Monday, September 1, 2014

Satisfaction, contentment, and awareness

Nobody wants to have Alzheimer's disease but too many people still don't have the daily meditation habit.  The two are possibly connected but even if they aren't, daily meditation is showing itself to be quite valuable in athletics, education, medicine, military and police life, commercial activities and every other activity. 

The book "Search Inside Yourself" by a Google software engineer details the Google meditation program.  A little searching can show you programs for children, including the one sponsored by the actress Goldie Hawn and programs for senior citizens, such as the work by the Harvard psychologist Ellen J. Langer.  Meditation is part of the tradition of every major religion but it can be usefully described and practiced purely as a health tool, a mind and personality health tool.

We all have dozens of things going on inside us that we don't know about.  We can't usually sense our own blood pressure, our own underlying convictions that we are lacking in something we think we should have, such as beauty or wealth or patience or something, or our internal flow of hormones. We are not built to be aware of everything and we can't be.  However, as the old prayer says, it is good to be both aware of what we can be aware of and accepting of what we can't change. It is good to be able to simply view, observe, sense.  Meditation helps us become closer to ourselves, more accepting of the deal nature and heaven have provided us, more aware of the beauties, miracles and tragedies of this life.

Here is a link to a short article by the very experienced meditation teacher Sharon Salzburg on three ways to approach meditation and fit it into your life.  If you give 5 or so minutes to meditation daily, good for you.  Keep it up.  If not, look over the Salzburg suggestions and give them a try. Today.  You've got 5 minutes.

Just for further information, from Eric Barker

This happened to Dan Harrisin front of 5 million people.

On June 7th, 2004, Dan was a news correspondent on ABC and he had a panic attack on air while reading the news:

He knew he had to do something. His career was in jeopardy.

By coincidence, he was soon assigned to cover stories about religion. This set Dan on a multi-year quest talking to people of faith — and total quacks.

But it ended up introducing him to something that helped him get his head straight and, as he likes to say, made him 10% happier.

What was it? Meditation.

Feeling skeptical yet? Thinking of hippies, beads and chanting? Actually, that's how Dan felt too.

But it turns out his discovery wasn't the least bit mystic — in fact it was quite scientific.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Some notable books

I read "A Year of Biblical Womanhood" by Rachel Held Evans.  She is a good writer and has other books to her credit.  I am pretty far from sharing all her religious ideas and affiliations but I do respect the intelligence and care she puts into her exploration of trying to follow all the Biblical precepts that a woman is advised to.  She had a different project for each month of a year, including spending the night in a tent when she was menstruating and therefore "unclean".  She seems to have an equally Christian and flexible husband who is very supportive.

I am slowly getting through "Healing at the Speed of Sound" by Campbell and Doman, inspired by reading "The Universal Sense" (which is about hearing and sound) and my subsequent following Seth Horowitz, PhD on Twitter.  Horowitz is a sound and neurology scientist and has alerted me to the presence and influence of sound, especially music.

"Our Inner Ape" by Frans de Waal is a surprising book.  I don't think of myself and my family and friends as primates but as I listen to de Waal, it is clear that much of what I do each day is dictated by a nervous system and biology that is quite similar to that of the chimpanzees and the bonobos and the capuchin monkeys.  We arrange for reproduction and sex a little differently in that we use pair-bonding (couples falling in love) much more that the other branches of the primates.

"I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You" by Courtney Maum is a novel about an English artist and a French woman lawyer.  It is well written but it was the title that drew me in originally.  I enjoy visiting the upper middle class atmosphere of her family's home and customs but I get a little impatient with the two of them and their families sometimes.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Noise, sin and the American west

We flew to Las Vegas, a city of half a million in a metro area of just about 2 million.  I had only been there once, thirty years before.  I had young daughters then and we had camped all the way.  This time, we stayed in a downtown casino and got to know the place a little more from the angle for which it is famous: commercialization of sex, all sorts of noise - all at high volume and general confusion.  The contrast between all of that and the quiet of the south rim of the Grand Canyon at dawn is almost too strong to bear.

Getting home, we received the mail the post office held for us in two main batches: periodicals and letters.  About 75% of the mail is ads, mostly for charities.  Lynn is the charity officer of the family and works hard to strip out junk, and overly solicitous organizations no matter how noble their aim. I like the fast, brutal approach from our mailbox straight to recycling but she feels better examining each piece, even if just a glance at the outside.

When I see several issues of magazines in a pile, I zip through them, turning pages at a fast pace.  Once in a while, there is an article that makes me pause.  In Time, I saw an article on the dangers of too much sitting.  This is a subject of strong interest to me and one that has been steadily rising in the media.  I showed that article to Lynn, who is working on cropping and sprucing up 1000 pictures of our trip.  She is also unpacking and doing two weeks of laundry.  When she saw the article, she said,"Tell me what it says".  I said,"Don't sit".  

That is what we are dealing with these days. We are engulfed in dozens of choices, often all excellent.  Much like those super cafeterias, where there are dozens of totally delicious dishes that I face with an expanding waistline. We have limited time and personal energy to read, learn, travel, to live and often just want the basics. What does it say?  Just give me the essence, if there even is one.

Going out west is being immersed in struggle, obstacles and the basic will to keep going at a task.  The pioneers, the immigrants, were all faced with ignorance, trickery, disaster and very hard living.  Whether it is in the casinos and their mixture of booze, flashing lights, and baggy eyes staring from blank faces, or on the endless acres of scattered plants that know how to wrestle a life from heat and drought among rocks of subtle colors, you can see struggle and grim determination.

It is inspiring to see the streets and stores in places that two hundred years ago there was only sand.  It is inspiring to see plants, and animals, and people with stamina for living and appreciation of life.

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Friday, August 29, 2014

Lynn on "The last day"

Here is Lynn's last letter, sent after our trip to Zion national park, which is one of my favorites.  The night before Zion we had a tour of a few casinos, not for gambling but for gawking.  I gawked and enjoyed it.  Our tour included a real wedding performed by a real Elvis impersonator.

What a good day we had today! Another early start: 7:30 am. We are usually up by 6:00, but it  takes longer to be ready to go out when you have to have breakfast in a restaurant first. (On this trip our luggage usually needed to be ready at least an hour before we had to leave. That means being dressed, teeth brushed, backpacks packed, and nothing left behind. )

The trip from Las Vegas to Zion National Park took about 4 hours, including a break for buying groceries for lunch. The scenery on the trip was very good most of the way, but we've seen so much wonderful scenery on this trip that I don't think anyone took pictures on the way.

Most of what one sees at Zion is from the bottom of the canyon, while several parks we visited were from the top looking down. The rocks are huge, with surfaces ranging from smooth to jumbled. Everyone was deeply impressed as we drove in, but the rocks towered so much that you could barely take pictures of them.

A shuttle drives you around from place to place in the park. We chose to go to the northernmost stop, the Temple of Sinawava, and walk to the end of the trail, where the canyon narrowed a lot. The Virgin River flowed through the canyon with a surprising amount of muddy water for this time of year. Turns out they had a flash flood last night. Trails and roads had a good wash of mud on them. The rains we had been having have covered huge areas.  But today was sunny and the high was only about 80, with a good breeze. Perfect. We enjoyed our hike very much, but were ready to stop at its end.

These rocks are about 1,000 higher than the elevation where we were standing. They're actually pretty reddish. Below them, the trees are actually big, tall trees, although they look like shrubs.

One thing that has surprised us is at almost everywhere we've gone is how many people are from foreign countries. Walking around, especially in the national parks, you hear people speaking in many languages, and English is not the language spoken by the majority of people.

On the way back to Las Vegas Kristina sat with me most of the way. We played Crazy 8 and then she played some games on my iPad. When we arrived at the hotel she was very upset about the idea of never seeing me again, so Bill and I both went to the pool and went on the water slide with her. I swam with Kristina and her mother Jan, Bill talked with the grandmother Laverne. A fun evening.

A shuttle to the airport will pick us up at 11:35 am tomorrow. Our flight is at 2:15, and we're scheduled to land in Appleton at 7:47-- about a 3 and a half hour flight. (We're on Pacific time here.) Dinner before we drive home.

If you have been reading these, thanks. It's been fun to write them.

Love, Lynn

Sent from my iPad

Main blog: Fear, Fun and Filoz
Main web site: Kirbyvariety

Lynn on "A lot of hours"

We got up at 4:15 today to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon. It wasn't spectacular because it was cloudy, but it was interesting to see the shapes take form. I was surprised that my camera, when allowed to decide on the shutter speed, saw more than my eyes could see.

We spent a large part of the day in the bus going back to Las Vegas. We had to wait for a few people to finish a helicopter ride over the canyon. We stopped in Seligman for a break, and it was a real waste of time in my opinion. It's on Route 66, and the whole town seems like a poorly done parody of the 1950s. But I guess some people liked it. The scenery was not terribly interesting all day except when we passed the Hoover Dam.

We had lunch at a Golden Corral. Not my favorite. Most of the day Kristina sat with me, and she got really silly. Finally I told her I had to take a nap. Which I did.

We are at The Golden Nugget again. In the evening we took a tour of the Strip. We saw a real wedding in the middle of a highway, under the old Welcome to Las Vegas sign. We saw Elvis, looking old and grumpy. We went to Bellagio, where they have the world's largest chocolate fountain, a fancy glass ceiling, an indoor conservatory and and outdoor water and light show. Next was the Venetian and after that I got tired enuf by all the lights and things to see and crowds of people, I was very glad to get back to our room.

Except for early morning, I took no pix today. Tomorrow is our last day.

Goodnight.  Lynn

Lynn on" A long Sunday"

This really doesn't seem like Sunday. Not even if your family went for a ride on Sunday afternoons. We started at 7:45 this morning and arrived at 5:45. We have passed many kinds of beautiful scenery and have been up and down to lots of different elevations, up to over 8,000 feet. This picture was from fairly early in the morning. I can't add others taken later, due to mechanical difficulties. I'll have to wait until we get home to send some of our best pix.

We stopped in Hanksville, UT for two things. One was to pick up cinnamon rolls that we ordered yesterday. We were told they were big, and they were. Each one was about 7" in diameter. I'm not crazy about cinnamon rolls, and the taste of this one didn't change my opinion. But it was a good excuse for a rest and socializing. The other reason to stop was to see the gas station called Hollow Mountain. The shop part, including the rest rooms, are in a big rock. The walls, floor, and ceiling are all rock.

Capitol Reef National Park has many-colored rocks that we drove between. You could only the see the tops of the biggest ones through the glass ceiling of the bus, we were so close to them. This park also has areas where fruit trees grow. At one stop we saw petroglyphs. The picnic area has grass and trees. Since we sit at the back of the bus, by the time we got out, all the picnic tables were taken, so we ate our lunch sitting on the grass under a tree. Between that and absolutely perfect weather, it was heavenly.

On all the previous picnics on this trip animals come to beg for food, different kinds of animals each time--squirrels, chipmunks, Stellar's jays. Today it was a deer. We don't feed them though; our tour director says that many people feeding them kills them, because they don't learn to fend for themselves and they die in winter.

About 3 hours after we left Capitol Reef we got to Bryce Canyon National Park. While driving we saw lots  of animals: bison, cows (some right on the road), sheep, prairie dogs, horses, and more.

I was so tired of being in the bus and seeing so much scenery I had little enthusiasm for yet another park. And then I walked up to the rim. All I could say was WOW! This is the most unusual place we've seen, and it is unbelievably beautiful. (It kind of reminded me of Gaudi's cathedral in Barcelona.) I got up the courage to walk down to a platform two switchbacks down from the fenced rim trail. For a person unafraid of heights it was insignificant, but for me it was an extremely brave feat.

Our tour guide had us smell the bark of a ponderosa pine. It smelled like vanilla to us. It's an accelerant that is heat activated, so when a fire comes, it causes the fire to flash up the tree, saving the heart of the tree.

We spent the night in Bryce Canyon. Not the park. The town, population I dunno, maybe 100. It got into the 40s during the night.

This evening we went to a cowboy humor and music show, and had dinner there too. The food wasn't all that good, but we had silly fun. And Bill and I waltzed together. Nice way to end the day.

Saturday, August 23, 2014


We got up early, ate breakfast in the room, got all our stuff ready for the day, and went out to catch the bus to take those interested for an early morning hike. But it was raining pretty hard, with lightning, so no hike today. Since most of this trip has been on the bus, that was disappointing. But it made sense. Nothing else was planned until 10.

So we went to the laundromat and washed a batch of clothes. Then I took a nap to catch up from a too short night's sleep.

Our picnic at Dead Horse State Park was cold. We were at 6080 feet, it was cloudy and windy and 59 degrees. I was wearing shorts, t shirt, and a long sleeved shirt. (The weatherman lied to me.) after we ate we took pictures. It was beautiful scenery made more beautiful by clouds below us. Utah calls this place the Grand Canyon of Utah. It fits.

There is a family on this trip--a 9 year old girl, her mother, and her grandmother. I brought my cribbage board on this trip and started teaching Kristina how to play today. Her addition is not as good as my 4 and 6 year old great-grandchildren, but she's getting the game and enjoying it.

We got back from our chilly trip to Canyonland National Park today before 4. (The high today was 64, which is quite rare for this part of the country at this time of year.) More beautiful scenery and more roads at high elevations. Getting into the park is a section of road they call "the neck."  This bit of road has several thousand foot drop offs on both sides.

The bus that we are using now is the same bus that our friends Don and Char were on last year. Our driver misses the bus he had, as this one has controls in different places than what he is used to.

There is an optional trip down the river tonight which we aren't going on, so we have an evening to ourselves. It will be nice to be on our own.

​(see Lynn's attached picture)​

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