Death sparks our creative resources.
Death teaches us to live.

From Death: An Anthology of Ancient Texts, Songs, Prayers, and Stories edited by David Meltzer

I feel as though my own writing has taken a break. This is my attempt to get past it. I’ve been very quiet inside, conversing with my significant other in writing and in speaking to him aloud, sometimes asking for his advice, talking about the day with him, keeping him updated on what’s going on—knowing that in some way he hears me and can only respond through small signs or by just my feeling and sensing his presence. He has crossed into the other realm. It has been a bit over a month now since his passing.

Some books say that I should get used to saying that he is dead, so that I can face the reality of it. What rings most true for me is what Vietnamese Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh says in his book, “No Death, No Fear: Comforting Wisdom for Life.” He says:

The Buddha said that when conditions are sufficient you manifest yourself. When conditions are no longer sufficient, you stop the manifestation in order to manifest in other forms, with other conditions. (72).

Death is one of those words that doesn’t really make a lot of sense. Most people don’t like to talk about it until it happens, and even when it does happen, it can cause a lot of confusion. Everyone handles the grieving process in their own personal way. Death can leave one feeling lost for a time, left to make sense of, to let go of, to rebuild from—to continue living.

Nature has taken on a new level of meaning for me because now, not only do I have my usual connection to nature and sense my grandmothers’ presence and other family members, but now I look to nature to communicate with my dearly beloved. I also feel deeply that he lives on in me, through me and that is also quite comforting.

Nature is usually my first guide, but when I face a life changing experience such as this one, I try to look to as many sources as possible to help me view my experience in the widest breath—to reach a wide variety of ways of dealing with life, with death. I had my Tarot cards read a few weeks back and also revisited my astrological chart with a counseling astrologer to revisit my chart and see if anything in particular stood out for the coming year. The last time I met with her was April 2004.

I know that nothing in life is permanent and I have tried to keep this at the forefront of my mind for many years, as well as trying to practice non-attachment, but when death visits, it really puts one to the test. The emotional void takes hold, balance eventually regained.

I’m not writing this to be a sad blog, rather one where I can reflect and speak, without speaking too much about the personal out of respect for my significant other. I’m using this space as a way of bringing my reality to the page. He had such a wonderful and unique sense of humor that it keeps me light at times when I imagine how he would have tried to make me laugh even when I didn’t want to. Of course I’ve had plenty of crying, other emotions, and going in circles. I know that the myriad emotional ups and downs will subside.

The impact of death leaves a person changed for life. With self-care and nurture; processing, grieving, talking, reaching out, being with family, friends—and other ways that work for each individual—the way becomes more clear and life begins anew.

Thank goodness for memories and pictures.


Afterthought: I’ve always been curious about death because it always seemed near. My first experience was with my pet cat, Cicero, followed by my dog Kyo, and then other pets. And then my mother, father, uncles, grandfather, grandmother. My grandmother was open about it and she told me when she knew hers was nearing. I felt grateful that she sensed it and was able to tell me.


I know there is so much literature out there on death and grieving. Two books that I found very helpful were:

The Courage to Grieve: Creative Living, Recovery, & Growth through Grief ~ Judy Tatelbaum

Grieving: A Beginner’s Guide ~ Jerusha Hull McCormack

Friday, November 13, 2009

Two Photos with Kyo and Me

Lu's blog, "My life as a dog," with a picture of her and Xodó made me think of a picture I had with my childhood dog, Kyo. I didn't realize how mangled this photo was until I found it again. I don't remember that day, but it looks like Kyo and I were tired, but willing to be photographed. The reason the photo is all torn up and worn out is that when I was in my late teens, my rambunctious lab go into my things and those are his teeth marks all over. I'm glad he didn't rip up the whole picture.

This next photo is of me in my ice skating outfit with Kyo. I suppose I look a bit more serious in this photo. You can see us a little better. My brother came up with the name for our dog and I don't know what inspired him to name him that. I like the name, though. Kyo was a great dog and very unique. He would go on his own adventures around the neighborhood. I would always know when he went down to the creek, which was about a 20 minute walk. He'd always come back muddy. And then he would take himself across the street to the grocery store and because the butchers would occasionally give him bones, he would enter the store, and the cashiers would get upset and have to keep telling him to leave. If he was gone for too long, we'd know where to find him. He was one of my favorite dogs—such a free spirit.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Recollections ~ The I Ching or Book of Changes

Books that sit on my shelves have a way of speaking to me, even if I pass them. I had recently consulted The I Ching. Usually when I have a difficult question, I like to see how my subtle mind receives what is in those pages at that moment—to see if there is guidance to be gleamed. I believe it was a couple weeks ago. But what has really brought me back to this book is when Keiko mentioned she was reading the Chinese classics, one being the Analects. It planted a seed, roused an excitement in me to go to my shelf and pull down The I Ching, with it’s slightly weathered cover. I have The Richard Wilhelm Translation with a foreword by C. G. Jung.

The first time I came in contact with this book was in a college philosophy course in the Eastern traditions at least 15 years ago. The instructor had us get into a circle and asked if one of us would like to consult the oracle. He had his book out. He was Hispanic, seemed somewhat young—maybe in his forties. I watched him, as he seemed to pace calmly, talking to us about the book and tossing the coins while someone recorded the marks. There was something about him that seemed still a seeker and wanted so much for us to appreciate the value of this book, but at the same time, something seemed to stir in him. I cannot explain it, but I have always remembered how he seemed unsettled, like he was dealing with something inside of himself, by the pensive, but almost painful expressions I noticed in his face. I never finished the course, but I at least was introduced to The I Ching.

Thus, I’ve begun rereading The I Ching again, but this time I hope to finish it, reading a section each day until I reach the end of the first part of the book. I reread the preface, foreword, translator’s note, and introduction. It was nice to see the passages that I had underlined years ago. I really feel this odd sense of being pulled back to a time—a point in my life that I’m coming back to—but that I never left, but am now picking back up again, if that makes any sense. I guess that’s how life is and that’s what I love about life, sometimes not knowing, and so many possibilities. For me though, I seem to take baby steps and never really reach a point externally—at least not in obvious ways, everything seems more internal and subtle.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Spiritual Vibrations

Today, I ponder the vibrations that I seem drawn to. I was raised Catholic and my grandmother was a strong influence in my early spiritual development, but I did not read the scriptures and I dreaded going to church. I don’t consider myself religious and I don’t follow a set doctrine. I follow what is in my heart and soul and consider myself spiritual and very much in touch with nature, and my curiosity always keeps me interested in everything.

What I learned from my grandmother was largely through observation of how she treated others: Family, friends, strangers. She walked through life with love in all that she did. Even when she scolded me at times, it was with love and words of wisdom about never to hate and to always forgive. Much of what I gained from my grandmother, came later though—the realization—of all that she bestowed upon me.

A few years after high school, I remained friends with an old boyfriend who was very interested in Asian Religions. One day he asked me out of the blue if I’d like to join him to see Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist monk. I knew nothing of him, but it sounded interesting so I went. That day changed my life. I couldn’t tell you all that Nhat Hanh said that evening, but the presence that I felt emanate from his being and the whole auditorium was so immense. I was filled with an unbelievable feeling of peace and joy. I began reading his books and trying to learn more about Buddhism and other Asian paths. That sense of presence and Nhat Hanh’s teachings have stayed with me ever since.

I continued my own self-reflection and would be on a path to find inner calm—to build a center within myself that was grounded, so that if I came across obstacles, I would have a strong center to fall back on. I had been through extremely difficult emotional experiences and wanted to make sure I was prepared. This has mainly been sustained by my spirituality, writing, and my deep connection and interaction with nature because it comes most naturally.

My next experience of this vibrational pulling was while I was working at a flower shop in my early twenties. One day an East Indian gentlemen came in and he had such a glowing personality and was so tall. His voice was happy and high. After I prepared his flowers, I asked my boss who that was because she was quite friendly with him, so I knew he was a regular. She said that he would come every week to get flowers to take to the Buddhist temple with his wife, Saman. I expressed great interest and she said she would mention it to the wife. Not long after, I did meet the wife and she invited me to join them the next time they went. I was thrilled. She was from Sri Lanka and I don’t remember which part of India her husband was from.

I met Saman, and on our way to Temple, she asked if I knew of anyone that would like to do some office work. I said no I did not. When we arrived at Temple, it was a quaint house down one of the streets not too far from the University. We went in and I was introduced to Bhanti and a few other monks. He had a big smile on his face and was very welcoming and joked with me that I must be a Buddha because I smiled and laughed so much. That made me happy that there was such comfort in our meeting; it was like seeing an old friend, even though this was the first time. He provided me with some literature and we went into a room where there was an altar, with candles, and incense. We settled in and began chanting. I had to hold the book and read from it while the others had everything memorized. The sounds of the words and the feeling of saying them in unison with everyone else was amazing.

I never did go back to Temple, but I was so glad to have had the experience. Since then, I have explored different paths, but I always come back to myself, and to what is within me in the form of words, thoughts, memories. My grandmother, Thich Nhat Hanh, and nature are my main guides.

Another non-spiritual synchronistic event that came out of this is when Saman was asking me about office work. She revealed that she was asking for herself and her husband. I had not known that they owned a small company. About a week or so later, my boss said that Saman would like me to work for her and that she was willing to train me. I was thrilled. This was a new page in my path, and all that I learned while I was with her helped me in finding jobs in the future, since previously I had no experience in the work world beyond flowers and burgers. I felt truly blessed for how all the small events coincided beautifully.

And as for the Vibrations and what made me think about this today is that I am still draw to people from East India. I feel connected in a way that I cannot explain.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Coming Full Circle

I feel compelled to at least write once on this blog. Here I had forgotten that back in August of 2007, I had attempted to setup an account here at eBlogger and had apparently abandoned the idea. I feel nostalgic about it and keep wanting to delete this blog titled “Pictures/Thoughts,” but something wont let me just yet. Funny thing is when I saw that name as I reattempted to begin again at this site, I thought that was the default that was given to my blog. Even when I saw the date: Member since August 2007, I thought to myself, “they really should get their dates fixes.” Then it all came back to me, I was taken back to that time when something in me was yearning to share, but I never did. How strange it is to be back here, again coming full circle, as seems to happen with many aspects of life—a natural progression. I don’t know if I will continue to post my thoughts to this blog, but who knows. But I do plan on posting to my newly created blog RebbReflections when something stirs in me.

And really I wouldn't be back here if it were not for Luciana--thank you, Lu. You pulled me into your ocean... And I probably still wouldn't have posted if not for seeing Dr. Jitu's blog and if not for Vincent's words of encouragement. Thank you all for somehow pulling me into the ocean where it felt a little bit more familiar.