Saturday, May 31, 2008

Life Maps

A Life Map is my reminder not to get too hung up on any one aspect of my life, and a reminder that the big picture can ironically bring me back to the precious moment of NOW.

Geographic features of my Life Map:

Emotional Life
Spiritual Life
Social Life
Meditation & Prayer
Art Collection
Book Collection
Jewelry Collection
Reading List
Current Affairs & Politics
My Car
My Blog

Okay WOW my life is rich and full. Overwhelming if I try to think about it all at once. I keep a life map to remind me of how many overlaps and layers there are, how many ways to focus my attention and energy.

I embrace a few areas with goals – no more than five at a time – and attach action items to enrich my experiences in those areas. The timeframe can be a day or a year. Some areas lay fallow or run on automatic for seasons or decades. The goals are a guide, not a rule or a stick.

The point is to love my life no matter what!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" by Robert M Pirsig pushed its way into my consciousness this week. I read it maybe twenty years ago and am tackling it again.

A favorite examination of values, culture, and sanity; an inspiration for those aspiring to understand their own mind and life while searching for peace on earth.

Says Pirsig: "The study of the art of motorcycle maintenance is really a miniature study of the art of rationality itself. Working on a motorcycle, working well, caring, is to become part of a process, to achieve an inner peace of mind. The motorcycle is primarily a mental phenomenon."

Do you have a "motorcycle"? I'm not sure I do...time to open my heart and see if one rides in.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Threats to Our Species

Greatest threats to the Human Species:

1) Lack of ability to respond to a nuclear emergency
2) Microbes
3) Inability to heal from emotional trauma
4) Addictions
5) Prejudice
6) Failure to nurture and educate our young
7) Consumerism

More later on what I think we can do to lessen the threat.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Wish I Had Done Sooner

1. Kept a bibliography of every book I've read.
2. Asked for a letter of recommendation on the spot from bosses, teachers, and clients who praised my work.
3. Started a journal/scrapbook of tickets, programs, and postcards with notes on all the wonderful things I get to do every day.
4. Kept a guestbook at all my homes and asked each visitor to jot a note.
5. Written short stories on rainy Saturday mornings.
6. Taken a walk after dinner with a loved one every evening.
7. Kept a journal of all my prayers, so I’m reminded how they were all answered.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

A Fast Way to Learn

Inspired by my daughter and inspite of common sense I recently joined a 100 day fast in solidarity with the victims of genocide in Darfur. I signed up for one day of fasting at the Stop Genocide Now website and made a contribution to the World Food Programme

I confess I did a liquid fast which included my morning tea, a protein drink and fresh vegetable and fruit juice. Thus I didn’t receive the full "gift" of the fast because I didn’t have to go through withdrawal from caffeine and sugar nor did I have to threaten my health.

I was, however, surprised at the benefits I did receive. A list of my revelations and ultimately the opening of my heart for one young girl in a refugee camp in Chad is reflected in my letter to her below.

Dear Zanuba,

I thought of you all day yesterday during my fast. I wondered if you were playing or singing songs or learning something new. I know one thing for sure, you did not have enough of anything you need. I wish I could come there and bring you everything you need to grow into a strong young woman. Because I believe you and each of your friends have something wonderful and important to contribute to our human family.

Dubai Cares just gave money- a lot of money -16.6 million dollars- to help educate Sudanese Children through Save the Children UK and Sweden. This seems like a good idea but all I could think of was how will you get your share of this education, in a camp in Chad? How can you learn when you are not safe or comfortable or fed? As a girl will you get your share?

I tried to work and fast yesterday. It was very hard to concentrate, to think. I wondered how you can learn anything new after days and days of not eating properly or sleeping well.

It was hard for me to sleep last night on empty stomach. I am cranky this morning- I have not yet had my breakfast. I want to be mad at everyone and everything. I am extra tired. I wonder if it must be hard for the adults to show how much they love you when they are cranky from not eating or sleeping well.

I know my fasting cannot change your life in the camp in Chad directly, but it will mean I will never forget you and your family and friends in the camps. I will think of you three times a day, at least.

Your Friend,

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Give it Away NOW

I married early and by the time I graduated from college, we had accumulated an entire three-bedroom ranch house full of Respectable Stuff.

Sadly the marriage didn’t last and after graduation I headed from Tucson to Seattle in a small compact car to accept my first grown up job. I left everything behind except my clothes and a few important mementos secured in a carved Russian box.

The first night in Seattle, someone broke into my car and snatched the mementos off the front seat. The car window could be replaced but what about the Russian box? I couldn’t even rouse a satisfactory inventory of the treasured items. I was crushed.

Time flew by and even though I didn’t really miss nor need my Tucson Stuff I summoned movers who brought me what I had left behind. Decades passed. I accumulated more and more Seattle Stuff.

Time to move again. I discovered I had packed so much bulk into my little bungalow that it filled a HUGE moving van. When I reached the new house I realized that the Tucson Stuff and much of the Bungalow Stuff was no longer relevant, I was clinging on to it out of the fear that someday I might need it. I decided to give away everything I didn’t use.

At first it felt good. I gave my ten year old suits to a program for women attempting to get back on their feet. Then it broke my heart to see these brave women go to job interviews wearing outdated clothes I refused to be seen in. What if I had given the suits away as soon as I had stopped wearing them?

I filled an ENTIRE DUMPSTER with things too dingy from storage to even give away. I learned that Giving was much better than Having and infinitely better than Discarding. Look around your life and see what you can give away before it’s too late.

My List of Things to Give Away Now
1. Art supplies I haven’t touched
2. Novels I’ve read and won’t read again
3. Cookbooks – after I copy down a few recipes
4. Clothing that doesn’t fit or I don’t wear (once a year)
5. Unused Technology that still works - clocks, calculators, telephones
6. Sports equipment I don't expect to use again
7. Kitchen gadgets I’ve never used and will never use
8. Artwork I’ve grown tired of or is tucked out of sight
9. Unused beauty supplies
10. Classes on tape I’ll never listen to again

Occasionally a memento from the Russian box will float past my consciousness: my class ring, a LOVE button from the 60’s… the memories surface when I need them.

Giving sooner rather than later is now my act of faith.

I don’t worry about making a mistake. I’ll be okay regardless.

PS Others are following suit Voluntary Simplicity

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Fundamental Human Rights

It may be whiplash to go from one person on a desert island to the entire human race in one post, but I wanted to give a sense of the breadth and depth that can be covered when one contemplates lists.

In this list, I tried to include those things that I thought were actually possible, because we can individually assure them for each other and or they are available if mankind as a whole will cooperate.

If these are allowed, I believe things like peace, emotional support, education, and health care will follow naturally.

My List of Seven Fundamental Human Rights

1. Right to Worship as You Choose
2. Freedom from Hate Crimes
3. Protection from Unprovoked Violence
4. Meaningful Productive Work
5. Nurturing Physical Environment (I believe there are enough resources on this planet for all of us to have nutritious food, clean air & water, and shelter.)
6. A Voice in your Community
7. Playtime

This is my opinion. I encourage you to make your own list and not to grapple with other’s lists too much. This list helped me clarify my values and affects how I vote and donate my resources. It focuses my time as I follow international affairs and inspires me to take action when I believe it will support these values.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Desert Island Game

In honor of my Gramps.

This list is about luxury and sanity.

If you were banished to a desert island for a very very long time, what ten items would you take?

Assume you have only minimal clothes, shelter, fire, food, tools, medicine, and water on the island.

Assume you do not have electricity. Generators and batteries are not allowed on the island. No escape vehicles allowed.

There are no other people on the island, this is solitary isolation. You may have a crate of one item.

List of Ten Things I would take to a desert island:

1. Shakespeare, complete works
2. The Bible
3. A Hang (see a great post butuki absolutely-in-love )
4. My Giant Faux Mink Pillow
5. A Crate of Paper
6. Calligraphy Pen
7. Giant Block of Ink
8. A Poem by My Daughter
9. Magnifying Glass
10. Telescope

Friday, May 2, 2008


At age ten I didn't worry about my values, commitments, or priorities. I couldn't tell you what they were or where they came from. However, I did get an inkling from my favorite family game. At dinner Gramps would ask: 'If you were banished to a desert island FOREVER, what ten things would you take with you?" I received a shock at some of the answers given by my family and friends. You would take what?! A dictionary, a basketball, paint brushes, rose bushes, your hot water bottle. Is that what's important to you? Wow! Or, Why?

It made me realize there were things going on in other people's heads and lives that I couldn't imagine. It inspired me to take a good hard look at my own list, and thus, I honed my soul via Contemplation of the List for the first time.

Over the years I learned that lists of Chores To Do on Saturday, or Books Recommended by Friends, or Due Dates for Bills could enhance my quality of life and bring peace of mind. I used lists from "experts" to inventory my Spending, my Use of Time, my Insured Belongings, my Career Expectations. I relished using lists at work to break Impossible Assignments into Important Things to Accomplish Today.

Then I hit the heavy stuff. I used lists of Climbing Gear, Disease Symptoms, and The Unforgiven to save my life.

Sometimes fun, sometimes irreverent, sometimes spiritual, or grim, there was a lesson in every list I created.

I'm delighted to share my lists with you, and I would love to read your lists. I put them forth in no particular order of importance. Some will be lighthearted, some heavy handed. They keep me in my heart and on my toes.