Monday, August 31, 2009

A Song of Being Empty

by Jelalludin Rumi; translation - Coleman Barks


A certain sufi tore his robe in grief, and the tearing
brought such a relief he gave

the robe the name faraji, which means "ripped open," or
"happiness," or "one who brings

the joy of being opened." It comes from the stem faraj,
which also refers to

the genitals, male and female. His teacher understood
the purity of the action,

while others just saw the ragged appearance. If you want
peace and purity, tear

away your coverings. This is the purpose of emotion, to
let a streaming beauty

flow through you. Call it spirit, elixir, or the original
agreement between yourself

and God. Opening into that gives peace, a song of being
empty, pure silence.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Ripples - clarity and disclaimer

Clarity is something el poquito lacks at times - a constant piece of work for me; more on that when I get to the 'mental quadrant'. Meanwhile, I wanted to clarify something about working with the wheel. Of all the suggestions, or ideas you come up with on your own, pick one thing - just one, to maybe nudge that barometer a tiny bit. We're not going for overhaul here. We're going for loving kindness toward self. What's just one thing in the physical area and one in the emotional that you could easily implement [if you want]?

Which leads me to the disclaimer. Get your salt shakers out. Take it all in, add a few grains of salt, consider, use as your own IF that is what resonates in you. Something that may be useful for me might be totally useless for you. Put bluntly: this is not Jonestown; there is no kool-aid - oh, and uh, there are no 'answers' - sorry - other than your own.

Why do I write all this then?

I dunno.

I write because I have to write. I'm writing THIS because it wants to be written. It's really nothing more than a travelogue of sorts of one man and then his allies who comment, offering their points of view. Turns out there seems to be a few more folks following this travelogue than I realized. They're coming through, quietly sitting at el poquito's table. That's fine and I welcome that. Truthfully, it kind of surprises me, but then, I have wanted to write more than just to myself - although I do recognize writing to myself as a big piece of this 'Restoration Project'. I also recognize the responsibility in having readers - which leads me to again say, "take it all with a major grain of salt." Use what works, toss the rest. It's only ripples on the water - my thought ripples crossing with yours.

I appreciate any and all feedback. You help me hone in. You help me find the ever elusive clarity. <--- guess that could be the Loch Ness monster hiding out with Bigfoot. Thanks for helping me find better clarity and thanks for coming by.

Good day to you all,

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Restoration: Emotional Flexibility

The next quadrant of our Restoration Project is the Emotional. How’s your nervous system? How’s your wiring? Frayed? Solid? Feeling at peace or ready to behead the next idiot who wrongfully crosses your path?! Or does it depend on the day and where the mood swings are at?

Our emotions aren’t as simple as good or bad feelings, but rather a complex series of interrelated events and the co-ordination of hormones, brain chemicals, nervous system and mental/cognitive functioning, or lack of – taken all together, leaving us with the experience of our perceived feelings of good or bad; happy, sad, angry or whatever.

Our emotional well-being is complex. It works intimately with what we think of as our physical and cognitive selves. It’s difficult to separate it out from the others as they work synergistically as a whole. But through the workings and expression of our emotions in our day to day activities we can see a barometer, a window into our whole being.

So what does that mean? And what the heck IS emotional well-being and while you’re at it could you please describe your experiences with Bigfoot? In this day, emotional well-being looks just about as elusive and your guess is as good as mine, but here’s some thoughts to get you started.

What I imagine emotional wellness might look like would be a free and full expression of ALL feelings and emotions, appropriately expressed in the moment; engagement in daily activities and relations; a sense of being ‘present’ or ‘awake’ in the moment; and a resiliency and flexibility. But that’s just my take on it.

I do know that there’s an intimate link with our frontal brain cognitive abilities and our emotions, including the ability to apply the brakes to strong emotions. Otherwise, we are all too easily swept downstream by a runaway torrent of feelings. Our emotions don’t stand alone. Our frontal lobes apply the brakes to our mouths and actions when we are under the influence [of our emotions], operating a complex network of chemical actions and activity that have a lot to do with how well or poorly we feel. The level of endorphins and neuro-receptors in this brain-soup of ours makes a difference in whether the glass is perceived as half empty or half full.

One way that you might evaluate your emotional well-being is by answering this one question: How flexible are you?

Flexibility and resiliency in attitude, in our response to challenges and the veers on the road of daily living, are a very good barometer of our emotional quadrant of our being. Think about it: when you’re feeling rigid, threatened, like everything is out of your control and you’re freaking out, is your emotional range full and flush, or are you ready to snap, have a breakdown or climb a tower with a gun? How flexible is your emotional body?

One to ten; pick a number for your self-perceived level of emotional well-being. If choosing a number to assess yourself is difficult, picture holding a branch in your hands. This branch is you. Bend it. How much bend does it have? How brittle and dried is it? At what point does it/you snap? This is only an honest self-assessment to place you within context of yourself and your history of ‘feeling good or bad’. Write it down in the ‘emotion’ corner of the wheel. Try to be honest with yourself; nobody else will see. If you find yourself on the lower end of the scale – don’t despair – any tiny, small bit of improvement will soon feel like huge gain. And it is.

I could go on and on about brain chemistry and emotional well-being; or how isolation aggravates our deficits in the emotional quadrant; or how a sense of hopelessness over our lack of control in situations damages our health, emotional and otherwise; or how fear and worry slowly erode our emotional foundation, but I think I’d rather end this thinking about the remedies.

Simply put, what are some of the things that bring you a feeling of being relaxed – not under threat? What helps you lower your hackles? What puts a smile on your face? [primate code for pleasure] That one bears repeating: What puts a smile on your face – what can help you budge that number up a half a degree? or eight? Here’s a partial list to get you started:

Good food
Pleasurable Sensory Experiences: smells of cooking; art; song; poetry; dance; creative activity. Think pleasure in sight, sound, smell, taste and touch.
[add your own]

We are living as human mammals in a sensory, animalistic, earthly experience. If we feed and nourish the biological animal of ourselves, we in turn feed and nourish ALL parts of ourselves, including our emotional bodies. One of the gifts of being human is knowing and experiencing that full range from biological animal to Creative Intelligence. We humans ARE the whole range – and perhaps moving just a tiny step closer toward recognizing and becoming that, we can discover, explore and enjoy our HEALTHY emotional selves – so far as ever elusive as Bigfoot.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Haiku For the Gym-Rat and more....

'Rat with Torch' by graffiti street artist Banksy

Haiku For the Gym-Rat

we plug along babe,
march or die! are the orders;
living strong, we rise.


Yeah, it's that clear-cut for me. "Use it or lose it," has become more than 'in theory' and over the past year I've officially become a gym-rat. Weird. I never expected to ever be one of those folks with cartoon legs spinning fast, going nowhere. But here I am, sweatin' for my life. It's worth it.

It's time to wrap up this quadrant of the 'Physical' so we can move ahead to the next corner of the Restoration Circle - the Emotional. In remembering and cultivating the Physical Quadrant, the simplest way to remember is to attend to the four basic elements that make this place and body: earth, water, fire and air.

Earth - nutrition; building; grounding; gardening and being IN nature,

Water - drink plenty; sweat; keep the lymphatic waters moving [which they only do through either exercise or massage, having no pump on their circulation, but rather, dependent upon muscular contraction or manual manipulation to move the lymph along]

Fire - exercise [burns energy, creates heat]; sun; digestion [inner fire transforming fuel to energy]

Air - Breathe! Fully inhale and exhale - oxygenate. All the body's systems are dependent on this. Air feeds fire.

It's all right there in the four basic elements, so basic, so simple, we can easily overlook these that are free in our search for physical cures to purchase. The lack of expense doesn't reflect their value - these are the same building blocks that have grown our species for thousands of generations. The basic plan remains unchanged. We still need decent nutrition, water and air; our bodies still need to move and be used. Despite our evolution into the modern homo-sapien, our bodies still run on the original, basic plan.

Speaking of nutrition, on one last note here, I'd like to direct your attention to the blogroll at the bottom of this page where you'll find Diana Dyer's blog. She describes herself as: "an organic gardener, Registered Dietitian, author of the book 'A Dietitian's Cancer Story' and the website "In between all that and more, I am a multiple-time cancer survivor. My website focuses on nutrition information for cancer survivors, thoughts about life as a cancer survivor, food and nutrition, gardening, recipes, our environment, and the urgent need for developing food systems that promote health not disease, ecological sustainability, and social justice."

Her info isn't just for cancer survivors, it's for everyone, and seeing as approximately 1 in 3 women and 1 in 2 men will develop cancer in their lifetimes the preventative information she provides is pertinent to us all. She's easy to read and learn from; not a 'food fascist' by a long shot. Check her out.

Ah, the physical realm! What a challenging, lovely, frightening, exciting, worrisome, pleasurable and painful place to be. No place quite like it and this physical body with its five  lovely senses [or six if you include the mind] - our sensual, temporary residence. What a wonderland! Enjoy it! There's no place else like it with its sunrises and sunsets....

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I mentioned to y'all in the last post, creative pursuits as a tool for 'Restoration' - how the theme or idea was born out of poetry shared between two 'strangers' on an on-line forum for folks trying to find their way through. The word 'Restoration' struck a nerve over there, some good, some not so good. Art should strike a nerve and stir the soul - and sometimes it brings surprises such as forging bonds between like-minded souls trying to move a mountain. These are the two original poems of forging 'The Restoration Project' between myself and the 'unknown stranger' who is now my close compadre and ally, shoveling side by side on the mountain of Restoration. This is where it all began.

><><><><><><><>< ~ RESTORATION ~
by el poquito

Do you know which way I went?
I remember seeing me the other day
talking with the homeless woman
about her missing child -
the auto accident -
and the curse...
and noticing how she
folded and unfolded
the origami change purse
she held nervously in her hands...
telling me her story,
that was my story too,
about the tragedies that had
broken her,
and broken her again
into a pile of human shards
scattered across the land...
unrecognizable from the fine
strong vessels
we once were

Yesterday I was high in the mountains
crossing a dangerous pass -
Dead Man's Pass...
It was too long a journey.
I was so tired...
Last I recall I was looking out the window of the train,
looking out upon the savanna --
The light and heat were beating down upon us
and the gazelles were running swiftly away
fleeing from the hard-breathing animal
that snaked it's way through the plains.
Did you see me come by here yesterday?
Do you know which way I went?

Later I remember seeing me
methodically shoveling the dirt.
How do you move a mountain?
One shovelful at a time...
Restoring hope can take time that way -
like moving a mountain
with a shovel.
It can be done.
I've seen it happen
many times.
But renewal does not birth easily.
Did you catch a glimpse of me?
Do you know which way I went?

~>>>> <> <> <> <> <> >><><><><><< <> <> <> <> <> <<<<~ Variation on a Theme

by mark-shark

It's not brand new,
but not that old
I moved here as a baby.
I crawled on this floor.
I stared at the ceiling on my way to dream.
I barely remember now.

I try to forget the earthquake
that rattled the pictures in the hall,
broke glass,
shook the foundation,
cracked the walls.

I survived.
I picked up, swept, cleaned,

I try to forget the flood
that washed away my flowers,
left snakes under beds,
carved the carpets in mud.

I survived.
I picked up, swept, cleaned,

That time
I thought I wouldn't make it.
But I did.

I try to forget the storm
that swirled a black cloud overhead,
ripped the roof,
shocked the shingles,
roared with rain,
and carried away
my precious hair.

I survived.
I picked up, swept, cleaned,

The neighbors heard my tools
and looked the other way.

No matter.

And Now, I plan a new addition,
And Now, I make drawings,
call for quotes,
touch samples,
consider colors,
wood, marble, granite, oak.

And Now, I stretch string
to define a magic garden,
think about Art
for that old cracked wall.

I plan for the future...

despite the rough location,
despite the unusual weather,
despite the fragile shell
and the history of damage
and things unplanned...

Because Someone Lives Here.

And plans to continue.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Everyday Restoration

One year ago was a big turning point for me in my healing awareness and education. It began with a poem titled "Restoration" that I posted on an on-line forum for lymphoma patients. Someone I'd never met before responded with his take on the same word. It was a good word/theme/idea to bat around in such a place with others who were also trying to rebuild the fractured pieces of their lives - folks who'd found themselves in very serious circumstances and were trying to find their way through also. This 'stranger' and I became fast friends. When one finds a like-minded soul, especially under such conditions, all cards are quickly laid on the table. We had work to do and quickly became the best of compadres, shoveling partners, side by side on the mountain. There are others here who come to visit who know very well the constancy it takes. We're not shoveling just for today. We get up every day and do our best to reaffirm Restoration; to reaffirm our healing, which in my mind isn't an event that takes place as in "now I am healed', but an affirmative action that needs daily renewal. In other words it changes daily. Our attempts need to keep up.

My attempts here in this patch of the blog is to share with others some of the things that have helped myself and others through. I hope it never sounds 'preachy' or pedantic - just sharing some thoughts. And as I've always told folks who would come to see me for consultation, "Take anything I say with a big ol' grain of salt." You know best. Claim it. It's yours: Restoration

When the idea of sharing some of my thoughts on Restoration arose, it began with some notes to myself. Every day, some more so than others, I need to remind myself and reaffirm my intention. My personal situation has the challenge of 'outsider voices' who predict my outcome - they even have scores, charts and projections to map out my unknown future. Heh! That's what I say to that! And in order to have a somewhat defiant attitude with 'them' I have to remind myself repeatedly. Sometimes I'm worn though. Sometimes I struggle to keep myself aimed in the right direction. Writing helps. Sharing ideas with others helps. Remembering where to aim my arrow of intention helps. But some days are harder than others with the challenges that I walk with.

I believe that what you teach you learn; what you give away you receive. For me to share some of all this with all of you makes me have to go deeper - and I thank you for that.

The sharing of all this began with a note on a day that I needed to remind myself of all the various things I could do to find "Restoration". I felt fried - and this is what came to me to help myself with falling down again.


EVERYDAY RESTORATION [the bullet points reminder of that particular day]

- Dial it down: the volume; the frantic, hyper, scattered pace; the chaos.

- Defray the nerves; unruffle the feathers.

- Respect my limits - and the world's.

- When facing limitation don't attempt to beat it up, but rather, spar with it playfully.

- Nourish myself with food, water, exercise, sun, air.

- Remember: I am NOT the body or its limitations, but I AM the tenant/resident. All upkeep is mine.

- Create. If I make it with my hands and mind, it counts, whether that creation is a poem or dinner. All creation is the language and expression of the self [soul], of life, of Restoration.

- Affirm my place on earth daily; take responsibility for the space I occupy.


That was "Everyday Restoration" on that day. Today's might be slightly different. Yours will be different. Yours will be an expression of you and your needs. We each shovel our patch in our own way, with our own style.

As I've said, writing is part of my Restoration path. Here's one of my spots where Restoration tries to prevail over Chaos. Good luck with yours.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Planting My Feet - part ll

The young man sent to me sat seated on the opposite end of the couch. The meeting had been arranged in response to a request I’d put out that I was looking for a chi kung teacher who understood using the ancient Chinese martial art with cancer patients as a tool for healing. Chi kung [or chi gong] is the mother of all the other Chinese healing disciplines such as tai chi, acupuncture and all the many martial arts. In my stereotypical expectation I thought I’d be meeting an elderly Chinese master [my stereotype based on the reality of having studied previously with an elderly Chinese master, but he was now deceased and could no longer directly help me]. Instead, there sitting across from me, was a young, blonde guy who looked as though he could be ‘another college student’ in this sea of college students of the university town I live in. My ‘expectations’ were thrown.

My expectations were further thrown when after only about two minutes of light introductory conversation he looked me deeply in the eye and said, “Okay, so you could live or die,” [this wasn’t in the abstract philosophical sense as I looked the part of someone attempting to keep their feet from being dragged down into the grave] “… you could live or die. You say you want to live. Why?”

“Ballsy,” I thought as I sat there shocked by this young man. I liked that. He knew we were on serious ground and at the start he was letting me know he took the situation seriously and we weren’t fooling around. My life was at stake – and he got it. Still, he stopped me in my tracks with that question – particularly since it was being asked with all seriousness. So far since my diagnosis, NO ONE had asked this most pertinent of all questions. We easily take our everyday life for granted, until one day it’s no longer just a given. Tomorrow is looking questionable and there sits someone wanting to know why I want to live; wants me to justify my allotment of air I breathe and how I use that life. I respected him immediately just for the courage it took to say to a stranger whose mortality was center stage, “Tell me why you want to live.”

At this point in my story I dare you to do the same - answering to yourself “why do I want to live another day?” This may seem like a silly philosophical exercise, until it’s not one day. My day had arrived.

I don’t recall what my answer to him was. I would hope it was something halfway intelligent that would make him interested in working with me, but considering the high amounts of morphine and other mind numbing drugs I was on, not to mention the chemo-therapeutic battle zone taking place inside my body – I’d be pleased if I simply didn’t drool.

What I do recall is my ‘homework’ for the following week [there was always homework].

As he prepared to leave he said to me, “I want you to list twelve things you love. – And then another list of twelve things you want to learn.” I thought this was odd; no martial arts exercises to practice, no special, secret, therapeutic movements to discover, no special meditation practice or breathing techniques to raise my ‘chi’ – simply list twelve things I love and twelve things I want to learn.

Okay. I was used to teachers throughout my life who taught in unconventional ways, in fact I often preferred them – and already I respected this man, despite his unconventional, conventional appearance; I couldn’t let my rigid stereotypes stand in the way. I was willing to play.

Twelve things I love; that was easy. And over the course of the following week I came up with many, many things I loved; so many I had to keep refining the list to limit it to the everchanging top twelve. As I worked with this list, over time I realized that these people and things that I loved were my links to my life here on this Earth: my wife, my sons, dog, home, nature, the beach, my work… All the things that if I were to die I would leave behind here on earth. It began to become clear to me that the twelve things I loved were twelve anchors – tethers connecting me to this place called earth that I had such a tenuous grip on.

“Brilliant!” I thought, “These twelve things that I love are the things that I need to keep foremost in my mind and in my gratitude if I hope to remain here.”

But twelve things I want to learn? That question just annoyed me. I didn’t feel as though I was exactly in a good spot to take any classes or take up any new hobbies. I wasn’t really looking to learn anything new in the midst of my crisis – and what the hell kind of question was that? What did learning something new have to do with my healing?! But still, I pondered that second question over the week also. Was there anything I wanted to learn?

Well, yes, I needed to learn about lymphoma for one thing, pronto! I wasn’t wanting to learn about that, but I certainly needed to familiarize myself with my opponent. I also had a lot I needed to learn about chemotherapy and how to survive it. And nutrition – I wanted to know more about nutrition and especially was there anything I could do to help in the cause: cancer eradication. Oh, and chi kung, I definitely wanted to be a student of the martial art applied internally for healing. There were four things right there that seemed imperative that I learn. By the end of the week I easily had twelve things to report to my chi kung teacher that I wanted to learn, many of which had to do with surviving cancer and cancer treatment, but also included gardening, writing and painting.

While reflecting and revising my lists one more time before I sat with my teacher again, I suddenly saw it! Again, he was brilliant! The twelve things I loved easily were seen as the anchors that tied me to this earthly home. The twelve things I wanted to learn connected me to a Future – something that had been looking kind of questionable. To attempt to learn new things gives yourself the message that you’ll be sticking around a minute to apply that new knowledge, to develop that new skill. To want to learn new things connects us to an unknown future in a very real and grounded way – connecting us to ‘here’ and to what we love.

This was the beginning of my training in chi kung practice as a healing practice for myself - and an auspicious start it was; a simple exercise really, but one with profound and deep effects.

So I offer it to you as the next piece of the physical quadrant on the Restoration Wheel:

What are twelve things that you love that connect you to ‘here’?


What are twelve things that you’d like to learn?

Enjoy the buffet.


A special thanks to Ryan Wilson of Black Dragon Gyms

Haiku of Old Earth