Meditation Protection…

Every now and then my passion for gardening and appreciating nature is punctuated by technology’s increasing thirst to control our lives. To me, these cold and calculating ways are the antithesis to nature’s infinite beauty and serenity. That is why this topic pops up on my blog now and then (no pun intended).

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Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

I bumped into an old friend recently who said her eldest child is retired (at age 35). After making and investing his millions as a technological entrepreneur, he and his wife now live in an Airstream, traveling cross-country to hike and explore nature’s magnificence. “He meditates quite a bit,” she added.

This gave me hope that those so addicted to devices will realize the hours they’ve wasted not living real life, or freedoms they’ve willingly discarded by allowing technology to think for them.

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Photo by YIFEI CHEN on Unsplash

My concerns about the ethical crises in technology were confirmed by best-selling author Yuval Noah Harari, and executive director of the Center for Humane Technology, Tristan Harris who explained how people, corporations and governments are using technology to hack human beings. (Harris previously studied the ethics of human persuasion at Google.)

In their When Tech Knows You Better than You Know Yourself interview, these philosophers raised the question:  “Whose best interests should technology be serving — individuals or corporations?  Should apps be as successful (and profitable) as possible which equates to addiction, loneliness, alienation, social comparison…”

“There’s a reason why solitary confinement is the worst punishment we give human beings. And we have technology that’s basically maximizing isolation because it needs to maximize the time we stay on the screen,” Harris said.

Think about that. Really let it sink in. So many have imprisoned themselves with technology. Remember, a prior post on my friend whose brother is addicted to gaming and barely leaves his room anymore?

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Hearing that some children would rather do chores or homework than play outside baffled me. Was it a fear of Lyme Disease,  Zika Virus, or the extreme humidity of global warming? I didn’t want to go outside either in the humidity this summer but didn’t stay tied to a device either.

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Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

Instead, I discuss the Tao and hand drum with friends, attend Tai Chi classes, concerts, live theatre and art exhibits.  At home I’m nurturing flower and veggie gardens while playing with my beloved border collie or practicing Qigong. Experimenting in the kitchen and reading a great library book enhance my time. Yes, I love those page turners (literally and otherwise)!

I was thrilled to find Blogtasticfood.com where Nick’s mission is to “post super awesome recipes and get peoples butts in the kitchen.” I love it. Real cooking feels (and tastes) wholesome and nourishing to me. I’d much prefer devoting my time to creating a delicious meal than being consumed by social media, texting or the internet (while eating packaged preservative-laden processed foods). Tactile, personal connections mean more to me than an addictive device.

Frankly, I don’t want Amazon to know right before my light bulbs burn out (so they can sell me more). And I don’t want them to deliver groceries to my door so that I can isolate, and not get any fresh air, exercise, or interaction with my external environment.  “Don’t use it, you lose it,” still rings true.

However, as much as it sounds like I detest technology, I don’t. It’s the addictive aspects and loss of privacy and relationships that concern me. I agree with Harari that, “The system in itself can do amazing things for us. We just need to turn it around, that it serves our interests, whatever that is and not the interests of the corporation or the government.”  In that regard I can understand Amazon delivering food to an immobile person who lives alone.

To reduce the risks of your personality being hacked, Harari suggests first getting to know yourself better and exploring your choices more deeply. Of course, someone who meditates two hours a day and doesn’t use a smartphone is less likely to be hacked than someone addicted to their device he says. Then join an organization of activists for a more powerful voice in making society more resilient and less able to be hacked.

Harari and Harris emphasize, “They’re (corporation or government) about to get to you—This is the critical moment…So run away, run a little faster. And there are many ways you can run faster, meaning getting to know yourself a bit better. Meditation is one way. And there are hundreds of techniques of meditation, different ways work with different people.

You can go to therapy, you can use art, you can use sports, whatever. Whatever works for you. But it’s now becoming much more important than ever before. Protect yourself by getting to know your self.”   This sounds perfectly natural to me.

The National Day of Unplugging is March 1-2, 2019.  I say, “Why wait?”  How ’bout you?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Mother Nature’s Autistic Summer

Summer 2018
Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.  Make me run inside for shelter.  AC.  A spurt of sun appears.  Some tomatoes wear tough rain jackets, many others split on the vine while unlucky peppers turn soggy rather than red and basil’s aromatic gifts are non-existent this year.  The grill waited to be fired up but the fire and enthusiasm in me drowned out.

What to make of this autistic summer?  Although many people disagree on the “causes” of autism and of climate change, they both exhibit blatantly foreboding signs:

  • Climate change – an increase in the frequency and strength of extreme events (storms, floods, droughts) that threaten human health and safety.
  • Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) characteristics –  social-interaction difficulties, communication challenges, and a tendency to engage in repetitive behaviors.

Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding.  Scorching heat.  Rainy.  Grey.  Humid.  Flooding. Scorching heat. Bugs extraordinaire.

Six full days at best I could work in the yard this summer, and grill on two.  Tall grass is as unkempt as the autistic’s personal hygiene.   Weeds are poised to take over.   They know I will not be tugging at them in the rain or with mosquitos biting my neck.  Arms.  Legs.  Scratching for relief.  Scratching.  Scratching.  Where is the relief?  Summer use to be a break from the long, cold, stressful winter but Mother Nature’s fighting, hitting, kicking, biting, throwing objects from her autistic corner.  Does she feel cornered?

Autistics struggle with severe anxiety, sensory dysfunction, and deficits in social  communication.  Half are considered aggressive toward others, and nearly one-third of autistic adults are unable to use spoken language to communicate.

I hear the thunderous banging and wailing.  Her words trail behind the clouds…the rain, and tears of desperation.  I see her utter frustration.

We Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet

To retain my sanity and keep stress levels down, I take “news” (aka usually anxiety-producing biased content) in tidbits (not tweets) — morsels that are still so disturbing I cannot linger long.  Excessive hurricanes, fires, flooding; power cuts and flight cancellations due to excessive heat; people rushed to emergency rooms for heat exhaustion and dying from heat stroke — are all happening today.  Right now.  The reality of worldwide weather changes and what I see in my own environment confirm climate change stories first-hand.

A New York Times article reports 2014-2018 as the hottest years on record worldwide.  Think about that.  (And we still have the fourth quarter to go.)  “Seventeen of the 18 warmest years since modern record-keeping began have occurred since 2001.” And these hot temps are projected to continue to rise.  I find that astounding.  And worrisome.

Every day this summer I’ve thanked God for air conditioning.  I wasn’t so fortunate in my youth.  Residing in a 3rd floor walk-up with no AC, an oscillating fan kept me alive when I couldn’t escape the suffocating city heat —  and that was 30 years ago before even hotter temps.

So much is at stake — lives, food, clean water, breathable air, electricity to name a few.  Can the grid endure?  I wonder about a global outage.  We saw Puerto Rico’s plight with no electricity for 11 months…

Brian Petersen, a climate change and planning academic at Northern Arizona University noted in a Guardian article, “It’s only a matter of time until the west is completely insufficiently prepared for climate change.   If we really wanted to be prepared we would be doing a lot of different things that we’re not doing.”

Some cities are offering cooling shelters and promising to slash green house gas emissions but is it too little too late?  Have we poisoned what nature’s generously given and created our own Hell on earth?

Cities planting more trees to help alleviate the heat are like saying, “Oh Mother Nature, you were right.  You knew all along what we needed…yet, taking it for granted we foolishly followed our selfish ways.”

I wonder what your personal experiences have been with climate change, what differences are you noticing in your local environment?

Fish in the Grass

Heavy rains make weeds grow freely

but

also easier to remove.

Rainstorms

flood the pond.

Fish are swimming in the yard.

Not so lucky for them

but the heron is happy for food

and the grass will be fertilized.

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Photo by Tyler Butler on Unsplash

This is my gardener’s perspective on a Chinese folk story called “An Old Man Lost His Horse – Sai Weng Shi Ma.”

From Taoism to Shakespeare’s, “Nothing is good or bad.  It’s thinking that makes it so,” the lens widens as the circle of learning continues.

images

Misfortune, that is where happiness depends;

happiness, that is where misfortune underlies.”

 

Have You Seen the Rose Bush?

The whole is some of everything

if we but open our eyes to see.

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Growing pains

do not require suffering.

Pruning

encourages growth.

Endings

are beginnings. 

Instead of shooing away challenges

welcome the fortitude of character

as an expansive, cleansing belly breath.

Out. In. Up. Down.

We are the sum of everything —

life experiences,

thoughts, feelings, paths taken.

The Prickly Fine Print

I often viewed challenges as problems, headaches, when in reality my narrow perspective was the constricting chokehold. My limited vision obstructed a panorama of possibilities in what appeared a seemingly bleak situation.

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Photo by Benjamin Balázs on Unsplash

 

Hearing someone say they were so busy looking at the thorn that they missed the rose, wiped the spattered looking-glass for me.  Working in the garden and studying the Tao pryed open the door to a scopic reality.

 

 

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While I now see both the roses and the thorns, I am learning to not judge either as good or bad but as a unified connection, one simply needing the other in life.

 

 

 

Original feature photo by Jess Watters on Unsplash

 

 

Nature Teacher: Change

Look at the movement of the clouds

and understand

life is change.

Don’t waste your time

lamenting

things are not as they were

and will never remain so.

That is not the truth of reality.

Forever cannot be.

Look at the clouds

long stratus

puffy cumulus

and feel their struggle and joy.

Clear skies,

when things are going smoothly, no issues to deal with so to speak,

are also transitory.

Go with the flow,” others say.

The clouds already do.

 

Contemplating Compost

Death is not so permanent as one might think.  When contemplating compost, you more fully understand the cycle of life.  Fruits and vegetables provide nutrition to us.  Flowers offer beauty.  When their peelings, parings, stems and leaves are tossed into the bin to decompose, in time they become nutrition for the soil.   Black gold I like to call it.

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This rich compost continues nurturing us by transforming the soil to produce nutritious fruits and vegetables, and flowers to soar the spirit.

And so the cycle of life continues.  Quite simple, really.  Nature shows us how.  So what is all the fear about?

compost dirt

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust

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Photo by Artur Rutkowski on Unsplash

A Language I do not Know

I do not understand the language of texting, or bar codes containing paragraphs of information.  I do not understand how people do not know how to count change, what their own phone number is, or how communication and society have morphed into a world of antonyms.

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Photo by Cheron James on Unsplash

Words such as cooperation, negotiation, impartial, conversation, politeness, and respect are no longer understood.  They have become foreign concepts in this foreign land I no longer understand.

Customer service now means self service.

A doctor visit means getting a prescription.

“Friendships” have become 1,000 or 100 strangers I don’t really know.

“Conversation” was an informal exchange of ideas but often appears as a one-sided dump.

Once upon a time a “debate” meant a public discussion of opposing arguments on a particular topic.  Today it is who can interrupt the most and shout the loudest slander.

Microwaving a prepared meal is called cooking.”

Excuse me has fallen to the wayside for immediate interruption or unacknowledged bumping into.

Here you go replaced thank you.”

Intimidating hurtful trolls lurk on “social media.

“Personal responsibility” now looks like lawsuits and blame.

Family time means individual members sitting next to each other staring into screens.

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Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

“Unbiased journalism” is dead.  Infomercials disguised as articles, and fake news abound.

Health care is really the health industry.

Publicservants are politicians passing legislation written by lobbyists.

Marketing is the sugar-coated word for lies.  Companies tout their products to take my money yet when I attempt to get help for the “failed product” it is usually in the Philippines, Dubai or any other place I can barely understand the instruction to fix the problem for the “inferior product” that was advertised as “the world’s best” that I now wish I hadn’t purchased.

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Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

My telephone landline use to bring news from friends or family.  Now, I cannot answer it for fear of telemarketers and scammers breaking into my home.

The tech industry told us they were making our lives simpler, less complicated, paperless, and more convenient when in truth our lives are more complicated, more disrupted, more vulnerable and disconnected, and I pay to discard more junk mail than food or household waste.

I do not recognize what I was taught in school.  Like being an American meant I was free and there was liberty and justice for all when in actuality my government sold out my rights to self-serving corporations.

America has turned topsy-turvy, upside down into a country of antonyms.  I am native to this foreign land where nothing is as it’s purported.

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Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash

My dictionary indicates virtual reality is not physically existing but made by software to appear to do so.”  As far as I’m concerned it’s based on a book of antonyms.  I’m not ready to discard my dictionary and thesaurus for a new reality.  I prefer to call it what it really is while I still have the mindset to know what it really is.

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Photo by pine watt on Unsplash

Reality – “the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.”

via Daily Prompt: Foreign

A Non-Religious but Spiritual Palm Sunday

The calendar indicates today is “Palm Sunday.  Being a religious holiday, I often wondered in my youth why it wasn’t called “Psalm Sunday” but as a gardener I’m just as happy to see green palms after a long, grey winter.

And while it’s (sadly) becoming increasingly unpopular and even dangerous to identify Frond-Lwith any religious affiliation, I will say organized religion is not the source of my spirituality.  Yes, I was baptized and confirmed a Christian, but I also practiced Buddhism in my teens, then investigated Catholicism, Judaism, Unity New Thought and A Course in Miracles doctrines.  I have friends of all faiths and of no faith.  I pass no judgment if someone chooses to be religious or not, or the path they have taken to their own spirituality.  What I do have a problem with, though, are acts of cruelty, hate, torture or killing — evil, in the name of religion or God.  So contrary and senseless to me.

Thankfully, I was not raised to believe in a condemning and punishing God but instead one as loving protector.  Studying Taoism and working in nature have deepened my understanding of life and some of the religious teachings of my youth.  To me, all of these sources are akin to tendrils of a plant, offering various meanings and interpretations of life, expanding with my maturity.

Frond-RAs a variety of flowers constitute my garden, and a variety of races and ethnicities constitute the world, I am open to a variety of religions in life.  I do not believe that one religion has all the answers, or that only one particular religion has the only true God.  I believe there are as many spiritual roads to God as there are in the names we choose to call Him or Her or whatever is meaningful to the particular person in that particular part of the world.  Opening my mind opens my heart.

And so, today is “Psalm” Sunday for me — spiritual being synonymous with psalm, and psalm being a sacred song.   I acknowledge this day not in blasphemy but in honor of the sacred songs each of us carries in our hearts.  As a gardener, I view this day as the triumphant arrival of Spring, a fresh start after a long winter, the Pre-Easter beginning of infinite life, and with gratitude for the richness Mother Nature offers.  I believe God is everywhere as in nature, but also in our hearts.  And in the end, isn’t that all that really matters — what is in our hearts?


“…Every day something new

Open mind for a different view

And nothing else matters…”

 

Happy Psalm Sunday!